After last week pretty impressive demo we got in contact with Primal Software since we felt the urge to know more about the title, here is a pretty long question and answer, taliking about their upcoming title and their company. We wish to thank Slava Pismenny ( Primal Software Director ) for his time and long, intersting answers.
Starting off, who are you, what was your role in the development of "The I of the Dragon" and what did your team develop in the past?
My name is Slava Pismenny, I'm the Director of Primal Software.
We've been working together for quite a few years making multimedia encyclopedias first and moving on to create the bestselling humor adventures for the Russian market based on national folklore heroes. Most of the team members been working together for all these years. We had quite successful lineup of titles and made a few first-rate hits such as "Petka" and "Petka 2 - Judgment Day" that set quite a few sales records. After that we decided that's it's just a perfect time to move on again and do an international project, preferrably another hit. Well, we'll see about that...
How did u get the idea of using a dragon as a main character, and why should it fight monsters and not humans, additionaly where does the title come from?
We've been sitting and discussing what would be our dream game and what protagonist should it have. We all wanted to introduce something new into Action-RPG genre and one of the games that we felt had some forgotten yet useful ideas was "Magic Carpet". You fly, build castles, and generally feel like the king of the world. We wanted a bit more: to give a player something special, that no magician or barbarian can give. Feeling of power, of majesty, of freedom... And then someone said: "A Dragon!" - and we suddenly had our game ready in our minds. The only thing that was left and that we spent almost two years doing was pulling the game out and giving you, players, that feeling that we had all along. You see, dragons evoke some pretty strong feelings in almost everyone. They are so well-present in most countries folklore that we don't really need to explain what a player should expect. Huge, strong, fire-breathing, with magic at his command and almost always on the side of goodness. Well, there are "beast-dragons" in some stories (those that armor-clad knights routinely slain while protecting beautiful virgins) but even those are not evil, just mindless.
The name of our game was inspired in part by Stephen King's novel "The Eye of the Dragon". Besides potential copyright problems with this name it doesn't really tell anything about our protagonist. It's not just a beast, it's definitely a person (even more - it's a powerful magician and a savior of all mankind). Of course, we have a bit of wordplay in the title but the important part is "I" that our dragon has: its self-respect, its decision to fight for someone even if that someone was unjust and selfish someday... You can get more details about the story itself (including explanation why a dragon fights for local people) at our web site.
Could you introduce the game briefly?
In a few words, it's Action-RPG (similar to Dungeon Siege or Diablo) where you get to play a Dragon. You fly over huge areas and destroy monsters to get more experience points which you spend to acquire new spells and improve your stats. There is a rather complex plot (a bit more complex than in the games mentioned above) and a lot of variety in quests and tasks.
You will always take the role of a single dragon or you will be able to attack in squadron?
The genre of our game is Action-RPG and it's important to have a single hero you can relate to. Therefore you have a single dragon at your disposal (well, you can select it from three different ones but you can play only one at any time). We understand a need to have some variety, though, so you'll have quite a few NPCs to play with. First of all, your dragon (especially the black one, called Morrogh) would be able to summon some creatures to fight for you. Second... Well, we do not want to spoil the fun but we can offer you a hint: you will be able to play as some NPCs. And, finally, there are humans living in towns that you build. They are really thankful for your help and they try to help you. They fight back when monsters attack their homes and they research some spells to give you whenever they can spare a bit of time and magic power.
How does the spell system work, and how powerfull will they get later on the game?
You get your spells in various ways. The first one is rather traditional: when you level up you get experience points and at certain levels some new spells become available to spend those points on. There is a small catch, though: the same spell points can be spent on improving stats of your dragon, so you have to choose which spells to buy and which to skip.
The second and third ways to get new spells are simpler: you may get a spell from killed "boss" monster or you can get it from town people if you manage to restore their town to its former glory. They are on your side, after all...
The spells that you get do not change when you level up and you can't improve them by spending more experience points. You buy a spell and it stays with you unchanged. This means that you need to learn a spell or two from time to time to have something powerful enough for tougher monsters that you meet later in the game. And, trust us, there are quite a few very impressive things that you can learn and use. After all, we have powerful dynamic terramorphing in the game so you may expect realistic voicanoes and even more mind-blowing things. Remember: you are a dragon, and dragons are magical beasts...
What sort of firing power will u have in the game?
There are three dragons, each one with its own style, its own set of available spells and its own stats. Not only the stats you start with but different stat costs (how much experience points you have to spend to improve you strength or mana inflow, for example). The dragons also have their own sets of natural abilities. Annoth, the red dragon that you get to play in the demo, has three kinds of fire-based attacks: simple ball of flame, fire breath and guided fire missile. Barroth, the blue one, is a "magician" so it has only one attack (freezing breath) which stops enemies for a short time but doesn't hurt them much. Barroth learns a lot of spells, of course, to compensate for its limited natural abilities. And the third dragon, Morrogh, is somewhere in the middle: it has two acid-based attacks and learns enough spells (especially ones that summon creatures).
How does "The I of the Dragon" score on replayability in your opinion?
As I've just explained, there are three dragons, and each one learns its own, unique spells. The survival strategies for each dragon are completely different and the challenges require a different approach. And even if you play with one dragon only there is a lot of sense to play more than once: you can try to use a different set of spells next time (there are too many of them and it's not really wise to spend all your experience points on spells without improving your stats). And, of course, you may try some interesting combination of spells and stats (such as growing Barroth into a "sniper" with powerful long-distance spells and well-developed flight speed and mana inflow stats).
Will the game have some sort of multiplayer?
At the very beginning we decided that we want to have the best single player game we can make and that means we should spend all the time and money on creating it, which automatically excluded multiplayer. After releasing the demo we've got so many letters where gamers tell us that they want multiplayer that we are starting to think about it. We'll have to spend extra time and money on it, though, so it would be at the same quality level as the single player game. That would delay a release date, and we hate to do this. In short, we are thinking about it but no promises yet - watch our web site.
Which are the features you likes more about your title?
We've never been able to answer this question for ourselves. The terramorphing is cool, for example, but is it better than having a dragon as your hero or not? What about the day and night in the game - is it big enough to be included in the answer? Skeletal nimation with smooth blending of different motions, huge world size and incredible numbers of everything in the game (spells, monsters, NPCs, landscape items) - what about those? We have a list of some interesting features at our web site and it's quite a few pages long... You see, if we had any favorite things it would mean that the rest is not quite as good and we should work on it a bit more. We spent a lot of time and efforts developing this game and the best thing about it is itself as a whole: the sum is more than any of its parts...
The daytime light system in the game is both well done and nice looking (personal, please add a gamma correction into video options), which game inspired you on this feature, any other game that was of help in the pre-development stage?
We've added gamma correction to our list of things to do but it's a bit difficult to predict whether it will make it into the retail version - with the product almost finished we have to be careful about promising additional features.
Day and night cycle was included in the very first draft of our design document - it just felt natural to have proper environment in the beautiful world we were going to create. One of our design goals was to create the best immersion feeling possible on the currently available hardware.
While there were a lot of games that we liked to play (and they all left some impressions and gave us insights into game design intricacies), we can't really say that we had some game that we took as a model and then improved its ideas. Perhaps the closest one would be Magic Carpet (and you'll probably agree that there are more differences than similarities).
How far in development are you and when is the game going to ship? Have you got publishment agreements for europe and north america already?
The game is basically done (as in "we are well beyond the beta stage") and it will ship when we'll finish the business issues - we are still negotiating the contract. We were really pleasantly surprised with the reaction of publishers and general public at E3 and we really hope we'll be able to release the game very soon.
Closing, greeting you for the cute demo, is there anything you wish to add to this interview?
Thanks! We really like to hear praises from industry professionals and we promise to try and make our next games (we have announced one at E3 and going to open its site soon) worth your attention too.
The I of the Dragon Demo
The I of the Dragon Demo Patch