Video games – like all other entertainment media – have had a long-standing love affair with the idea of going up against dinosaurs, and later this year, Systemic Reaction’s Second Extinction will be toying with that idea once again. As their debut title, the co-op first person shooter is looking like an interesting prospect, and to learn more about the game, we recently sent across some of our questions about it to its developers. You can read our conversation with lead producer Brynley Gibson below.
"This is our first title, and we’re very proud of our small, international team down here in Malmö."
As a newly formed studio, what drove you to landing on Second Extinction for your debut project?
The idea actually came from one of our founders, Christopher Sundberg. It was one of his final pitches before he moved on, and the overall idea of “Evil Mutated Dinosaurs have taken over the planet” kind of stuck with us. And how could it not? It’s a great pitch, and we’ve ended up going along with it. And yes, this is our first title, and we’re very proud of our small, international team down here in Malmö.
How have you been dealing with the challenges of making your debut game with lockdown restrictions in place essentially all over the world?
Of course, it’s been tough, as it has been for everyone in our industry and beyond. We’ve had to move our entire development out of the studio and into peoples’ homes. We have had outstanding IT, tech and operations support, essentially enabling us to continue working on the game from home. This all happened in a matter of days, it was quite impressive. Aside from that we all stay in touch and receive support from all our departments. But I won’t lie, it’s tough. We’re not in the same room, we’re all interacting a bit differently over remote calls or chat. Thankfully the majority of the team have been working together for quite some me now, and we onboard our newcomers as welcoming and supportive as possible. But it’s a challenge many are going through right now, and hopefully, we’ll be returning to normal in the not too distant future.
Second Extinction describes its combat scenarios as “short but intense”. Can you speak a bit more about this, and how this dictates the design philosophy for the game’s missions and combat?
So when it comes to the core game loop, it’s prey tight: You get your team of three together and pick the mission you want to take on. Then you prep your loadout, seeing what your teammates are equipping, too. When you’re ready, the host gets to choose the insertion point. Our map is divided into different regions and the insertion points shift, you can’t always insert in the same location. Based on your mission objectives you will want to decide where to drop. Some areas might present a higher threat level, but be closer to the goal. Others might be safer to drop first but will require you to travel through more dinosaur infested areas.
You can also deviate from the path if you don’t want to follow mission objectives right away, or pursue optional activities, but playing through a mission will roughly take you about 30-40 minutes. With that in mind, combat will be in focus at all times, even after completing missions. The pacing will pull players from one relentless encounter to a small respite before setting them up for the next violent challenge. Each mission ends with an extraction, where players will have to defend themselves against waves of mutated dinosaurs while waiting for the drop ship to arrive and take them back to safety.
"When going through the concept phase we had to work out what our dinosaurs were going to be and how we were going to make them different compared to other dinosaurs out there, in other games, in other media. What we agreed on early on was that we wanted them to be monstrous but definitely, recognizably, dinosaurs."
Battling against mutated dinosaurs sounds like an incredibly exciting prospect. How does Second Extinction leverage this idea in terms of enemy designs and the variety of different kinds of dinosaurs players will be going up against?
When going through the concept phase we had to work out what our dinosaurs were going to be and how we were going to make them different compared to other dinosaurs out there, in other games, in other media. What we agreed on early on was that we wanted them to be monstrous but definitely, recognizably, dinosaurs. We also wanted them to be a bit creepy and not “kind looking”. So one thing we’re definitely not trying to achieve is to create a scientific representation of dinosaurs, but our own creative take on them. Together with our great team of artists we’ve decided to create our own vision of more threatening, gruesome, slightly disgusting creatures. Mutations also allow for creative freedom in the way each enemy acts and behaves. Given that we are a small team, we needed to make sure every enemy counted so each serves a specific purpose and brings with it strategic challenges to make combat unique and interesting.
What can you tell us about the weapons and your approach to designing them for Second Extinction? What sort of balance does the game strike between realism and basically letting your imagination as creators run wild as far as the weapons are concerned?
At launch, our weapons are initially fairly grounded. We wanted to focus on a good range of weapons players would immediately recognize and understand their role, rather than going for exotic weapons straight out of the gate. We do like big guns though and they are physically very big gun, and what you’ve seen so far is only a small fraction of the arsenal players will be able to choose from, and we will get into that more in the future. At launch, we’ve got around 10 unique weapons each with individual upgrades, and we’ll be elaborating on those in detail at a later stage. As you’ve seen in the launch trailer, there are our usual suspects such as the Shotgun, great for close encounters and switching between weapons based on enemy types will most certainly come in handy.
Beyond weapons, what sort of skills and abilities can players expect to see in the game?
Each character falls into one of three classes, which are support class, heavy class, and a more generalist one. Each class has different abilities, so players can pick and choose based on preferences, playstyles, but also how they want to collaborate with one another. Obviously, heavies get to use heavy weaponry, for example, which other characters don’t get to use. One of our characters, Rosy, for example, is a “heavy”. She has two key abilities: one, she can buff her team, support them. She’s a very popular character and we wanted the abilities to connect to the characters’ backstories a little bit. So she’s all about teamwork, friendliness and has a warming laugh. But she can also deploy an electric fence, which you can use to ambush enemies and corral them. That allows her to take the role of crowd-control.
This is just one example and we will elaborate a lot more on our characters, their backgrounds and their abilities soon. Another thing that’s quite unique to the game are payloads. Our heroes live in space, dropping down to Earth for each mission. But their support also comes from space, so there’s payloads that our characters can call in, like resupplies of ammunition or offensive aerial attacks. And this is where the collaboration between players also matters a lot. You only get to bring in one payload. So one person might bring in health packs, another one might bring an airstrike so you balance your defensive and offensive capabilities.
How different will the playable characters be from each other in terms of mechanics?
All players move at the same speed so that the squad can always stay together. The differences come with the different drops that these characters bring into battle.
"At launch, our weapons are initially fairly grounded. We wanted to focus on a good range of weapons players would immediately recognize and understand their role, rather than going for exotic weapons straight out of the gate."
One particular detail that has caught the eye of many since Second Extinction’s reveal is how it says that the actions of the community as a whole will shape the course of the war against the dinosaurs- can you talk a bit more about this, and what the extent of this community-driven progression will be?
So, the game is going to be evolving on a very regular basis. We want the game to be a true live product and that meant building a dynamic element into the core experience. This resulted in a unique feature called The War Effort which we will delve into in full at a later me.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Second Extinction be?
For the missions, we’ve aimed for a length of about 30-40 minutes. But because of a lot of dynamic elements, side activities and so forth, it’s hard to give a precise answer here. Players can also just stroll around and ignore missions if that’s what they prefer to do. So based on your playstyle it could take between 20 minutes to an hour but if you can survive for an hour you are doing very well.
What are your plans for the game’s post-launch support as far as new content or updates are concerned?
We are going to talk about the live game in the near future.
Do you have any plans to bring Second Extinction to the Switch, PS4, or PS5 down the line?
Right now we’ve announced the game for Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC.
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