Rob Hewson about Hydrophobia

Rob Hewson about Hydrophobia


Hooked Gamers talks to Dark Energy Digital's Rob Hewson on their water-thriller Hydrophobia.

Hooked Gamers: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Rob Hewson: My name’s Rob Hewson, I’m Senior Creative Designer on Hydrophobia.

Hooked Gamers: First off, congratulations on finishing up Hydrophobia. Can you talk about the origins of the game? Would it be fair to say that the classic Poseidon Adventure novel and its subsequent film adaptations played a role?

Rob Hewson: To an extent, yes. At least in terms of the survival based gameplay. We set out to create a unique and compelling world which avoids the usual clichés of gaming, and we wanted to create very unique gameplay around the spectacle of HydroEngine.

Rob Hewson about Hydrophobia
In terms of games, we were probably most influenced by the atmosphere of Dead Space, the narrative elements of Half Life 2 and Bio Shock, the action of Uncharted 2… but Hydrophobia is really it’s own game. Nothing else plays like it and nothing else feels like it. We worked very hard to create a completely original experience in every sense.

Hooked Gamers: Water in video games have always been one of the most difficult things to simulate. Most modern titles only utilize them as a cosmetic particle effect rather than actually simulating its movement and properties. How does the Hydroengine actually simulate realistic water?

Rob Hewson: I’d love to tell you how it works but 1. I’m not a PhD Astro Physicist (like our R&D Director Huw Lloyd who developed it) and 2. we don’t want to give away our secrets to other developers! However I can tell you what it does. It’s a true physics simulation of water, so it never repeats and is entirely emergent and unscripted. It output the direction and velocity at every point in the fluid, and this data is fed into the various other systems so objects, characters and ever particle systems react completely realistically to the flow. This information is also used to trigger a number of realistic effects such as foaming and spray.

Rob Hewson about Hydrophobia
Hooked Gamers: To that end, is the Hydroengine capable of rendering multiple types of liquids interacting with one another? For example, can water in the game interact with, say, oil, blood, or even fresh water?

Rob Hewson: Absolutely. Oil fires can be created by shooting barrels in the environment, and they will be carried completely freely by the water flow, hopefully towards your enemy but occasionally towards Kate. Blood will cloud out from wounds when you are shot under the water and disperse in the underwater currents, and Kate will get wet and drip when she leaves the water.

Hooked Gamers: Will Dark Energy be looking to market the Hydroengine to other developers? Has the engine been tested with other ones such as Source or Unreal? Though Hydrophobia is a timed exclusive to the Xbox Live Arcade, when it makes its way to the PC will the game be capable of running the Hydroengine on Nvidia Physx cards?

Rob Hewson: We are certainly open to the possibility, and have been approached by other parties, so we’ll see. We wanted to get Hydrophobia out the door first. There’s nothing to stop HydroEngine being integrated into other engines, and yes it will run just fine on PC.

Rob Hewson about Hydrophobia
Hooked Gamers: With multi-platform development on the minds of many developers these days, what's your opinion on the various platforms out there? Did you approach Hydrophobia with a specific platform in mind and worked on porting it from there or did you take a universal approach?

Rob Hewson: Microsoft signed the game because they were excited about the technology and the fact that we could push the boundaries of XBLA. We can’t really talk about other platforms at the moment for contractual reasons, but Hydrophobia will work just fine on any current-gen hardware… our InfiniteWorlds engine is platform agnostic.

Hooked Gamers: Switching gears here, I'd like to talk about the main character. Women as protagonists in video games are uncommon at best. Heck, you can count on one hand the number of female protagonists that are not designed to ooze sexuality to draw the player in, let alone have a strong personality. What is it about Kate that makes her a believable female protagonist?

Rob Hewson: We were fed up of the usual gaming cliché of a beautiful but deadly female lead character, and wanted to create a vulnerable, reluctant heroine. We took inspiration from Ripley in Alien for example – like her Kate is thrown into a terrifying situation which goes way beyond her normal role as a systems engineer. Initially Kate is just out to survive, but she begins to learn that in order to survive she has to fight, and by fighting she is inevitably drawn into the politics of the wider back-story.