Nels Bruckner, Director, TRIBES Product Line
[Nels Bruckner] I
started working for Dynamix way back in 1988.
I had just drooped out of college and was working in a
record store. I had been
doing computer games on my own since way back in high school, on the
Apple ][ and then on the Amiga. When
I heard there was an opening at Dynamix I jumped for it.
I was so nervous about the interview that I went out and got a
haircut to look more presentable! I
ended up not getting that job (it was a C64 programming job, and I
wasn't a C64 guy) but they called me back later with some testing and
general work and I took it. When
an opportunity came along to be the lead programmer on Die Hard
(published by Activision) I got the assignment and have been programming
ever since. Until recently, which leads to your next question...
[WGF] What exactly do you
do? Director, TRIBES product line is pretty broad! Are you the man in
charge of Tribes overall? What level of interaction/involvement
do you have with the development of the TRIBES line?
[Nels Bruckner] Yeah, being the
"director" means that I'm responsible on some level for the
continuing development of the Tribes line of products.
There is a lot of paperwork involved, dealing with contractors,
dealing with personnel issues, going to staff meetings, coordinate with
marketing, etc. That's mostly the "work" part of my job.
The "fun" part is interacting with the various team
members and being involved in the development process.
I've got a really talented team and they have a great vision of
what the product should be like, so I try not to steer the product
design for them too much. When some kind of design or direction call is
needed I work through that with
the team and come up with a solution.
I organized meetings, brainstorm about aspects of the game with
the various leads, make sure everyone is moving in the same direction,
and generally make sure that the creative development is progressing.
[WGF] What were
the major influences for TRIBES?
[Nels Bruckner] Obviously all the
"standard" FPS games were a big influence.
Games like Doom, Quake, and all the offshoots from that.
Especially all the mods (like CTF) that were beginning to scratch
the surface of team-play. I
personally have always been a huge fan of iD's games.
[WGF] TRIBES is one of the
most heavily modded games out there, and in fact TRIBES servers not
running mods seem quite rare. Were you surprised by the level of modding
and the open acceptance of it by the TRIBES community?
[Nels Bruckner] From
the beginning we expected that people would mod Tribes. We built a lot of stuff into the game to
make it easier for people to do so. So, we weren't surprised that a lot
of mods were done. What WAS
surprising is some of the cool things that these mods contained.
It was awesome to have someone run down the hall and yell
"man, check out this mod I downloaded -- you won't believe what
they did!". That was
GF] Is there anything about mods
that bugs you?
GF] Is there anything about mods that bugs you?
[Nels Bruckner] The only aspect of mods
that is a little troublesome is that mods can be made that really
unbalance the game (or even allow cheats, etc.). What ends up happening
then is that casual users end up joining servers that have wacky mods
and they aren't aware that they aren't playing a standard Tribes game.
We get a lot of reports of bugs and cheats that end up being
related to moded servers.
[WGF] Just how successful
was TRIBES? I know it did well, but do you have hard numbers as to how
many TRIBES players are out there?
[Nels Bruckner] It's
hard to get concise numbers. Our
sales numbers have been good but not huge.
On the other hand, our numbers don't seem to be going down at all
-- we sell a very consistent number of units each month.
Every time I check the Tribes servers at a peak time (like Friday
evening or on the weekend) I see several thousand people online, on over
600 servers. So,Tribes
seems like an on-going phenomenon who's success is still mounting and
won't be completely evident until Tribes 2 goes out.
[WGF] I saw an interview with someone on the TRIBES team (I can't remember
who, and I can't find it) a while back stating that TRIBES 2 would use
the WON Network user validation as an anti-piracy measure. Was piracy a
big problem with the first TRIBES?
[Nels Bruckner] Piracy
is one of those things that is hard to measure.
The suspicion is that Tribes was heavily pirated.
Part of the design of Tribes 2 will be an account/validation
system that should fix that problem.
TRIBES doesn't have the excessive blood, gore, gibs, etc that
have become the standard for games. Was this a business decision,
leaving out unnecessary gore to open the game to a younger crowd with
watchful parents? And if so, did it pay off? Can we expect the same from
TRIBES 2? (I kinda like the lack of gibs, keeps my framrate up.)
[Nels Bruckner] At some
point the team made a conscious decision not to have lots of blood and
flying body parts. It
wasn't really a business decision, per se. I think it was more a case of keeping
Tribes different from the Quake games, even in the cosmetic details.
I personally have nothing against blood and guts but that was
something that literally everyone was doing.
I doubt that we will back-track on this for T2.
What kind of gains can we expect from Transform and Lighting with
TRIBES? Is TRIBES Extreme going to have new code in the engine to take
better advantage of T&L?
[Nels Bruckner] Tribes
Extreme will use the Tribes 1 engine, with a few minor modifications.
So, no T&L in TE. Tribes
2 on the other hand represents almost a complete re-write of the game
engine with an eye toward supporting all various cool things like
T&L (including processor extensions, etc.). Our initial indications
are that Tribes 2 will benefit greatly from such extentions.
[WGF] Back to the subject of mods real quick; will TRIBES 2 allow mod
makers even more freedom?
[Nels Bruckner] Oh yeah.
T2 will in many ways be a mod makers dream. The level of support and available tools will be head and
shoulders above what was in Tribes 1.
[WGF] From the few screenshots I have seen of TRIBES 2 (I think the current
total is 2, the Penny Arcade shot, and one that I came across somewhere
random a while back) TRIBES 2 looks like a damned impressive game
visually. What kind of system are you targeting?
Bruckner] Well, it is always
tricky on the PC market deciding how much to put in and what kind of
machine to shoot for. The
goal with Tribes 2 is to be as scalable as possible.
We want it to be acceptable and fun on machines that ran Tribes 1
well but we want the fire-breathing monster machines to provide an
experience that is that much better.
T2 will be OpenGL only, no software, so that bumps the minimum
machine up a little.
[WGF] Can you divulge something really cool about TRIBES 2 that the public
hasn't heard yet?
[Nels Bruckner] Hmmm... not just yet. :)
[WGF] Can we expect more Terrain features in TRIBES 2 (more trees,
stuff lying around, etc.)?
[Nels Bruckner] Definitely.
Each world in T2 will be a whole environment, not just a set of
terrain art. From the skys,
to weather effects, to ground cover there will be many unique features
on the various worlds.
[WGF] Will there be a Linux port of any part of the TRIBES line?
We are currently planning on doing a Linux server of T2.
We will see how that goes.
[WGF] What can we expect from the TRIBES line
besides the TRIBES games? Maybe some toys, printed comics books?
[Nels Bruckner] We've actually been
looking into all kinds of things like that. There
are a lot of cool possibilities. You
will have to wait and see though. :)
[Nels Bruckner] Not actively.
Everyone on the Tribes team (and seemingly everyone in the
computer game industry) wants to do that kind of game at some point. Who
knows what the future will bring.
[WGF] Is there anything cooler than a Black Sabbath live show?
[Nels Bruckner] No, probably not.
Black Sabbath have long been one of my fav bands, but I've never
seen them live. It's very
What other games are you looking forward to?
Bruckner] I want to see what Q3 turns out like.
Hopefully there will be lots of Q3 licenses that have cool
single-player stuff and awesome art.
I'm also looking forward to
[WGF] Last question: Normally, I would ask about musical preference, but
you make yours clear in your .plan. It's a nice day, so I feel like
pushing my luck! Penny Arcade gets a TRIBES 2 screenshot, may I have one
too please? :-)
[Nels Bruckner] I will get our web guy to send you one or two. Keep in mind that all the screens that you are seeing now (and up to this point) aren't using the full T2 engine, only a prototype. The real thing is gonna be even better.