From Front Mission To Front Mission Evolved

By Spencer . September 24, 2010 . 1:47pm


Front Mission Evolved takes place after the events of Front Mission 5 where mankind use orbital elevators to explore space. One of these on the USN side is destroyed at the beginning of the game and Dylan Ramsey, an engineer who also proves to be a capable fighter, stumbles into the army.


Unlike other Front Mission titles, this isn’t a strategy RPG. Front Mission Evolved is a third person shooter following in the footsteps of Front Mission Online and Front Mission: Gun Hazard, a Super Famicom side-scroller from Culdcept Saga developer Omiya Soft. In this interview, David Verfaillie, Design Director at Double Helix, discusses transitioning the Front Mission series to Front Mission Evolved and how the studio collaborated with Square Enix.


What was the toughest part about changing Front Mission from a strategy RPG to a mecha action game?


David Verfaillie, Design Director at Double Helix: The most difficult part about transitioning Front Mission to a real time action game was maintaining the tactical feel of combat. We wanted combat to be about more than just mowing down enemies. To accomplish this we made enemy types with very diverse behavior sets. This forces the player to consider the composition and spacing of the enemies they are fighting. Combining those enemies, with a variety of weapons, backpacks, and battleskills that all have unique mechanics, further enhances the tactical nature of combat. They player has to develop a plan to best utilize his offensive and defensive capabilities based on the enemy composition.


I recall Hashimoto-san saying he wanted Double Helix to create a Front Mission game for the West, but aside from the story did Square Enix ever come to the table with ideas and gameplay suggestions?


Definitely. Square Enix was an integral part of the design and development process. They contributed a variety of ideas and provided feedback on all major decisions. For instance, the Fafnir boss was a concept originally conceived by Square Enix. We then worked together to develop the mechanics that would turn that character design into a fun, challenging boss fight. Square Enix also provided guidance on a variety of art issues relating to character and wanzer models.


Vice-versa. Did Double Helix assist with the story?


Yes, we also provided quite a bit of feedback to Square on the story. The original script for Front Mission Evolved was quite long, so we provided feedback on which sections we felt were less suited to an action shooter and how to stitch the story back together after removing those parts. We also provided some feedback on character arcs and motivations and how to keep the characters appealing to a Western audience.




While it’s a first for the West, this isn’t the first Front Mission 3D shooter. Front Mission Online was. Did you get a chance to check that title out and were any ideas from the Japan-only game implemented into Front Mission Evolved?


Unfortunately, we never got a chance to play Front Mission Online.


The strategy RPG Front Mission games have an expanded rocks-paper-scissors model at its core to balance weapons and parts. How did Double Helix go about balancing the weapon combinations in Front Mission Evolved to go along with player skill levels? Are there any backpack/arms/leg combinations you feel are better suited for beginners or experts?


The core balance of weapons is based on weight versus damage. So in general the heavier a weapon is the more damage it does. However, modifications were made to account for each weapon’s unique capabilities. For instance, since Shotguns have limited range, per unit of weight they do more damage than a machine gun. Likewise, since the Bazookas have a lot of splash damage, per unit of weight they do less damage than an average weapon.


There are definitely some weapons that are better suited to a beginner. Weapons with a lot of splash damage like Bazookas or weapons that home to targets like Missiles are good examples. Weapons that require constant, precise aiming like machine guns tend to be the most difficult to use.


How did Double Helix design the Wanzers? Did Square Enix give you art assets or did the team have to construct models based on concept art?


All returning wanzers from previous Front Mission games where designed by Square Enix. They utilized an outsourced concept artist, Skan, to develop their designs into concept art. Based on that concept art, Double Helix then created the in game assets.


For the new wanzers in Front Mission Evolved, like the Anakuma, Caballus, or Apollo’s Chariot, Double Helix created the initial design and concept art and then iterated with Square Enix until both parties where happy with the concept. Then the ingame assets were created by Double Helix based on the concept art. Below you can see two pieces of concept art for Marcus, the leader of Apollo’s Chariot, that show how the design evolved over time.


Initial Concept

Final Grey-scale Concept

clip_image002 clip_image004


In this development blog, John Behrns, Lead Animator, mentioned different animations were made for each weapon. How many animations does each Wanzer have and how long did it take to make each one?


There are over 650 animations for the standard wanzer! Capturing the feel of piloting a wanzer is a key part of the Front Mission Evolved experience, so we put a lot of effort into developing the animations. There are animations for walking, jumping, hovering, skating, shooting, melee, and reactions. It takes on average about a day to make an animation. So the animation team was very busy, when you consider there are also many custom animations for bosses and the human gameplay.


Let’s talk about the design for the lead characters like Dylan, Adela, and Godwin. How did you come up with their designs? Did Square give you suggestions and were there any alternate designs?


The character designs were originated by Square Enix. After developing bios for each of the main characters, Square Enix worked with Imaginary Friends to develop concept art for each of the characters. Double Helix then created the models, materials and shaders to implement the characters in game. There were quite a few iterations on the characters until both parties where happy with their look in game.


We haven’t seen too much about the bosses. What can you tell us about them?


Yes, there are two large bosses in the game. Both of them are amazing, lengthy battles which I think players will really enjoy. The first is Fafnir, an enormous quadrupedal wanzer that you can catch a glimpse of in the release video for Front Mission Evolved. The second is the final boss, which is another large boss with multiple stages. Additionally there are multiple boss battles with Apollo’s Chariot, a group of four mercenary wanzers. Their wanzers are a bit larger than normal wanzers and have a variety of unique attacks and weapons. And lastly there are three battles with Cornelius, which get progressively more difficult over the course of the game.


Looking back at the game’s development was there anything cut or something you wish you could have added?


There was one feature which we experimented with early in development – the ability to get in and out of your wanzer at any time. We had to cut that feature once we began full development, because it made hard to script the levels and create art that would look good on such different scales.


There a lot of things I wish we could have added, but the scope of Front Mission Evolved is already so immense that we had to draw the line somewhere. Some things I wish we could have added are: more destructibility in the environments, online co-op for allies, and more multiplayer modes.

  • idofgrahf

    great, armored core with a little bit more story, and less customization, just what I need (sarcasm)

  • godmars

    Still feels like Front Mission Devolved. An attempt to copy/exploit from FPSs instead of developing STGs.

    • Hraesvelgr

      Please say “shooter” instead of “FPS”. This is not an FPS.

  • ikiryou

    It’s already out in Japan and has an overall review score of 30 from Famitsu according to I want to be excited for it, as much as I love mech battles, but that 10-hour long story mode worries me q_q. I’m not sure if the multiplayer component will be enough to make up for any single-player shortcomings.

    • Hraesvelgr

      Multiplayer is never enough to make up for the shortcomings of single player, but I’ve never been much of a fan of online play.

  • Tom_Phoenix

    I am probably the only person in the world who is willing to give this game a shot. The fact that this title is coming for the PC platform makes me very excited. I always wanted to play a mecha-based TPS (we non-console owners don’t have the luxury of Armored Core and Zone of the Enders). My dream is to speed across the battlefield in a red mecha (everyone knows anything painted red goes three times as fast ;) ), humming “Char Ga Kuru” to myself as I mow down any enemy in front of me with a machine gun.

    That said, even I have certain reservations about the game. I am concerned how the multiplayer of this game will turn out. So far, the videos I have seen make the combat look quite clunky and bogged down…not exactly what I was looking for. Hopefully, they will include some more open battlefields and not just the urban environments that they showcased so far.

    Also, previews of the game haven’t been very positive about it and there are certain indications of potential imbalances. That said, the fact that Famitsu rated it preety highly (30 isn’t great, but it’s not bad either) is a good sign. Hopefully, the game turns out to be alright.

    • thebanditking

      No, not the only one but I will say your likely one of the few. With all the hands on previews I have read condemning the games on foot missions controls and other game play issues, can’t say I’m excited. Also why is this game devoid of color?

  • Arcm

    Well, I’m excited I loved Front Mission Online so another third person shooter in the FM universe is what I need. I enjoyed FM 5 but 4 was a let down I think every series needs a change in pace every once in a while.

    Look at Final Fantasy every game changes up something and people still buy the hell out that franchise…. me included.

    I think dragon quest is the exception to that rule but it’s dragon quest that series can stay the same forever for all I care I’ll still buy it.

  • DDanny

    Was looking forward to this, as I just began playing Front Mission series.
    But after hearing about the awful single player and story…

    • Front Mission Evolved is a 7/10 game that’s worth a rental at the very least, but not something I would recommend. I definitely recommend making the most out of multiplayer because the single player campaign just isn’t good enough to carry the game through. If you want a more complete single player experience in an action-oriented FM (compared to Evolved), you should play Gun Hazard.

  • kirishima_industry

    Don’t buy this game. The gameplay, the story, and the artwork are really awful but the biggest problem is not such a thing. This product is just a defective item. It’s full of glitches and the online mode doesn’t work at all. If you can read Japanese, see the reviews on Amazon Japan site. Most of the reviews are the reports about the terrible glitches.

  • I think it was a big mistake putting this Front Mission in the main universe, and calling it “Evolved”. Having played the game thoroughly, it just screams “Gun Hazard” from the setting to the nuances of the single player campaign. From everything I’ve read up including Shinji Hashimoto’s interviews, I probably wouldn’t be too far off saying the game was originally Gun Hazard 2. Double Helix’s admissions on being able to board/disembark from wanzers freely, co-op play, and the original story being far longer than what is (8-10 hours versus potentially 15-20 hours) all point to that direction. If it truly was meant to be Gun Hazard 2, then SE head management made a huge mistake by changing its direction and focus.

  • thebanditking

    You know with the initial shock of “its not an RPG” over I might be able to at least give this one a try. Then I remember who is developing it, and go right back to ignoring it. Why is it that when Japanese publishers collaborate with western developers 8 times out of 10 they always pick the crappy ones? I mean did they even look at the games Double Helix has made and how terrible they are?

    • According to one of Shinji Hashimoto’s interviews (the producer of Evolved), SE head management scouted around 10 Western developers and found out that all of them were tied up with other projects. So, they searched for more studios and settled down with Double Helix after they confirmed their availability.

  • Since Armored Core 5 is still not out nor any new info about it, this game will be enough to get my custom giant robot fix.

  • Guest

    how to keep the characters appealing to a Western audience.Why is Japan so concerned all of a sudden with pleasing the West? They barely gave a crap about that in the 90’s and early 2000’s and dominated just the same. I dont want dull imagery, 300 pound steroid macho’s weilding machine guns, wittled down story and ugly brown and grey artwork. I want Japan style. Not Western style.

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