Earlier this month ConsoleMonster was invited as part of the Microsoft Xbox Community Network (XCN) to submit a selection of questions, which would be answered in a Q&A session with Jerk Gustafsson who is part of the development team behind Starbreeze Studios’ – The Darkness. We put this to our community via our forum and in return we received some pressing questions from our members. Four of the most interesting and inventive questions were selected and submitted towards the Q&A interview.
What follows an in-depth Q&A exclusive to XCN members, with Jerk Gustafsson recently this month.
Will there be an Xbox Live demo on Marketplace?
Yes, there will be a demo released both on Xbox Live Marketplace and on Playstation Network. We are currently finishing up all different SKUs of the full game, but as soon as that is done we will have a release date for the demos. The demo will contain three different levels that should get your appetite up for the game.
Was it hard for you to put the world and concepts of The Darkness in a videogame and did you need the power of the Xbox 360 to realise the game?
Making video games is probably the hardest creative endeavour there is. This is especially true for the kind of games we are making. The 360 has enabled us to do things we could only dream about on earlier projects, but at the same time the difficulty in developing has grown exponentially as well. The ambitions and quality level we’ve been aiming for with this project would be unthinkable without the kind of power the 360 offers.
Can you tell us a little more about the TV’s people have seen dotted around the levels?
We use the TV sets as fun diversions where the player can stop for a while and watch a show or two, but also as a means of telling story to the player in an interesting way. We will have about 20-30 hours of content with a couple of different channels running stuff like series like Flash Gordon and movies like Nosferatu. We are also using TV’s in the game for special news-reports that relates to the game-story. Those have proven to be a great narrative tool for us.
Since the comic book has been going for a while, do you have any plans to extend the main game via Downloadable content?
We have the support for downloadable content in the game, but this is primarily a financial decision made by our publisher depending on how well the game performs sales-wise. Hopefully we will be able to both extend parts of the single-player world as well as releasing additional multiplayer content. Also, we would of course like to do something like the in-game commentary we did for the PC-version of The Chronicles of Riddick.
Did you always plan The Darkness to be a first person shooter?
Definitely. At starbreeze there is a strong opinion that the first person experience gives the player a stronger immersion and a better relation to the character he/she is playing. We try to create a game experience where the player is Jackie as opposed to have the player play Jackie. If that makes any sense… Also, doing a first person game is a choice to do a game where the player is supposed to feel that he is within the game. This is what we usually mean with immersion; to make the player feel that he is the person that is running around within the game-world. For us, it’s only natural to continue on that path and try to the experience as realistic for the player as possible. In Riddick that meant making sure you saw your own body and the shadow of it and in Darkness we’ve taken that further in where you for example have your own body interact with the environment.
Was there any elements brought into The Darkness from your previous Chronicles of Riddick title?
A lot of systems are based on elements used in Riddick but are of course evolved and molded to fit The Darkness. Some systems from Riddick we really liked did not make it into the Darkness because they did not fit the gameplay. The biggest thing we brought over was of course the blend of genres. As Riddick was, The Darkness is a blend of high-paced action and more nonlinear story driven adventure. Also, the engine we use in The Darkness is an evolved version of the Riddick engine, that has been enhanced throughout the development to take advantage of the new platforms.
Will we find the beautiful real-time shadows, as seen on screenshots, in the final game?
Yes, but most screenshots are outdated and The Darkness will look even better when released, especially in motion. The engine we use for The Darkness is an evolved version of the Riddick engine and one of the great strengths of the lighting technology we used there was that could destroy each individual light source. This was a feature we needed to keep for The Darkness since it was crucial for the game-play. Still, we weren’t really happy with the way Riddick handled more ambient and natural light so for The Darkness we have implemented a new hybrid lighting technology. This combines the dynamic lights with their real-time shadows with a something called light-field mapping which has been critical to create the type of outdoor areas we needed for the game.
How true to the comic series is the game and will it feature a new story or borrow elements from the comics?
The Darkness story is loosely based on the “Resurrection” storyline and have been adapted to fit the game in collaboration with writer, Paul Jenkins. When we started working on The Darkness, we decided early on that we wanted to retell the story of when Jackie Estacado was possessed by the Darkness on his 21st birthday, but they way it was written in the comic didn’t really work for a video-game, so we had to change that. Luckily, with the help of Jenkins, we could do that while still staying true to the comic.
Will Jackie gain new abilities as the game progresses and can the power he has obtained consume him completely?
When Jackie gets possessed by the Darkness on the eve on his 21st birthday, Jackie has little control over the Darkness. Throughout the game, Jackie will to get back in control from the Darkness which also will increase the control of the darkness powers. This is done by devouring the hearts of evil characters, and the more he collects, the stronger he will get. Also, when doing this on some specially evil characters, Jackie will also learn new ways to use his demonic powers.
Will the game feature exploration elements and if so what can we expect to gain from being thorough?
The Darkness is as much an adventure game as it is a shooter so exploration is very much encouraged. Most of the game takes place in New York, where different areas are connected through a subway system, so the player can easily go back to previously visited areas. Apart from the main story-line, there are also side-missions as well as hidden collectibles and other things that the player can find.
How will the game involve players who do not know the comic?
The design have always been to provide more depth to the comic but also as a stand alone experience. The game is a closed piece with a beginning, middle and end for maximum dramatic impact. Unfamiliar players might even have an advantage as they’ve been kept completely spoiler free. Still, for the people that have read the comic, there are also some new revelations about the nature of the Darkness and how it got into Jackie’s family.
Can you tell us more about the multiplayer aspect of this game? Will there be a multiplayer mode where you can use the Darkness powers?
We have based a lot of the multiplayer design around darklings, and players will be able to play as darklings in various modes. The Darkness powers from the single player experience will not be available in multiplayer. They are very different experiences.
What was the biggest challenge in making The Darkness considering you got huge critical acclaim for Riddick and thereby raised the bar for future products?
The Darkness is a much larger production than Riddick and the biggest challenge has probably been managing the extended team required. Also there’s countless new problems that’s appears as we increase the fidelity of the game world.
Why did you pick The Darkness as the setting for your next game? Did a publisher approach you or were you intrigued by the possibilities of the license?
The Darkness concept was presented to us by Union entertainment and our first publisher Majesco. From the very beginning we felt that The Darkness and Starbreeze was the perfect match. It is very dark, which we like, and pretty brutal, which we like, but the thing that that made us pick The Darkness was the story and the supernatural elements. Most of the game and the comic take place in New York, but in the New York of The Darkness is a world most people don’t see. Then you have Jackie Estacado, who is the perfect lead for a videogame, especially the kind of videogame we want to do.
Riddick and Splinter Cell revolutionised the use of light and darkness in videogames. What do you think will be this generation’s revolutionary feature?
For me personally I think Co-operative play via live will be a big thing in the future, but there are even more areas where I think we will see some leaps this generation. Animation hasn’t really evolved that much during the previous generation, but in games like Assassins Creed I think we will se the start of something truly interesting where the player character will start to interact with the world in new way, giving us great new possibilities. Also, I hope that story-telling will be one of the areas where we see great improvement and while we may only see evolutionary steps we may get to the point where players will really start to care about what happens to the characters on screen. Hopefully we will have helped that evolution a bit with The Darkness.
Thank you Jerk Gustafsson for your time