Article by Andreas "Interman" Misund and "Sgt. Weeman" with Dirk P. Hassinger producer of KnightShift at ZUXXEZ
KnightShift is an interesting new RTS / RPG hybrid game, being developed by the company ZUXXEZ. It takes place in a fictional middle-age, filled with heroes, villains and even cows! We’re certain that this will be an interesting alternative to WarCraft 3, and alternative that we’re certain will go well with younger gamers, while still being fun for more seasoned ones. We recently had a chance to ask Dirk P. Hassinger some questions about their upcoming title, so we hope you like the outcome.
Hello, can you tell our readers who you are and what part you played in the development team?
My name is Dirk P. Hassinger. I am the producer of KnightShift. The title is under development at Reality Pump Studios (Earth 2150, The Moon Project, WW3:Black Gold) and I am responsible for the final look and feel of the game and to make it ready for the market. My last project was, or better, is "Frontline Attack: War over Europe" published by EIDOS in fall of this year.
Could you tell us a bit about the story, setting, characters etc?
Yes, sure ... In a distant land, long, long ago there once lived a Prince, he was righteous and just, noble and honorable by nature and above all evil. Dark and treacherous powers joined together to spread evil over the land and to banish the Prince from the principality and the thoughts of the people. Then because of an unsuccessful spell from the despicable lords the Prince was banished to another dimension, but not from the memory and hearts of the people. Some years later, through the opening of a portal between dimensions by a good-hearted magician, the Prince was able to return to his principality. The task then was to drive out the evil lords from power and to allow peace and order to return. A bitter fight against the powers of evil is now imminent...
There are a lot of real-time strategy games on the market, so, how did you make KnightShift different, and what kind of people do you think should buy it?
KnightShift is a game for everybody - yes, I know you, may say that’s impossible - but we have created a living game world in a middle age setting, that will attract children as well as mature gamers. The level of violence is very low, but the fun factor is very high. Adults will find the dialogs very funny and young gamers will like the setting. The game is very simple to get into and very involved in play.
I also want to point out here that both the team and I have been dedicated to RTS games for ten years and have a lot of working knowledge about this genre.
Mixing real-time strategy with role-playing has been become a trend recently, could you tell us a bit about the role-playing element in KnightShift?
All characters gain experience (even the cows), the advanced characters can not only improve their stats, they can find or conquer better equipment and learn spells. Having a group of experienced, well-equipped characters is much more efficient, than generating lots of people. The level of identification with the characters will be very high.
Who came up with the idea and how was it followed through, what was your target coding KnightShift?
The team itself came up with the idea. Mirek Dymek, the team leader, asked me to start a friendly, funny and beautiful looking title, after all these dark SciFi and war games. When starting work on Knight Shift, we set the initial conditions, which after several months were significantly extended and achieved their final shape. Knight Shift was primarily to be a game to give satisfaction, not to be too difficult and it had to be easy to control. The world we have created in Knight Shift consists of many details and tweaks, and its construction is so flexible that it enables adaptation of gamers of various ages. The climate and the story allow the player to experience an unusual adventure based in a fabulous world.
Could you tell us a bit about the graphics features, the engine etc? Will it utilize vertex / pixel shaders, and features available to more high-end cards, how long did it take to code it, and how important is it at this stage for KnightShift?
Our title uses the newly developed Earth-3 engine. Storing objects in a format based on the mathematical model of Bezier curves instead of polygons, giving a previously unseen level of detail, only limited by the hardware used. A native T&L rendering module supports per pixel and vertex shaders and bone calculation directly on advanced graphic cards. Graphics and effects, formerly only available in tech demos for graphic cards, like advanced bump mapping and light reflections on terrain; physically calculated water properties effects (waves, reflections, transparency, depth, color) with shimmering sun / moonlight reflections; sky view with clouds and dynamic changes of day and night cycles and lens flare, will be available in KS, in this combination for first time in a game. The engine has been under development since 1999, and the game for 3 years.
What kind of a single player experience will KnightShift provide, and what kind of a replay value does it provide?
The game consists in totally of three campaigns played in different geographical areas – each of them with different goals and several missions [e.g. rescuing the Princess or fighting the Dragon]. At start the player only controls the prince and during the first missions he gets contact with his party. Then he has to construct a village, take care of the economy, train his people and conquer back the crow at the end. During the whole campaign there are several quests and adventures to solve. The missions are not linear and there are several methods of solving them.
What about multiplayer? Is it supported and if so, how many players are going to be able to play at a time? Any special modes or such?
KnightShift offers extended skirmish and multiplayer modes. Therefore the player has the additional possibilities of testing his tactical skills and facing not only AI, but also human opponents. Multiplayer includes several different modes of play with different conditions of victory for each of them. Especially for KnightShift, we have included the Companion mode.
The RPG Companion Mode is a Real time Hack & Slay including basic role playing elements. Special maps including various quests have been designed especially for fans of this genre. This mode focuses directly on character development. Lots of special items with unique attributes have additionally been included on the maps – their position is random based. Once found the player has the possibility of selling or exchanging them with other players.
A maximum of 8 players can take part in such a game - each participant controlling just one character. During the game the player can earn experience points making the character stronger against melee assaults and gives him more resistance against other external attacks [e.g. fire rain, ice spell, lightning etc.].
During such a game two strategies are possible: Allied mode- fight together against all enemies and all evil [e.g. dragons, skeletons etc.] and Hostile mode: fight against each other and against the enemies.
All characters are stored in a database on a central game server. This prevents a possible manipulation of character stats.
Will you provide servers for online playing, and if so, where?
KnightShift supports EarthNet-3 servers. We will set up dedicated servers with suitable ping rates to all countries for setting up MP games, ranking lists and leagues.
What kind of units will you be able to create; will they be pre-built or can you make customized ones like they are going to do with Impossible Creatures?
There are no units in the game, there are characters. Playable types of characters are cows (funny ones! - They produce the milk and crap on the lawn), hunters, warriors, Bavarian Waldschrats (woodcutters), spearmen and cowherds. The playable advanced characters are knights, wizards, priestesses, witches, sorcerers and the prince. Also you find NPCs like a unicorn, a dragon, giants and many more. The characters cannot be customized, but they can use equipment, gain experience and learn spells.
Has anything especially funny happened during the development?
Yes, a lot, but I’m not going to tell you … o.k. o.k. … one funny story was how we studied the turning around and shitting of a cow, including the tail movement . Have you every tried to tell a cow to do these tricks?
When should we expect KnightShift to hit stores and do you think, honestly, you could insert everything you wanted to into it or time constraints forced you to cut some worthy ideas?
KnightShift will be out end of Q4 2002, we have made the game we wanted to. Nothing has been left out. The development schedule was planned very well and we we’ve been under no time pressure.
Thank you for your time, and is there anything else you would like to add?
Watch out for the best game we have ever made .. And allow yourself to be bewitched!