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Mercenary's menu Interview

LIONHEART




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(06.05.2002)

[Chris] - Chris Parker (BIS/Interplay)
[Ion] - Ion Hardie (Reflexive Entertainment)
[Yurg] - Yuri Bushin and Nomad (Freelancer)

[Yurg] Hi! Please tell our readers about your team and how long do you work with Lionheart?

[Chris] I am Chris Parker and I work in Black Isle Studios where I have been working with Reflexive Entertainment on Lionheart since November of 2001. Before that I was responsible for numerous titles in Black Isle including Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate II, and Icewind Dale.

[Ion] My name is Ion Hardie and I work at Reflexive Entertainment. We have been working on Lionheart for the last 7-8 months on very mature technology. The basis for the game engine was shipped in two other titles, Star Trek: Away Team and Zax: Alien Hunter, so we are building upon that engine. Our Lionheart development team (of about 12) is very experienced and individual team members have worked on a variety of other titles, including the original Icewind Dale.

[Yurg] To start off, please give us a summary of Lionheart and its main features or points of interest.

[Chris] Lionheart is being developed by Reflexive Entertainment and is a computer role-playing game which uses the SPECIAL rules system for character development. This rules system, which first appeared in Fallout, has been updated to include magic and real-time combat in a fantasy setting, specifically Europe in the 16th century. However Europe in Lionheart is unlike anything you will find in a history book. In Lionheart the history of man was altered in the 12th century during the Third Crusade when an event called the Disjunction released magic and spiritkind onto the Earth. Many things in Lionheart have some basis in history, but all are eerily different.

[Yurg] Is it true what Lionheart's working title was Fallout Fantasy?

[Chris] Yes. Fallout Fantasy was a name that very quickly summed up what we were making. That is, we were making a game in a fantasy (medieval with magic) setting and that we were going to use the SPECIAL system (which originated in Fallout). Reflexive used the even more generic XRPG in some of the earliest docs, but we thought that was too generic for some internal uses.

After it was leaked that we were working on 'Fallout Fantasy', and then everybody decided it was some sort of PS2 hack-n-slash, I think we all wished we had just kept calling it XRPG. In the end I think it was kind of an amusing leak actually.

[Yurg] What is the main storyline within the new game?

[Ion] The initial parts of the game serve to introduce the world to the player by the harshest means. The player starts out the game in the city of Nueva Barcelona, a city that was built after the Disjunction on the destroyed ruins of Barcelona in Spain. In this alternate timeline, just like in real history, the Spanish Armada is getting ready to attack England…just for different reasons. The player is thrust into a Spain in turmoil as the Armada is getting ready to depart. The Inquisition has been gaining in power since the Disjunction, and now has a strong presence in much of what is left of Europe. Subtly, and over many years there has been increased unrest in the world, and signs point to what could be a second Disjunction. Whether the player wants to play as a good or an evil character, there is a reason for them to care about this happening…and we don't want to spoil it.

[Yurg] Please describe the alternate world us much us it possible.

[Chris] The world is 16th century Europe, but as I just mentioned, it has been changed in many subtle and also drastic ways from our historical accounts. Magic and spiritkind have imbued many parts of the world. In many cases this has created benign and beautiful magical locations, in others the world has turned dark and evil - a twisted and unnatural perversion of nature. Civilization has of course been affected as well. The study of magic has created many powerful magic wielders, but as is the case in Spain and France, the Inquisition has taken up a position to forbid its use. Magic has infused the human race, creating divergent humankind while at the same time creating fierce beasts and demons. Overall, just about everything is different in some way, yet it still feels very familiar.

The locations in the game vary from those that are similar to their historic versions and those that are completely different. The player will adventure through city, dungeon, wilderness, and a variety of other locations in Spain, France, England and other undisclosed locations.

[Yurg] Maybe you could describe in few words main character?

[Chris] The player creates a single character. This character can be male or female, any of several different races, and have a multitude of different abilities through the attributes, skills, perks and traits that the system makes available. Over the course of the game they can have other characters join and adventure with them. Some of these characters can come and go for only one quest, or may potentially stay on as long as the player character wishes (or story elements allow).

In the beginning of the game the player is suffering through subtle persecution at the hands of the Inquisition. In this altered history, the Inquisition seeks to ferret out the magically-imbued as well as users of magic and eliminate them as a threat to mankind. Unfortunately, the player is imbued with a spirit, and in the opening cut-scene, they fall under the watchful eye of the inquisitors.

[Yurg] Could you describe a role of magic and magical system?

[Chris] The addition of magic to the system has been handled in the same manner that other skills and perks are handled. That is, we have added it in a way that you can choose to use as much or as little magic as you want. There are magical skills and magical perks, and certain races are more predisposed to the use of magic than others. All of these things factor in. Just as with a melee weapon, how many skill points you spend, what you spend them on, and your blend of traits, perks, and race, will all determine your ability with magic.

[Yurg] Why you decided use SPECIAL system and how much it was changed since Fallout 2?

[Chris] I think everybody in Black Isle Studios likes the SPECIAL system and when we proposed its use to Reflexive they were immediately on board as well. It offers an immensely open-ended system for character development, lacks the drawbacks of a class system, and is infinitely expandable. Also, since we have used it in two games, we understand a lot about how certain things in the system balance with other things, which makes it a deeper system for a game.

The system has seen several updates, the most significant of which are the addition of magic and adjusting it to real-time combat. But even these were fairly trivial when you look at how the system is being used overall. Most of the resistances, derived skills, the base equations, and even the Perks are similar or the same to ones used in Fallout 1/2. In many cases the names have been changed, and the exact use might be slightly different, but they accomplish the same things.

[Yurg] What is you personal opinion, could we say "Lionheart is Fallout in magical world"?

[Chris] No. Lionheart is a computer role playing game that takes place in medieval Europe and uses the character advancement system from Fallout. To draw any further conclusions between the two is really a mistake. The design goals aren't even the same. For example, we have never had any intention of allowing a character to talk their way out of every situation. While we are creating a very strong story and detailed character dialogue interactions, we also wanted to have lots of good old fashioned combat. Many of the areas in the game are designed as nothing other than combat areas, and we think this is a good thing.

When we decide to make Fallout again, we'll make Fallout. This game uses the SPECIAL system and is a role-playing game, no further conclusions or similarities should be drawn between the two titles.

[Yurg] Could you describe in brief a range of perks?

[Chris] The design currently has over 60 Perks. Some of them might not make it into the final game, but they cover everything from increasing stats to improving skills, to improving critical hits. One example of a completely new Perk should be nothing of a surprise:

Mental Focus
The interrelationships between your spirit, magic, and the world around you are becoming clearer. The tendrils of magic that are now woven through the fiber of your being are somehow easier to manipulate.
This perk allows the caster to decrease the casting cost for all Thought Magic spells across the board by 15%. This is a one-time adjustment.
Number of Ranks: 1
Requirements: Any Thought Magic Skill 100, Intelligence 6, Perception 6

Note that this could change completely by the time we release, but I'm sure we'll have something similar if not exactly the same.

[Yurg] Will be in game "talking heads" or TORN's dialog style?

[Chris] No and No (I think). I'm not really sure what concept you are referring to from Torn - it's really hard to compare something to a game that was cancelled.

What I can say is that dialogues in Lionheart will be of a similar variety to those in a Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale. However, the dialogues are real-time, so you can start one and then walk away, or whatever. We also use a variety of different checks in each dialogue (depending on the character you are talking to) to determine how that character responds to your player, what sorts of things they want to tell you, and even what quests (or lack there of) are available to you. There will be voice over for many of the characters in the game, but certainly not all of them, and we won't be zooming in on any of them.

[Yurg] How many races will be in game?

[Chris] There are four races if you count the pure-blood humans. The remaining three are the Sylvant, or humans that have been imbued with magic, the Demokin whose bloodline includes an impish or demonic spirit, and the Feralkin whose bloodline includes a beast spirit. Each has different advantages and drawbacks.

There will be a lot of different enemies in the game. The actual count of raw enemy types is more than 50 if you include variations. The actual number of different enemy types is of course much higher than this.

[Yurg] Well be in game technical weapons?

[Chris] We never planned to include 'technology' as an aspect of character development in the game or have that trade off balancing act like you see in Arcanum or even Shadowrun. Not that I think that's a poor idea, I really like those systems; it's just not something that we have chosen to focus on in Lionheart.

[Yurg] What were the main considerations in designing the game's selection of weapons?

[Chris] When we designed the weapons we just looked for those things that we thought most players would look forward to as weapon choices. We also took care to ensure that we had a good selection of everything from small and fast weapons up to large, slow, but very painful weapons.

An example of how this stuff works in real time? If you have a small sword, it does less damage but is quicker. A very large sword would be slow but do lots of damage. This is analogous to how the APs worked in Fallout, it just takes place in real-time. Perks will do things like speed up how quickly you can use a weapon, give you bonus damage for a weapon type, and all those sorts of things that they did in previous SPECIAL titles.

[Yurg] Since game will be in real-time could we expect to see "tactical pause" like it was in BG?

[Chris] The issue of 'pause' in the game to issue commands will await play test. The implementation of this is simple as the engine already accommodates it. However, there is mixed concern within the team as to whether or not it is applicable to a single character game. The previous RPGs that Black Isle has done with the pause feature all had parties. The last single character game was Fallout 2, which was turn based. So we shall see what happens when we can play a lot more of the game. If we feel that it is a worthwhile addition and makes the game better, then it will be in, but we aren't going to create the game with pausing in mind (that is, battle difficulty will be tuned expecting you not to have to pause).

[Yurg] What objectives do you have with respect to enemy AI? How smart it will be?

[Chris] The AI in the game will be as smart as it needs to be for the current challenge. In some cases behavior is as simple as 'if you see the player, attack the player'. That would be for something like a mindless undead sort of creature. This would be complicated somewhat more by something like a wild animal that might attack only if threatened and retreat if beaten down. Then there are complicated AI's like bosses, intelligent enemies, and so on. They will use all manner of tactics when they encounter the player including healing themselves, casting spells, retreating, calling for reinforcements, etc. So it will really just be as smart as it needs to be for what we want the design to do.

[Yurg] Tell us what sort of quests will be in game?

[Chris] There are over a hundred quests currently planned for the game. Some of these quests play a large role in determining the path which the player will follow through the game. For example, early in the game the player can choose to follow one of four distinct paths by aligning themselves with one of the main factions. This choice dictates many of the quests that are available to the player for that portion of the game.

In general we are trying to stay away from mailbox quests and trying to have different ways of solving each quest. Where possible, we will have a dialogue, a combat, a sneaky, and/or a magic way to solve a quest. Not always though, a big boss that you have to defeat is still a big boss that you have to defeat.

[Yurg] Could you describe in few words Lionheart's engine?

[Chris] The engine is Reflexive's Velocity Engine. It has been used to fuel several games in the past with it's fluid 2D graphics. While it runs extremely well on a low-end system (Pentium III 400Mhz, 64 MB RAM) and doesn't require a hardware card, it provides beautiful shading effects, smooth anti-aliasing, and those incredible 2D effects.

The levels in the game are all pre-rendered, but they are rendered in pieces and put together like large puzzle pieces. This gives us a great deal of flexibility and expandability when creating levels, but provides for great detail and incredibly lush backgrounds.

[Ion] However, the player characters and enemies are using 3D models so that we can use a large number of animations and take less memory for a computer to run efficiently. We are buffering the model and then anti-aliasing the image so that it fits in seamlessly within the world. None of the models have the hard or jagged edges that you would expect from 3D characters. You will just have to see the characters to believe them.

[Yurg] What sort of music you choused for this game?

[Chris] We are currently working on this and I don't have any details that I want to release at this time. I will say that we are going for what I will call a strongly themed orchestral soundtrack.

[Yurg] Will be in game multiplayer mode?

[Chris] The multiplayer component will allow up to three human players to go through the single player story cooperatively.

[Yurg] Will be Lionheart a game with open End?

[Chris] Lionheart is being written as a single game. That is, we are concentrating on a single story for this game, and if we should choose to later, maybe we'll worry about a sequel or something then. Its really enough for us to concentrate on developing the alternate history of Europe, strong characters, and a compelling story.

In many ways the story is open ended because once we have the alternate history, we can do whatever we want to within it. So whether we choose to figure out a sequel with the same character, write a completely new story, or move a sequel to some other location in the world, it's all essentially open for that.

[Yurg] Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers or anything you'd like to ask them?

[Chris] I would just like to say 'Thanks' for their interest and hope that we'll have some more cool stuff for them to see soon. We know Lionheart is going to be a great game and look forward to showing more of it in the future.

[Yurg] We wish you good luck with Lionheart! Thank you for your answers!

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