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'Robin Hood The Legend of Sherwood' - Developer Interview

by Rainier on Oct. 30, 2002 @ 7:36 a.m. PST

Inspiring storytellers for over 700 years, Robin Hood is an internationally recognized fable, and this latest PC title gives gamers the unique chance to pick up a trusty bow and arrow and take on the role of the legendary nobleman, Robin Hood, and join forces with Little John and his Merry Men as the battle for control of the King's throne ensues. We had a chance to sit down with game designer Martin Kuppe and ask him some questions about the now gone gold 'Robin Hood The Legend of Sherwood'.

1. Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation!

My name is Martin Kuppe. I am one of the two game designers of Robin Hood, the other one is Jean-Marc Haessig. I am a mathematician, and he is an artist – this cooperation works very well. Furthermore I am a programmer; I coded the AI for Desperados and for Robin Hood. Finally I also made the level design for some of the levels.

2. What gave you the ideas to make a Robin Hood game? Tell us a bit about the story.

When we finished Desperados, we thought about some game ideas we could realize with this engine. Robin Hood was one of our favorite ideas. Some time later, Wanadoo contacted us and asked “Hey, do you want to make a Robin Hood game with us?” Thus, with two parties having the same idea, we gladly started the project.

Robin is a very popular and likeable man, and he is an ideal hero for a computer game. In the legend, Robin and his merry men fight the soldiers of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, sneak into their castles and rob gold from the rich - a concept which matches very well with team-based gameplay.
I will not tell you anything about the story here – for if I do so, I will not know what to answer on question 11. :o)

3. How many people can you control/have in your party at once?

You can have up to five people in your party at once. Before each mission (up to the first two missions) you find yourself in Sherwood where you can choose and equip your mission team and assign people to tasks like arrow production or sword training.

4. With the lack of multiplayer, how are you planning to keep the player playing and interested in buying this product?

First there are different ways to solve each level – you can sneak around the enemies, knock them out and hide them in a corner, fight them with the sword, shoot them up with the bow and so on. Secondly there are three levels of difficulty: When you solve the game in easy mode, you could play it again in medium or hard mode. Thirdly, you have the choice which PC you want to use in which mission – the same mission will result in a completely different gameplay when you play it with another mission team. Finally there are a lot of little secondary quests hidden in the levels, including the seven crown jewels that can be found in different missions. When you have collected all of them, there will be a … No, I won’t tell you everything?

5. Robin Hood uses a similar detection system as the Commandos franchise. What have you changed/upgraded to the concept for Robin Hood?

The detection system is quite similar to the system in Commandos and Desperados. But we added a lot of other features which were not in Desperados: Selection of the next mission and of the mission team, management of ammo production, hidden enemies, the fighting system, an improved AI and much more.

6. Do enemies drop better armor/weapons, allowing your characters to acquire better stuff/upgrade?

Each character has his own specific weapons and additional special actions, but you can improve their fighting and shooting abilities, either by gaining experience in missions or by training in Sherwood.

7. Upon entering a town, what can you do? Can you rob people, buy/trade/sell items?

Robin Hood is a robber, not a trader. He can rob gold from the rich, either during the city missions or in special ambush missions in the wood. The latter missions are really fun: You can use a lot of traps that your people have prepared in the wood, like nets to catch enemies, rocks falling down on them, pits, men hidden in trees or beyond leaves and so on.

The only thing you can buy is information: When you give gold to a beggar, he will tell you what soldiers are behind the southern gate, where to find Lady Marian or how to be introduced into the citadel.

In the castles, the main goals depend on the mission; in general it’s not about gold. You have to free friends from the gallows, spy out secret meetings, save Marian from her forced marriage with the evil Guy of Guisbourne, and prepare the castle for an enemy attack during a siege and so on.

8. Will your units experience fatigue or hunger during their travels and fights? And what ways can they regain their strength?

The most important score is, of course, your life points. Some characters can restore their lifepoints by eating; other ones can heal other characters. During combats, there is a second value: Your energy. When you make special hits like a circular strike, you loose energy. When energy reaches zero, the character is out of breath and cannot do any strikes or parade for about a second. In this moment he is very vulnerable.

9. Will the game world be on solid world like Diablo? Or will each mission take you to a new place?

The game does not happen in a continuous world, it is based on locations. There are 5 castles and cities in the game, three wood levels for ambush missions and your headquarters at Sherwood. Each castle can be seen in different ambiances - day, fog and night – and three of them also during a siege of allied forces.

10. Why did you stick to a 2D engine? What was it that a 3D engine did not offer?

The main advantage is that the levels can be much more detailed than in any 3D game: No repeating textures, no simplified geometry - you will have the impression of playing in a huge beautiful painting. Our artists really did a great job with the level graphics.

Note that logically, there is a 3D structure behind the 2D graphics. That means that things like view cones, arrow trajectories are calculated correctly in 3D.

11. Can you tell use about the Robin Hood story you plan to use? Will it be exactly like the story shown in the movies/books?

The story is very close to the Robin Hood legend as it has developed from the very first ballads till modern movies: Robin of Locksley comes back from the 3rd crusade and finds his lands confiscated by the Sheriff of Nottingham. King Richard Lionheart is not yet back from the crusade, and his brother John seems not to be able to control his subordinates. The sheriff takes advantage of his weakness to oppress the people and imposes high taxes. With the aid of an old friend, Stuteley, Robin decides to found a group of rebels to fight the Sheriff. But then he discovers that things are even worse…

12. What is the current state of the game? When can we expect it in stores?

The game is finished and has been sent to the replication house. It will be in the stores by mid November.

13. Will there be any kind of leveling up as you progress through the game?

The player characters will have sword fighting ability and shooting ability which can increase during the game, as mentioned before. The sword fighting ability determines how good the character fights for himself when he is not controlled by the player. The shooting ability determines the precision of his shots.

Furthermore, you will get more characters during the campaign, as Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck or Maid Marian, with new abilities. So you are able to confront the stronger enemies you will confront in the higher levels.

14. Since it’s a 2D engine will there be a fixed angle all the time or can you switch views to show the other side of a building/town?

The view angle is fixed. We constructed the levels such that the characters are rarely hidden behind obstacles, and when it happens, you can display their outline with the Shift Lock key. There are many tactical 3D games where you can turn the camera – but you never do it because it’s confusing. Did you play WarCraft3? I turned the camera only at the beginning for the “wow”-effect, but not later while playing the game…

15. What kind of enemies will Robin Hood and his merry men encounter besides The Sheriff of Nottingham and his goons?

There are several types of soldiers: Spearmen, halberd men, shield bearers, crossbowmen, archers, officers, knights and riders. Each type exists in different levels, represented by colours, from weak blue soldiers to the black guard. Furthermore there are some “noble” enemies which can only be killed in a duel with Robin: The evil Guy of Guisbourne, the cruel Scathlock, the schemer Longchamps, and of course the Sheriff of Nottingham.

16. How many game hours do you expect Robin Hood to offer the serious gamer?

To play the campaign once, you will need about 30-50 hours, I guess, depending on your playing style. But as I said, you can play the campaign more than once, thanks to the difficulty levels, the non linear campaign, and the different ways to solve each mission.

17. Are you planning a sequel or any other title base in the Robin Hood universe?

Currently we are not planning a sequel or something like this. But who knows?

18. Have you learned anything from the community feedback to add/optimize the game?

Many players said that Desperados was too hard for occasional players. We think that Robin Hood is easier to play; furthermore it provides three degrees of difficulty.

19. Finally is there anything you would like to add now that the demo is out?

I think the game has reached a very great level and we’re very satisfied with it.
After the demo we concentrated on bug fixing, which includes as few changes as possible. Every change can introduce new bugs, and it is important to deliver a game with as few bugs as possible. Who wants a game that crashes every time because of some last-minute features?

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