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Too Human - Der Lead Designer im Gespräch

24.08.2008 / 12:54 Uhr / Marc Friedrichs

Wenn in der kommenden Woche "Too Human" erscheint, hoffen Microsoft und Entwickler Silicon Knights auf einen großen Erfolg. Doch ob der Titel den Vorschusslorbeeren gerecht werden kann, muss sich noch zeigen. Zumindest Henry Sterchi, Lead Designer von "Too Human", ist von den Qualitäten überzeugt. Im englischsprachigen Interview mit dem Xbox Community Network verrät er zumindest, welche Stärken er im Spiel sieht und warum die Entwickler z.B. den erst geplanten 4-Spieler-Koop auf 2 Spieler reduziert haben.

Are there any other multiplayer aspects to “Too Human” apart from the online Co-op mode?
There are some mode variations within co-op. There are online leaderboards, and we expect good community interaction with loot trading, but online co-op is the only mode.

What kind of length of experience are you aiming for - how long does it take to play the game start to end?
Players should be able to complete a single play through of the story in 10-17 hours, depending upon varying factors. Once this is complete, getting your character to level 50 should take an additional 20+ hours, and once at level 50, there are still hours and hours of gameplay left for people that want to collect the elite suits, get the best loot, complete the best charm quests, gain maximum skill points, etc… Plus, you can then do this for multiple classes, so you can easily spend hours and hours playing and replaying the game. There is just so much to the story and the game that the deeper you dig the more you get out of it.

Is the game based in an open world?
The game features 4 main game play worlds (plus 4 Cyberspace versions of each World), and the Aesir Hub World and its Cyberspace equivalent. Within the game’s levels are subsections, and once an area is completed, you can replay and jump around however you like from the HUB. So basically in the main story or campaign play through, the worlds have a clear order with beginnings and ends, but in repeat play throughs and co-op you can tackle the worlds and sections however you like.

How much emphasis is placed on the RPG side of the game such as levelling up and collecting treasure?
“Too Human” was designed as an action RPG with equal emphasis on both components. Things ingrained in the action element benefit the RPG element (the better you play, the faster your combo level grows and you get things like stat and experience bonuses). The RPG elements are not only classic RPG stats bonuses, but things that directly affect the action game play. For example, each of the weapon classes has different game play styles and effects on the game play. Ultimately we would like to have the action players excited about collecting loot and levelling their character, and in the same vein, have RPG gamers excited about doing cool moves, big combos, and succeeding in the action.

The Nordic mythology/cyberpunk storyline seems to be very intriguing. How much effort did you put in the storytelling aspect of the game? Will we feel like being in a great sci-fi movie?
We hope so – we’ve put a lot of time into designing and planning the overall story structure of “Too Human”, both the first game and the entire trilogy. To Silicon Knights, deep story is a priority and we usually try to find as many ways to bring it into the game as possible without disrupting the player’s flow. We want the player’s experience to be an intense cinematic experience, yet also intriguing and thought provoking. The story can be enjoyed on a surface level, but hopefully also on a much deeper level as our earlier games have been.

What kind of action can we expect from the game? Something more technical and demanding like Ninja Gaiden, or something more spectacular and stylish like DMC?
While “Too Human” plays differently than other action games, the level of intensity should satisfy action hungry fans. A lot of action games have a combo system that relies on the player stringing a series of hits against a single foe, or a small, focused amount of foes. “Too Human’s” combo system focuses on the game’s 360- degree combat and right stick attacking game play. It bases combo growth on hitting a mass number of foes with varying techniques, and then utilizing the combo gained to allow very noticeable character bonuses, such as XP bonuses and even fuel the use of special powers. Also, since “Too Human” combines action with RPG, there is a great deal of strategy in how you approach each battle, in addition to the standard core action foundation of requiring players to execute twitch commands.

Can you talk a little bit about the co-op? Will we be able to jump into a friend's game at any time, and with any character strength? I.e., with a low level character can we join a higher-level friend? Will we find harder enemies or they'll adjust to our level?
You can jump into anyone’s online game at any time, with both players being any level. Surviving will be more challenging for the lower level player, but if players are within 10 to 15 levels of each other, the difficult change isn’t as severe. There are actually a wide variety of things that change based on the players’ levels, including what enemy level ranges spawn in, how many enemies attack, what enemy types (polarities, elites, etc.) they face, and more. The end result is a game that remains challenging for 2 players, but will allow players of a fairly great level disparity to play together and remain fun, and challenging.

Do you now feel confident you met your initial vision for the game, or did you have to change several features in the process? If yes, which?
There are always things that work as well, or not as well, as originally designed or envisioned. While some of these things have changed to accommodate improvements, the key essence of the game from its core pillars was maintained throughout the development process. While it wasn’t easy to achieve, we really feel that we have struck a unique and enjoyable blend of fast-pace action with deep RPG gameplay that is easily accessible and fun. We also feel that we have incorporated a robust high-quality storyline with a cinematic presentation and a rich online co-op experience. These were always our core goals.

We know TH will be a trilogy, so maybe you'll soon start working on the second game. Will this permit you to work on other games too? *cough* Eternal Darkness 2 *cough*
Silicon Knights has a few different things in the works right now, but we can’t announce anything new at this time.

There's no option to create a female lead character, why was this not made an option for those who prefer more feminine charms (could you not have been more flexible with the Norse mythology)?
We’ve had a lot of people ask this question, and there’s always potential for something like this in the future games, but the first game focuses on telling Baldur’s story and introducing the other gods.

What was the influence behind the Sci-Fi setting fused with Norse mythology?
“Too Human” was always a science fiction story first, but as we developed the story we noticed lots of unintentional parallels with mythology creeping into it. The Norse myth angle worked well with our themes of humanity and technology, so we embraced it completely.

How difficult will the game become for more experienced players in single and co-op modes, what replay value is on offer?
The enemies and difficulty are constantly evolving in “Too Human”. There are some key levels where new things will begin to show up, like new polarity types, new attacks and strategies from the enemies, etc… The game is designed to offer a constant challenge and to keep bringing in new things all the way to level 50. To play well at level 50, players will need to become very good at the game, be good at using every skill/ability they have, and be outfitted extremely well.

“Too Human” is part of a trilogy, how much effort has been spent on ensuring that the three games tie together in a cohesive manner? Have you got the basis for the two other games planned out?
The universe and the entire overarching story has all been created and mapped out. The levels and main goals of the three games have also been mapped out. Silicon Knights creates upfront full and rich universes that have a deep pool of content that people can dive into. This is true for “Too Human”. However, each game of the trilogy is designed to be a self-contained experience, as well as carry over player progress to the sequels.

What made you decide on the character Baldur as opposed to other potential playable characters?
The Nordic peoples relied on speaking and singing their stories, and consequently much of it has been lost to the ravages of time. Only a few written works survive, thanks mostly to an Icelandic nobleman and scholar named Snorri Sturluson, who compiled the most comprehensive texts on the subject. Baldur’s absence gave us creative freedom to create his story based on the other mythologies surrounding him.

Also, we wanted to make a game world that is rich for storytelling – not just borrowing from the myth, but one that would enable many more peripheral stories. There is no telling what other perspectives could be brought forward. Loki and Thor’s story would be interesting perspectives.

In some way, part of the combat in “Too Human” reminds me of Unreal Championship 2. Was this game an inspiration during the creative process?
No. We set out to make an action RPG hybrid that was tailor made for the consoles, so it’s hard to really narrow down any specific citing of inspiration because there so many unique things about “Too Human”. ”Too Human” draws from archetypes in different genres, but has definitely carved out a place of its own.

With extended production time, people come to expect a near-perfect degree of polish. Concerning the graphics, can you confirm that “Too Human” runs at a steady frame rate, without screen tearing or significant slowdown?
Vsync is turned on, so you should see almost no tearing at all in “Too Human”. You may see some artifacting from the post processing filters that are on, but it isn’t vsync or tearing related. “Too Human’s” game play runs at a consistent 30 frames per second. You will see occasional, but very brief, dips when there are massive amounts of enemies, explosions, AND effects playing simultaneously, but these instances are short-lived and quite rare. We feel very confident about the performance, especially when you look at some of the massive environments, sheer hordes of enemies onscreen, and the explosive chaos the gameplay is capable of. You will also notice no load times during the game. We feel confident that “Too Human’s” performance is well above most games on the Xbox 360.

Denis Dyack once said that “Too Human's” co-op was reduced to two players because it'd otherwise be too hectic, even though the engine could still handle it. Why not leave that up to the players themselves then if it's still technically possible? Some were really looking forward playing “Too Human” with three other friends.
There was a wide array of factors that went into the decision to only include 2-player co-op. It is all about quality over quantity and we felt it was the right decision. 4- player co-op in “Too Human” just wasn’t offering the superior experience we felt it should. There are a massive amount of things happening on screen at a blistering pace during “Too Human”, and a great deal of player response, strategy, and twitch is required to make the game feel right. 2-player was just a better fit with the gameplay, but we are definitely keeping the door open in the future on whether to increase the number of coop players.

Denis Dyack also mentioned that the plot-related portions of the campaign (the cut scenes, among other things) would be missing in the co-op mode. Again: why cut this entirely instead of letting the players decide whether they want to disable them?
With “Too Human’s” interactive cut scene approach, implementing this feature wasn’t a quick switch to turn on, and there was actually a lot involved. This was not a priority, since the team’s experience with other co-op games found that lengthy interruptions and cinematics were always skipped or viewed as a distraction.

Has “Too Human” always been a Diablo-esque action RPG, or did the gameplay change significantly compared to several years ago?
“Too Human” was always designed as an action/RPG hybrid. A great deal of work went into both systems. Unfortunately some of the misconceptions about the game stem from us only having the action side of the game available for demo. The RPG side was able to be demoed, but at a later date. Consequently, people thought it was a pure action game based on what they saw. The reality of it was, we had smacking around enemies up and running right away. That’s something that is easy to show. However, a deep and progressive loot and RPG system takes a lot of various components to show, including full game progression and working inventory management/systems. Both the action and RPG elements of the game are equally important to “Too Human”, and always have been since the beginning of the development cycle.

Your game has a very long history. Aren’t you afraid that your ideas for the gameplay or story are now old? Is there anything we haven't seen before?
We actually feel the opposite. The reason “Too Human” has survived for so long is because the core concept and story are so strong. Through the course of “Too Human”, we feel those elements got even stronger and that the story and concept are better than ever. In fact, “Too Human” was ahead of its time. It needed the power of the Xbox 360 to fully be realized.

Can you tell us something about Achievements? Do you plan on building achievements around game goals or making impossible combos?
We focused on giving players a good bulk of the points for their first complete play through. Achievements beyond the first play through have several focuses:

  • Rewarding players for getting to level 50
  • Hitting in-game accomplishments (x # of air kills for example)
  • Rewarding skill
  • Rewarding people for trying multiple classes, and for collecting the end game loot

We feel achievements should reward players for playing the game by actually being achievements.

Was cooperative mode very important for you?
Coop has always been a key pillar of “Too Human”. All of the classes, levels, skills, and gameplay features were designed to give players a fun area to play in, with a cool set of team-based abilities. Having the same action-packed and feature rich gameplay you would expect from a single player game in co-op is a very appealing and fun part of “Too Human”.

Can you explain how skills system works in “Too Human”?
As players gain experience, they level up. With each level they gain, they will earn skill points. These skill points can then be used in either the class skill tree or the alignment skill tree. Putting points into these trees do a large variety of things that enhance your character and can even radically alter the gameplay. Each tree is unique and players can power up passive things like their damage, or the chance to fire a ricocheting bullet, as well as add on completely new things like spider abilities, battle cry skills, and even a sentient power that your weapon can unleash on your foes. Skill trees are about powering up and customizing your character, earning new abilities, and ultimately changing the game play.

Are you going to use DLC between the next parts of the trilogy? Can we expect new classes and other content after release?
The system is designed with all of these possibilities and more in mind, but we are not announcing any DLC plans at the moment.

Is it possible to complete the campaign in co-op mode?
You can play through the entire game from beginning to end in co-op mode, but you will not see any of the game’s cinematics in co-op mode.

Which rating is the highest Level for the character? 50? 80? 100?
Level 50 is the cap for this “Too Human” game. This will increase with DLC and the rest of the Trilogy.

How many weapons are in the game?
A tremendous amount. There are 3 main melee types with 3 handedness types, and 3 main gun types with 3 different ammo types. This totals to 18 distinct weapon classes that affect the gameplay differently and can be combined with each other for even greater variety (e.g. one-handed sword and dual pistols can be equipped, or a two-handed hammer and a laser cannon). All of these weapon types drop as loot with varying statistics and properties assigned to them. You can get weapons of varying appearance and color, fire swords, hammers with experience bonuses, etc… These combinations range in the hundreds of thousands.

Are there any vehicles you can drive?
There are no player-controlled vehicles, as this does not suite the type of game that “Too Human” is, but you will see vehicles introduced into the universe throughout the cut scenes and cinematics.

The game has extensively used Nordic mythology, were you tempted to use any other mythologies to expand the gameworld?
While working on the early stages of “Too Human” and developing the main storylines, a lot of different mythologies crept in. We had a smattering of Greek myths as well, but the Nordic tales seemed to ring truer to our themes of mankind’s struggle to comprehend and work with technology. The Norse psyche is about courage in the face of adversity, and that is a good way to describe mankind’s dependency on tools and machines. In the end, we decided to only utilize the Nordic mythos.

Did the negative abuse that surrounded the initial E3 showing of the game disheartened the development team or drive them on to create a better product?
Game development is very challenging and having a setback like that never helps. The team as a whole definitely felt some of the initial backlash, but everyone knew “Too Human’s” potential and did not waver. Everyone battered down and focused on making “Too Human” the best game possible and, even with all of the added challenges, the game is really something for that the team is proud of.

What do you feel is the stand out feature or features of “Too Human”?
The level of uniqueness in the game is really amazing, especially for a console game. Most people hear about the right stick combat system, but until you play the game, it’s hard to realize that what we have done is focus on 360-degree combat and a massive amount of swarming enemies. Instead of multiple hits against a target being a combo, “Too Human” focuses on large combos from chaining different enemies. When you seamlessly mow through dozens of enemies in an instant, it’s a feeling unlike any other game. I’d also list:

  • Fast-pace action combat that is accessible yet deep, and very fun
  • Extremely robust RPG system, including an immense amount of character building and progression, as well as a nearly limitless amount of item variety
  • Rich storyline and universe with developed characters and plot arcs
  • Movie quality soundtrack and dynamic audio.
  • Incredibly intense two-player online co-op gameplay.

SiliconKnights.com still bills “Too Human” as an action game, with great emphasis on combat, especially melee combat; in fact, it even compares itself to a fighting game. The words RPG, leveling up, classes, etc aren't mentioned once. It seems like SK was making a completely different game than what “Too Human” currently is - did the game take a completely different direction than what was originally billed as?
The content on Siliconknights.com is legacy from the original marketing reveal of the game. The plan was to reveal the action elements first, then follow with the RPG elements. “Too Human” was always designed as an action/RPG hybrid. A great deal of work went into both systems. Unfortunately some of the misconceptions about the game stem from us having something showable on the RPG side later than the action side, so people thought it was a pure action game based on what they saw. The reality of it was, we had smacking around enemies up and running right away, and that’s something easy to show. However, a deep and progressive loot and RPG system takes longer to pull together to show and includes full game progression and working inventory management/systems. Both of these elements are equally important to “Too Human”, and always have been since the beginning of the development cycle.

I recommend visiting xbox.com’s game detail page at http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/splash/t/toohuman/ for more up-to-date information regarding “Too Human”.

Can you give a vague idea of when the demo will be released? Also, what part of the game will be in the demo?
The demo is now available and in less than a month has been downloaded over 1 million times. It is available for download for both Gold and Silver Xbox Live members. The amount of content and gameplay is unprecedented, as it features a sizeable amount of cinematics and about an hour’s worth of gameplay. The demo begins in the game’s first World and starts off with a small variety of enemies and encounters, but it allows you to level up a few levels, try multiple classes, earn a good amount of skills to try out, and collect items. There’s a lot of content here and I highly recommend giving it a try.

Does the co-op mode have the same content as the one-player mode?
The co-op mode allows you to play through the entire campaign. It features 3 loot modes, allows you to jump around to sections if you’ve already completed them, and allows in-game trading with your co-op partner. The in- game cinematics, however, are not available during online co-op.

When do you anticipate the next instalments of the trilogy coming out?
The plan has always been to release the other instalments in a timely manner, but we have no official announcements at this time.

Is the tearing/slowdown that was seen at E3 fixed now, and how confident are you about the performance of the game engine?
Vsync is turned on, so you should see almost no tearing at all in “Too Human”. You may see some artifacting from the post processing filters that are on, but it isn’t vsync or tearing related. “Too Human’s” game play runs at a consistent 30 frames per second. You will see occasional, but very brief, dips when there are massive amounts of enemies, explosions, AND effects playing simultaneously, but these instances are short-lived and quite rare. We feel very confident about the performance, especially when you look at some of the massive environments, sheer hordes of enemies onscreen, and the explosive chaos the gameplay is capable of. You will also notice no load times during the game. We feel confident that “Too Human’s” performance is well above most games on the Xbox 360.

How can you change the mind of people who like most of us who don’t know what to expect from “Too Human”? I think that a lot of people are waiting for a God of War-esque game and a lot of others are expecting a Mass Effect-style game.
I would tell people to expect an action-packed game that features a great deal of character building and customization through item collecting. The actual gameplay of “Too Human” is quite unique, and I would highly recommend people download the robust demo of “Too Human” that is currently available for download by Gold and Silver members over Xbox Live. There’s about an hour’s worth of content/gameplay and it lets people experience “Too Human” for themselves.

Some of our readers feel that “Too Human” has been in development for so long that it’s coming to the Xbox 360 too late and won’t be able to compete with the current third-generation Xbox 360 games. How would you address these fears?
Actually, the game has been in actual development on the Xbox 360 for far less than the rumoured 10 years. In reality, the development of the game cyclone the Xbox 360 was approximately 4 years. In addition, the action/RPG concept is still pretty under explored on the Xbox 360 and there are still no games available that are really like “Too Human”. For Xbox 360 and Xbox Live players who have been waiting for a co-op action/RPG that allows looting and collecting similar to Diablo, “Too Human’s” August release date can’t arrive soon enough.

Nordic mythology was really a wonderful thing on Heimdall (Amiga nineties game). Will we have scenarios with green valleys, Viking girls, Viking boats, snowy roofs, brilliant colours and all those stereotypes that "southern" people link with Nordic culture? Or have you gone for a different angle on Nordic culture?
Our high concept idea is that the world of “Too Human” is a possible early history of the world, or a far future history of the world yet to be written. Did Norse culture grow out of this long forgotten time?

We have taken a different approach to Nordic culture. We tried to capture as much of the flavour of the Viking (primarily) culture wherever possible, but only so far as our storyline allowed. Our ultimate goal was to blend the historic Viking culture, the mythology itself and our science fiction themes into one rational and interesting setting.

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23.06.2020 / Action-RPG derzeit kostenlos im Xbox Store 03.05.2011 / Entwickler will Trilogie fertigstellen 30.08.2008 / Gewinnt exklusive Downloadcodes! (Update) 11.07.2008 / Demo kommt nächste Woche 19.06.2008 / Von der USK abgesegnet

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