3DA: Please introduce yourself and your position in the production of Lionheart.
Hi, I'm Bryce Baker, a designer here at Reflexive Entertainment.
3DA: What kind of RPG elements are implemented? is there anything new Lionheart brings to the genre or is everything essentially building on what works?
Lionheart is a classic RPG in the tradition of Black Isle's Fallout and Baldur's Gate series. We've built the game around the SPECIAL system used in Fallout and have worked to emulate a lot of the nuances that made it and its sequels so popular with gamers - multiple endings for quests, for instance. Black Isle has been very successful with RPG's for nearly a decade and have done a lot to refine the genre. So I guess it's a case of not fixing what isn't broken.
3DA: What are the four player races, and how does the game change from race to race?
There's your stock human characters and also four races of magical human hybrids: Demokins are descended from bloodlines polluted with an infernal spirit, Sylvants arose from persons possessed by a woodland spirit, and Feralkins are the product of the union of an animal spirit and a human. Different races will have different traits available to them and also varying ability scores. Members of the 'tainted races' will also have to deal with the prejudices of many NPC's, particularly members of the Inquisition.
3DA: How indepth is the singleplayer mode? What could be the expected average completion time in hours?
Like most modern RPG's there is a 'golden path' and numerous side areas and quests for those inclined to take their time with the game. The first maybe third of the game will also play entirely differently for players depending on which factions they align with. All told, I'd imagine the average player will take something like 40 hours to get through the game.
3DA: It is said over 30 spells will be included, could you go into more depth about a few of these more unique spells?
We actually have close to 60 divided between three large classes and 12 subspecialties. The hands-down favorite among the designers at Reflexive is a necromantic spell that allows you to raise from the dead anything from a chicken to Shakespeare. So if you've found a monster that kicked your butt you can bring it back to life to spread the love for a few minutes. If direct damage is your thing, we also have a wide variety of elemental spells that hurl fireballs, cold spikes or electrical bolts to get the job done.
3DA: What are the technical features in Lionheart, graphical and sound?
Well, one of the neat things that our proprietary Velocity engine is doing at real time is converting 3D characters into 2D sprites and anti-aliasing them into the scenes around them. This means that the characters look fantastic and don't take up very much room for their animations, what they are carrying, etc. Our machine specs are a bit higher than what your local library probably has sitting around, but not too bad for the graphical feast that Lionheart really is. We don't require a 3D card, or any special audio equipment to get the most from the game…though, in my opinion, louder is always better.
3DA: What sort of enemies will the player go up against?
There's a pretty wide range. We have some of the classics from the genre - wolves, goblins, some very good-looking larger winged beasties. No rats, though. The artists also came up with some very nice desert monsters that should look familiar to fans of Fallout. Umm, what else? Titans, a whole slew of undead, various thugs and villains, spirits, twisted animals... it's a long list.
3DA: What depth of effort and detail has gone into the AI?
Well, the AI is flexible, in that as a designer, I have some power as to how a monster or NPC acts in any given situation. The "basic" AI in Lionheart that the programmers have agonized over for longer than I want to think about really serves as our building blocks for cool scripts. We have the ability to make an enemy or NPC react to the player in just about any way we can think of. The difficulty in scripting comes when we have to try to plan for every contingency, such as magical enhancements, friendly or not friendly townships, etc. Dreaming it up is easy in comparison to actually making it work. Time and effort…lots of it. I believe the AI is very appropriate for a game of this type. It can't play chess, but it can kick my butt in lots of different ways.
3DA: I understand that Lionheart features an "item generator", which allows for literally thousands of useable items, can you explain the details behind this feature?
There's a lot of loot available to players. Some of the items in the game are unique, and others are generated by a system that looks at your character's level and generates something appropriate for him or her on the spot. That's actually a common theme in Lionheart -- dungeons, for instance, will look at how powerful your character is and adjust their difficulty accordingly (within limits!) to ensure that you get a fun fight.
3DA: How does the multiplayer in Lionheart play out, what sort of features can we expect?
We've been having a lot of fun testing MP around the office (and identifying the ninja looters in our midst)... it plays out more or less like the single-player game, only you're playing it with your buds. It's the same story-driven experience that the single player game is. We're trying hard to make it fun for a mixed group of people, so the guy who wants to read all the text and really experience the story can do so while his friend who is just along for the combat can keep himself amused in town at the same time. There will be a matching service available through Gamespy.
3DA: So what is on the cards after the release of Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader?
I'm going to leave work at a decent hour and go surfing before it gets dark. I can't wait. I had the day Daylight Savings Time starts marked on my calendar for months, but all I've been doing is watching it slowly get dark as we finish up the game. As far as the company goes, well, we have another game lined up (always nice in this industry) but we can't really comment on it until our publisher makes an announcement.
A big thanks goes out to Bryce for the time, Jessica for helping in getting this arranged and of course everyone over at Blackisle and Reflexive in the production of Lionheart. Make sure to keep tuned into 3DAvenue and the official Lionheart website for further info as we approach the August 2003 release.