The lights are on
A new developer is arriving on the console scene. RealmForge Studios is developing Dark, a gothic, moody vampire stealth game due out early this year on 360 and PC. The game lets players explore a variety of areas from indoor parks to laboratories with experiments gone wrong. Players control Eric Bane, a recently turned vampire that wants to become human again. But Eric must first take down a series of vampire lords in order to find his true master, whose blood he needs to be made human again. We spoke with Dark's lead artist, Victor Linke, about creating a stealth throwback and the modern portrayal of vampires.
There haven’t been a lot of stealth games recently, save for Dishonored or Mark of the Ninja. What is your team doing to recapture interest in them?Some stealth series, like Splinter Cell, have gone towards the way of action recently. We wanted to make an old-school stealth game. Many of those games try to hide the fact that they are stealth games and try to bring action elements into it. We really wanted to bring out the stealth element. We really have obvious stealth mechanics, but we almost treat them like puzzles. We really want to make the stealth gameplay the main experience in the game.
Is staying hidden about hiding in shadows or avoiding enemies’ line of sight?We don’t use shadows as a way to hide, so it’s more based on the line of sight of enemies. Enemies can hear you, so you have to be careful when sneaking through levels. We have a concept called sound traps, so we have elements like trash or glass shards on the floor that will make noise if you step on them. We have things like security cameras, of course, and sometimes we have motion sensors. In the museum stage there are these audio guides, and if you get too close to them they will play audio information for the museum visitors, but this will also get the attention of the enemies.
Vampires are pretty popular right now. What does your team think of the modern portrayal of vampires?Obviously a lot people today, when they think vampires, they think Twilight. That’s not what we wanted to do. We go more into the 30 Days of Night or Blade direction in the way we portray our vampires. That’s what we grew up with and what we like.
Why did the team decide to go with a cel-shaded look?We actually had several reasons. The first and most obvious is that we’re not a huge studio with a hundred people working for us, so we really needed to make the most out of our resources. You can often get very good results with a good graphic style instead of just your technical prowess. It’s really a good style to work in. If you don’t have the resources to make Crysis-like graphics, then it’s often a good way to go for a style-based game. The other reason we did this was because since we have a vampire game, we were very much inspired by graphic novels like 30 Days of Night, so we thought it was a really good fit for the game.
Cel-shaded games are often known for being very colorful. Dark, as its name implies, is a pretty dark game. Are you keeping colors muted throughout or will there be more vivid sections?Obviously, since the game is called Dark we’re trying to have the graphic style be mature, but what we’re trying to do is give every stage a completely different color grade. We have a color coding for each of the different levels, so you may start out in a city-like environment where it’s very gray and darker toned. Then as you progress through each of the missions, one stage is in indoor park environment with trees and everything and it’s very green. We have a very different color setting for each of the stages.
Dark features dialogue options, and you’ve previously stated the game has two endings. Do dialogue choices influence which ending you get?It’s not really like that. There are two different endings, but the way you achieve them is very obvious in the game. It’s not the choices that you make over the course of the game that lead to the two different endings, like you have in Mass Effect or something like that. There are two points in the story where you can choose to do certain things and these will lead to the outcome of the story. But you can use the open world aspect of the game to get more background information on the whole story. So you have multiple choice dialogue where you can just gather more information about the lore of the game and the world, but it doesn’t influence the different endings.
Players have special abilities like teleportation. Can you tell me more about resource management and the different powers players will have?The fun thing about the teleport ability, is that when we started development on the game we didn’t actually know that Dishonored had the Blink ability and thought we had a pretty novel idea at the time. So [Arkane Studios] did it before us, but it’s still a great gameplay feature. Energy management in the game, since you’re a vampire you obviously need to bite people and drink blood. That gives you the main energy resource in the game, which we call blood points. What it does is if you bite someone you get a certain amount of blood points. We have not yet decided how many blood points you get, whether you’ll get a full pool of blood energy or a single blood point. But you get blood energy and you use it as your mana energy for your vampire skills.
What other abilities does the protagonist, Eric Bane, have in the game?We establish a difference between the main abilities which you have right from the start of the game, like killing people from behind or sneaking or biting. Then we have the passive skills, which let you take more hits or drink more blood or make less noise when you walk around. Then we have a wide range of active skills, which would be the shadow leap ability (blink), then we have shadow kill which is basically you shadow leap to an enemy and kill him right away. Then we have celerity, which lets your run faster, and a confuse-type skill called domination. We also have an upgrade for that called mass domination, which lets you confuse a certain amount of enemies standing next to each other. We have a skill that lets you see the blood flow of enemies through walls, so you can see certain enemies through walls.