Beloved open world franchise Destroy All Humans! had been on a pretty long hiatus until not that long ago, but with last year’s remake of the original game in the series, developer Black Forest Games and publisher THQ Nordic brought the series back in fine form. Now, they’re looking to keep that momentum going, with Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed promising a similar ground-up remake of the series’ second instalment- and if the previous remake is anything to go by, series fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about what’s coming up. Curious to learn more about Black Forest Games’ approach to the second remake’s development and the areas they’re focused on the most in terms of making improvements, we recently reached out to them with a few questions about the game. Below, you can read our conversation with technical director Johan Conradie and assistant creative director Stefan Schmitz.
"We are developing Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed with the same philosophy as our 2020 remake: focusing on keeping the spirit of the original; modernizing the gameplay, mission- and world design; and completely rebuilding the game with modern visuals and tech."
Destroy All Humans! was quite a faithful remake, sticking largely to the source material. Is this next one going to take a similar approach, or are you going to deviate from the original game a little bit more?
We are developing Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed with the same philosophy as our 2020 remake: focusing on keeping the spirit of the original; modernizing the gameplay, mission- and world design; and completely rebuilding the game with modern visuals and tech. Building the entire game from scratch is giving us the possibility to improve features, enemy- and upgrade variety and more.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from the development of the first remake that has helped you with Reprobed’s development?
We were able to come to a clearer understanding of the resolution of major dependencies of features such as the level streaming system, and the destruction system: Over the course of the first remake we gained valuable know-how on the tech and intricacies of automated level streaming. We also took the opportunity to change the destruction system pipeline in order to generate better results with less time and less complications.
We also overhauled the Psycho Kinesis-related physics to better fit the gameplay we had envisioned for the second remake, but what will be more evident to the players will be a better player-guidance system provided by our “PseudoPox” in this installment – this bot was present in the very first original game, but wasn’t highlighted at all, so we took the opportunity to give it a more prominent role this time around.
As a remake, it’s one thing to look into the original game, analyze it, and work on those findings, and it is another to live up to the idealized memory of the original. The community’s response to the first remake gave us a clear direction on what works well for both the modern audience and hardcore fans, and we’ve been working to capitalize on that.
With Destroy All Humans!, you took the opportunity to add the Lost Mission of Area 42 to the game. Do you have similar plans for Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed?
The Lost Mission of Area 42 was a great added bonus we found when we were dissecting the documentation and resources for the original game. As developers, we instinctively took that as a challenge and opportunity to “finish what the original developers had started. We do not have such an obvious opportunity this time around, but the game itself feels overall “bigger”.
Can players expect brand-new weapons and customization options in the game?
While we are not adding new weapons per se to the franchise, we are working on improvements and new upgrades for Crypto’s arsenal. For example, we modernized the Dislocator by drawing inspiration from PotF and improving upon it. We believe we have created a modern take on Dislocator that fits the core of the franchise while taking advantage of new tech. We have also been giving the Cloning Chamber an overhaul and players will now be able to choose from a vast variety of skin options not only in single player but also in co-op split-screen.
"While we are not adding new weapons per se to the franchise, we are working on improvements and new upgrades for Crypto’s arsenal."
Will there be any quality-of-life improvements, similar to Focus Mode in the previous game?
Quality of life is always in our minds when it comes to the user experience. In Destroy all Humans 2! – Reprobed, we’ve improved the usability of the Gene-blender by adding “Human Hive” locations. Instead of looking for single humans to abduct to fulfill the requirements of gene-blending, Crypto can now seek buildings housing these human targets to collect the desired type “in bulk”. The scale of “human abduction” we are planning is unprecedented in this regard making this feature accessible for all types of players.
“Modernizing” the original for us meant touching up a lot of features. In addition to some very obvious quality of life improvements such as the Gene-blender changes, there are also considerable improvements across the game. As we modern gamers take those for granted now, we had to make sure to apply “modern thinking” in every bit we felt we needed.
What was behind the decision to develop the game only for next-gen consoles rather than as a cross-gen title?
Optimization was already a major challenge for PS4 and Xbox One, and this would be rather magnified in DAH!2: Reprobed’s split-screen gameplay. Split-screen co-op will still have 30 FPS on consoles upon delivery, and we know this already is a comfortable gameplay experience. Single Player mode will run in 60 FPS. Beyond this, split-screen co-op would need to have player-to-player tethering on old-gen, and we did not want to limit the host and the guest’s distances to one another. We believe it would be a very constrained experience gameplay-wise if tethering needed to be in, and certainly more Crypto-driven-chaos & couch co-op fun should not be limited like this.
We also increased active actor and NPC limits drastically from DAH!1’s 20 active limit to 50 high-res NPCs. This benefits both combat and other gameplay situations, we are aiming to have roughly 2x-3x more ambient NPCs around in the game at any given time, making the world more lively and dynamic, thus prone to more Crypto-unleashed chaos.
The levels of DAH2 are bigger and more complex than DAH!1. It would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to maintain the benchmarks of the visual quality for DAH!2: Reprobed compared to DAH!1 on the old console generation.
The new console generation allows us to use up to 5 times more objects in the levels, making them more vivid, less empty, more believable, and more active. It allows us also to have better shaders, better lighting, better shadows, textures in higher resolution including the destruction elements. This time we’re aiming to get the console versions visually on par with the PC version, which was not necessarily the case of DAH!1 due to the old console generation’s lack of performance and memory.
We are all stepping into the new console generation, so we had to make a choice between delivering the new game on the old console generation and having a poorer visual experience compared to DAH!1.
We had to accommodate the overall bigger maps and everything in them in the second remake and this meant embracing the new console generation and deliver what we really wanted to visually achieve to make DAH!2: Reprobed much better than DAH!1.
Was it always the plan to immediately move to a remake of Destroy All Humans! 2 after the first remake was out, or did that come about as a result of the success of the first one?
Such decisions always have to take the reception of the game in the market and its success into account. We are very happy that we’ve been given the opportunity to do Reprobed with full force.
Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series’ specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS. How much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
It doesn’t make too noticeable an impact as we’re planning on having the game run on a wide range of hardware on PC.
We essentially choose the most appropriate setting for different visual options for each console with the best trade-off between quality, performance, and console parity, and we strive to have the same experience as much as possible across all the platforms.
"We had to accommodate the overall bigger maps and everything in them in the second remake and this meant embracing the new console generation and deliver what we really wanted to visually achieve to make DAH!2: Reprobed much better than DAH!1."
The PS5 features an incredibly fast SSD with 5.5GB/s raw bandwidth. How can developers take advantage of this, and how does this compare to the Xbox Series X’s 2.4GB/s raw bandwidth?
Even the XSX’s relatively slower SSD speed is fantastic for load times. It automatically cuts down a massive amount of loading time without having to do much custom development opposed to the last generation of consoles.
Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X boast Zen 2 CPUs, but there is a difference in the processors of both consoles. The Xbox Series X features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz, whereas the PS5 features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz. Your thoughts on this difference?
They’re very close in real life scenarios, which means we primarily focus on the PS5 for performance and do spot checks on XSX to ensure that we don’t have an unexpected mismatch.
The Xbox Series S features lesser hardware compared to Xbox Series and Microsoft is pushing it as a 1440p/60 FPS console. Do you think it will be able to hold up for the more graphically intensive games as this generation progresses?
Naturally the Xbox Series S will never look as good as the Xbox Series X, but we’re sure that most developers will try to get the most out of the platform as they can.
Super Resolution is coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. How do you think this will help game developers?
It will be absolutely helpful to all developers. Technologies like Super Resolution or DLSS are great ways to achieve better framerates while still having good image quality and performance.
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S?
Our goal is to have the best visual experience, and resolution is only one aspect of that. We consider all aspects to achieve the best visual result in the end, not just the highest resolution technically possible: There are multiple factors with their own advantages and disadvantages, and similar to any situation with pros & cons, we’ve been working to find the best compromise between resolution and shader quality as well as other details such as the scenery itself.
"We’ll definitively be checking the game on the Steam Deck to make sure that we hit an acceptable quality bar there. It’s an exciting piece of technology making our work more accessible to a broader audience in a more accessible way."
What are your thoughts on the Steam Deck? Do you have plans for any specific optimizations for the device?
We’ll definitely be checking the game on the Steam Deck to make sure that we hit an acceptable quality bar there. It’s an exciting piece of technology making our work more accessible to a broader audience in a more accessible way.
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