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Legend - Hand of God Q&A
(hx) 10:15 AM CEST - Sep,23 2006

Gameguru Mania got a chance to talk with Jan Beuck, the Lead Game Designer at Master Creating, as he talks about Legend - Hand of God, their upcoming action role-playing game. He also provided us some exclusive screenshots. The game is slated for release in summer 2007.

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

Jan Beuck: Hi, my name is Jan Beuck, and I am Lead Game Designer at Master Creating, the developer of Legend.

GGMania: Can you give us a little background on the development team working on Legend: Hand of God? Is this the same core team with which produced Restricted Area?

Jan Beuck: Master Creating is located in Hamburg, Germany and was founded in 2001 by me and our Technical Director Martin Jässing - together we developed Restricted Area, our first full-price game.

For Legend, we have expanded a lot - after all, we are working with 10 times the budget of Restricted Area. For one, we are working with a graphics studio in Bulgaria, where 21 artists are currently working on the game's assets and cinematics. We've also hired several freelance artists with experience in the movie industry. This includes Paul Campion, Lead Texture Artist for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and responsible for texturing the Balrog and the giant spider Shelob. He brings a lot of valuable experience to the table and helped us in developing an exceptionally realistic materials system.

In addition, Andreas Adamek has become our Art Director: his 15-year career includes work as Art Director for Anno 1602 and Concept Artist for Spellforce, as well as Matte Painter for Industrial Light and Magic, as part of the team that worked on the movie version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

GGMania: What kind of game is Legend: Hand of God? What were the main objectives you wanted to achieve in regards to content and gameplay?

Jan Beuck: Legend is an action-RPG, but it has a stronger RPG bent than comparable titles. State-of-the-Art 3D graphics (with High Dynamic Range Lightning, Shader Model 3, Normal Mapping and dynamic soft shadows), a fantastic physics engine (AGEIA PhysX, also used by Unreal Engine 3) and a great storyline are some of its strong points. We especially wanted to bring the genre forward in terms of the story. As far as storytelling goes, Legend will be much more like a real RPG - non-linear, with multiple-choice dialogues and a deep, thought-provoking storyline.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the storyline of the game?

Jan Beuck: We felt that the heart of every role-playing game is the story. To compete internationally in this regard, we worked on Legend's plot together with the American author Susan O'Connor. Susan heads up the Game Writers Conference and has worked for all major publishers on many AAA titles in the past.

A long time ago, the land of "Legend" was ravaged by demons. The legendary hero Targon was able to fight them back, with the help of elves and dwarves. The portal through which they came was sealed with a holy spell. To uphold the seal, Targon assembled the "Order of the Holy Flame". All this happened a long time ago. The seal is maintained by the holy flame which is guarded by the paladins at the order's monastery.

Our hero was found abandoned at the gates of the monastery and is brought up by the paladins as one of their own, even though only children of high birth were admitted to the Order before then. The night before an adept becomes a full-fledged member of the Order and a paladin, he must spend the whole night praying alone, high up in the mountain chapel. Only when the first ray of light falls through the chapel's window, can he make his way back on the long trail down into the valley. But this night does not go as planned for our hero...

GGMania: How flexible is the character creation system? Will you be able to choose different genders and appearances? What are the choices available to you in terms of "class" and how it develops through the course of the game?

Jan Beuck: We decided to have one unique hero - a human male - as the game's central character and make him an integral part of the story, which makes the plot much more compelling.

In terms of character development, this means you don't choose between set character classes at the beginning of the game, but you can develop him with a great amount of freedom throughout the game. Many different paths are available: you might want to go with a combat-oriented hero and develop a heavily-armored warrior or maybe you would rather develop a magic user who wears light robes and casts powerful spells. You can also play any type of hybrid between the two, concentrate on various typed of weaponry and much more. Together with the different magical disciplines, this makes for interesting combinations, e.g. flaming swords, when you master fire magic and swordsmanship or frozen arrows, when long-range weapons and ice magic are combined.
6) What can you tell us about the enemies in Legend: Hand of God? What sort of foes will you battle? How intelligent are opponents, by the way? Will they simply attack you on sight until you die, or will the smarter ones use tactics? You claim the game will feature a 'cinematic combat system'. Could you describe it?

The unique quality of Legend's combat system comes from the spectacular portrayal of the fights, paired with a simple and intuitive control scheme. In other action RPGs, combat is generally very samey. The monsters - big or small - are always fought in the same manner, which makes combat become boring quickly; it becomes a mere comparison of stats instead of an exciting duel.

One of our biggest aims is to change that - with the help of the Cinematic Combat System, which generates cinematic-quality combat that looks as though its been choreographed, but is highly dynamic at the same time. It takes into account the size of the enemy: you can simply clobber smaller enemies (e.g. goblins) from above, who have to jump to even reach you and deal damage. But this is reversed when you meet a larger-than-life monster - now you're the one who has to leap, and blocking their powerful swings is out of the question - you're only option is dodging. Some enemies are 3 times as big as the hero; some are bigger than the whole screen! And this leads me to the second important point: if an enemy has a shield, he actually uses it to block. If he has a sword, he parries - with an axe he has to try and dodge. This way, the style of combat changes dynamically according to the weapons used and the attributes and skills chosen by the player.

Different enemies also have different AI behavior. Some are rather stupid (like the undead), others react to your strengths and weaknesses (for example the type of weapon you're carrying) and use group tactics.

GGMania: How will the quest system work, how much variety will there be in terms of different types, and how will you keep them from becoming repetitive or even stale?

Jan Beuck: There will be a variety of types, even quests that can be solved just through dialogue - which is very unusual for an Action-RPG. But I think the most important point is that each quest tells an interesting story that also gives you a deeper view into the world and the way the different people and races see it.

GGMania: Are the levels randomly created each time you play? Will there be any kinds of random elements in terms of monsters and items and such? And what kind of replayability is there in the game?

Jan Beuck: We decided to have the dungeons in Legend be randomly generated - but the outside world will be built completely by hand. This way, Legend offers the best of both worlds: hand-designed, detailed environments combined with variable, randomly-generated dungeons with near-infinite replayability.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the graphic engine for the game?

Jan Beuck: We decided to develop the engine ourselves from the ground up, as there were no engines available that were designed for the needs of an action RPG. We invested a whole year into developing an engine custom-fit for Legend that is able to set new standards in the genre.

At the same time, our "Master Engine" offers every important feature of current and upcoming FPS highlights, such as high dynamic range lighting, vertex- and pixelshader 3, normal and specular mapping and much more. Our unique shadow technique allows for extremely fast dynamic soft shadows with self-shadowing and percentage closer filtering, in a quality that hasn't yet been seen.

The cool thing about out dynamic lighting system is that, instead of a mouse cursor, you control a small luminous fairy who serves as the light source in the game world. Thanks to real-time dynamic lighting this makes for some really cool shadow effects, especially in the dungeons. The anmiations are nothing to scoff at each other, thanks to motion blending, B-spline und inverse kinematics, as could be seen in the GC press demo.

GGMania: Will Legend: Hand of God feature a multi-player component? If so, what are you looking at for multiplayer options? Are there plans for cooperative, competitive, or other modes?

Jan Beuck: We decided to concentrate fully on designing the best single-player action RPG possible, with a strong central character and a great storyline. We didn't want to include multiplayer merely as an afterthought, electing instead to focus all our resources onto a single-player game.


GGMania: Diablo II is often acknowledged as the best in this genre - yet, despite the seemingly simple design few followers have come close to its success. Do you have a view on this and what do you think what makes an exceptional action/RPG?

Jan Beuck: First of all, I think this is right - Diablo II is still the best game of its genre. And I say this although our last game was an action-RPG, as well. ;-) Just like in a great recipe, there's not one single magic feature that makes an action-RPG great - it's a mix of ingredients. Diablo II mixed a lot and it mixed them right - great atmosphere (good music, cinematics, art style and voiceovers), great gameplay (a good interface and responsive controls), great depth (lots of useful and truly different skills and items) and - last but not least - lots of great rewards: you always have a reward just in your sights, you just have to play another 5 minutes to reach it...

However, Diablo II is 6 years old now. That's a long time and so Legend will up the ante, including lots of features that go beyond what Diablo 2 had to offer: State-of-the-Art 3D graphics, a fantastic physics engine and a great storyline. Especially this last point is one long neglected by action-RPGs. In terms of storytelling, Legend will be much more like a real RPG - non-linear, with multiple-choice dialogues and a deep, thought-provoking storyline. Additionally, we are implementing many innovative features, like the cinematic combat system or our unique mouse cursor - to name just two of them.

GGMania: At the moment, what is the current status of the game's progress and when do you expect the game to be released?

Jan Beuck: We're currently hard at work on building the game world and implementing all assets, quests and features. The game will be released next summer, so it's just under a year away now.

GGMania: As you've probably guessed, we're all itching to see the game in action. Will there be a video or demo so we can see a bit of the action?

Jan Beuck: I'm sure we will release some video footage of the gameplay in the near future, I can't promise an exact date though. There will of course be a demo, closer to the release date, but when exactly is still up in the air.

GGMania: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Legend: Hand of God?

Jan Beuck: I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read this interview - I hope you're looking forward to Legend - Hand of God as much as I am. If you have any more questions, you're invited to our official forums:

genre: action RPG
release: July 2007
developer: Master Creating
the game is similar to: Diablo
publisher: Anaconda Games

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