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Hard To Be God Q&A
(hx) 11:10 PM CEST - Mar,31 2005

GGMania got a chance to talk with Andrew Teodorovich, the PR-manager of Akella company, as he talks about "Hard To Be God", their upcoming role-playing game based on the novel of the same name by Strugatsky brothers. He provided us with pretty interesting information and some artworks. The game is scheduled for release in Q1/2007.

GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about what you do on Hard To Be God (HtbG)?

Andrew Teodorovich: My name is Andrew Teodorovich, PR-manager of Akella company. I'm engaged in granting materials about all projects of our firm to press, including "HtbG". The given material has been prepared after a dialogue with the main scriptwriter of the game - Dmitry Knyazev and the producer of the project - Andrew Batanov.

GGMania: Can you give us a little background on the development team working on Hard To Be God?

Andrew Teodorovich: Part of work is carried out by employees of Akella, another part - by developers from the external studio. We are keeping the name of that company in secret for now, however in the near future we'll be making an official press-release where we show all our cards. All the people working above the project - are not novices, there have already some large RPG-games behind them.

GGMania: Can you give us an overview of Hard To Be God, telling us what the game is all about?

Andrew Teodorovich: The Conceptual plot of "Hard To Be God" - is based on the same book, written by the Strugatsky brothers. If you want to penetrate further into the atmosphere of the game, we urgently recommend you to read the book. So, you will be "completely grounded" in the knowledge of many key characters, subject aspects and a system of public attitudes. "HtbG" is a role-playing game with some bias in an adventure genre in which there are elements of espionage, and also prospecting activity.

GGMania: Is the game linear or nonlinear?

Andrew Teodorovich: It is absolutely nonlinear. Moreover, we mean not simply "several possible variants of the decision of the same quests". First, during gameplay the gamer will have an opportunity of a choice from one of the contradictory parties. It depends on not only a set of quests, carried out by the player, but also on the ending of the game (meanwhile there are stipulated four possible variants). Secondly, as I have already told, practically each task can be complete in two or even more ways. Somewhere it is possible to pay off with money, somewhere you can apply force, somewhere to use eloquence, and at times, it is necessary to connect own sharpness and to search for unconventional decisions. Thirdly, nonlinearity is provided with the random generator, which each time gives out not only new tasks, but also new locations! We met a similar system in Diablo, however, in "HtbG" this element is on qualitative higher level. For example, having come during the first passage to village "X", the player will see there some NPCs, a small tavern and a smithy. But if the player will begin game again, there will already be absolutely others NPCs (with another dialogues and quests!), a bakery, the marketplace and a huge inn. Certainly, some key figures and buildings always will be in their places, but all the rest will change each time. We try to provide our project with the maximal parameter of replay-ability.

GGMania: What are the different types of locations players will see?

Andrew Teodorovich: In the game you will meet ALL the places mentioned in the book, down to legendary "Natural boundary of Heavy Swords". While moving through locations, a gamer will cross the landscapes very similar on terrestrial: woods, fields, rivers, mountains, villages and greater cities … it will be not boring!
By the way, about movements: the world of "HtbG" is so huge, that the question about the presence of a global card was solved by itself. Similarly to Arcanum, the gamer will be free to solve, should he seek to go up to following destination in a usual mode, or at a global level.

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?

Andrew Teodorovich: A small warning for you: Rumatha, the main character of the book, - is not the protagonist henceforth. Our avatar is "somebody". Who it is exactly, we will reveal in the future. We can adjust its gender, appearance, tattoos (they carry not only decorative loading, but also influence on a parameters) and, certainly, basic characteristics. Generation of parameters can be carried out as manually, and as a Morrowind's system of "answers". We are assured, the similar approach suits well both professionals of a genre, and the novices.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the enemies in Hard To Be God?

Andrew Teodorovich: The distinctive feature of our bestiary is that almost 90 % of the enemies are people, instead of monsters. Certainly, you will find fantasy-style creatures, but you shouldn't forget that the action of the game occurs in the world of people, instead of abstract parallel measurement, teeming with evil spirits. Enemies are able to operate cleverly in parties: to count their opportunities, and not to hit a player's party if his force is superior, tactically planning an attack or protection.

GGMania: And what about friendly NPCs and their roles in game?

Andrew Teodorovich: Certainly, there will be friendly NPCs! Traditionally, on their shoulders lays work on quests delivery. Speeches of all without the exception NPCs are written by people (including parts of the game when the character performs a random task), instead of casually generated by the program. This idea was realized owing to complex script system. Some friendly NPCs can join the player - already now they are more than 20. It won't be impossible to operate party's members directly, we will be able to distribute only orders - such a similar system was in Fallout. Don't worry for adequate actions of AI-controlling party members - the artificial intellect correctly processes orders and starts action. All will exclusively depend on the tactical abilities of the player.

GGMania: Please describe the combat system in the game.

Andrew Teodorovich: Let me sum up our combat-system: real-time mode with an active pause, as in Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. And the pause should be used constantly, if you want easily, with calculation, to give orders on moving, attack, using of fighting receptions and features. Competent combinations of actions provide greater efficiency in damage and defense.

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?

Andrew Teodorovich: In one of the previous questions we already mentioned the arrangement of quest system. Besides subject assignments from key NPCs, the player can execute tons of "random" tasks. And they will be rather interesting, instead of to be reduced to boring FedEX-shaped delivery of some thing from point A to point B (where as a variant, it's necessary to kill the spiteful enemy). In this question we look back at experience of Fallout and Arcanum founders, and we try to include some exclusively "detective" quests where the player should connect to the solution of a problem. The player should use not only the weapon and fast legs, but also a brain. Untangle a chain of the mysterious facts, to discuss with set of people, to choose optimum, in your opinion, the decision, from set of various variants … It's all done not only for replay-ability increase, but also to create an authentic atmosphere.

GGMania: What other gameplay elements does the game have?

Andrew Teodorovich: Great importance is given to horses. And if in all hitherto left RPG-games they have a modest role of ordinary transport, in "HtbG" they essentially offer a life to the player because it is possible to load them with things, and also to use in a fight! Besides, on a horse the player will travel much more quickly. However, it is necessary to consider, movements through the rivers or on a hilly terrain astride are practically impossible - sometimes you'll be forced to leave an animal in stables and go on foot. A horse - is a high-grade character with its own parameters and inventory. You will be able even dress armor on it!
Speaking of animals under the player's control I should mention an opportunity to have battle dogs. Of course, it is impossible to straddle'em:), but in fights they are simply irreplaceable assistants. It is necessary to note, that in the world of "HtbG" the horse is an original symbol of high social status.

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

Andrew Teodorovich: Standard for genre: hotkey bar, automap, compass, character's "doll".

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

Andrew Teodorovich: We are developing own original engine which is constantly supplementing with modern features and is optimizing all the time. The engine could be compared Dungeon Siege - you will be tempted to zoom out to comfortable distance and watch the ensuing action from a three quarters perspective. Watch for our news on a site and wait for the first screenshots!

GGMania: What forms of multiplayer will be available, and what can you say about them at this time?

Andrew Teodorovich: There won't be multiplayer. It's fairly impossible to create a role-playing game where both single and multiplayer modes are equally good. In this case, one of the components would be weaker than another. That's why we have decided to focus our attention on the single player part and deep atmosphere. For a long time there were no any games where the gamer has an ability just to play his ROLE, instead of simply monsters crumbling.

GGMania: We've already had plenty of RPG games on PC and there are a number in production, how will Hard To Be God stand out from the crowd?

Andrew Teodorovich: We are trying to involve not only the best elements of the RPG genre, but also some new features which, in our opinion, will be pretty attractive for gamers.

GGMania: Will there be a video or demo so we can see a bit of the action?

Andrew Teodorovich: Game will be necessarily presented by a movie or a demo on E3 this year.

GGMania: When can we expect to see the game hit store shelves and at what price? Will it be released in North America?

Andrew Teodorovich: The game is expected to go gold the beginning of 2007. With the North-American publisher we haven't defined yet. There are only negotiations.

GGmania: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Hard To Be God?

Andrew Teodorovich: Read Strugatsky brothers books & wait for our game=)

genre: RPG
release: 2007/Q1
developer: Akella

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