WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank and occupation!
I'm David Adams, and I'm the general manager at Vigil Games and co-creator of Darksiders.
WP: Darksiders has been in development for a little while now. I remember first seeing it at E3 2007, and you were talking about the process that led to its development. Joe just hooked up with you and had an idea for a game?
DA: We'd worked together for years on MMOs and online RPGs. At some point, we just decided that we wanted to make a console game. We love MMOs, we love to play them — we're actually making one now also — but there's just something about a console game: the cool narrative, puzzle, story, and action. It's the kind of stuff that you can't really do that well in an MMO, so we kind of left all that and hooked up with four other guys. There were four of us to start with and went for it, even though it was completely ridiculous.
WP: So the four of you just walked into a meeting with THQ to present the game, and it shouldn't have worked but it did?
DA: Yeah, it was our last meeting, we had a broken monitor, and I love THQ, but at the time, we thought, "THQ isn't going to publish a game like this." At the time, they were pretty well known for SpongeBob and other licensed games. I think we just hit at the right time. THQ was really trying to push out and do a lot more original IP and a lot more creative projects, and we came in with one that seemed pretty cool. Somehow they saw past the fact that we only had a few guys; they saw some potential there and went for it, and we went along for the ride and it worked out.
WP: When I first saw Darksiders, people were telling me that it was a dark Zelda. That's what was being pitched to me at the booth at E3 2007. I don't like to talk about a game's obvious influences without getting some feedback from the guys who actually made it, so what are some of your influences going into Darksiders?
DA: We really just wanted to make a classic action/adventure. It wasn't any one single influence. When I grew up, I loved Zelda, I loved Metroid, I loved Castlevania — all those games. In our opinion, there are a lot of great action games and stuff like that, but we felt like you could play those genres, but you had to play the same IP that they'd made 10-15 years ago so you're still literally playing Zelda or Metroid or Castlevania. We wanted to make a new IP in that sort of classical genre, so that's what's we went into. It's funny because a lot of people compare the game to God of War, and at the time, I had never even played those kinds of game before. I since have, and they're awesome, but we really wanted to make a classic action/adventure game and we wanted to give it a little more mature twist so that's why we picked the four horsemen.
WP: What was your inspiration for the "Darksiders" title?
DA: (laughs) That's a good question. I wish there was some awesome story behind that, but we basically took a giant list of names. Our original idea was that you play as all four horsemen, hence the plural, and it was the best name on a sheet of paper. That's about all. You're not going to fight any Darksiders or anything. It was just a cool name that seemed to fit the four horsemen without using "four" or "horsemen."
WP: Darksiders is relatively challenging. You said that you wanted to make a classic action/adventure game, but what did you want to make sure made it into the game?
DA: What was really important for me was that the experience always changes. There are a lot of games where they introduce the basic gameplay mechanics, you get a few basic scenarios, and you just play them over and over again, shaked and baked in their different forms. An adventure game, to me, is that everywhere you go, everything you do, there is something new and different. As you play further in the game, it'll never stop introducing new game mechanics, right up to the end. The last dungeon in the game, the last hour in the game, we're dropping new, major gameplay mechanics. It doesn't make sense from a development point of view because we've just made this really complex gear item. I'm sure you've heard about it. We have an item called the Voidwalker, and it's been in some articles. It creates these portals in reality, and it was one of our most complex gear items to make, and it's in the last dungeon of the game. People were saying, "You're completely and utterly insane. Why would you make this gameplay mechanic and it's only going to last a couple of hours of the game. You should be rinsing and repeating old stuff that you made." We wanted it to stay fresh, right up to the bitter end. We want people to play minute to minute, "I don't know what I'm going to be doing in the next hour so I want to keep playing this game." That was really important for us.
WP: I just got through the Panzer Dragoon section.
DA: That's a good example. That's it. There are no other flight sequences in the game. It's a complete one-off. We do that all the time, and it's crazy. There are total FPS sequences where you have a big, giant gun and you're shooting angels. Again, they're one-offs, and it's just about keeping the experience fresh and exciting.
WP: Now that you've got that huge box of tricks at the end of the game, are you looking at any way you could extend that? You made it very clear that you're just glad the game is coming out and you'll see what people think. How long has it been in development?
DA: Technically, we've been working on it for almost five years, but there was a year there where we didn't work on it and we did contract work. For us, the founders, the original four guys, it's been a long run.
WP: Are you going to do anything like introduce extra dungeons via DLC to take advantage of these innovative toys that you came up with and then don't use for very long?
DA: We're still talking about our DLC plans. Honestly, it took all our effort just to get the game done. The one advantage of the game is open, so one thing we did do is there are lots of secrets in the world so you can go back and go through areas that you've been. It lets you get some use out of the items, even the ones that were introduced later in the game. You can go back to areas that you played at the start of the game and see, "Hey, there's that weird surface. I can use my Voidwalker on it to get a secret." There is some gameplay hidden in the game for those people who are more interested in finding secrets. (ed. In the meantime THQ/Vigil stated that they decided to not make any DLCs)
WP: Can you talk about this MMO that you're working on at all?
DA: I can't say much, other than we're working on it and it's Warhammer 40K. (laughs)
WP: Oh you're those guys. That's pretty cool! Chainsaws.
DA: Yes, chainsaws, Bolters, Space Marines.
WP: I've seen the Panzer Dragoon section, you mentioned some FPS sections, and I just finished the Twilight Cathedral. What else can you tease will be in the final build, for people who are picking this up on store shelves?
DA: You still haven't gotten the horse. Every dungeon that you play, you get a new item. There's an abyssal chain, which allows you to swing around. Literally, every hour, you're going to get something new to play with.
WP: How many hours are we talking about here? How many did you aim for?
DA: My guess would be anywhere from 15 to 20, and it really depends on how much you explore. The metric I give is that I know exactly how to do everything, I know every puzzle, I can fight everything without dying, beat all the bosses and it takes me 12 hours to get through. That's a pretty straight beeline through the game. I imagine the average player is going to be much closer to 20, if not a little bit more, maybe.
There's a lot of extra stuff that you can do through exploration to extend the gameplay. We also set it up so that through a natural playthrough, unless you go crazy and grind guys all over the place to get a ton of money, you're only going to get one-third of his abilities. You could play through it one time and be the scythe and blade guy. You might try again with the gauntlet and affliction. There's a lot of opportunity to build your character out differently and see how it plays.
WP: I noticed that the weapons gradually level up as you go. How does that system work? Do you get a little bit of experience based on every monster you kill or every swing you take?
DA: Basically, behind the scenes, every time you land a blow, you get experience. At each level up for the weapon, you unlock new moves that you can buy for the weapon.
WP: I was doing a lot of combos with the big sword, Chaos Eater, and the scythe. Am I getting experience for both weapons by doing that?
DA: They level separately, so the guys you hit with the Chaos Eater give experience to the Chaos Eater, and same with the scythe. Your combo count affects how much experience you get.
WP: The magic system in the game, The Wrath, seems kind of limited because you regain it so slowly from enemies. You only get more of it if you grab a treasure chest. Is it there to be used as a last-ditch, all-or-nothing attack?
DA: There are a bunch of different ways to mitigate that, and the bar gets larger as you progress. We have weapon enhancements in the game, which you slot into your weapons to increase abilities. There's one in the game that actually recharges magic over time, so it's always recharging. You can buy potions to refill it whenever you want. Initially, it starts out a little slower, but as you play the game, you'll discover multiple ways to replenish that meter. You get to the point toward the end that you're busting off several per combat. It's again one of those things that just grows over time and there are more supporting things that go into it over time to enhance the gameplay.
WP: You were talking about a big chunk of world in Darksiders that isn't in the game or you wound up not using, for whatever reason. Are there any plans for supplementary material? For example, with as many games as have tie-in comics these days, and with Joe working on the game, I'm kind of surprised that I haven't seen a Darksiders comic yet.
DA: There actually is a comic book in the Gamestop pre-order exclusive. It's actually an art book with a comic book inside of it. I think Wildstorm did it. Joe wrote the story, and someone else actually drew it.
WP: Because Joe wanted to make someone else draw War for 22 pages?DA: It's funny because the whole comic book thing came up with 800,000 times while we were working on the game, and it always came down to, "Well, he could either work on the game, or he could work on the comic book," and it always made more sense to have him work on the game.
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