Medierra Feedback of August 2011 RPS Interview

Posted: August 8, 2011 in Crate and Iron Lore, Grim Dawn, Interview, Stalking Medierra
Tags: , ,

Haha, I like the thread title!

We may agree to disagree or, perhaps, it may be just a misunderstanding based on an imprecise communication of ideas on my part.

Often when I talk about making the game darker, people assume I mean visually darker. What I really mean, is thematically darker. When I say “sexier” like God of War, I’m speaking figuratively and not talking about actual sexual content and I’m not advocating that it should have been like God of War. Mainly, I’m just saying that we should have been a bit bolder in our decision making and advertising of the game. There seemed to be a constant fear during the development of Titan Quest about upsetting this or that segment of the audience or someone’s grandmother. I was literally told by one of the higher-ups that the game should be designed so that his grandmother would want to play it (even though his grandmother had never played a game before in her life). We were building a game with relatively complicated and hardcore gameplay systems but trying to make it thematically and visually appealing to as wide a casual audience as possible. The end result, is that the game was a little more bland and generic in some respects than it should have been and the game world didn’t do much to convey a sense of danger.

One example of this would be the mandate that enemies not use language or build anything that would make them seem like they had more than animal intelligence. It was felt by one of the higher-ups that people might feel wrong killing enemies that displayed any obvious intelligence. I guess somehow it is wrong to fight intelligent enemies but okay to slaughter dumb animals? We also weren’t originally allowed to have humans die, ever, in the game and no human corpses.

One area where this handicapped us was in the creation of environmental assets that visually demonstrated the enemy’s war against humanity. We originally wanted to create enemy siege-works outside Athens but were told that would make the enemies seem too intelligent. It was a struggle just to monster camp assets. All of the ruins were also removed from Greece at one point because someone was afraid that players might not understand why, if the game took place in ancient times, that there would still be ruins… I had to fight for both of these things. Without them, Greece would have just been a featureless expanse of wilderness with occasional human towns that never really appeared to be in any serious danger.

At the same time, we were told that enemies should seem like noble adversaries, not evil or demonic creatures. It was highly controversial when the designs for the Limos and Arachnids were first presented. I had to personally fight to get those approved because they were considered too grotesque and scary looking even though they were based on actually mythology. Undead and the Spirit Mastery were also a struggle to get in the game. I was told that Spirit Mastery was too “Necromancery and evil”. We managed to push a few more things like that through over the course of development but it was always frowned upon.

Basically, my belief is that Titan Quest never had as much style and character as it could have because we were afraid to do anything even remotely controversial. When I first designed the skill masteries, they were all based on Olympian gods, with skills modeled after the powers or attributes associated with different gods in mythology. This was rejected because it was potentially too religious and people might not want to feel like they were worshiping mythological gods to receive their powers.

We ended up with a game set in Greek mythology that barely contained any actual mythology other than the inspiration for some of the monsters and dialog on peripheral story-teller NPCs stuck off to the side in the towns. The first quest I put in the game, when we were prototyping it for THQ was modeled after one of the 12 labors of Heracles. The Erymanthian Board was terrorizing a town and the hunters they sent after it hadn’t returned. You had to ascend mount Erymanthos, discover the wreckage of the hunter’s camp, and then continue on to the snow-capped summit to battle the monstrous board. Of course, I was told we couldn’t have snow on the summit because people might not realize it snowed in Greece and then later the whole quest vanished and was replaced by generic crap like retrieving a dowry ring so some chick can get married while monsters are overrunning the world.

So, this is where I’m coming from. I don’t think the game needed to be all low-light environments or contain sex mini-games. When I talk about the difference between the TQ and TQ:IT box art, I’m talking about the difference between THQ hiring an outside marketing company to generate box art out of generic assets (ever look at the quality of the temples and stuff in the background?) vs. letting our artists design our own box art. The original box art we submitted for TQ was drawn up by our concept artist, featured a hydra that looked like the one in-game, had a far more interesting composition and better use of color. I think Titan Quest just needed more artistic freedom and personality so that something more unique and exciting could have been created in-game and conveyed by our marketing materials.

Of course, I’m probably also looking at this from the overly critical perspective of a developer evaluating their own work.

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