XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS - Chris Burke

OXM vis­ited Gun­fire Games’ Texas stu­dio to meet the folk be­hind the Dark­siders se­ries, and find out what Fury’s new ad­ven­ture has in store for us

Late June is bring­ing hu­mid­ity and bak­ing sun­shine to the Lone Star State, and it’s hot­ter than hell out­side. But com­fort­ably air­con­di­tioned within Gun­fire Games’ Austin, Texas stu­dio, OXM is bat­tling hell’s own crea­tures as Fury, the third of the Horse­men—ac­tu­ally a horse­woman, of course—in a lengthy hands-on ses­sion with Xbox One’s first proper Dark­siders game.

On the wall of Gun­fire Games’ stu­dio hangs an im­pres­sive replica of War’s gi­gan­tic sword from the first Dark­siders, while a stat­uette of the Joe Mad-in­spired Death from Dark­siders

II sits on the re­cep­tion area’s cof­fee ta­ble, next to a copy of OXM from last year fea­tur­ing Fury on its cover. They are proud re­minders of both the se­ries’ legacy and its de­vel­op­ers’ ex­cit­ing present, fol­low­ing a phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the now de­funct Vigil Games. That Dark­siders III is be­ing made at all is tes­ta­ment to both the de­vel­op­ers’ grit and the cult pop­u­lar­ity of the fran­chise.

Vigil Games was formed in Austin in 2005 by David Adams and Joe Madureira, a comic book writer and artist who had worked on Mar­vel’s Un­canny X-Men se­ries, and whose style in­formed Dark­siders’ dis­tinct de­sign aes­thetic. But af­ter Vigil’s par­ent com­pany THQ went bank­rupt in 2012, Adams plus John Pearl, now Gun­fire’s De­sign Di­rec­tor, took a hand­ful of other erst­while Vigil staff and formed their own stu­dio in 2014. Ini­tially the team de­vel­oped games for VR head­sets, in­clud­ing Cronos and Her­obound, and re­mas­tered Dark­siders II— as The Death­ini­tive

Edi­tion— for Xbox One. But they were not done with the Dark­siders se­ries. With THQ Nordic’s back­ing, they could now re­turn to the con­cept of Dark­siders III that they had al­ready been dis­cussing be­fore Vigil closed. And so Fury was born, or rather re­born.

The Dark­siders games found a strong fan­base; they res­onated with gamers both for their strong vis­ual iden­tity and in their am­bi­tious for­mula of ex­plo­ration, puz­zles, chal­leng­ing com­bat, and unique, apoc­a­lyp­tic world filled with an­gels, demons, and other denizens of the un­der­world. And as fans of the se­ries our­selves, it was a no-brainer for

OXM to ac­cept an in­vite to spend qual­ity hands-on time with the ti­tle be­fore it launches this Novem­ber, and meet Gun­fire’s cre­ative leads, game di­rec­tor David Adams, and de­sign di­rec­tor John Pearl...

Af­ter Vigil Games closed, it looked like Dark­sider­sII would never get made… at what point did you re­al­ize you could ac­tu­ally make it hap­pen? David: At some point af­ter we’d fin­ished Cronos, which was the first big VR game that we did, we said we ac­tu­ally have enough peo­ple, and we’d just done the Dark­siders II: The Death­ini­tive Edi­tion port, and it just seemed like a good time to do the game. Plus ev­ery­one here was start­ing to get re­ally ex­cited again about mak­ing Dark­siders III.

John: Another thing that sounded good was, the thing that we al­ways wanted and that we never got, was a pre-pro­duc­tion cre­ative. For Dark­siders I, we were just fig­ur­ing it out; for Dark­siders II we had this en­tire team from Dark­siders, so ‘let’s do some­thing with them’—we just kind of pushed for­ward and tried to get con­cepts and ideas; it just kind of hap­pened while pro­duc­tion was hap­pen­ing. So we were talk­ing like, hey, we can ac­tu­ally get the time we want and re­ally plan out the world. And that’s been a huge boon to us, we were able to lay out the world at a re­ally early stage and get an idea of the size and the re­quire­ments of the game, and look at con­cepts for the char­ac­ters and re­ally take our time and go into full pro­duc­tion with a re­ally good idea of what we were mak­ing.

You men­tioned in your Dark­sider­sII pre­sen­ta­tion to­day that the Four Horse­men char­ac­ters fol­low RPG-type class roles…

David: We imag­ined the line-up [of the Horse­men] as War­rior, Mage, Thief, and Ne­cro­mancer. And the prob­lem we ran into, when we got to do­ing Fury, was, okay, she’s go­ing to be a Mage, but still a big part of the game is melee com­bat—the cool, vis­ceral, do­ing awe­some com­bos thing, so if we got

“I think you’ve just got to try stuff, and we didn’t want to be stale”

too Mage-y and spell-based or range-based, it would cease to be that kind of game. So we had to present her mag­i­cal abil­i­ties through melee com­bat, and that re­ally drove a lot of the di­rec­tion. As far as the RPG as­pect goes, I think we bounced around from project to project, the first one was su­per-RPG like, the se­cond one was much more al­most like Di­ablo, ran­dom loot, skill trees, the whole-nine, so this one landed some­where in be­tween.

Fury’s hair is a re­ally big part of her char­ac­ter and her power…

John: We joked early on that it was like we’ve got three main char­ac­ters, we have Fury, we have her hair and we have the whip, and those all have to look cool when they are put to­gether, so def­i­nitely each one had to have that level of minute de­tail.

David: Her hair doesn’t re­ally obey the laws of physics, every time we get con­cept art, her hair’s like ‘swooosh’, re­ally swirling up and do­ing great stuff, so we wanted to cap­ture that in the game. It’s not like her hair’s ly­ing down like a typ­i­cal per­son with long hair, it’s kind of got a mind of its own. So we spent a de­cent amount of time try­ing to do that, but not make it look weird like it’s a plas­tic hood. It moves around and re­acts.

It’s a fan­tasy world but you seem to strive for a cer­tain de­gree of re­al­ism.

John: Even with Dark­siders I it was never like this is the real world, it’s a twist on that. This is not your typ­i­cal post-apoca­lypse—it’s not hu­man-caused, an­gels and demons have caused this apoca­lypse, so we wanted it to feel like it’s not just a Fall­out world. It’s not nukes, it’s these un­known pow­ers, so we had gi­ant spikes com­ing through build­ings and chains link­ing build­ings to­gether like, hey this is a de­mon’s play­ground now! It’s the fan­tas­ti­cal el­e­ments on top of the re­al­ism that we’re try­ing to sell in the Dark­siders world—this is not just a city, it’s a Dark­siders city.

Fury is hunt­ing the Seven Deadly Sins, that have been un­leashed on earth— how did you ap­proach the char­ac­ter de­sign for the Sins? David: It was mostly try­ing to cap­ture what the sin rep­re­sented. We didn’t want any­thing scary or grotesque, it was more, hey what’s a comic book in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Seven Deadly Sins? Wrath’s ob­vi­ously in a gi­ant suit of ar­mor, you prob­a­bly at some point [in the playthrough] could have seen Sloth across a pas­sage­way, and he’s a gi­ant, fat in­sect-like thing on a throne. We tried to cap­ture their par­tic­u­lar weak­ness, their sin, as much as pos­si­ble.

You’ve re­worked the me­chanic of the hub-world with dun­geons lead­ing off it, this seems to be kind of one big dun­geon?

John: Be­fore, it was very hub-based, but there’s some­thing very in­ter­est­ing about a world wrap­ping back on it­self, it feels more nat­u­ral and less con­trived and it gives you a per­spec­tive on the world. In

Dark­siders I you go off to this world, and then you come back and you don’t have any rel­a­tive per­spec­tive on, where is that church? It’s the typ­i­cal Metroid­va­nia game de­sign, where you’re us­ing tools to tra­verse ar­eas you’ve been through be­fore in a new way. There’s some­thing re­ally cool about mak­ing it one big dun­geon, about the whole path-through feel­ing like this seam­less en­vi­ron­ment where one area tran­si­tions into the next.

How much does mak­ing a se­quel al­low you to be able to take on board fan re­quests and/or prob­lems peo­ple found with the first games?

David: You’ve def­i­nitely got to be true to the fran­chise, right? There’s got to be ex­plo­ration, cool melee com­bat, puz­zles, and some sort of pro­gres­sion. That’s

Dark­siders in a nut­shell. And I think that we’re pretty risky in that we do change it up quite a bit. When we were work­ing on

Dark­siders II, even in­ter­nally, the de­vel­op­ment team, there were guys that were like, “Man, ran­dom loot? Skill trees? I just want an ac­tion game, why are you putting all this weird RPG stuff in?” There were a lot of fans who were like, what did you do? We liked Dark­siders I way bet­ter, then you got a lot of fans who were like, “Dark­siders II is way bet­ter than Dark­siders.” So at the end of the day it just in­creased the pool of fans be­cause we brought more peo­ple in. I think you’ve just got to try stuff, and we didn’t want to be stale. Let’s keep it in­ter­est­ing and make sure every game is dif­fer­ent.

You were able to work with Un­real 4 this time, what kind of a dif­fer­ence did that make to what you could do with the game?

David: Dark­siders I and II were on our pro­pri­etary en­gine at Vigil, so we were su­per-ex­cited to work on Un­real 4. Not diss­ing the en­gine which I made a lot of my­self, but it’s hard to main­tain a com­plex en­gine. We did okay with what we had, but

with this one we were like we’ve got Un­real 4, we’ve got all the cool tools, and that was su­per-ex­cit­ing. Plus just be­ing able to do all the next-gen stuff. There’s a lot of stuff that’s way eas­ier now than it was when we did Dark­siders I and II, for sure.

The com­bat in Dark­sider­sII seems quite chal­leng­ing this time.

David: This gets back to one of the ma­jor changes; there are no more gated fights. With Dark­siders I and II it was very much, you come into a room, a bar­rier pops up over the door, old-school God Of War style, right? Then you fight six waves of guys, and it’s like duh-duhhh! You beat that com­bat, and you go to the next one. Devil May Cry was the same way, and when we worked on

Dark­siders I that’s just the way you did it, every game was that way. A lot of games have come out since then, which I find re­fresh­ing, where you don’t need to do that. You can or­gan­i­cally present play­ers with en­e­mies. But what hap­pens when you do that is you have to up the chal­lenge a lit­tle be­cause when you’re not stuck in a room you can just run past the en­e­mies, and so it’s much more im­por­tant to cre­ate sit­u­a­tion­ally dif­fi­cult things. Our game or­gan­i­cally has block­ers. You might run into a puz­zle, or a door you can’t open, so that adds another layer of strat­egy, and you can’t just run through the game be­cause you’re go­ing to run into a puz­zle you have to solve and that’s go­ing to slow you down— some of those guys you ran past are go­ing to come in and kick you. But I think as to specif­i­cally the dif­fi­culty, it’s a side-ef­fect of the fact that you’re not fight­ing 20 guys any more, so you have to con­sider that the dif­fi­culty that was pre­vi­ously five waves of five, like 25 en­e­mies, is now en­cap­su­lated in one or two en­e­mies.

We like the way that those en­e­mies are pre­sented as just get­ting on with stuff, not wait­ing around for you.

John: Some of them are in the world to just be there, and you’re go­ing to at­tack them, and then they’ll get mad at you for at­tack­ing them. The skele­tons, for ex­am­ple, are quite pas­sive if you run past them, but peo­ple nat­u­rally are just like, “I need to hit that! It’s a bad guy, I’m go­ing to punch them!” Par­tic­u­larly the bomb bugs— you’re go­ing to kill the bomb bug, and he does no harm to you! We wanted to cre­ate more of a liv­ing breath­ing world. Be­cause it’s not a gated fight, we can place en­e­mies in the world do­ing things, it makes it feel like there’s a rea­son for them, they’re not just there to punch you in the face! It’s a fun thing, be­cause then you can take the com­bat a lit­tle bit more at your own pace. It gives you a lot more op­tions in com­bat in how you en­gage them, and it of­fers up a lot of va­ri­ety from en­counter to en­counter.

“A lot of stuff is way eas­ier now than it was when we did Dark­siders I and II”

Dark­siders III is com­ing to Xbox One on Novem­ber 27.

BE­LOW LEFT Fury also wields a pair of flam­ing nunchuks.

left and above Con­cept art in­clud­ing Wrath, one of the Seven Deadly Sins that Fury is track­ing down

Left Fury’s hair changes to re­flect the power she’s cur­rently wield­ing, eg: Fire.

Be­low Con­cept art of one of Dark­siders III’s dun­geons.

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