An Interview with Master Creating
With the budget action/RPG Restricted Area largely built by two people behind them, Master Creating is now developing a much more ambitious project: Legend - Hand of God. Although staying with the action/RPG genre, Legend is backed by publisher Anaconda with a significantly bigger budget and a much larger, experienced team. We had the chance to catch up with Jan Beuck for an overview of this upcoming title.
Jan Beuck: Hi, my name is Jan Beuck and I’m Creative Director at Master Creating. Founded in 2001 and located in Hamburg, Germany, we are dedicated to the creation of high-quality video games for PC and next generation consoles.
RPGWatch: Your first full price game Restricted Area offered a lot of corroding surface for critics. How did you change your development process since Restricted Area came out in late 2004?
Jan Beuck: You have to keep in mind that almost all of Restricted Area was developed by only me and Martin Jässing, our Technical Director, with a very small budget. I think you will agree that, taking this into consideration, the end result was quite impressive.
For Legend – Hand of God, we have assembled a much larger team which includes several industry veterans: our art director Andreas Adamek has worked as Art Director on Anno 1602 and Concept Artist on Spellforce, as well as Matte Painter for Industrial Light and Magic, as part of the team that worked on the movie version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Paul Campion was Lead Texture Artist for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and responsible for texturing the Balrog and the giant spider Shelob. He brings a lot of valuable experience to the table and helped us in developing an exceptionally realistic materials system.
We’re producing the game’s assets and cinematics together with a 21-man team in Bulgaria and have brought in expert help for the story, as well as working with several very experienced producers.
All this is possible, because Legend has 10 times the budget that Restricted Area had. In ANACONDA we have found a publisher for Legend that is 100% behind the project and has the means and abilities to support us in making it the best game it can be.
Jan Beuck: Legend is an action-RPG, but it has a stronger RPG bent than comparable titles. State-of-the-Art 3D graphics, a fantastic physics engine and a strong storyline are some of its strong points.
RPGWatch: Many players associate the term "action-RPG" with "Diablo clone". What distinguishes Legend from the pack of nameless hack & slash games?
Jan Beuck: Foremost, I would name the depth of the story and world of Legend. We went to great lengths to build a compelling and rich world for the game to draw from. In terms of storytelling, Legend will be much more like a real RPG – non-linear, with multiple-choice dialogues and a deep, thought-provoking storyline.
Additionally, we are implementing many innovative features; for example our unique mouse cursor which takes the form of a small fairy – a character in the game world. Not only does it constitute a sort of sidekick to our hero, but it’s also the player’s light source, illuminating the dungeons and casting dynamic light and shadows. And of course I have to mention the Cinematic Combat System…
RPGWatch: Please explain what you mean by "Cinematic Combat System". Is it a visual gimmick or does it make a gameplay difference for the player?
Jan Beuck: The Cinematic Combat System pairs spectacular, exciting combat with a simple and intuitive control scheme. It generates cinematic-quality combat that looks as though it has been choreographed, but is highly dynamic at the same time. The style of combat changes dynamically according to the type and size of the enemy, the weapons used, as well as the attributes and skills chosen by the player.
The visual difference that our combat system makes is enormous – no longer will you be confronted with generic fights that are the same for all enemies and see you hacking away robotically at monsters large and small. The Cinematic Combat System lets you see exactly how the mobs are attacking, how they are they using their weapons, whether they block or dodge. The difference that it makes is that it gives you a clear visual feedback – and it just happens to looks awesome as well. ;)
RPGWatch: The first video and the GC teaser are looking great. Which technology are you using for graphics and physics?
Jan Beuck: We decided to develop our own graphics engine from the ground up, since none of the available engines were designed for the needs of an action RPG. We invested a whole year into developing a custom-fit technology for Legend that is able to set new standards in the genre.
Our "Master Engine" offers everything that you will see in current and upcoming FPS highlights, such as high dynamic range lighting, vertex- and pixelshader 3, normal and specular mapping and much more. We are quite proud of our lighting engine that allows for extremely fast dynamic soft shadows with self-shadowing and percentage closer filtering, in a quality that hasn’t yet been seen.
For physics, we’re using the AGEIA PhysX engine and are building in support for PhysX chips.
What a PhysX card does, is allow for more exact calculation of the physics, which makes for even more realistic interaction with the environment. It won’t affect the gameplay or the framerate itself – that would be unfair to people who don’t have a PhysX card and you won’t need one to play Legend. Even in pure software mode, Legend will already have the best physics engine on the market.
RPGWatch: What are your plans in the audio department? The latest trend seems to be a live orchestra sound track. Sunflowers and Dynamedion recorded the 1701 A.D. music in 5.1 surround.
Jan Beuck: We are in fact working on the soundtrack with Dynamedion, which is great, seeing as they have such an excellent track record. We put our faith in them coming up with something really great and unique for Legend – working with them has been brilliant so far.
RPGWatch: Why did you choose to make the world by hand but use a generator for the dungeons?
Jan Beuck: We want to pair the best of both worlds – hand-crafted, detailed environments that make the world of Legend come very much alive combined with randomly-generated dungeons that offer near-infinite replayability.
RPGWatch: Can you disclose some details about the world? Is it one continuous world or separate areas? How much can the player do? Is his interaction limited to smashing barrels or can he bake bread and poison the king?
Jan Beuck: We have spent a lot of work on the races and locations in our world and how they relate to each other and to institutions like the Order to create a believable and unique world.
There will be a lot of different landscapes in the game, different climate zones like grassland, swamps, deserts and arctic zones, but also many unique locations. We have also integrated such neat things as weather effects already.
The player will have an unusual amount of freedom for an action-RPG: the dialogue options allow for multiple choices and paths, allowing you to accept or decline some quests and shape your character accordingly. But since we have chosen to make telling a strong story such a high priority, you will not be able to fundamentally alter the world or derail the plot, naturally.
RPGWatch: Please explain the character development system. You said in another interview that there will be no character creation. Can the player develop the hero in any way he wants?
Jan Beuck: You can develop the hero in a multitude of directions: the skill trees offer you the opportunity to develop a straight-up warrior or a powerful magic user, as well as any number of hybrid characters in-between. Combined with the different magical disciplines and weapon specializations, this provides for a large amount of interesting combinations. You can wield flaming swords if you combine fire magic and swordsmanship for example, or shoot frozen arrows, by combining long-range weapons and ice magic.
RPGWatch: What sort of quests will the player encounter? Will quests feature multiple solutions or branching paths? How linear is Legend?
Jan Beuck: There is quite a number of different types of quests – some can even be solved just through clever use of the dialogues – quite unusual for an action RPG. Some quests can be tackled in different ways, some you can dismiss outright – but the focal point of the game is the story and the games are very important in driving it along. We are taking extra care to make sure that each quest tells an interesting story in itself and gives you an insight into the world and its people.
RPGWatch: What sort of NPC interactions will players experience? How does the dialogue system work?
Jan Beuck: NPCs are a very important part of the game, which further separates Legend from typical Action RPGs. Some of the NPCs play a huge role in the story and you will encounter them frequently – their individual musical themes will help you to recognize and make sure you’ll never forget them. NPCs will join you temporarily, fighting along side of you – but your group will never have more than 2 members and the NPCs fight independently of you, to avoid confusion.
As I already mentioned, the dialogue system offers multiple-choice answers, allowing you to shape your interaction with the NPCs in the way you see fit.
Jan Beuck: We decided early on to pay a lot of attention to the story in Legend, making it stand out and be an integral part of the game experience.
A long time ago, the world of Legend was ravaged by demons. The legendary hero Targon was able to fight them back, with the help of the elves and dwarves. The portal through which they came was sealed with a holy spell. To uphold the seal, Targon assembled the “Order of the Holy Flame”. All this happened a long time ago. The seal is maintained by the holy flame which is guarded by the paladins at the order’s monastery.
Our hero was found abandoned at the gates of the monastery and is brought up by the paladins as one of their own, even though only children of high birth were admitted to the Order before then. The night before an adept becomes a full-fledged member of the Order and a paladin, he must spend the whole night praying alone, high up in the mountain chapel. Only when the first ray of light falls through the chapel’s window, can he make his way back on the long trail down into the valley. But this night does not go as planned for our hero…
RPGWatch: What sort of enemies will players encounter and how advanced is the AI in combat?
Jan Beuck: Enemies in Legend come in all shapes and sizes – that is what makes the Cinematic Combat System shine. Small goblins are just cannon fodder for the hero, while orcs, skeleton warriors, zombies and the like are already more of a challenge. Now, oversized trolls and ogres are something to watch for – you don’t want to get caught in a series of attacks with one of their huge clubs!
We really want to push the envelope with our boss enemies – I don’t want to give away too much, I’ll just say the operative word is: gigantic. J
Different enemies also have different AI behavior. Some are rather stupid (like the undead), others know your strengths and weaknesses, reacting to the weapon you’re carrying and using group tactics.
Jan Beuck: Thank you for giving me the chance to tell you about Legend, and thanks for reading the interview! If you have any other questions, just head on over to the official Legend forums (http://www.anaconda-games.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=77) and be sure to check out the recently revamped Legend website at www.legend-game.com.
Watch out for the release of Legend – Hand of God by ANACONDA next summer!
We'd like to thank Jan for his time and we look forward to keeping track of Legend over the coming months.
Information aboutLegend: Hand of God
Developer: Master Creating
Play-time: 10-20 hours
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2007-09-28
· Publisher: dtp
· Legend - Hand of God
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2008-08-01
· Publisher: THQ
- Legend: Hand of God Review
- Developer Diary: The Community Contest
- Developer Diary: The Sound Track Recordings
- Developer Diary: The Skill System
- Developer Diary: How We Work
- Developer Diary: The Team Behind Legend
- Developer Diary: The Cinematic Combat System
- Developer Diary: Birth of a Hero
- Developer Diary: The Bright Elf
- Developer Diary: From Sketch to Game
- Developer Diary: The Prototype
- Legend - Hand of God: Developer Diary