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Drakensang: The Dark Eye Q&A
(hx) 09:42 AM CEST - Sep,27 2006

Gameguru Mania got a chance to talk with Bernd Beyreuther, the project director at Radon Labs, as he talks about Drakensang: The Dark Eye, their upcoming role-playing game. He also provided us some exclusive screenshots. The game is slated for release in December 2007.

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

Bernd Beyreuther: My name is Bernd Beyreuther - I am the project director for Drakensang, which means I watch over the game's overall direction.

GGMania: Can you give us a little background on the development team working on Drakensang?

Bernd Beyreuther: Radon Labs is one of the leading German development studios: we have 60 staff member at two offices - and we're still growing. We both design and develop bigger projects (e.g. Drakensang), as well as smaller, contract jobs - last year alone, we completed 7 projects. We got our start more than 10 years ago; when Radon Labs was formed by a group of students, who developed URBAN ASSAULT, which went on to sell 400,000 copies worldwide.

We have always dreamt of making a game in the The Dark Eye universe, since we all were (and in some cases still are) avid players of the pen & paper system and have spent many a night in the dungeons of Aventuria. So when the opportunity arose, of course we didn't hesitate to do it.

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

Bernd Beyreuther: Drakensang is our attempt to take RPGs back to the roots, by offering gamers the chance to control a party of memorable characters within a deep story. Offering a skill-based rule system with pausable combat, it is set in a classic, medieval fantasy world - something I always like to call "European Fantasy from Its Source".

GGMania: Sounds interesting! Could you compare Drakensang with good old Baldur's Gate?

Bernd Beyreuther: It's a very apt comparison. One big difference: Drakensang is based in the world of The Dark Eye, Germany's most popular role-playing system. What the games have in common is the design as a classic party-based RPG, without irritating button mashing, but with tactical, pausable combat, including a skill-based dynamic dialogue system, unique characters and an epic story as a primary element. The setting is a classic low fantasy world with elves, dwarfs, orcs - definitely no spaceships and time travel here - that has an almost historical and very deep medieval feel.

GGMania: What can you reveal of the story yet?

Bernd Beyreuther: The story is supremely important in Drakensang and will be inseparable from the gameplay. It will have loads of surprises, many twists and astonishing turns.
The plot - written by 4 authors over a period of 6 months - currently takes up more than 1000 pages... but at the moment we can't reveal anything about it. I can tell you a little about the world where it is set. Aventuria is a massive continent - and we want the player to gain some sense of that in our game. We can't give away where the game will take you yet - whether it's the icy cold glaciers of the North, or the steaming jungles of Kun Kau Peh in the South, maybe the dry and barren deserts of Khom or the magical islands in the mist, which are surrounded by so many myths. What we can reveal is that players will not only roam the heart of Aventuria - the Middenrealm, where Aventuria bears some resemblance to parts of Germany back in the 14th century but they will also travel far and wide throughout the whole continent. Deep woods, steppes, cities, castles, villages, vast dungeons, islands as well as daunting mountain ranges and jagged cliffs - all of this is waiting for you to discover it.

GGMania: How much choice and what kinds of choices will the player have in the starting player character and in how it develops through the course of the game?

Bernd Beyreuther: Aventuria offers a lot of characters that players will quickly recognize: elves are living in harmony with nature and working strange magic, grouchy dwarves who are as handy with the wrought iron as with their sharp battle axes, many types of humans, dangerous mages, wild orcs, honorable warriors, thieves and burly warriors - players will meet all these archetypes of fantasy and take on the role of many of these. Some of the more exceptional races of Aventuria include the beautiful, battle-hardened Amazonians, who worship Rondra, the goddess of war, the Gyalskans - a fierce tribe of barbarians who practice animal magic - or the Thorwalians, a people resembling the Vikings, who call upon Swafnir to guide their dragon boats. In addition, the player will be able to equip and dress his characters with never-before-seen flexibility and high level of detail - all this in beautiful 3D, naturally.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the enemies in Drakensang?

Bernd Beyreuther: The p&p rule book of The Dark Eye gives us an incredible repertoire from which to choose. The bestiary alone counts hundred of detailed monsters, the history of Aventuria provides a mythology that goes back thousands of years and there is a very lively sphere of deities battling the nameless spawn of nether hell dimensions...
If you are familiar with Aventuria, we can promise a broad sampling of the most well-known and popular monsters, spells and weaponry - and if you don't know Aventuria, well, you'll be amazed by the variety, diversity and depth of what is probably the richest fantasy universe of the world, continuously developed by dozens of authors for 20 years.

GGMania: Will there be friendly NPCs, and what kinds of roles will they play?

Bernd Beyreuther: Whole cities and villages filled with friendly NPCs await the player - a considerable part of the game will have you act peacefully and solve matters diplomatically. Dialogues will be the key - and they will change dynamically according to the characters' skills, their attitudes and social standing. Based on the player's attributes, special options will be open to him. For example, a beautiful elf might have an easier time getting the city guard to do her bidding than a scruffy dwarf. The dwarf on the other hand is more adept at finding the right words when talking to fellow dwarves - where an elf would have a very hard time. On the other hand, we don't want to force the player to plough through page after page of text in order to be able to follow the plot. We want to put an emphasis on short and vibrant dialogues. Of course, all NPCs will play their part in the story. With the NPCs it's our goal to make them all memorable and their own funny, weird, loveable or despicable ways.

GGMania: Could you describe the combat system?

Bernd Beyreuther: Our combat system builds on proven precedents - but we want to upgrade and modernize existing systems, which got a little long in the tooth. While you will be able to pause combat at any time to change weapons or drink a potion - it's our goal that the player will need to do this as little as possible. In order to achieve this, we're incorporating some innovative features like special party moves and quick shots, while also concentrating on providing the player with a very intuitive interface.
Combat has very strategic bent. Choosing the right weapons, the right position for your fighters, the right spell at the right time - these things will decide whether you win or lose. Button mashing will not factor into the outcome of battle.

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?

Bernd Beyreuther: We have a main quest that is largely linear, but of course there is a multitude of smaller side quests. In addition, you won't be forced to complete all parts of the main quest in a set order, which means the story always waits for the player, basically. I can't really go into more detail for fear of revealing too much of the story, so I'll have to hold my tongue, I'm afraid.

GGMania: What other gameplay elements does the game have?

Bernd Beyreuther: What's really important to us is creating a huge pool of clothing, weapons and armor for the player to choose from, so we have something which I jokingly call "Barbie dolls for men", an opportunity for adults to play dress-up, so to say. The variety of items, a flexible equipment system and upgrading your character are a lot of fun and very important elements in Drakensang.

GGMania: What sort of interface have you guys prepared for the game?

Bernd Beyreuther: This is one area where we really want to take a step beyond our classic inspirations. We do want an interface that is immediately familiar to RPG fans, but at the same time it has to be so simple and intuitive that it attracts minimal attention and is never in the player's way. We want players of Drakensang, who are asked about the interface to say: "What interface - are you talking about my battle axe?!"

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

Bernd Beyreuther: For Drakensang we're using the NEBULA3 engine, which we have developed in-house. This engine is currently being used by more than 40 studios for commercial game development around the world and we've been working on it continuously for more than 6 years now. The remarkable thing about NEBULA is that it is open source, so it can be used by anyone without paying licensing fees - we're only charging people for providing our support and special tools. The engine has already been ported to a variety of platforms.
This global community makes NEBULA a very stable, powerful and modern system. At the same time it is also very modular, so that we can incorporate different middleware solutions into Drakensang.

GGMania: Will Drakensang feature a multi-player component? If so, what are you looking at for multiplayer options?

Bernd Beyreuther: We are concentrating exclusively on making an outstanding classic party role-playing game with a strong single-player storyline.

GGMania: What will make Drakensang notable among the other current RPGs?

Bernd Beyreuther: What makes Drakensang stand out is that it's the first party-based RPG in a long while, with great memorable characters, pausable tactical combat, a huge story, dynamic multiple choice dialogues and of course the very unique world of Aventuria, with its matchless atmosphere.

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

Bernd Beyreuther: We're planning to release the game near the end of 2007 - currently the status of development is at about 15%.

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?

Bernd Beyreuther: At the moment, a possible demo is still quite far off, so we can't tell you anything definitive yet. As far as videos are concerned - I'll just say, keep your eyes open later this summer.

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

Bernd Beyreuther: With Drakensang, we want to make the REAL role-playing game that we ourselves want to play: set in a classic medieval fantasy world that is meticulously detailed and brought to life in vivid 3D. Definitely something every one of your readers should look forward to.

genre: RPG
release: December 2007
developer: Radon Labs
publisher: Anaconda Games

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