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From pitch to product: Elastic Games on bringing Police Warfare to life

Xav de Matos, @Xav

"It's definitely something that's a work in progress," Elastic Games lead game designer James Wearing admits. He's talking about the name of the product his newly formed team is pitching to Kickstarter users, a first-person shooter called 'Police Warfare.' The name is more descriptive than it is memorable.

"There were definitely a lot of comments where people said it was the worst name they ever heard." But the name of the product is on a short list of post-development things to take care of.

Right now, the focus at Elastic Games is to use the goodwill built up by Police Warfare's original pitch, which was labeled as a fan-made concept for the future of Call of Duty in February, and turn it into funding for an actual product via the crowd power of Kickstarter.

Gallery: Police Warfare 'Concept Art and Renders' - (04/12/12) | 12 Photos

The professional-looking pitch became a major topic of discussion when it went live, but only began life as the concept for an actual product after the video's explosive reception, Wearing admits.

"At one point we thought about sending the pitch to other companies and see if they were interested in it," Wearing says, specifically referencing Activision. "But the fan response was clearly so strong that it makes sense to go the Kickstarter route."

Though established in 2009, Kickstarter has been a recent hotbed for indie development funding, due in large part to the recent success of developer Double Fine. After collecting more than $3 million for its 'Adventure' title, Double Fine helped blast open doors to even more video game products, including the revival of established products like Shadowrun and Wasteland.

Despite the growing market for Kickstarter-based video game projects, there has been a backlash from video game fans, including groans in the comments of Joystiq posts at the mention of new projects. Elastic Games is aware of the risk, producer Shawn Wallace says. "I think it's a double-edged sword because obviously [Tim Schafer and Double Fine] proved the model, but at the same time, we're hitting what is potentially the point of saturation.

"Everything has its peak, and hopefully we're not there yet," he adds.

Elastic thinks that Police Warfare is something that potential Kickstarter users have yet to see. Describing Police Warfare as an "intense first-person shooter for the Call of Duty and Battlefield crowd," Wearing thinks that there's a big market of gamers who will want to donate to this project, because Kickstarter has yet to feature many games in their "genre of choice."

Elastic's vision for Police Warfare is to release an online, class-based, 32-player shooter with vehicles, where SWAT and robbers battle on the streets (and hills) of Los Angeles. "For us, it's about connecting the dots of a few different products and combining them to create something new," Wearing explains. Three classes have been announced, with a fourth being made available exclusively to Kickstarter users who give at least $100.

"We're huge fans of Battlefield – we love that style of gameplay – but we're also huge fans of movies like Heat and that, sort of, law enforcement/criminal world.

The goal is really to connect those two. To create something that plays like Battlefield; drivable vehicles, large maps, large player-count in that world and there's nothing out there like that. We want to be the first to create that product."

The main focus in Police Warfare is 'Heist Mode,' which is inspired by Battlefield's Rush Mode. "We want to create this head-on clash that's always occurring, that you get in something like Rush Mode, which is capturing points in sequence. For us, capturing those points is actually destroying bank vaults, taking the cash, and moving to the next bank," Wearing tells me.

But similarities to Battlefield reach beyond Police Warfare's gametype variation. "When I talk to other people who play Battlefield, the think we're always talking about most are these 'Oh my God' moments," Wearing says, referencing moments like Battlefield's 'Jihad Jeep.'

"We really want to emphasize those type of moments, more than we're seeing in other titles and really build the focus of the gameplay around those. We want to give players the tools to have those moments as often as possible." Some ideas that have come from this line of thinking include vehicle cruise control, remote control planes, and sticky bombs. Gameplay will also borrow from Rainbox Six, with options like rappelling down buildings and helicopters.

Pre-production on Police Warfare has been underway for "about eight months," including time used to develop the original pitch video. While it isn't playable in any fashion at the moment – either as a proof of concept mod or an alpha build – Elastic is targeting an October 2013 release.

"We're purely at a conceptual phase, that's really the reason we're going to Kickstarter now. It's to take all the stuff we have – art assets, concepts – and actually make something playable."

It would seem like a difficult task for most upstart teams, but Elastic has experience on its side. The fourteen-person developer is comprised of former Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Activision, and Epic Games employees, having worked on Assassin's Creed 2, Crysis 2, Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto 4, and the upcoming Far Cry 3.

Asking for $325,000, Wallace says the hope is to gain a good footing to help expand Police Warfare over time. "Our goal, as in the pitch, is this 'Triple-A' production, but we're building a small playable at this point. If it blows open, we'll just keep expanding on that." Elastic won't reveal the engine Police Warfare is expected to run on, but says licensing the right technology will help develop the game swiftly and quickly.

A lot of the team's ambition is due to the initial response the pitch video received. "If [the original pitch video] had been like 10,000 views and a feeling of 'meh' then this probably wouldn't be happening," Wallace says, reiterating that fan response helped push the team toward making the game.

If its goal isn't met, however, that doesn't necessarily spell the end for Police Warfare. "Our intent is to keep after it," Wallace says. "We've got a lot of passion for it. We've assembled a really great team. And we think the concept is something that people want, proven by the response.

We're not going to scale back even if we don't hit our goal. We're going to keep going."

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