By: TheTerminatorFans.com On February 4th, 2019
Terminator Fans have been crying out for a new Terminator game for some time, and now a fan is taking the matter into his own hands with a free-to-play game that is promised to be ready this year.
James Towne shares his passion project and answers some questions about his Terminator game.
Can you tell us about your role and duties on The Terminator Los Angeles Resistance?
My role is literally everything, I’ve finally reached that stage in my career where I can be jack of all trades, master of some.
I began the project predominantly as an artist with a bit of technical know-how and over the course of it I’ve filled in all the gaps in my knowledge to the point where I can program, script, engineer, animate, the whole lot.
It’s a little bit too much work for one person sometimes; which is why I’m slowly gathering a team of like-minded people to help out. It’s nice having people around I can bounce ideas off and mentor. I’m always looking for more people to join the cause but I have that one man army ego maniac streak in me where I need creative control over everything. I call it ‘doing a Billy Corgan’.
Learning Unreal’s blueprints has been a master stroke in that regard; I can design and build the game precisely as I want it, without having to rely on anybody else.
What genre will this new Terminator game be; it looks to be a FPS shooter but will it have any sub genres/other gameplay elements?
Straight up FPS, it was the only genre that made sense. I could imagine Terminator as a real-time strategy and I was a big fan of Red Alert and Age of Empires back in the day but I wanted to capture the core experience of being a Tech-Com soldier,- you don’t get to use a CRT rifle scope in a point and click game.
Though the main question is what style of FPS; between a hardcore ‘Mil-Sim’ and a ‘run and gun’ game, it’s hard to pick what works best. I was a huge BF3 (Battlefield 3) fan, and Brutal Doom is a work of genius, so I’m still working that out, adding features to see if I like them and endlessly tweaking the designs. I’m looking forward to people actually trying the game out and being a part of the design process.
We had designs for breaking the game up into three mini games; fighting in the future war, hacking into Skynet via an interface based on 80s telecommunications and a Deus Ex inspired hunt for Sarah Connor in 1984 Los Angeles but as it stands; the future war will be the most important focus, we have to get that perfect first.
What platforms are you aiming to launch on, is there any potential for launch on consoles?
PC only, since we’re not an official title or even a product,- I’d never be able to get a console launch. I wouldn’t rule out the mobile market on future titles but the mobile marketplace isn’t what I remember it being.
This game is completely free, because I want it to exist and for the fans.
Is the game on rails, or a fully 3D game?
Fully 3D all the way. One of the first design principles I implemented was a non-linear environment. On rails gameplay has its place and sometimes it’s needed but I want the player to have their own experience. The basic design was to create miniature sandboxes, small enough that they’re easy to build and big enough that the player can be tactical in their approach. Then it’s just a matter of designing an objective within that environment; the main one right now is to recreate the dream sequence where Reese must throw a canister bomb under the tank. It’s a small idea but it requires you learn the environment and the behaviour of the HKs
Does the game have any online/MMO functions?
No. One of the first things you have to establish when developing a game is whether to be single or multiplayer,- if its single player then you have to be prepared to give the game the length and depth of narrative it needs, and if it’s multiplayer then you live and die by your community.
The risk of making a multiplayer game that might be too buggy to be successful was too high considering I can’t name a multiplayer game that hasn’t had a bad launch, that and the fact that I’ve not idea about netcode.
Will the game follow a playable Kyle Reese in the future war?
Exactly that, the only other logical idea would be to play as the Terminator in 1984, which was considered as a game mode early on but everybody wants to see more of the future war,- its the only aspect of the films we haven’t had enough of.
You are also going to be fleshing out an unnamed character introduced to fans in the first Terminator movie (female resistance soldier). This character was later named “Corporal Ferro” by William Wisher/Randall Frakes in The Terminator (1984) novelisation. How to does it feel to be fleshing out a character like this and does that bring with it a certain amount of pressure to get things right?
It’s hard to say since that character effectively doesn’t exist beyond her avatar (I think the actress was actually Linda Hamilton’s stunt double). She’s a very useful character to have because it means I can bounce dialogue back and forth between her and Reese which makes exposition and instruction for the player a lot easier, but at the same time that relegates her to ‘female radio voice’.
It’s also hard to flesh out a character emotionally that doesn’t involve deluging the player in dialogue so there’s a balance to be struck in there somewhere.
Can you tell us more about the story- We presume (from the involvement of the Kyle Reese character) that this will be a prequel to the 1984 movie and could have this game predominantly set in the year 2029… ?
I’m aiming for more of a simulation than a narrative, or at least so far I am. There’s no point trying to tell a story if you don’t have the game to support it so on the one hand it has a kind of day in the life of a resistance soldier quality, but on the other; Reese had an entire life before his final mission, and I’ve always been fascinated by how he came to volunteer. This part of the story was drafted in around 1990 for T2 but was cut for budgetary reasons.
I’m always very tentative when it comes to affecting the canon of a series, one of the basic rules going into this was to pay the utmost respect to the integrity of the original and that generally means not adding anything that shouldn’t be there.
But at the same time if something is missing, or I feel strongly enough about a character and i think the fans will appreciate it,- then I try and work it in.
We noticed an easter egg in the teaser images of the Metal Gear Solid Codec communication system appearing in this game. Was this on purpose; as a call back to Michael Biehn/Kyle Reese featuring on the game art for the fiacom/nes orginal Metal Gear Solid Game packaging?
I think that was more of a happy accident, or just a weird coincidence. The Metal Gear codec is a brilliant little mechanism to tell a story without the need for animated characters or voiced actors, of which we have neither, and I’m always trying to shoehorn in retro styled graphics and features. A pocket-sized video phone with that metallic blue tint was just what we needed to get around the narrative issues.
Everything we can see so far seems to visually be on par, and pretty much bang on, to the universe created by James Cameron. We presume that you have some Terminator fans working on the game (as we have had games in the past which have failed to strike the correct chords with Terminator Fan gamers visually or emotionally)… ?
The easiest part of any game based on a film is matching the visuals, it’s the first thing you get right and quite often the only thing you get right. It was tricky in a way because the film was shot using miniatures in close up with rear projection; so recreating it so that it stands up to 360 degree close scrutiny, took some work but once you have the colour palette down and lots of smoke- it all starts to fall into place.
I used to spend my lunch breaks at work combing across Los Angeles on Google Earth, understanding its layout, geographical features and architectural styles, though it was difficult to make use of this since LA is very flat and very spread out. The game works better if everything is compressed and broken up, so mimicking the film’s miniature set provided better results.
We’ve dug about as deep as we possibly can to find resources to match the character of the film; everything from recording movie scenes and splitting the stereo fields to extract authentic sound effects, to trawling the internet for behind-the-scenes photos, to freeze framing the film and screen capping split second edits to find every bit of detail we can.
Though you have to take liberties here and there, I’ve been hunting down sound effects used in 80s film libraries and even 80s anime to get things like the perfect explosion sounds.
You have Terminator infantry visible in the first look images of the HK (Hunter Killer) units. What other Terminators will we see, and have you made any new Terminator units exclusive to this game?
I stuck to the designs of The Terminator (1984) as much as I could, which wasn’t easy because things like HKs were never fully fleshed out until the sequels, so our HKs are actually T2 models. We were lucky enough to have both the flying HK and the (never before seen) centurion spider tank donated, though that will have to wait till a later release
before it gets used.
We have a fully modelled T800 unit and plasma rifle (with an actual human teeth cast) though that will also have to wait until its been fully articulated and has its own environment built before we can show it off.
Will Arnold Schwarzenegger (T-800) appear in the game or will this be avoided due to the heavy licensing fee attached to his likeness?
We have a sculpt of Arnold’s head that we were planning on using as a surgery prop where you can open up the CPU port, pull the eyes out and cut away the skin but the main experience of the game has to be perfect before we start adding in extras.
Will we get to see Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in some form, perhaps the iconic Polaroid photograph from the first movie?
I never liked the fact that Sarah was written out of the story before the war but it’s hard to justify her presence in 2029, though we do indeed have the Polaroid photo as an inventory item. I like to think that Kyle got in close with John long before he volunteered and that there is a story leading up to how he come into possession of the photo.
Will we see any flesh or rubber (T-600) covered Terminator units- regardless of actor likenesses?
We’ve built an underground series of tunnels and bunkers as a kind of hub world (complete with rats and German Shepherds) and having that invaded by an infiltrator would be fantastic. I didn’t like the T600 design from Terminator Salvation; since I always pictured them looking like the Seegson Synthetics from Alien: Isolation, confident and strident but blank-eyed and rubbery.
How far are we from a trailer and a release?
The trailer is being cut right now and it’s all falling into place, like everything on this project; it has to be perfect before I can let go of it. The original designs for the game were quite modest but the further into it I got the more I pushed for perfection, especially in graphics and atmosphere.
I always kept the game design as simple and manageable as I could since these things can get out of hand quick.
I want to see how people react to the trailer first before anybody gets to play anything but I plan on this getting released by mid 2019 with some add-ons and expansions to follow later in the year.
How long has this game been in development,- we take it you haven’t obtained an official license?
I never ask permission to make art, I go ahead and do it. This project was never meant to be a serious production, just a proof of concept and a training program for myself, and, of course, something that gives the fans the experience we’ve always wanted and have spent a lifetime waiting for.
I started laying down the basics of the game in mid December of 2017, personally I hate the slow early days of big projects; so I beg, borrow and steal, whatever I can get my hands on to get things up and running as fast as possible, then bit by bit I turn the whole thing into an original piece.
Looking back at it, we’ve made massive progress in just over a year and have several years of worth of work in a pretty tidy package. I learned the hard way about group projects- so I plan everything in advance and we’ve been ahead of schedule pretty much every step of the way.
Is there anything else you would like to tell fans about the game?
I prefer the old model of ‘show, don’t tell’.
Is Emotional Robots working on any other projects at the moment, or interested in tackling any other movie games in the future?
One of the main reasons I started doing Terminator was as a training program for myself; I’ve done 3D art for about 15 years now, so there’s not much left I can’t do, so now I have to learn everything else and then I can start building my own original IPs.
let’s face it, if I cant make a game based on a pre-designed and beloved universe what can I make?
As well as the underground Resistance HQ environments and future war/war torn environments, will your game visualise and take fans to a physical representation of SkyNet or Cheyenne Mountain for any gameplay moments/cutscenes or levels?
It’s certainly been considered, although Skynet is a strange one to try and visualise, I always pictured it kind of like the Combine Citadel (Half Life 2), something that was never designed for humans. Terminator Salvation, I don’t think, had the right mindset for it, why did Skynet have all these chairs and human interfaces? It’s an abstract entity.
Though I quite liked T3s imagery of Skynet being an antiquated server room.
This was part of the thought process behind the Skynet hacking episode we had planned: the clue is in the name ‘Tech-Com’ (technology and communications), as well as a physical war on the surface, there’s an information war being fought underground. We imagined a patrol returning, having killed a terminator unit, they then
extract its cpu and plug it into an old desktop and begin going through its memory banks and protocols; to find something like an ip address, a serial number, some kind of code- anything that will link them up to Skynet. Then using pre-war tech like Telnet, 80s hacker style to break into Skynet’s mainframe,- this was more the direction we wanted to go in, using interfaces and ingenuity rather than more environments.
Will the legendary character of John Connor feature in the game, or will he be a mysterious unseen character like he was in the first movie?
From the get go I knew exactly what I wanted my interpretation of John to be. He is heavily inspired by Marlon Brando’s ‘Colonel Kurtz’ in Apocalypse Now; a warrior poet, in the classic sense. I hated the rendition of John in Terminator Genisys but the few moments we saw of him in T2 spoke a thousand words to his true character.
I wanted to retain as much of the mystery surrounding him as I could, by having him as an unseen, unknown figure dwelling deep underground,- a quasi religious cult figure that only the most privileged members of the Resistance have seen in person and it is a rare honour to receive a radio transmission from him.
I didn’t like the idea of John being this fist-pumping hero leading the charge out of the trenches but rather a shadowy philosopher rapt in the duality of war.
Thank you James for the insight into your project.
Stay tuned for more updates on The Terminator: Los Angeles Resistance.
See more of James Towne’s work on ArtStation
Categories: Arnold Schwarzenegger • Exclusive • Fan Projects • Fans • Future War • Gaming • Home Consoles • Interviews • Linda Hamilton • Locations • Los Angeles • Michael Biehn • Movies • PC • SkyNet • T-600 • T-800 • The Terminator (1984)