Arcania: Gothic 4
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Interview with Jean-Marc Haessig (Spellbound)

Interview of the portal with Spellbound (Arcania developer) creative director .

Hello. Please, introduce yourself and talk about you role and position in your company.

Jean-Marc: Hello, I'm Jean-Marc Haessig, creative director at Spellbound Entertainment. I'm in charge of the overall vision of our games, including design and art direction.

Please, tell about your life and career. What had you been doing before you started working on Arcania?
Jean-Marc: I joined Spellbound Entertainment about 15 years ago, straight into the creation of Airline Tycoon, a cartoony economic simulation which was very fun to develop and became one of our most successful titles, getting several expansions in the following years. My next game wasDesperados - Wanted Dead or Alive, which was also an exciting project. At this time I was responsible for nearly everything, from game design up to art direction, including character, level and sound design, story-writing and project management. That was a really exhausting experience, but it was hugely rewarded by the satisfaction of the players that enjoyed the game. Afterwards we changed the structure of the company to better share the responsibilities, leading to cool titles like Robin Hood – The Legend of Sherwood. Desperados 2 was our first real 3D game, allowing us to explore new workflows that brought us to the next level.

- - -
How were you engaged in development of Arcania?

Jean-Marc: After Desperados 2 and its sequel, Helldorado, we started to work on a new game idea for which we created a cool demo scene using most recent 3D technology. When we heard about JoWooD looking for a developer forGothic 4, we were very excited. We convinced them immediately by presenting our latest creations and made the deal.

- - -
Gothic 3: Forsaken Gods was made to connect previous Gothic stories to Arcania and it was rather discrepant game. According to majority opinion, it accentuated disadvantages of the series and included nothing positive to the Gothic series. What is your attitude towards Forsaken Gods?

Jean-Marc: The only thing we made for G3-FG was to provide some hints about our Arcania story, allowing the developer to make the connection. Beside this, Spellbound wasn't involved in that title. We saw the result only when it was released.Our attention was completely focused on Piranha's previous creations to inspire us for Arcania.

- - -
Your company consists of experienced developers. Also, nowadays you are making a game that belongs to the Gothic series. Why didn’t you work on Gothic 3: Forsaken Gods?

Jean-Marc: That wasn't our choice. The development of G3-FG started before we entered in contact with JoWooD. Each project had its own developer and masterminds.

- - -

Many gamers around the world are wrestled with the question: what happened to the “Nameless” character from previous games of the series? As we could know, in Arcania the main hero will be a King who is a bad guy. Is it true? Why did you decide to get rid of gamers’ favorite personage?

Jean-Marc: After Gothic 3, the former Nameless Hero became King Rhobar III, and his goal was to unify all the countries, starting from Myrtana up to the Southern Islands. When he reached Argaan, the biggest island there, something dark possessed his mind... He isn't actually a bad guy; he is a doomed king that fights with his demons...

Our new hero allowed us to introduce a fresh character that starts (of course) from scratch, without another amnesia trick for the former Nameless Hero. It was also important to us to not position ourselves as a replacement or copy of Piranha Bytes, but to bring our own visions with respect of what the Gothic series was.

And finally, we wanted to surprise the players! Do you buy a sequel to see the same with the latest shader technology or to discover new facets of the universe you liked? Personally I don't like remakes. Most of the time it’s really uninspired and pretends to be better because it’s “modern”, but in fact it doesn’t top the original at all…

- - -
Some fans of the series were disappointed by Gothic 3. They say, large areas and branchy quest system turned out for the worst. Do you think it was true?

Jean-Marc: Creating a huge open world with interesting content all over the game is something that requires a lot of resources and development time. When you plan your game, you have to check out what is feasible in the given time and resources. But this is always a difficult task, as each project has its own rules and surprises. I'm sure Piranha was confident to create a good experience when they started to develop Gothic 3, and they learned to reconsider their approach with Risen. Creation is always risky, and true creators are always unsatisfied by their work, which is good, as this drives them to do better next time.

In addition to previous question, should we wait for small cosy world, or Arcania will have large areas?

Jean-Marc: In Arcania we decided to create a region based concept, with moderately big areas to explore within a certain chapter, leading to an ensemble of contrasted locations you can track back while the main story drives you to new locations. Each region is shaped to the purpose of the story and the feelings we wanted to deliver. So actually if you consider the whole island of Argaan, it is huge but in fact you will be smoothly introduced into each region, step by step, and you can choose to track back or go on to the next chunk. Teleporters allow tracking back faster, once you activated them.

Does the game have any links to Gothic 3, for instance, any details on the identity of Nameless?

Jean-Marc: Arcania - Gothic 4 is the sequel to the former Gothic series, and more precisely to one particular end of Gothic 3, when Nameless became King of Myrtana. You will meet him as Rhobar III and it will be up to you to decide about the fate of the king with your new avatar. That's all I can say to not spoil too much (-;

- - -
Naive question: does Pluto 13 consult you or help you with development of Arcania? Does your publisher help you with consultations and advices?

Jean-Marc: Pluto13 helped us a lot with their initial vision of that universe, but otherwise we had only few contacts at some point in the project. On the other hand, a publisher is of course involved into the project, like each member of the development team. Everyone involved was welcome to help, consult, advice and much more. Ideas are always welcome, even when it is too late to implement them, as they can potentially lead to other games ideas, etc. The role of the leads then is to sort out all the input and to decide which of them make sense to improve the game. Sometimes you have to sadly reject ideas that are obviously great but don't fit to the game or to the remaining time frame.

We are looking forward to learn names of Game Designer, Lead Programmer and Artist. Pluto 13 revealed same information for us, so we hope you won’t turn down our request.

* André Beccu, Lead Game Designer, is our mastermind of game design theory and balancing. He is a fine analyst that always tries to create deepness without useless complexity.
* Johan Conradie, Lead Programmer, is the fastest programmer I've ever seen. When he starts to hit his keyboard, his fingers become a dense cloud of motion blur that creates miracles on our screens!
* Eric Urocki, Technical Artist, is always seeking for the next thing to improve, like trying a new shader for better sun reflections on leaves, etc.
* Serge Mandon, Lead Artist, is our most experienced artist at Spellbound, as he's there since the beginning, creating that vivid stuff on screen that feels so damn natural. But beside those guys we have a lot of talented people doing wonderful stuff. (-:

- - -
Obviously, modern gaming moves closer to online interaction among users. The Gothic series has been ignoring this trend for more than ten years. Don’t you plan to implement multiplayer features in the series?

Jean-Marc: It was never the publisher’s intention to make a multiplayer RPG. That would change so much and require much more investment. An online game isn't necessarily better than an offline game. There are so many cool offline games. Beside this, most of the time the online part is an extra mode for multiplayer gaming, providing another kind of experience, which tells a lot about the discrepancy in terms of gameplay, level-design, immersion and deepness out of that choice.

Games of the Gothic series have always been a bit ”casual” in comparison to other RPGs. They didn’t have classes and have rather linear development of the main character and etc. So, what RPG experience do you prefer?

Jean-Marc: Okay, some stuff was removed in comparison to hardcore RPG like AD&D, but throwing a player straight into a combat with Orcs without any tutorial isn't exactly what I would consider as casual too (-;

Personally I enjoyed a lot Mass Effect 2. That kind of casual game is sometimes exactly what a married man with 3 children like me needs to quickly disconnect (-;

What modern role-playing games are you inspired by in your work?

Jean-Marc: We looked at several modern games, sometimes not related to RPG, such as Star Wars - Force Unleashed for its fast paced (laser-) sword fight or Dawn of War II for the accessible and rewarding skill system. Our focus was to create a more accessible game that uncovers its complexity for players that want complexity. For example, having an optimized skill screen doesn't remove deepness if you have other ways to upgrade your hero, requiring for instance crafting or the right combination of equipment. Arcania will provide lots of ways to customize, but on several levels. The proper combination of all that levels allows maximizing the efficiency of your hero. In fact, it's really complex, but it looks so nicely easy, which is great!

- - -
What are you working on nowadays besides Arcania?

Jean-Marc: Currently we play around with a lot of steam, don't know why, it came one day. I like steam, it's soft, warm, wet and brings stuff to move up and down so nicely. Steam is great! Everybody loves steam!

Previously you made the Desperados series. Do you plan to continue it?

Jean-Marc: Damn not yet! I guess I will play Red Dead Redemption when it will come on PC (I'm still against shooting with a controller, it's like driving a car with the keyboard!) and sweetly dream about the budget they had for that title... (-;

Many thanks for your answers, we are looking forward to play your game.

Jean-Marc: Thanks, me too (-:

Best Regards,


Дата публикации: 2010-07-21 16:06:55
Просмотров: 4049

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Карточка игры
Arcania: Gothic 4
Готика 4: Аркания
Официальный сайт:
Издатель: JoWooD
У нас:
на PC: Акелла
на Xbox: Новый Диск
Жанр: Action RPG
Дата выхода:
Европа/США - 09.10.2010
Россия: 12.10.2010г.
Бюджет игры:
6 000 000 евро
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