Article by Thomas "DS Master" C.
Please introduce yourself and Arkane Studios.
My name is Raphael Colantonio, I am co-funder and CEO of Arkane Studios, also Lead Designer on Arx Fatalis.
Our company was created almost 3 years ago, specifically for the Arx project: The idea was to auto-financed the pre-production and the tech demo, then get a publishing deal and hire more people.
What projects have you and the others worked on before? What projects has Arkane Studios done before?
Before Arkane Studios, most of us had a strong experience in the game industry. I won't expand and list each individual resume, but some of us have worked on Exstatica, Fifa Soccer manager, Spyro the dragon, the smurfs, Alone in the Dark, Messiah, Sacrifice, Beasts and Bumbkins, Dark light...
Arx is the first game from Arkane Studios.
When and how did you came up with the idea for Arx Fatalis?
Since I was 11, when I played my first Ultima (on Apple 2 back in time), I knew somehow that I wanted to be part of this world. Then, later on, when I got the (lucky) opportunity to join the industry, I started thinking of making a game like Ultima Underworld, as this game stroke me really hard for its perfection back in time. Unfortunately, the company I was working for (a major publisher I won't name) wasn't really into this type of game anymore: small, risky market, sports games seemed easier to make and easier to sell. Later on, I changed company, and here again, making creative risky PC games didn't seem to be the goal of the executives.
Frustration was growing, until I eventually found some other developers who shared the same dream of making this great 1st person RPG, we finally decided to create Arkane Studios.
Do you think you were able to add all the features and ideas you had?
Not quite, but most of them. We would have liked to have realtime casted shadows on the backgrounds, but the tests we made were really too much time consuming. I wanted a bit more spells, but 50 is not bad already :
Also, there were a lot of ideas that came up as we were making the game, and we managed to fit most of them, on the top of what was ment to be done in the initial schedule, so Arx didn't suffer from the usual 'feature cut down' (thanks to our publishers ;).
What feature do you personally like the best at Arkane Studios? The spell "drawing system" or maybe the "all-in-one" control scheme?
The first time we got the spell system working we all went 'Wao', we knew that we had something really unique within our hands, but what I personnaly like the best is our scenario and universe: we've spent long hours meeting and debating on very small details in order to get the story and world absolutely right.
What sets this game apart from other RPGs?
The first thing that makes Arx Fatalis different is the choice of the 1st person view. It has a very strong impact on gameplay, it's not just a style of camera, it is the will of immersing the player as much as possible so that you and the hero are one.
I think that Arx Fatalis is the first RPG that offers such a high amount of mechanics to the player: Not only you can do all things that usual RPG's let you do, but we've also concentrated on other mechanics that come from 1st person games (strafe, run, jump, shoot arrows, realtime fights), or infiltration games (go into stealth mode, hide in shadows, throw items to attract a npc...).
In addition, we've concentrated on stuff such as atmosphere and deep universe (npc's backgrounds and behaviors, locations having real reasons to be where they are, coherent universe), we've put some fear elements, a lot of variety in the gameplay and in the quests, all this linked to a complex scenario that unfolds at the middle of the game and makes you wonder what's going on until you really find out what happened.
Because of that, I believe we offer the ultimate experience in term of immersion and I hope the players will merge with the character they play !
What engine did you use for the game? Or did you create one from scratch?
We wrote it from scratch. Cyril Meynier (our lead programmer) started from day One at Arkane Studios, with no libraries, no preliminary work, straight from Direct X and Msdev. Then, one year later, we integrated 3 other programmers (Sebastien Scieux, Didier Pedreno, Nicolas Schaller).
Were there any big hurdles or problems during development? Did anything funny happen?
Well, the fact of creating the technology on the fly together with the game was probably the hardest thing to manage: The positive aspect is that you can bend the engine according to your needs, you can improvise on good ideas and change the features if you don't like the initial plan, but for the rest, I can assure you that it's a real nightmare: Having to script situations not having the script functions yet, or assuming on jumping distances when designing levels without being able to test before Beta, having an editor that takes 15 minutes to load a level because the format was not yet finalised, etc... Another event that brought some sweating to the team was that in order to improve the performances, we decided to implement portals in the engine: that change in production came at beta !! so, we portalized all the levels and tested them all in 2 weeks only !! It's a miracle that we didn't slip 3 months on this one.
Just roughly - how many quests and side quests are there and how long will the average player need to finish it the first time? And how many individual NPCs are there in the game (a.k.a. excluding foot men and "normal" critters)?
Time required to finish the game depends on players, but I'd say that it would take at least 50 hours for a fast experienced player to finish the game, considering that he won't have done all the sub-quests and found all secrets. There are around 50 original NPCs which have been characterized, meaning that we've given them some specific dialogs, a specific face, a story, etc...
The german retail version is already available - how about the international version?
It will be available in September, with the original uncut stuff and gore features.
Plain and simple - Plans on Arx Fatalis 2 or an Extension for Arx Fatalis?
Yes, Arkane definitely wants to make more Arx games, but nothing has been signed yet in term of business...