Interview by Dennis S.
Recently I've had a chance to talk with Jerome Cukier of Wanadoo concerning their adventure game Inquisition, due to hit North American stores at the end of this month, and already available in Europe.
Please briefly introduce yourself and your company to our readers.
Wanadoo is a European publisher. I work as a project manager, looking after the in-house development team in charge of Inquisition.
Please tell us about the background / storyline of the game.
The story takes place in the historical 14th Century in Paris. It was a time of political instability, as the new king had a terrible reputation among his people. Some 30 years before king Philippe le Bel had eradicated the order of the Knights Templar, a power greater than his own. Now, the church is all-powerful and the inquisition is free to administer justice the way it sees fit.
It is in that setting that our hero, Matthew, the son of an impoverished nobleman, finds himself in Paris to seek fortune. Unwillingly, he will play a major role in a conspiracy involving a dark cult, the inquisition, various gangs of cutthroats, and the king…
Is Inquisition more of an RPG game (with character development and / or statistics) or an adventure game?
We think of Inquisition as an action-infiltration game. The character improves over time by acquiring weapons and new skills, but he doesn’t have to kill 17 goblins to reach level 3 or buy the GldPltArmr for 5000 gold. Things are more simple and straightforward.
How much attention will be paid to stealth in the game?
Stealth is the main focus of the game. We wanted Inquisition to be a true infiltration game, meaning that many games now claim to have an infiltration feature: most modern FPS’s go in that direction, and many mainstream 3D action games as well. But in all those games, it’s not that important. OK, maybe you’ll have a section that you’ll have to restart over and over if you’re seen, and that’s 1% of the game. On the other hand, in stealth-oriented games, the hero always has a gimmick, technology, magic, you name it, that lets him guess in advance how enemies will be positioned, how they will react, etc.
Now where’s the adrenaline when you can detect your opponent’s every move?
Matthew, our character, is alone. Empty handed. If he’s spotted, he’ll face a tough fight, as guards call each other, and are stronger than the hero. He’s got no radar, no infrared goggles, no ninja sixth sense or whatever. Yet in terms of gameplay, the situations are always very clear. Enemies have a vision cone that varies according to different factors such as light or distance or posture, etc. They have a whole range of animations that translate what they may have seen or heard. And then it’s all about finding the best way to pass through that tiny square packed with soldiers without any of them sensing your presence. Not through technology, magic or brute force, but through guile, stealth, cunning. True infiltration.
What game can you compare Inquisition with? What makes it stand out above this game?
The games that inspired us most (and we are a small team, so the project took long enough to have PS1 games as references J ) were Tenchu and MGS. We started working on the project before any one heard of MGS2 and jumped on the infiltration bandwagon. Yet, we wanted to make the game less combat-oriented and bring in a more mature storyline. We could also compare Inquisition to the Thief series and, to some extent, to Commandos.
What kind of audience is this game intended for?
The game is intended for a broad audience. We really tried to make it easy to access, even if it’s not really easy. All gameplay situations, no matter how hard, are always clear to understand. Then – we are all gamers, so we made the game for gamers.
Where did you get the influence and background info on that particular time in history?
Fortunately we also live in Paris, which makes it easy to research how it looked 650 years ago… Also, Wanadoo has a long tradition of historical games set in that period, so we were already quite familiar with the topic. The framework of our graphical universe comes from the works of Viollet-Leduc, a 19th century drawer who has done extensive research on the topic, and from movies like The Brotherhood of the Rose…
What can you tell us about the features of the graphics engine?
We used the Phoenix 3D graphic engine, developed by 4X. It’s been used in games such as IronStorm. It’s a fully-featured multi-platform engine, which lets us work with insanely detailed environments.
What kind of soundtrack will the game have? Will it change according to situations the main character is in?
Absolutely. When we started to think of the music, we wanted something that would surprise the player, a bit. It just would have been too easy to go for the usual wanna-be medieval music. We felt it was mostly a game of stealth and cunning and that the music should reflect that. So most of it is based on percussions. We did use many medieval instruments, but not the ones that one would expect. Later in the game, when things go really awry, so does the music …
As a result, the music accompanies the player nicely throughout the game and is one of the main components of the game’s atmosphere. Of course, the music changes according to the situation, so if the player is to be surprised, the music helps tremendously.
Did anything funny happen during the development?
Well, it happens that over half of the team was hospitalized for one reason or another during the development. Maybe we should have taken that curse of the templars thing more seriously.
Last words: do you have anything else to add to our readers?
What we're the proudest of is that it's really the work of a small team. We're just nine which is ...hmmm.... anachronical in this day and age. We've spent many, many nights solving mountains of bugs eating nothing but cold pizza, and we were very glad when the game was released in Europe.