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Etrom - the Astral Essence Q&A
(hx) 10:46 AM CET - Oct,26 2003

GGMania got a chance to talk with Fabio Belsanti of PM Studios as he talks about Etrom - the Astral Essence, their upcoming action-role-playing game set in a techno-fantasy future featuring dark and gothic atmospheres. He provided us with both pretty interesting information and three exclusive screenshots.

Fabio Belsanti: I'm Fabio Belsanti, Managing Director, Lead-Designer and Lead producer of PM Studios ( ). I was born on April 5th 1975. I'm graduated in History (war-middle ages specializations). I wrote and published the avanguardist book "Voci dell'Abisso" (Abyss Vocies) in the 1999. I founded P.M. Studios in the 2001. The main developed projects of my company are:

Kien (action/RPG) ( )
Natura Futura (Virtual Reality project, sponsor by E.U.)
La Perla Verde (educational/kids videogame, sponsor by E.U.))
Helmo (educational/kids videogames)

GGMania: How long has the game been in development? How many people worked on it?

Fabio Belsanti: 9 Months, 12 persons.

GGMania: What kind of game is Etrom?

Fabio Belsanti: Etrom is an action-RPG game set in a techno-fantasy future featuring dark and gothic atmospheres.

GGMania: What is the storyline of Etrom?

Fabio Belsanti: We are in 476 A.H. E. (After Human Empire Foundation): it's a space-time future era and also parallel to ours. There are a lot of doubts and questions that, restlessly, between reality and nightmares, crowd Etrom's mind...
It is also necessary to fight, to travel beyond the Void Lands' borders, to go beyond time and history; Truth must be found.

Etrom cannot understand why since the first moment the Astral Essence run into his heart, his life is completely changed. .

"Why do I perceive these visions?"
"Why Time and History have not a meaning any more?"
"Why do I feel nothing makes sense any more?"
"Why did I meet Joan?"
"Why did I lose Eladen?"
"Why do I have these powers?"
"Why me?"
"Why all this?"

These questions push Etrom in his quest for a new existential path, a new reason to live, a new truth to believe in...

"Only the gods come to the earth during the First Dark Genesis can answer your questions. So that you can meet them you will have to find the keys to their kingdoms"

This is what Joan, the mad prophet, tells Etrom in order to help him to accomplish his destiny.

But where are the keys?
And who among those gods will be really able to give Etrom his answers?
What path, what truth will Etrom choose?
It's the player. The player  the one to choose: it's him/her who will have to fight, travel, understand the reality surrounding him/her, the real protagonist, that's him/her Etrom's soul: a mystic knight with an endless adventure ahead.

GGMania: What races and classes are there in Etrom? And which of them can you play actually?

Fabio Belsanti: In this game You are Etrom, and Etrom is You... you will discover the character, and the character will discover you... you are alone between the Abyss and the Light... you'll be in front of the Absolute, beyond the good and the evil...

GGMania: Is there a character creation process? What skills and stats are there?

Fabio Belsanti: Sorry TOP SECRET.

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

Fabio Belsanti: In the world of Etrom there are various kinds, races and species of creatures coming from other dimensions due to the opening of the Abyss Gates: Space-Time Portals of mystic origins.
Etrom in his long-lasting quest and adventure will have to face a lot of enemies both human like himself (soldiers belonging to other armies, elite troops of secret organizations, etc.) and "monsters" with specific powers and graphic and behavioural characteristics. Each race has its own operational "base", a territory under its main influence located in one or more game levels. The creatures, often, fight against each other to gain the supremacy. Sometimes, though, the enemies are allied and fight together, particularly in proximity of the Kaos Portals where the energies of the abyss amass.
A lot of enemies are immune from particular kinds of attacks (the dragons for example are immune from the attacks fire-generated; the Abyss creatures are completely immune from the energy weapons) and more susceptible to others.
As a consequence the player, to fight at Etrom's best not only has to aim at and click against his enemies, but he/she should also study their behaviours and characteristics to understand what kind of equipment and attacks have to be used against each of them.

GGMania: Could you describe the combat system?

Fabio Belsanti: The fighting is the central phase of the game, although it's not the only one. It's is handled via the "Point and Click ". Behind the ACTION there's a system of calculations, based on our own RPG system. STOP, sorry but the rest is TOP SECRET...

GGMania: What you could say about futuristic Tanks and Robots in the game?

Fabio Belsanti: You can ride them

GGMania: What other gameplay elements does the game have?

Fabio Belsanti: ETROM's Gameplay is based on 4 different elements

- Fighting: both close (using Astral Axe that increases its power during the game, thus bringing astonishing graphic effects) and at long range, thanks to the "quest spells", the energy weapons and the tanks and robots that the player can use.
Combat actions are very varied because there are several possibilities of attacking, moving, and interacting with enemies and environments. In some cases, for example, to conquer a fortress or to get to a target it is necessary to adopt some tactics other than the frontal attack. The player has a motion mode such as "Move Silently" available, which allows walking behind the enemy's sentinels in order to penetrate among them or to kill them by surprise. The attacking mode "Sniper", with "first person" sights, gives several occasions of hasty attacks with the possibility to stroke enemies from hidden positions to be looked for carefully before the offensive.
Some power drugs offer, over a short time, special powers such as invulnerability o super speed: further tactical variations available to the player. Moreover, if you are willing to rush into the fray without any compromise, it is possible to obtain, thanks to the Astral Essence, the unbelievable power to turn into a Draconic Knight or into an Abyssal Demon, creatures with an immense offensive power in the hand-to-hand fighting.
Finally, although simple and direct, based on the concept point-click- kill, the combat is never repetitive as it has a lot of tactical and graphic options that fascinate the player.
- Exploration (adventure-style action): Etrom must explore all the areas in each of the levels of the game in order to find useful items, weapons, hints which will help him in his major quest: to find his truth;
- Management of the character: the player has to "grow" the character, increasing his attributes, activating "The Astral Essence Powers" and finding items, weapons and other powers which will help them to accomplish their destiny
- Player's Choose of his way and of his Truth: Abyss, Light, Demons, Dragons

The game is based on a non-linear gameplay structure which leaves the player a number of possibilities to explore the world (and every single level in the game).
From the beginning of the game the player can choose where he wants to go by the "Time Portal", visible In-Game and on a big "Magic World Map".
The game combines typical, well-balanced action/adventure gameplay with RPG elements: progressing within each of the levels of the game is mainly a matter of skills when fighting against enemies. The action is enriched by a wealth of graphical special effects, rich animations and lots of surprises for the player.
At times, going straight into the heat of the battle is not the best thing to do, as the player may spend some additional time looking for a particular item or weapon which will be useful later on in the game. The non-linear nature of the levels makes it necessary to explore every area to ensure every single item and object is collected.
Increasing the characters' attributes gives them additional power in battle as well as the ability to obtain items and weapons only well-experienced warriors can handle effectively.
Etrom is based on an intriguing plot which drags the player into the adventure since the very beginning of the game.
All the above elements combine together to form a strong, compelling game-structure which gives Etrom a depth that most games belonging to the same genre do not have. It is also possible to play Etrom as it were a simple action title, and a very good one at that, but the game offers much more than a simple arcade experience.

GGMania: How many paths/endings are there in Etrom and how does the player's actions affect these endings?

Fabio Belsanti: Seven...the rest will be discovered playing the game...

GGMania: Approximately how much time will it take for the average gamer to complete the game?

Fabio Belsanti: Sorry I can't answer at this point of development.

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

Fabio Belsanti: Friendly, direct, clear and simple we're restyling it in these days

GGMania: What can you tell us about the engine that is being used for the game?

Fabio Belsanti: Etrom is built upon the brand new "PELLICUS 3D Game System", our new engine written from scratch for this project. P3D tries to balance the need to be expandable and multi platform with specific needs of artists. We have developed a good set of plugins for the main modeling packages. These plugins generally export only geometric and animation assets, game specific objects are specified in the "P3D Editor". P3D Editor features a real time preview of current scene while editing, which is very appreciated by the artists. It's not yet as user friendly as other editors around (UnrealED, etc.), but we are aiming ad expanding it.

The main features of engine are:

  • Bounding Volumes Trees - Portal mixed based culling System
  • Expandable Shader System (supporting both CG, HLSL, and old Q3Arena style shaders)
  • Character Skinning with animation blending for switching gracefully between animations
  • Multi Layered scriptable Particle System, capable of exactly recreating Discreet Combustion 2 EFFECTS
    Multi non Multi
  • Triangle-Perfect Collision detection using AABB Trees
  • General Scene Graph architecture, but optimized for rendering static geometry with triangle strips
  • General Animation system, where each object belongs to a "time channel" and has it's own "lifetime" so that it's possible to do everything, going forward, back and "time stretch"
  • Completely automatized PathFinding system. Level designer DO NOT need to put special hints for the pathfinder. A Completely automatized process divides empty and solid space. These connectivity information are needed by player and enemies to walk through game levels.
  • Misc effects (fog, coronas, real time projected shadows, dynamic lights, projected textures)
  • Scripting system based now based on LUA but not tied to this specific language. Any scripting language can be plugged within a week of work.
  • About System Requirements: Minimum Requirements: Pentium III 900 MHz, GeForce 4 or Radeon 9000 class card, 256MB RAM; Recommended: Pentium IV 2GHz or Athlon, GeForce 4 or Radeon 9600 class card, 512MB RAM

GGMania: You claim that Etrom will feature an innovative multiplayer. So, what multiplayer options will be put into the game?

Fabio Belsanti: Sorry, "TOP SECRET"

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

Fabio Belsanti: The game will be released worldwide in June 2004.

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?

Fabio Belsanti: As for now you can download the in-game video from the official website

GGMania: What do you feel is the strongest and most entertaining aspect of Etrom?

Fabio Belsanti: Its "feel", its story and its accurate background.

GGMania: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything else that you would like to add that you feel our readers should know about Etrom?

Fabio Belsanti: Play Etrom and discover it... Etrom is a game dedicated to the adventure lovers, the readers of comics and fiction, the role-play gamers...

I want to tell all the players: THINK! don't just play only the Games "they" tell you to play, don't play only the "MARKETING" Games, don't play only the Games with famous Licenses... just try to discover all other games and focus your attention on the ART of the games... I know it's so difficult to define "ART" : , but try to discover YOUR meaning of this word...

genre: RPG
release: 2005/06
developer: PM Studios
publisher: home

last 10 comments:

magaposted - Oct, 27 2003 - 14:31
very nice interview, interesting guy !

v1mposted - Oct, 27 2003 - 21:31
Cool enough, but what makes developers think we want a huge dashboard-sized HUD that takes up 20% of the screen? Shrink that puppy down.

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