Interview: Darksiders' Jeremy Greiner
|INTERVIEWS - VIDEOGAMES|
The four horsemen of the Apocalypse take two ...
Jeremy Greiner, Creative Manager for Darksiders II, spent some time with Shadowlocked's Danny Palmer to discuss the return of the franchise ...
In your presentation, we were told Darksiders II is going to be double the game original was. What do you think were the areas of the original that could have been improved, and how are you doing this for Darksiders II?
As a creative manager, my primary role is to bring community feedback and sentiment into the design process, and speaking about improvements, that’s a pretty easy one to tackle. The first would be that a lot of gamers were disappointed they didn’t get to use Ruin – the horse – from the outset of Darksiders I, you pretty much got him halfway through the game. So in Darksiders II you start the game on Despair, it plays a big role in a lot of missions and quests. The build we showed back in March was against the Guardian, a massive boss which you fight from horseback. Another thing we heard about Darksiders I was that there was a fair amount of backtracking. So we put systems in place just to mitigate that issue, so a lot of dungeon design has you finishing where you started so you don’t have to backtrack through the whole dungeon. A lot of zones have different places you can port from so you can get around. Our vast overworlds allow you to use your horse Despair, so you can get around quicker and find different content out there that’s off the critical path.
Those are just a couple of top line things; diving a little bit deeper, we’ve introduced a lot of more of that into Darksiders II. Basically, in Darksiders, War met four people in the game and killed three of them! In Darksiders II each world has a hub town with various you can interact with, you can buy and trade gold and weapons for different weapon and armour sets, different abilities to use in combat, and they also give you side quests off of conversation trees.
How important is this community feedback to Darksiders II? And how do you get it? Do you speak directly to fans, look at the forums, receive emails?
Yeah, all of the above to be honest. It’s all about data-gathering and getting those opinions in. We go to the forums, our own forums, we go to websites out there and check through comment threads. There’s all different ways to find it and typically things bubble up that should bubble up and it isn’t hard for us to spot them.
What have you done to make Darksiders II different to the original? We’ve seen Death in action and he plays differently to war does, how you are making it so despite the narratives running parallel, it’s different game to play to the original?
As similar as Darksiders II should feel to the original is as dissimilar as it should feel. The fact we introduced a new protagonist – which is Death, obviously – was a massive undertaking, pretty risky, but has worked out well in the end. Typically in a franchise and a sequel you build off your systems and integrate off of that, you don’t introduce to a new protagonist that has completely different traversal and combat methods. So we built up Death and he himself makes the experience feel completely new. Also in the first game we were bound by the apocalypse so stuck on Earth for the most part and we felt we needed to do that to baby step the gamer into our world and universe, but now we’re in the sequel Death’s story, we’re able to go into these fantastical realms, so all have a distinct visual style, all look really interesting and immersive and reflect the talent we have at Vigil Studios on the art side.
With so much free reign on setting rather than just the apocalypse, how did you go about deciding where to go, what to do and writing Darksiders II?
It’s a blessing and a curse having your own IP where you’re writing the fiction because you’re like ‘We can do anything!’ then you’re like ‘Oh crap, we can do anything...’ and you have to establish rules, give yourself guidelines that fall into those parameters so you don’t have any places in the fiction where there’s a hole or you contradict yourself. So it is a challenge, but it’s a collaborative team effort, we get everyone in a room to talk about it. Dave Adams, General Manager of the studio takes most of the lead on that, but we all get our opinions in.
Darksiders II has suffered from delays. What are the main reasons for this? Is it just for extra development time to polish it off, or is there something you looked at and thought needed to change?
No content was cut or anything like that. What it really was is Darksiders II is a massive game; you spoke about it being twice as long as the first one, and going through usability it’s going to be pretty freaking massive, there’s a lot of elements out there that lend to a very long play through and all kinds of content. Just the critical path alone is going to be at least 25 hours and then we have tonnes of additional side quests and all kinds of adventuring to do. Because of that wealth of content, we just needed more time for bug fixing and polish. That literally is all it’s for, bug fixing and polish. Thankfully THQ is in a position where they can allow us the time to hit the quality bar that we all strive for.
There are going to be a number of DLC drops for Darksiders II. What are you going to do to ensure that it’s different enough to the main experience of the game to make people want to purchase it?
I think the first thing we’ve done is thankfully they’ve bundled our first DLC drop with the release for anyone who pre-orders. From a content standpoint, it’s offering new unique challenges and options. I can tell you right now that the DLC content has not been made, it’s not like we’re carving it off from the main game as happens often in our industry, but it’s all going to be designed from the ground up, it’s all going to have different feel and look, it’ll tie in with the storyline and plot of Darksiders II and it’ll and just build on that experience.
Speaking of content, earlier this year there was the Darksiders II 'design-a-weapon' contest. What was the response to it, and have you now decided with community created weapons will be in the game?
Yeah! The weapons have actually been voted on by the community, our community manager is doing a great job on our social channels, and our Facebook page has something like 500,000 fans now which is just absurd! They voted on it, and the winners’ weapons will be in the game – the studio is putting them in right now – and they’ll be in the credit lines. It’s really cool, it’ll be really cool to see that because there was a fantastic response to this contest.
In a time where people are sometimes limited to only a handful of game purchases, why should they buy Darksiders II over other games that are coming out over the next few months?
In the end, Darksiders II is a game being made for gamers by gamers, and I look at it as a more of a grass-roots throwback approach to the action adventure genre as our genre gets more set piece orientated every single day. It makes me think that Vigil games are bringing the adventure back into action adventure. I think that right there is reason enough to go out and get it.
Finally, there are four horsemen of the apocalypse. Are you hoping to expand the series up to a Darksiders IV so we can see all four horsemen in action?
Definitely, we would love nothing more than that. And as long as you guys out there keep buying our games, we’ll keep making them and hopefully we can bring them all into one arena and have a really fun time of it.
Thanks for your time.
Darksiders II from Vigil Games and THQ is scheduled for release for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in August this year.
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