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NecroVisioN Q&A
(hx) 12:27 PM CEST - May,11 2007

Needless to say the 2005's first person shooter Painkiller was a cult favorite for fans of the genre. Last year, members of the game's development team have created a new company called The Farm 51 and are using the Painkiller engine for an all new title called NecroVisioN. We got a chance to chat with The Farm 51's designers and artists Kamil Bilczynski and Wojciech Pazdur to find out more about NecrovisioN.

GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about what you do on NecroVisioN. Also, can you give us a little background on the development team working on the game?

Kamil Bilczynski: My name is Kamil Bilczynski and I'm the Lead Designer and Art Director of the NecroVisioN project. The team is a combination of old professionals who have participated in the production of many known games (e.g. "Painkiller"), and some fresh blood (who have created "Time Ace", for example). We are working together, wanting to make NecroVisioN as good as it is possible.

GGMania: To start off, can you give us a brief overview of NecroVisioN?

Kamil Bilczynski: NecroVisioN is a war-horror shooter with fantasy elements, the main idea of which is a combination of shooting & spells in brutal and intensive combat. The player is like Van Helsing, meeting the undead during the Great War - an explosive journey leads him into the Underground Kingdom of vampires and demons. Our goal is to create a title with a huge fun factor coming from shooting and basic combat with the addition of some unusual and unprecedented elements in such type of games like spells or fatalities.

GGMania: What was the source of inspiration for the NecroVisioN concept?

Kamil Bilczynski: Looking at FPS market we've been wondering about a game that would revitalize a genre we all love. The experience we got while making Medal of Honor and Painkiller helped us realize that mixing the best elements of those games and adding something extra would be a very interesting alternative. That's why NecroVisioN is an action-horror game that combines a classis wartime shooter with horror action games. The first novelty is our Close Combat System, giving the player even more efficient and spectacular ways of foe annihilation. Then you get the SpellSystem, allowing you to use powerful spells you know from RPGs. To top it all, you get great duels with the Bosses, gigantic opponents dazzle everyone, and you don't get too much of them in other FPS games. The final element of the mix was the combination of our ideas into a single, coherent plot, as good games are remembered for their great gameplay and interesting storylines. Having seen such movies like "Deathwatch" or "Young Indiana Jones' Chronicles" we decided that the WWI era provides a great background for our project. So, we decided to tap the potential of the Great War, avoiding the largely exploited WWII. NecroVisioN tells the story of a man fighting with demons in the name of a vampiric race. The journey takes the player from wartime macabre to the vampire underground, with a grand finale poising him against the demons.

GGMania: What is the storyline of the game?

Kamil Bilczynski: The story presented in NecroVisioN tells of a fight between vampires and demons, with the human race being just a background to their eternal strife. Thousands of years ago, after the cataclysm brought upon Earth by a huge meteorite, the whole planet was shrouded in darkness, was taken over by vampires. Once the sun began to shine through the black clouds, the vampires were forced underground. Taking advantage of the huge resource pools, the Underground Civilization was blooming, both technologically and magically. Vampires leave their mazes and dungeons quite rarely, using some humans as their faithful servants on the surface. The turning point was the time, when vampires came too close to the core of the planet while digging new tunnels, breaking magical barriers and reaching the demon world known to Man as Hell. While at the peak of their power, the vampires managed to drive the demons away and strike a deal, but occasional borderline conflicts were nothing unusual. The vampire empire lived in the shadowing menace of the demonic underworld. The Great Sorcerers brought a superb group of fighters to life using magic - they were called Shadow Warriors, those who stood between life and death, matching the demons' destructive power. One of the vampires, a great Necromancer, started to look for warriors to join his army among humans occupying the surface. His search was quite risky, and due to negligence, demons could reach the planet's surface, endangering both vampires and humans. Simon is the protagonist of the story, who becomes a Shadow Warrior. He wanted to live a great adventure during the Great War, only to find that it's a nightmare, a horror coming to life... No human war can be compared to a war against the terrible demons.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the gameplay? Will it be mission based or non-linear?

Kamil Bilczynski: The whole game is going to be mission-based, but the path you are going to take is not totally linear. It's full of bonuses, extra locations you can explore if you wish - very often you need to solve some puzzles to get there. Thus, you can complete a mission in a number of different ways, if you like it Rambo-style - no problem - you simply head towards the goal and kill every opponent in your way. If you prefer a more stealthy approach, you can find a suitable passage, climb a tower and snipe half of the garrison :) That way, we increase the replayability of the game - you can always start the mission again to find new bonus places.

GGMania: Well, how many missions or levels are you looking to include in NecroVisioN, and what sort of objectives can we expect to undertake in these?

Kamil Bilczynski: Of the vital issues while working on locations is their variety and diversity. NecroVisioN is played out in 3 big episodes: I - The Great War, II - Vampire Underground, III - Underworld. They differ visually and gameplay-wise - each episode brings specific enemies, weapons and bosses. The first episode takes place in the thick of World War One, where you meet zombie hordes; pretty similar to classical wartime shooters, but more brutal, with many close combat situations and fights with the undead. Later on, you enter the underground world of vampires and demons, where spells and powerful vampiric technology will be at your disposal. As the story unfolds, the storyline becomes more of a horror one. You are also going to find some boss-arenas on the way, as well as some vehicles for you to use. The whole fun is that the first episode offers human opponents, but also creatures that use magic, and later - you become a Necromancer yourself, using magic in combat.

GGMania: Tell us about the enemies that we will be finding in the game as well as to their AI.

Kamil Bilczynski: NecroVisioN's characteristic trait is the large variety of elements, offered both by the world you explore and the enemies that are going to face you. You shall fight against humans, undead, the underworld creatures of the vamipiric world, and finally - the demons. You are going to battle it out in epic scale with huge bosses. You can also expect huge warmachines like Scorpion Tank and gigantic bosses straight from Hell itself, like Azazel.

Because enemies in our game are very different, we had a lot of hard work (and we still have) to customize their behavior - the WWI German troop is not the same as flying demon or vampire warrior beast. It makes us to look constantly for new mechanisms in gameplay and AI and to try dozens of different algorithms before we can say that given enemy plays his role in the whole story. To avoid technical buzzwords, we can say that almost every enemy has different tactic during the fight and uses different weapons and forms of attacks. Many times player immerses into battles between different races, so it forces him to choose his targets carefully - and in this way he can become an ally or an enemy for some characters.

GGMania: The weapons arsenal, always important in first person shooters. What kind of weapons/items will we get to use in the game?

Kamil Bilczynski: NecroVisioN is a game combining the realism of early 20th century with a fantasy underworld. As we all know, a good FPS gives you great fun through shooting and exterminating your enemies. The arsenal can be divided in two groups, the first one coming from the real world. The WWI conflict brought about quite a lot of new designs and ideas, developed during WWII, so you can expect: the HMG08/15, a shotgun - M97 Trenchgun, the Enfield No.1 Mk.III rifle or the world's first ever SMG - MP 18-I. You also have a group of environment weapons - when you run out of ammo, you can always pick up a kerosene lamp and throw it at your enemies, or drag a wooden board from the trench and flail your enemy to death with it.

When the protagonist moves down into the Underground, he gets new toys to play with, powerful weapons made by vampires. The first find is the Shadowhand - this ancient attribute of all demon-killers comes with claws and a Spear... It also allows you to simple magic (e.g. fireballs), but also more advanced spells like Skulls Chaser - remember „Doom 3" skulls? In NecroVisioN those skulls are on your side! This spell creates a few angry flying Skulls, which protect the player and attack his enemies. You are also going to be using other vampiric inventions, like silverbullet machineguns or a Noisegun.

GGMania: Will there be an upgrade system or alternate firing modes?

Kamil Bilczynski: Alternate firing modes exist in the most realistic weapons, just like in many other wartime shooters you can use iron sights, each of the weapons also offers melee attacks, very useful in close combat. You can also upgrade weapons, so you can attach a scope to an SMLE rifle and snipe the enemies from afar. When you run out of ammo, you can attach a bayonet to the very same rifle, increasing your close combat prowess. If you find the right ammo, your rifle will become a grenade launcher.

Further on, you get the Spell System to play with - a collection of popular spells straight out of RPGs and a whole arsenal of vampiric weapons that are far more powerful than anything made by humans. The whole shooting and spellcasting system is designed to be a coherent monolith - "the more you kill shooting, the faster your MANA pool increases"... so you can use spells more often. So, the award for the frequent use of firearms is powered-up spellcasting, making the whole system work simply fine.

GGMania: Will there be vehicles in the game players can use?

Kamil Bilczynski: It's always nice to ride a huge machine and slaughter helpless enemies :). Therefore, we want to add vehicles to the game, but we want them to be original and suitable for the whole concept. Right now I can only give you some names: Vampire Mech Warrior & Dragon... More details very soon :).

GGMania: Could you describe the combat system?

Kamil Bilczynski: The combat system is one of the most innovative and fresh ideas in NecroVisioN. Our goal is to give the player more satisfaction from killing his opponents. We designed something what we call Gun-Jitsu, a simple and attractive system combining hand-to-hand techniques and guns into one deadly mix.
The combat is based on a two-hand system, so our combat prowess in close combat situations is dramatically increased. For example, you can wield a Colt 1911 in your right hand and a bayonet (which can be thrown at the enemies or used to slice and dice them) in your left hand. Of course, you can use other techniques in melee combat, e.g. a rifle-butt attack with the MG08/15 or a bayonet attached to a SMLE rifle. The cherry on the top of our combat pie is the possibility of performing a spectacular fatality on your enemy to finish him off - an element frequently found in fighting games. Think Mortal Kombat fatalities here... Here's an example:

1. Four enemies attack the player
2. The player throws a bayonet, killing the first enemy
3. Then he moves forward, killing the second enemy with a pistol
4. After that, the third enemy is brought down by a shotgun round
5. Finally, a kick for the last enemy - it stuns him, leaving him dazed
6. Fatality time - a pistol headshot, a kick in the chest, a hit with the pistol's flask, a knife plunged into his heart (with the enemy kneeling), a kick detaching the enemy's head... everything in bullet-time.

GGMania: One key to the horror genre of games is atmosphere. How does NecroVisioN go about creating the horror-style atmosphere within the game?

Kamil Bilczynski: One of the sentences describing a good horror is "try to survive", and we are creating the whole gameplay experience around this concept. The story begins like a classical war story, but when it starts to unfold, you simply have to survive in a world full of undead soldiers. The protagonist tries to escape the nightmare, but the farther he runs away, the nastier and more surprising it gets, with terrible creatures getting in his way. We also make every effort to make the graphics (and the locations) as dreary and atmospheric as possible... Abandoned fortresses hidden in the mists, devastated bunkers, flooded catacombs and so on. The horror of the game requires of course proper music and sounds, amplifying the oneiric mood of the world we are creating. Thanks to all this, NecroVisioN gives you a unique atmosphere, rarely found in shooters.

GGMania: The screenshots you released look already pretty good. What can you tell us about the 3D engine that is being used for the game?

Wojciech Pazdur, Project Lead: We got the engine that was most suitable for our project - the Pain Engine from People Can Fly. Even if our game is going to be different from Painkiller, this technology contained every basic features we needed for NecroVisioN: very detailed environments, great use of special effects, support for huge and complex characters and amazing physics capabilities. And because we wanted to compete with other modern titles, we've rewritten its renderer completely, adding global dynamic lights system, sophisticated surface shaders, enhanced skeletal animation and many different eye-candy elements. Original Pain Engine was able to render environments built with hundreds thousands of polygons and because we maintain its philosophy, we're now able to use scenes with millions of polygons with custom shaders for every single object.

GGMania: How interactive is the environment? What type of interactivity can players expect? Will you eventually support the AGEIA PPU?

Wojciech Pazdur, Project Lead: There is a lot of interaction with environment, because we use consistent real-time physics simulation for every part of the game - player movement, combat, environment collisions and special FXs - what allows us for almost every environment interactions we want to implement. There is no place in the game without destructible parts of environments, and not only player is interacting with it - his enemies also destroys (with use of physics) a huge parts of architecture or landscape. We're not planning to support AGEIA PPU now, but it's not final decision yet.

GGMania: What forms of multiplayer will be available, and what can you say about them at this time? Will there be co-op mod?

Kamil Bilczynski: At the moment, NecroVisioN is planned only as single player game, with no co-op or multiplayer modes present at this stage of its development.

GGMania: What, in your view, is the most exciting aspect of NecroVisioN? What do you think gamers will enjoy in NecroVisioN over other games like it?

Kamil Bilczynski: The atmosphere in the game and the fun of engaging in close combat powered with fatalities are what gets me most excited about the game :). It fits in really well into the horror genre, and it has been neglected in many other FPS games. We maintain a balance between shooting and close combat, so if you want to shoot more than go hand-to-hand, the choice is up to you. Also, Bosses and the game physics system (you can devastate your enemies AND your environment) add up to the overall enjoyment factor.

GGMania: What's the current status of the project, and what remains to be done? When will it be released?

Kamil Bilczynski: We finished the pre-production stage in 2006, and right now we're in full production. The release is slated for 2008.

GGMania: Are there any plans for a beta test or demo of the game to be release prior to the game's completion?

Kamil Bilczynski: This issue shall be addressed in a detailed way next year.

GGMania: What is going to be the difference between the PC and XBox 360 version?

Kamil Bilczynski: We have no information about a version for the Xbox 360 at the moment.

GGMania: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview, is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

Kamil Bilczynski: Thanks for the interview, and I hope you're going to enjoy NecroVisioN.

genre: first-person shooter
platform: PC, Xbox 360
release: 2008/Q2
developer: The Farm 51
publisher: Cenega

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