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Lionheart

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Adventure

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Interview With 'Lionheart' Producer

by The Six Billion Dollar Man on Dec. 8, 2002 @ 6:54 a.m. PST

If you haven't seen them yet, check these 50 or so Lionheart screens

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

My name is Chris Parker and I'm the producer of Lionheart for Black Isle Studios. I work very closely with Reflexive, the developer of the title, and do a little bit of everything in order to make sure the game gets done and is awesome.

2.How long has Lionheart been in development and how many people are on the development team? What is the current status of Lionheart? When can we expect it on the store shelves?

Lionheart has been in development for roughly a year now and currently has 12-14 people working on it at Reflexive and 4 people working on it at Black Isle Studios.

Things have been going great in development lately. The game has hit QA and we've switched over from building content to fixing content. From here on out its mostly tweaking and bug fixing... and long hours of both. We are currently planning to release the product in the first part of 2003.

3.What sort of historical events are you planning to depict in Lionheart? Are any of those based on actual historical events or are they all fictional?

No events depicted in Lionheart are completely historical. For example, historically, the Spanish Armada set sail against England in 1588. When you begin Lionheart, your character is in Barcelona as the Spanish Armada prepares to set sail against England in 1588. But wait a second, the real/historical Armada left from Lisbon in Portugal and had different but similar reasons for an attempted invasion of England. So it's happening at the same time, for similar reasons, but it's also quite a bit different. That's how most 'historical' things work in Lionheart.

As we've written the backstory and molded the world, we've always kept an eye on real history and used it wherever possible with the idea that fate attempts to keep Earth on a similar historical track even though so much has changed. It provides us with as much depth as we need and yet we can tweak and change it as much as we like.

4.How many playable sides will there be? What are their specific differences?

Its a role-playing game, so I'm not sure I understand the question. At the beginning of the game you must select one of the primary factions within the city of Barcelona to side with. These four factions are the Inquisition, Knights Templar, Order of Saladin, and the Wielders. The faction you choose will determine how your entire experience in Barcelona will play out and then have ramifications later in the game as characters in the game world will react to your factional ties.

The Inquisition is fanatically devoted in their goal to eradicate the use of magic or those infused by magic. The Knights Templar are something of a Paladin-like order, working for the good of mankind. The Order of Saladin is somewhat more monk-like than the the Templars. And finally, the Wielders are a secret society of magic users.

5.Why did you decide to use the SPECIAL system? How are you planning to separate each player without a class system? Can you change mid-game? Or can you specialize in everything?

The SPECIAL system is an extremely flexible and dynamic rules system. So rather than develop a new system from scratch, we opted to use a system that had worked, and worked well, in a number of games for us. Since we understood how everything worked, adjusting it to work in real-time and with magic wasn't that much of a leap.

The classless nature of SPECIAL is one of the most interesting aspects of the system. You still have basic Attributes (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck) but skills do the rest of the work. When you go up levels, you get skill points to spend in various skills. So while in a class-based system you get a level and a number of associated skills, in SPECIAL you gain a level and decide how it makes your character better. If you want to be a fighter with the ability to pick locks, just spend your skill points on One-Hand Melee and Pick Lock.

Since there are no classes, if you want to begin spending skill points on some skill you've never had mid-game, there's no reason you can't. Decided your stealthy character would benefit from being able to cast a heal spell? Spend some points on it and learn how.

I guess you could 'specialize' in everything, but you'd really just have a lot of skills you stunk at. A very successful character will want to specialize in several things, but probably not more than 5 or 6 or your character would start getting spread pretty thin.

6.How will the SPECIAL system deal with leveling and the advancing of the player?

As you adventure through the world you'll get experience points for killing or sneaking past critters, solving puzzles, and completing quests. When you get enough you go up a level. Going up a level increases your Hit Points and the amount of Mana you have and grants you a number of Skill Points based on your Intelligence that you can spend on whatever skills you would like, whenever you like.

Every three levels, starting at 2nd level, your character also gets a Perk. Perks are special abilities that can do just about anything. There are Perks for increasing ability scores, increasing attack skills, getting more skill points each level, and stuff like that.

7.How many spells will there be in Lionheart? And what type of spells are they? Can you make your own spells? By for example combining previously acquired spells.

There are 60 spells in Lionheart. They are broken into 12 different Skills such as Fire, Healing, etc. When you first take a Skill, like Fire, you'll only have a single spell, Fire Orb. This is a single target, ranged attack spell. As you increase your skill in Fire, the Fire Orb will do more damage, cast more quickly, and get bigger (and cost more Mana). When you have enough skill points (currently 20, but these numbers are being tweaked), you gain the ability to cast Dragon's Breath. This is like a flame thrower that extends from your hands to the target. It does less damage, but does it over time and to any enemies between you and your target. As you continue to increase your skill in Fire, both Fire Orb and Dragon's Breath continue to get better. By the time you have a Skill of 80, you'll have 5 different Fire spells that all do different things for the different combat situations you might find yourself in.

You can't combine spells, there are just the 12 Skills, each with 5 spells within the Skill.

8.Will Lionheart be totally 3D? Or is it a 2D world with 3D effects/characters? Why did you opt for that?

Lionheart combines the best of 2D and 3D. All of the backgrounds are prerendered 2D images offering crystal clear, detailed, and lush visuals. The characters in the game are 3D so that we can easily place different weapons in their hands, have different armor types for them, and animate it all together fluidly. The characters are actually rendered into memory and then downsampled and anti-aliased onto the screen so that they blend seemlessly with the world.

Lionheart is using Reflexive's Velocity Engine, which has been used in previous titles such as Star Trek: Away Team and Zax: The Alien Hunter. The engine provided an excellent starting point for the development of Lionheart. We've made a lot of changes to it, however, such as the 3D characters and extensive rules changes and optimizations.

9.How many players can you have your party during a single player game?

You only have your single character that you control throughout the game. As you play, you will meet various characters within the world that will join you for various lengths of time, depending on their own motivations. Some will join with you for a single quest, some for as long as you can keep them alive, and others just for brief excursions. Each of these companion characters is controlled by their own AI, but you can give them some instructions during the course of play.

10.How many multiplayer options are you planning on? How will you deal with saving during a multiplayer CO-OP mode?

Multiplayer is cooperative and supports up to four human players. In the multiplayer game, you and your buddies adventure through the main storyline as a party instead of by yourself. The host of the game retains the save games, just as the clients retain the characters they play.

11.To add to the replay value will there be any areas only a certain type of player can access?

There will be various quests that are only accessible to different races or factions. Some of these quests do in fact take you to different areas than you would get if you were playing a different character. As in Fallout, there are also maps and areas that can only be found by those with a 10 luck. Those that know of the “hidden” Starfleet shuttle will know what I am talking about.

12.Will there be any kind of laws? Or can you do pretty much anything you want?

I don't recommend casting magic or attacking the guards in Barcelona. It's not wise. In most cases, committing evil actions have repercussions, but it depends on quite a bit on who and where those things take place. Breaking laws is of course punishable by death, because watching your character rot in a prison cell wouldn't be much fun.

13.How many items, weapons, and armor will be available to the player? How many can weapons can a player carry at once? Can you make your own weapons and armor?

There are a lot of different kinds of items - everything from potions and jewelry to one-handed, two-handed, and ranged weapons, to various different types of armor. All of these things are randomly generated based on the power of your character and can have different magical properties added to them. Off the top of my head I believe there are 20 basic weapon types and around 8 different basic types of armor and each can have a slew of different abilities. So there are literally thousands of different items, but you can't make any. You have a carry weight based on Strength, so that limits you somewhat in what you can lug around.

14.Have any of the past games Black Isle developed, influenced the current titles or future titles? Do they mix and match ideas that each game offers to create something new?

I think that Black Isle learns a lot with every title we develop and they all influence each other. When we are working with a developer like Reflexive, they have also worked on different games and so bring different knowledge, experience, and ideas to the table. With any game, it's a fusion of what you know, what you want to do, and what you just think would make a really cool game. On Lionheart, it's a fusion of ideas between Black Isle and Reflexive. So yes, we try as much as possible to look at what worked and what didn't work on a title, learn from that, and infuse as many new ideas into the mix as we can.

15.How in-depth will the battle system be? Is it based on a classic dice roll or will it be sectionalized? For example a head shot is worth more than a party?

At its core, SPECIAL is a dice-rolling system. Just as in other Black Isle games, the rules of the system determine what happens on-screen as much as the player's actions do.

We really wanted to allow some form of targeted shots. To accomplish this in realtime we allow the player to toggle the section of the body their character is aiming for. You target the torso by default, but you can target the head, arms, or legs as well, and each has a different penalty to your attack roll. These different regions each have different critical hit tables. So attacks aimed at the head are more likely to be critical hits and can do things like blind your opponent which attacks to the torso cannot.

At the same time, you can change how carefully your character is attacking - they can perform 'hectic' attacks which are faster and less accurate up to 'calculated' attacks which are much slower but more accurate.

Both of these options are modal and can be changed at any time in combat with ease.

16.Will Lionheart be mod friendly? Any chance of an editor, so people can create extra maps/quests?

The mod community is pretty resourceful, so I guess we'll find out from them how mod-friendly it is. But we aren't planning on helping them out at this point in time. It would take a lot of work to get the editor into a shape where we'd be happy releasing it for mods and we are already putting in long hours getting all these bugs fixed.

17.How many maps/levels or quests/battles can we expect to see in Lionheart? What would you say is the average game play time it will take to complete the game?

I would estimate the gameplay time to be somewhere in the 40-60 hour range for an average player who does a fair number of sidequests. There are eighty odd maps and a ton of quests and battles.

18.Is there any talk of a sequel or add-on?

Maybe. Of course I can't discuss that. But definitely maybe.

19.Is there anything you would have liked to have seen in Lionheart but will not be added to time or it just doesn’t work out in the long run? Give some examples please.

I think we could have kept expanding the gameworld on and on. It's not like the designers ran out of ideas. I'm sure a lot of those ideas would have been really cool. But creating all of Earth in an alternate history would have taken a really long time.

20.Will we see a demo prior to the game appearing on store shelves?

We hope to have a demo available before the game is released - no promises though.

21.Are Black Isle/Vivendi (fix accordingly) planning any specific marketing/advertising campaigns to build up the hype prior to game release?

Yes.

22.When is Black Isle going to make a 3D First Person Shooter?

I don't know if we ever will... who knows? We've thought about it a couple of times, but while a lot of us really like FPSs, that doesn't necessarily mean we'd be really great at making one. We like making our role-playing games and I like to think we do know how to make them great.

23.Finally anything you would like to add to get the gamers fired up?

I think that Lionheart is going to feature the same aspects that have made other Black Isle role-playing games great. We have great story in a unique world, there are tons of quests, plenty of items and spells, many facets to character advancement, sharp graphics, great sound, etc, etc. I see Lionheart as an entire role-playing package which should fire up just about any gamer.


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