We discuss incest, Mass Effect 3 and the problem with game endings.
During a recent press trip to Noumena Studios in Berlin we sat down with the creative talent behind a little known fantasy RPG called Demonicon. We quizzed creative director Eric Jannot and lead writer David Hessler on all of the gaming issues of the day including that Mass Effect 3 ending, the challenges of putting together a game set in the beloved Dark Eye universe and what makes their game different from the army of fantasy experiences currently flooding the marketplace. A word of warning though, there are some spoilers ahead…
A lot of developers promise a dark fantasy experience, but you guys are really going for it with incestuous themes and unsettling moral choices. How far are you willing to push the boundaries?
Eric Jannot, creative director: We’ll push it to the limits! We’ve spoken a lot with the editors from The Dark Eye and they’re fine with it. They know the story, they know what we’re aiming for and it’s perfectly okay for them. Everything that happens in our game will be an official part of The Dark Eye universe. It’s okay with the incest thing, as there will be some twists with regards to that.
How afraid are you guys of scaring away those that don’t really have an affinity for The Dark Eye universe?
EJ: The main goal for us is to create a good dark fantasy game. If you’re a fan of The Dark Eye, you will find the references you love about this world. If you don’t know, you’ll still have a good dark fantasy setting you can approach and learn about. I think it’s important to be brave with this setting because there’s always the same sorts of stories involving an evil guy being told, but we wanted to do something special in that direction. I really love Planetscape Torment and it was rather brave too, and now it’s famous for the absolutely great characters, weird setting and everything being different to what it appeared to be. That’s very inspiring for us.
A similar RPG to yourselves is currently embroiled in controversy regarding a disappointing ending. What do you think about that? Do you think games produced ultimately belong to the developers who created them, or the fans which cherish the experiences?
EJ: Obviously I’ve played Mass Effect 3 and I haven’t got to the ending quite yet, but what my opinion on this point is that I wouldn’t say that art only belongs to its creators. I think if you give it to the people it’s their art too, it’s an interaction. If people want to invest themselves in the story then that’s good, and then of course there will be critical opinions on how it wraps up. What is important is that they care for the story and that’s what BioWare achieved. People care so much that they criticised the end and that’s good in my opinion. You can always discuss from this point on, that you achieved something important. That’s what we’re ready for, too. Some people may not like it because what they see may be different from what they feel, but that’s okay. If people love Demonicon I would love to do a sequel and of course we will address any feedback to produce a better game.
I think the problem is that game endings still aren’t considered to be that important (purely because the majority of gamers don’t finish what they start) however that phenomenon seems to be shifting. Say gamers who played Demonicon were really unhappy with the end or even the last hour, would you consider changing it to address their complaints?
David Hessler, lead writer: That’s a tough question for Demonicon, as even the last hour is set around a really, really big decision.
EJ: If it really is such a huge deal, and that people love the game so much that they perceive the ending should be different, then I would have a discussion with fans and from that I would decide. Of course, you want to tell a story that the fans love. Basically, artistic integrity is not something I believe in with games – it’s an interactive artform. I think it’s okay to change it if people have that much of a problem with it.
DH: Making games is a completely different medium to writing plays, novels or movie scripts. The decisions that are made have their basis, if it goes right, on understanding and the agreement of developers. However, developers are very keen to learn new things. That’s the best thing about the fans’ reaction to Mass Effect 3 as you can learn what fans dislike.
Demonicon poses some very tough choices for players to make during the campaign. How important is staying within the shades of grey, rather than just having good and bad moral choices?
EJ: There are no purely good or bad choices and that’s very important; we want people to think about the story. Even a fantasy world isn’t purely about a black and white moral landscape, as it should be about motivations like in Game of Thrones. The TV series or the books are a good example, even the bad guys in the book have their own personal motivations. Even with the cannibal, we’ll reveal strong motivations for that character later in the game.
For a studio consisting of forty-five developers it must be tough to pull of this kind of grand branching RPG?
DH: We do not offer as many decisions as we could, because we want our decisions to have importance. We want decisions to be as balanced as possible with gameplay to back them up – you won’t have as many decisions as something like Fallout: New Vegas for example. We’re doing a story-driven game, so we offer up decisions that have big impact.
EJ: That also means that we focus on the story and the combat. We don’t have mini-games – if you want to do a good story-driven game you don’t need them. It’s more important for us to focus all our energy on the more important aspects of Demonicon.
Demonicon is due to release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC next year. If you’d like to learn more about this starkly different RPG download the latest issue of PCGZine.
Company of Heroes 2, Batman: Arkham Origins, Grand Theft Auto V, Watch_Dogs, Beyond: Two Souls and Night of the Rabbit previews.Download Now!