Interviewed by John Delbart
Please introduce yourself and your company
Idol was formed 1999 and merged with the Hidden Dinosaur Studio at the beginning of the year to form one of Scandinavia's most interesting developers of interactive electronic entertainment. The team/s at Idol currently develops for all consoles, PC and GBA. Before founding the company, the principals have been developing paper RPGs, miniature games, CCGs, board games and children games for the past 10 years. We have produced 6 games since 1999; Gast®, Grumpa®, IMP®, Uhu!, Loophole® (for interactive TV), and are now finalizing FOO® and Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi™. We're currently developing Drake™ for the Xbox.
My name is Stefan and in terms of the development of the title Nosferatu I am Game Designer and Development team leader.
The first time we heard about Nosferatu was in june 2002. We're now in march 2003 and the game is almost complete. Between those two dates, the less I can say is that you haven't published much info about the game. Any particular reason?
We are working very tight with PAN Vision, the publisher of the game, and they're taking care of all publicity. It has been part of the strategy I guess to hold activities until the game was closing in on final version. A dedicated site created by PAN will be up shortly.
Nosferatu is described as a cross between survival horror games (such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill) and 'traditional' FPS. Does that mean there's a real story behind the game and that the game isn't linear? (i.e. : enter room, shoot, enter next room, shot,...) Are there elements of survival horror games ? (interaction with characters, puzzle solving, and so on)
The focus is on action more than on survival horror. We set out to do a shock-style first person shooter and we belive we have succeeded. The game presents the player with a story but that is not uncovered through dialogue with characters and puzzle solving. Here's the storyline in brief: It is a misty evening in the year of our lord 1912. The Pattersons, a poor but proud aristocratic family of the British nobility, and some of their closest friends, arrive at the castle Malachi, residence of a wealthy Romanian Count. It is only three days until the family’s eldest daughter, Rebecca, is to be wed to the count’s son, uniting the family with the rich heritage of the Malachi, hopefully restoring its glory.
The only person missing is you, the brother of the bride, who is on your way from Stockholm, where you have defended the Union Jack in the noble art of fencing in the Olympics. You are to arrive later during the evening. Sir Patterson is disappointed when the Count himself doesn’t great the family at their arrival, but still he lets the servants show them all to their rooms, without complaining too loudly. It is not until later – when the doors are slammed shut and locked behind them, that he realizes his mistake, that they have become prisoners and are at the Count’s mercy…
As you learn more and more from the family members you rescue, you’ll learn about the Count’s real goals, perhaps leading you to the conclusion that you stand a better chance rescuing as many of your family members as possible if you would find and slay the Count. As you begin your hunt for the Count the last pieces of the puzzle unfolds and you realize you must confront the ancient vampire lord Malachi in an attempt to save mankind from eternal darkness.
Tell me more about the weapons available in the game. You have to face vampires, does that mean you fight with garlic and crucifixes, or do you have a whole Quake-like arsenal ?
Well,we've kept to an arsenal of weapons that are suitable for the theme of the game. Here's a list of the weapons available to the player, note that you cannot cause damage to some of the monsters you’ll encounter in the game with all of the weapons… The Cane Sword is a sharp steel rapier sheathed within a wooden cane. The stamina bar will gradually increase when you use the sword, reducing the pace of your sprint.
An Ancient Chalice ornamented with silver linings and jewels. The content is holy water. Use the chalice at a pool with holy water to refill it.The manually loaded Flintlock gun has but a single round and takes ages to reload. It also has poor precision and short range, but if you hit the damage inflicted will be devastating.
The Crucifix is a major symbol of the Christian faith. It holds the power to repel certain monsters. It can also be very useful aimed at a vampire. Press and hold the action button to make the foul beast step back or shy away. Use the Crucifix on water to make the water holy.
The manually loaded Musket has but a single round and takes forever to reload. It has limited precision but great firing range. As with the Flintlock gun the damage inflicted with a hit will be devastating.
Staking a vampire usually kills it outright, although many vampires are so powerful that you need to hit them straight in the heart in order to slay them, or at least make them return to their native soil. You can also set fire to a wooden stake turning it into a torch by pressing the secondary attack button when near open fire. A torch has a great effect on your field of vision and how you perceive your surroundings. A torch burns with intensity and has a limited durability.
The reliable Revolver holds five rounds, so think and aim carefully before you fire. It has medium precision, medium firing range and inflicts good enough damage to be extremely useful in combination with its rate of fire.The Machine gun loads thirty bullets. Press and hold the primary action button for auto fire until the gun runs out of ammo. The Machine gun has adequate precision, firing range and damage. Its rate of fire makes it an extremely deadly weapon.
The game is powered by an 'Architectural Generator' Engine. Could you please describe the engine and tell us what are its main features? Also, why did you choose to create your own engine when half of the FPS nowadays use either the Unreal or the Quake engine ?
The Architectural Generator Engine that, when you play, arranges the castle layout and location of your family members and foes change every time you play. This is an internally developed, highly sophisticated file hierarchy system that allows random generation of geometry (static and/or animated), texturing, sound, character spawning and any game play element. In brief, without getting to technical, basically the core of the level and architectural design in Nosferatu is constructed of sections within the boundaries of a map grid. These sections contain a number of module rooms/architecture. The rooms are then connected with doors and filled with interior objects and spawnpoints for family members, powerups and monsters every time you start a new game. We've hol on to some kind of linearity in the design (unlocking sections of the castle in a specific order) this also helps to pace the tension and the story, but many rooms are located at the same place every time to aid the player with orientation (we had to lessen the amount of random layout throughout development).
When it comes to our engine we have focused on the development tools that are geared towards maximum freedom for the creative parts of the company to create content for the games we produce with as little aid as possible from the technical parts. Other features of the technology used in Nosferatu are Enemies that appear shock style from everywhere, even through the ceiling or the floor. Spine chilling scores, ambient and sound effects are orchestrated seamlessly with the FXengine's sound system to a new dimension of fear that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Some foes can only be slain with specific weapons, which puts focus on the player's weapon tactics. Eerie 3D-graphics with real time lighting, film grain, fog and mist gives you the feeling of classic horror.
The game is scheduled for Q2 2003. When exactly will it be available and who will publish it? Also, do you plan to release a demo ?
We have completed the game. The game will be released in Northern Europe in April. Rest of the world to follow. When it comes to a demo, this will be up to PAN Vision, the publisher of the game, we are in the process of deciding on how to go forth with that now.
Idol FX has several other projects currently in development (Foo, Kabal), but all your titles (including Gast which was released last year) seem to have a common point: horror. Do you agree if I say that your games are more inspired by horror movies and books than by other games?
We take inspiration from all other type of media, even toys! But it is true that we tend to be more inspired by other media than games, partly I belive that also has to do with our background as game designers in the traditional medias.
Anything else you wanna add ?
We're looking forward to the response of the players, hoping that we've succeded with making a game that is scary and entertaining but still action-oriented.
Anything particular you wanna say to the Gamershell readers ?
Please, give us feedback when you have played the game. Let us know what you liked, or disliked.