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Interview With 'Zanzarah:The Hidden Portal' Producer

by Rainier on Nov. 16, 2002 @ 8:06 a.m. PST

An exciting tale of two fantastical, the other the world as we know it today. Once they were joined as one, but they now exist separately without knowledge of their former link to each other. Yet there exists a person able to reunite the two worlds: A girl, soon to turn 18, unaware of her power and her significance to both realms. Going on sale next week in the US, we sat down with Xicat producer Leonard Kohs and had a few mystical words, or something like that ...

Q : Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation! What was your involvement in the development of Zanzarah?

Leonard Kohs. I am the Producer for the US version of Zanzarah. I am with Xicat Interactive which is publishing Zanzarah in the US.

Q : How many people on your dev team do you have working on this project? How long has it been in development?

LK : The team started with 4 people and ended with 13 men as the core team. Some freelancers for music and story completed the team. Zanzarah took a development time of two years from scratch.

Q : What sort of graphics engine did you use? Is it in house or licensed?

LK : It’s the Renderware engine from Criterion studios. The team implemented some special enhancements like real shadows and some graphical effects.

Q : Give us some background information about the game story. Give our readers a brief description what the game is all about.

LK : Zanzarah is a mystical land full of magic and is inhabited by numerous beings including Fairies, Pixies, Goblins, Elves and Druids.

Many centuries ago the world of humans and Zanzarah were connected and open. Fairies were free to come and go between the worlds and magic was a natural element between humans and the fairies. The humans began to shun the magic and eventually condemn it as evil. Anything magical was forbidden and destroyed. The druids of Zanzarah, fearing more violence from the humans, sealed the portals that connected the two worlds and hid the secret stones that opened the portals. Eventually, the humans forgot all about Zanzarah as time moved on, but the people of Zanzarah never forgot the humans who they now despised.

At first the land of Zanzarah was a peaceful, beautiful and safe paradise. The Druids had developed a “Guardian”, half machine and half magic that would keep Zanzarah safe. Over time the beings in Zanzarah began feeling trapped. Fairies began using their magic for evil and became hated. They fought amongst themselves as well as others. Other beings such as Pixies began creating their own havoc. The Guardian’s magic eventually faded and the powers reversed themselves. It began to punish and torture Zanzarah’s own inhabitants, the ones it was designed to protect.

Over time, Zanzarah became a land of chaos and was on a path of self destruction. There was a prophecy from many years earlier of a young human female who would defeat the Guardian’s evil magic and restore Zanzarah and the human world.

The player takes on the role of an 18 year old girl named Amy. Amy hears a noise in her house and investigates. She finds a box and when she opens it she is swept away to the world of Zanzarah. With Amy, you have the chance to save the magic, which is threatened by the dark side, and by chaos. Even the fairies, the former pillars of magic, are becoming dissolute and attack both Amy as well as the other inhabitants of Zanzarah. You have to catch them, tame them and train them in order to face the other fairies and to survive in Zanzarah.

Q : Why did you change the original two worlds to three? Will you be able to travel to all three worlds once opened?

LK : There are only 2 worlds in Zanzarah. I believe the third world you speak of is a mis-translation from the original German version. The 2 worlds in the game is the human world as we know it and the world of Zanzarah where the game takes place. You are able to “portal” between both worlds throughout the game.

Q : Are you planning any side quests that run along with the main quest?

LK : By meeting special characters in Zanzarah, the player gets several quests to solve or complete in order to proceed with the game. Some of them are a “must-solve” and some are optional.

Q : What sort of system requirements does the game require?

• Pentium III/AMD Athlon 600 MHz or faster
• Hard drive space: at least 64 MB
• 2nd generation video card
• Memory: 16 MB
• DirectX 8.1 or higher
• Operating system: Windows 98/2000/Me/XP

Q : Are you planning to have any extra characters join Amy on her quest?

LK : At first, Amy is alone and must catch a fairy to help her along the way. She will eventually be accompanied by up to five fairies which go into battle for her and help weaken the other fairies so they may be captured and tamed.

Q : What sort of weapons are you planning to have? Only spells or will she have other items at her disposal? Will you be able to change armor and upgrade it?

LK : Zanzarah does not incorporate the typical weapons. Instead, in Zanzarah you fight with magic and spells. Herbs and potions are used for healing and increasing life points. Armor is not utilized in the game as a shield; instead, certain spells will give you protection.

Q : Will there be any chance of a multiplayer or is this game a single player experience only?

LK : There is a multiplayer “Deathmatch” mode in the game for up to 10 players via LAN or over IP. The players may choose a random draw of 5 fairies for battle or they may use their own fairies they built up from their single player mode.

Q : How many disciplines of magic will there be?

There are 12 classes of fairies, each representing special abilities, strengths and weaknesses.

Q : Assuming there is leveling in this game, how are you planning to distribute the points? Will it be classic Final Fantasy style or more of a Diablo based system?

LK : The leveling can be done by looking for enemies, fight them and thus collect experience points that level up a character (fairy). Some fairies can even reach a higher class and thus even change their shape. As the enemy fairies are partly random-set, it’s possible to roam an area to find enemies and to force them to battle. It’s also possible to equip a fairy with new magical spells, potions or herbs to improve them.

Q : Any idea on the amount of spells there will be in the game? What are you planning to base the magic on? Mana?

LK : Right, mana is necessary for any spell. It can be collected, bought or found. It also can be got for free at special refreshing points. We have more than 70 fairies and around 60 different spells.

Q : Will you be able to roam the world freely?

LK : As Zanzarah is level based, you’ll have to open the several levels / sectors first. After that you’re free to roam freely. Zanzarah offers also jump points (portals) to shorten the distances.

Q : What are you planning to base the battle system on? Real Time or Turn based?

LK : Real Time.

Q : What will modes of transportation be in the game? Or will it be walking/running only?

LK : Walking, running and portals.

Q : What influenced your creation of the magical/fairy tale world? Movies such as Lord of The Rings?

LK : Lots of things. Especially the typical Celtic and Irish fables were a strong source of inspiration.

Q : What influenced you to use a female as the main character? Seeing as most of the titles these are generally male dominated? Or is this game more aimed towards the growing female gamers?

LK : Well, it’s right that lots of women love Zanzarah. Not only because of the graphics, but it also seems they feel addicted to the unique game play. The inspiration was the game design itself. A heavily armed soldier doesn’t fit too well into this scenario, does he? Besides, a heroine gives a unique feel to the game instead of the same ‘ole male character that can be found everywhere else.

Q : Are you planning any add-ons to continue the story or even making a sequel?

LK : That’s not for sure, yet.

Q : Will we see this game on any other platform or is PC exclusive?

LK : See 19. We hope so :)

Q : It seems to be the rage these days, so I must ask. Will you be releasing an editor so players can make their own adventures/quests like Morrowind?

LK : We have no plans currently to release an editor.

Q : Were there any ideas that you would have like to have seen in the game but ended up not working? Give us some examples.

LK : A golden garlic sphere ;o) No, to be honest - we wanted to add some more fairies and some more riddles. But in the end, except for some improvements the German fans wanted, Zanzarah is a quite “finished” game.

Q : Finally is there anything you would like to say to the fans to get them ready for this massive adventure? A final sales pitch!?

LK : Zanzarah takes place in a beautifully rendered world full of vibrant colors, immersive ambiance and lavish graphical magic displays and fights. Zanzarah will not only appeal to the hard core male player, but will totally engulf the girl gamers as well.

There have many games which deal with goblins, dwarves, orcs and other forest creatures, but there hasn’t been a game of this magnitude which involves fairies flying in a first person duel fighting with magic and spells instead of guns and cannons. Zanzarah uses the first person view for battles which gives a new feel to this genre. Attacks are now airborne giving the user a much broader field to play on where other games were limited to ground based fighting only.

Zanzarah will keep gamers playing and collecting for more than 100 hours. The replay factor is quite high since, once you complete the game, you will want to start over to try and collect more powerful fairies and magic. No two games will ever be the same.

Zanzarah fills a gap that has been missing in this genre. It brings together an eclectic group of gamers. It appeals to the hard core adventure role player, the first person shooter and the fantasy gamer.

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