But the relationship might be closer than you think. "I'll be honest," said Richard Ham, creative director at Splash Damage to Joystiq during a recent press event in Los Angeles. "Brink is Enemy Territory 3. Let's not mince words here." Well, okay then.
Ham said that Splash Damage's main goal with Brink was to take the often complex Enemy Territory gameplay -- "which is really very hardcore, very fast, very in-your-face" -- and adapt it to a wider audience. To do that, SD examined how "the best of the best" played ET, like clan players who win tournaments, and tried to figure out "what it is that they do moment to moment to ensure that they win, and how we can put systems into Brink that will ensure players are doing that automatically, without even knowing that they're doing it in the bigger picture to win the game."
That means that XP is given generously during a match, not only for killing enemies but for completing objectives, giving out support buffs and extra health and ammo to allies, and even doing things like standing near players who are working towards goals. There are four classes -- solider, engineer, medic, and operative -- and each of those classes can buff other players and themselves, and deal out their own offensive abilities. The engineer can drop turrets or build flanking routes in the level, and the operative can "comm hack" fallen opponents to reveal enemy locations or even disguise themselves as enemies to sneak behind the lines.
Ham revealed to me that early on in development, the devs considered dropping the classes completely, "allowing everybody to do everything all of the time." But the company found that it was "so key, so core to the Enemy Territory-style gameplay" that the game "lost something special." Indeed, in the two levels I played through (one updated from last year and one brand new level that had the Resistance escorting a wounded VIP through a complex called "Security Tower"), choosing a class really made the teamwork, well, work. Sometimes, our team ran into areas that required a certain class (like a node only hackable by an operative, or a barrier only destructible by a soldier), and our class composition had to align to get it right and move on.
Weapons and their components (like extra clips for faster reloading, or scopes for less kickback) are unlocked by doing challenges. I didn't get to see those, but was told that they were special levels that were class-specific, and completely outside of the campaign, like an area where an engineer had to play by setting up turrets, or a medic had to heal a certain amount of points. It seemed strange that weapon customization would be tied only to a separate mode rather than included in the XP system, but we'll have to see how that turns out.
One big change from the last time we saw Brink is the objective wheel -- last year, the developers made a big deal out of the fact that pushing up on the D-pad would quickly and easily give you something to work on in the game, but this time it was mentioned only tangentially. Ham didn't quite confirm that the wheel had taken a backseat in development, but he did downplay its importance in the final game. "It was kind of an experiment," he said. "The wheel was the first thing we got in. We knew it was our safety net," but as the team moved on, they went for more obvious goal markers like large icons and clear button indicators of what to do and where. "It's there if you need it, but hopefully we've done a good enough job, with really clear signalling, that it's really a fallback."
In addition to the sixteen core levels, there are four missions called "What If," two for each side, that portray a little twist on the various storylines. Rather than telling the story from a faction perspective, the "What If" missions are "not really canon," and let players see their factions be a little more extreme with their actions. That leaves open the possibility for more story-based missions in DLC, and while Ham said that putting in a new class would be a little much for DLC, "new abilities, new maps, new storytelling; those would be the things we'd love to see when and if DLC comes along."
But before that shows up, Brink seems destined to satisfy fans of team-based shooters, especially those with some Enemy Territory experience. "We didn't really change our formula very much," Ham said. "We really think it's pretty good. It was more just about making it accessible." Brink comes out in May.