SiN Episodes Interview|
(hx) 03:04 AM EST - Dec,04 2005
Gameguru Mania got a chance to talk with Ritual's level designer Richard "Levelord" Gray as he talks about SiN Episodes, a self published episodic continuation of the franchise that will have its first episode released soon.
GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a
little bit about what you do on SiN Episodes?
Levelord: I am the Levelord ;) We have more than
one project at Ritual at any given time. I am on another project, not SiN
Episodes. That will change soon, though, I hope. SiN Episodes is looking real
good and it's very hard not to jump in on it.
GGMania: Levelord , you've come up with lots of
great titles and ideas during your career, and I believe you are still going
strong :) How do you do it? Where do you get your inspiration from? What is it
that makes you keep going? .....and when you sleep? ;)
Levelord: Thanks, but to be honest, I have
simply been very lucky. There are many, many level designers much better than I.
Most of my ideas come from only a few places. As soon as I know the type of game
I am going to work on, and its theme, I will rent movies on the same topic. I
will also get books and search online for ideas. Most great ideas are stolen,
and this is called "appropriation" in the art world. I also think of things when
I am sleeping. The best time is when I am half asleep and half awake, either
before falling asleep or when I wake up and can lay in bed before getting up.
GGMania: OK, now seriously. It's been 7 years since the original Sin game
, and a _lot_ has changed in the gaming industry. So, apart from the technology,
what are the biggest differences between making a game 7 years ago, making a
game today, and - if you could guess - making a game in 7 years from now?
Levelord: The biggest difference is the time
needed and personnel. Games today are 3-4 more times difficult to make.
Everything is more difficult, too, from the code to the art to the levels. You
can't just make rooms and hallways, and then place bad guys and guns. There's AI
and so many things that involved with making characters act correctly. There are
cinematics. The levels themselves are far more detailed and require much more
time to simply lay out. Even the textures require 3-5 layers with normal maps
and specular maps and bump maps and… …everything is much more difficult.
On the positive side, another big difference is the
quality of the games today. Because of the end results from all the work
mentioned above, games today are incredibly beautiful, detailed, and immersive.
Characters act better, story lines are better portrayed, and the levels are
I can't imagine what we'll be seeing 7 years from now. If you had asked this
same question back in the days of the original SiN, I never would have imagined
GGMania: What made you decide on an episodic format & what advantages and
disadvantages have there been to this?
Levelord: Why use an episodic development
paradigm? Because it makes brilliant sense with the new digital delivery system
called Steam. Having the power and ease of releasing a game with the simple
click of an upload-to-server button means that we do not have to wait for enough
time to pass, nor provide as much consolidated content to justify putting the
product on CDs and in a box and then in a truck and then on a shelf… …it's
brilliant and it screams "Go episodic!".
Also, episodic entertainment is a proven model for storytelling. From printed
media (books, magazines, comics) to electronic (television, movies), almost all
forms of media have used episodic storytelling. This is not new for games,
either. The word "episode" has been in our gaming vocabulary for a long time.
Games have always been divided into episodes. Ritual Entertainment is only using
the new delivery system Steam and increasing the frequency of releases.
We also believe delivering a game like SiN Episodes as an episodic series is a
great idea because we intend to cast the story down a long timeline. When we say
episode here, please remember that the most important aspect of this new
paradigm is the partitioning of what used to be considered a whole. What would
normally be delivered as a 3-5 "episode" or "mission" game as one piece,
requiring at least 2 years to produce (and wait for) and around $60 to buy (not
an insignificant price for most of us), will be delivered by us as the same
content but in smaller, quicker, and cheaper parcels.
Also, let's remember the shareware model used by game developers not so long
ago. It was actually an episodic delivery paradigm. With shareware, we would
release the first episode, usually before the completed game was finished. Then
the full game would be released, which usually was the second and third
episodes. These would then, if the game was successful, be followed by a series
of add-on packs, each of which to be called another episode. For the most part,
this is the very same episodic delivery of a game that we are "starting" with
GGMania: How important is level design to creating a cohesive narrative?
Levelord: Level designing is always the
foundation for the story line of the game. This is where everything comes
together, from the characters to the cinematics to the gameplay itself. Games
could live without art and code, but never without levels! …just kidding, maybe
GGMania: Will a lot of the look and feeling be brought from Sin to SiN
Episodes? How much the story continuity is there from the original Sin game?
Levelord: This really should not be considered a
continuation of the original SiN. The technologies for both games, and hence the
look and feel, are separated by almost 10 years. Many other things have changed,
too, in basic gameplay expectations. For one, there was not so much imbedded
story telling back in the old days.
The stories are linked, of course, through their shared
characters and such. At the end of SiN, the villainess of the game, Elexis
Sinclaire, managed to escape. Blade was left wondering what happened to her and
if she would ever return. In the following years, John Blade and HardCorps
unsuccessfully tried to bring down SinTEK Industries in a drawn-out legal
battle, as Elexis Sinclaire quietly prepared to make her return to the public
In SiN Episodes, she's back and firmly entrenched at
the top of society, worshipped by Freeport's wealthy elite. As the mutant
problem continues to plague the poorer parts the city, Blade is now obsessed
with bringing Sinclaire to justice. Elexis, meanwhile, has her own plans for
Blade, and their history is connected far more than he realizes. JC, who has
grown up and matured a bit. We'll have a few new characters, including Jessica
Cannon, a HardCorps rookie working with Blade.
GGMania: How interactive is the environment? What type of interactivity
can players expect?
Levelord: SiN Episodes is definitely an action
game, but there will be puzzles and adventure, too. It will have plenty of
environmental interactivity and lots of cool stuff to do. Our AI is moving from
a fully scripted system (as we had in the original SiN) to a more system-driven
approach, in which the AI dynamically reacts and adapts to the player and
his/her actions. Our characters will also react to each other, the environment,
and the developing story.
GGMania: What kind of weapons will we get to use in the first episode?
Levelord: We're going to have about a half dozen
of weapons in the first episode. Apart from Blade's signature Magnum pistol,
they're all new to the SiN universe. We're really trying to make each weapon
useful, even in the later stages of the game, so we're spending a lot of time
tweaking and balancing our weapons and their abilities.
The game also returns us to SiN's trademark mix of human and mutant enemies.
We're going to see the return of the SinTEK grunts, although they've received a
substantial visual and AI upgrade. They now use cover effectively, and they even
help fallen comrades to get back on their feet. Some are even equipped with
jetpacks, so they can literally attack you from any angle.
We also have several new mutant enemies, and we're
really trying to do new things with them. For example, the Leperkin mutant
starts out as a tiny gib and keeps growing and growing until the player takes it
out. It's best to dispatch of these as soon as possible, or you might be in for
more than you asked for.
GGMania: How are you planning on captivating the playing audience yet
again? (In terms of gameplay)
Levelord: We are going to use our original sense
of gameplay and interactivity, most of which is described above ;)
GGMania: You claim (Ritualistic's FAQ) that each chapter of SiN Episodes
will approximately take 3 - 6 hours to play through from start to finish. Isn't
it a little too short?!
Levelord: That is difficult to say until we do
our full playtesting with target audiences. We are estimating the lowest
(fewest) hours of gameplay based on us being avid gameplayers and thus expect
the normal play time to be more. We guarantee to please and will offer as much
bang for the buck as is expected with any other contemporary game.
GGMania: Are there any Easter eggs and/or unlockable material in the
Levelord: Do you really expect me to answer that
question? … ;)
GGMania: Currently what is the status of the first episode and when can we
expect to see it in stores?
Levelord: Next Tuesday, sometime after lunch,
maybe 13.00, maybe later ;)