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Riftrunner Interview
(hx) 04:14 PM CEST - Sep,17 2003

GGMania got a chance to talk with Swen Vincke, Larian Studios founder and the project leader on Riftrunner, the upcoming role-playing game set in the Divine Divinity universe.He provided us with both pretty interesting information and five exclusive screenshots.

GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about what you do on Riftrunner?

Swen Vincke: I am the project leader at Larian Studios and I'm also the guy who founded the company back in 1996. My past projects include The L.E.D.Wars, LMK (which was cancelled), Divine Divinity and approximately 20 other multimedia titles including several arcade games

GGMania: From where did you get the inspiration to make this game?

Swen Vincke: When we came up with the concept of the Divinity Universe, we had already discussed the option of extending the story through Riftrunner. We hadn't discussed the name, but the idea was there. We knew what our vision was, but after three years developing Divinity, it was hard to remain objective. The motivation to start Riftrunner was pretty much due to the encouragement and positive feedback we got from the fans. So our initial plan to continually develop the Divinity universe is back on track. As you know we've announced, we're working on Divinity 2, but we also have further plans to the extend and develop the universe. I can't mention them at the moment but they are very real.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the storyline for the game? How linear or open-ended will the gameplay be?

Swen Vincke: The main plot is you trying to escape from the universe you got trapped into. However, things rapidly get complicated. To start with, you are soul-forged with a death knight. What that means, I'll explain by quoting him (or her or it for that matter - he/her/it never removes his helmet):
"As you slipped through my fingers, I felt a burning inside as you filled my very soul, and I yours. Now we are bound together in both life and death.Do you think I would choose this Servant of Light? Samuel's curse will not be broken easily. Our souls are as one. We can't be separated for long without suffering or even dying. If one of us dies the other one will share the same fate."
So that's not so good. To make matters even more complicated, you have a psychopathic demon called Samuel who organizes a worldwide hunt for you, a necromancer who tries to control you (one of the problems of being in a demon's universe), a strange new race who needs you to save them and a bunch of imps gone totally crazy. And as if that's not enough, there's chaos magic everywhere guaranteeing some very strange and twisted encounters indeed.

GGMania: How substantial a role will quests play in the game? Will there be many side quests?

Swen Vincke: If there's one thing you can say about Divine Divinity was that it was all about quests and sub quests. The same story goes for Riftrunner. There are loads of them and they come in many forms. We've had some criticism about the main story line in Divine Divinity and to be honest, the criticism was well rooted. We've tried not to make the same mistake again and I believe players will find the main story quests a lot more interesting. As for specific ones, I don't really like spoiling them as discovering what they are is part of the fun but perhaps a single one which I'll guess we'll have to communicate anyway because lots of people will ask questions about it.

GGMania: What options will players have in terms of the starting character? How will the character development system work?

Swen Vincke: In Riftrunner, we don't use the selection anymore of Warrior, Wizard or Survivor. This time it's total generic. And contrary to Divinity 1, all characters can now sneak and execute whirlwind attacks. It's not limited to specific classes anymore.
You start as a level 1 character - the soulforging, which you go through at the beginning of the game, weakens you significantly and strips you of your powers. We toyed around with the idea of letting you start with special powers and higher level values at start-up but decided that that would hinder the accessibility of the game. It's far better if you learn things gradually than if you have them all thrown at you immediately. Special feats need to be learnt through the game.
Players can customize their body type (starving, gravitationally challenged, hormone crazy etc.), skin/hair color types, facial looks and gender. You can also play as a child. Since characters are 3D this time you'll see the avatars represent what you're wearing almost perfectly.
As for how it exactly works, we're preparing a special feature around that so I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise by explaining it all here. Some parts of it are pretty different from Divinity 1 but there are good reasons for that. I'm quite sure most people will like it a lot.

GGMania: What kind of combat system we can expect, Diablo-like hack-n-slash or more role-playing?

Swen Vincke: It's the same real time combat system you had in Divine Divinity but there are some important changes. First of all, you now control a party of at least two characters so that makes things a lot different. It basically means that in the challenging combats, the pause button gets used a lot more as you give commands. Second of, we changed the stats systems and combat equations quite drastically, so you'll notice that it isn't a hack fest anymore. I'll not get into too much detail now as we're still fine-tuning this, but it's very different

GGMania: Bad interfacing seems to plaque even the best of today's Online RPG's, what is Riftrunner's aim on solving this problem?

Swen Vincke: We thought we already had a pretty good interface with Divinity 1 and we've been improving on it based on the gamer's feedback. We feel it is important to keep the interface simple, and to not have to perform complex combinations of mouse and keyboard actions to accomplish a simple action. The game must be easy to play so even people who have never played a game could start with it.

GGMania: Riftrunner is based on the same engine as Divine Divinity. Can gamers expect a huge improvement in graphics?

Swen Vincke: We've ported the engine to DirectX9 which got rid of some incompatibility problems, included real time 3D characters, added a lot of glitter in the magic effects, allowed higher resolutions and included the ability to zoom in when playing at those higher resolutions. Well, nothing too groundbreaking but good enough to make the game hold its own.

GGMania: Could you tell us a bit about real time generation of dungeons, maps and quests feature?

Swen Vincke: There are special areas in the game, which we call the Battlefields. They are accessed through special portals that can take on many forms. Once you are through those portals, you will find yourself in areas which are totally generated and where all quests are random. You will usually visit the Battlefields to boost your character, gain an item or learn a new and rare skill. The Battlefields add a lot to the replay value of the game and the nice thing is that with relatively little developer effort, we can offer players a lot of content. There are different levels of difficulty in the Battlefields so players will always find something for them to do there. We'll be talking a lot more about the Battlefields in the next couple of months so be sure to check out our site from time to time.
The Battlefield technology is 100% random when it comes to the maps and already pretty random when it comes to the stories it generates. We're still working on that so I can't give you a definite answer, but the goal is to have it as random as possible. It really is pretty good - we are actually using the Battlefield generator as a productivity tool to create content.
The random quests are well embedded into the storyline. When we'll present the world to the fans that'll become very clear.

GGMania: The music in Divine Divinity was hands-down one of the best in RPGs. Can we expect Riftrunner music to be of the same quality?

Swen Vincke: Yes - Kirill Pokrovsky - who won so many awards with the music for Divine Divinity - will be doing the orchestral score again.

GGMania: Will the game include a multiplayer mode?

Swen Vincke: No, Riftrunner doesn't include multiplayer, Divinity 2 on the other hand will.

GGMania: Currently what is the status of the current progress of the game and when can we expect to see it in stores?

Swen Vincke: Riftrunner's development is at an advanced stage. If it carries on reaching its milestones then we will have the game fully developed and ready by the end of Q4. It'll probably be released in early Q1.

GGMania: Do you plan to release a playable demo?

Swen Vincke: Yes, we plan to release a demo a few weeks prior to the release of the game.

GGMania: You said that Riftrunner is based on the same engine as Divine Divinity and is also set in the same gaming universe. Will there be a Divinity 2?

Swen Vincke: Yes. There's a clear desire for us to make a Divinity 2 in full 3D with brilliant dynamics but the same (or better) gameplay.

GGMania: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Riftrunner?

Swen Vincke: Well, if you didn't like Divinity but like RPGs, try Riftrunner - we probably took care of the things you didn't like. If you on the other hand liked Divinity, get Riftrunner right away, everything that was good about Divinity is still in Riftrunner, and we improved the other parts.

genre: RPG
release: January 2004
developer: Larian Studios
publisher: CDV

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