Interviewed by John Delbart.
Can you introduce yourself, and the company you work for please?
I'm the lead designer and head of the team. Cleric and all the design specs come exclusively from my head. I oversee all aspects of game creation from code to art. I also manage to find time to do alot of the art asset creation, including character models & animation, level/world creation, texture mappnig, and concept art. Plutonium Games was founded around September of 2001 out of my apartment. From there, the team has grown to include several very talented individuals, some of which have had game industry experience. We moved into our own office about 4 months ago and things have really begun to take off since then.
Can you give us a brief plotline of Cleric?
The character you play is a former priest who has lost his faith due to a bad chain of events in his life. He moves to a small quiet town in the north of Russia near the White Sea in order to live out his life away from his past. Not long after his arrival there, the town children begin being abducted at night and townspeople begin to see long dead relatives roaming the streets at night. The current town priest is sick and old. Unable to help the town, he send them to the player who then becomes the reluctant hero. From there, the player must discover what is happening and why. To do so, he'll need to regain his faith in god or find new faith in another. It's the player's choice. As he uncovers the mystery, he will learn of a twisted web of betrayal, greed, and apathy. As the story progresses, the player makes choices that will affect not only what kind of power he has at his disposal, but how the game will end.
How far along in the development of the game are you?
We're actually only now wrapping up our non-public publisher demo. We'll be shipping this off to GDC in a few weeks to be shown privately in hopes of picking up a deal. If everything goes well, and we are confident it will, we should begin production of the game very shortly. We anticipate 12-18 months after we begin production to completion; the standard dev time. Look for us to release early in 2004 most likely.
What features do you think individualises the game from others?
There's a fairly long list of what makes Cleric different, though I never really intended it to be that way. First and foremost are the religious tones to the game. You play an ex-priest, which isn't a character that has ever been used before in a game that I can recall. Don't quote me on that, but it's rare for sure. The story is quite deep with several surprise endings. The game worls is rather large and freely explorable as well as highly interactive unlike most FPSs. Gameplay includes many cool weapons that haven't been seen before either, such as the use of holy symbols to command and control enemies. "Ammo" for your miracles (spells) is controlled in a unique way as well. It's controlled by how a god feels about you. If he or she likes you, your ammo will remain high. If not, it will drop. The better a god feels about you, the more powers you will have at your disposal. How a god feels about you is controlled by what you do in the game.
What kind of opponents can you expect to encounter during the game?
Lots of zombies. Here a zombie. There a zombie. Everywhere a zombie. Zombies of all flavors. But also some evil spritis, cult members, possessed people, wild animals, insane people, demons, etc. We'll definitely keep you busy.
Apparently, the team switched from the Serious Sam engine. Why is this?
It was mainly due to the engine's age and feature set. The Serious engine was built for fast-paced arcade style play. We needed an engine that was not only newer but built around a game more like our own. We're pushing the boundaries of graphics technology both in poly count and texture quality. nVidia may even help us write and implement pixel shaders into the game. This was a large factor in our decision to switch as well. We got to a point in our demo with the Serious engine that it was just not able to handle what we were trying to push through it. Our biggest reason for using the Serious engine in the first place was it's price. Now we've come to realize, through several events, that engine price may not be a concern for us. It just made more sense for us to make the switch than it did to not make it.
What is the biggest problem the development team have come across so far when creating the game?
Money. We're currently underfunded. If you want a good team, you've got to be able to pay them. In the beginning, experience was also an issue being first time developers, but that has changed over the past year. Most of us have settled into our roles nicely now. Once we pick up a publisher, I'm confident we'll resolve our money troubles. :)
What kind of 'authenticity' features are included, to immerse the gamer in the environment?
The game takes places in a real town in Russia in the 16th century. The climate is realistic for that area as is the building construction, which was mostly wood. Log cabins to be precise, with sharply slanted roofs. You'll see lots of authentic weaponry as well, including wheel-lock and match-lock weapons. We're even considering doing the entire game in Russian with english subtitles. Clothing will also be appropriate to the locale and time. Much of the game world's history revolves around Russian mythology as well. A great deal of effort is going into authentic music and we have a monk of the Russian Orthodox church that helps us out with maintaining an accurate protrayal of the religious side of things.
Who is the target audience for the game?
I'd say we're looking to stimulate a wide range of gamers, from action fans to RPG fans. Cleric will have lots of hack & slash in it, but it will also appeal to the intelligent side of all of us that likes a good mystery. I have a feeling we'll get a mature rating due to the graphic horror you'll see in Cleric, but the game isn't intended for your run of the mill Pokimon gamers.
Anything to add?
We'll be posting a downloadable movie of game play in our non-public demo on our web site in a few weeks for anyone interested. We won't be at GDC in person, but we may be at E3.
No zombies were harmed during the making of this interview. All events, characters, and incidents portrayed in this interview are fictional. Any similarity to persons living or dead or to any actual event is coincidental and unintentional. Especially the dead ones.