Available: Q4 2003
Developer: Cauldron
Publisher: TDK Mediactive

Interview by: Frag Sibirsky / Game.EXE Magazine
Reprinted with permission from Game.EXE Magazine

Good day to you! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Marian Holler - PR Manager for Conan at Cauldron.

Rumors have it that a fantasy game is an old dream of Cauldron's, which occupied you since the early days. Is that really so? Have you thought of the Hyborean world or was there an idea to create your own universe?

When we were finishing our previous game we got the idea about Conan which IMO suits this genre the best. We all like the stories from Conan?s world and we want to bring our view of Hyborean age into the game. In May 2002 our publisher TDK Mediactive Europe obtained the license for R.E.Howards writings, and you?ll be able to play Conan before the end of this year.

We can't figure that out and we really think that you must have some clues on the following ? is there any particular reason why the Conan Sales Company is becoming stronger and stronger each day? We heard of a new movie, the new series of books, comics, and now a multi-platform game. And it seemed for a long while that Conan has died in the 80's. What will attract people this time when your Conan game ships in Q4 2003? Will the Cimmerian be able to provide some competition to the heroes of the new millennium ? Freddy, Jason etc?

I think that Conan cannot die - Conan?s world is so huge that it was only a matter of time that somebody got the idea to make something new about him. We are glad that we got the license because we all love Conan stories. Nowadays it became very interesting to many other developers, and the Hyborean world will liven up once again in more minds.

This one is fundamental? Conan the Barbarian or Conan the Destroyer - who is the idol for Cauldron guys when you think of those good old movies with the future governor of California? And what would be the best comparison for you when you talk about your game: the original movie, its sequel, comics, or the TV show? And, by the way, maybe you have played the early games (going deeper into consoles of the 80's and such) with Conan?

I think that the Barbarian wins the competition between those two films in Cauldron with big lead, but the Destroyer brought some new thoughts too. Our primary inspiration sources were the original romans and novels written by the author of Conan, R. E. Howard. This was very inspiring for us in the field of the storyline and for the feeling of the whole Hyborean age. The comics were great help with creating the design of the cities, characters, weapons or enemies of Conan. And the first Conan movie was our guide for creating the epic fight and battle atmosphere. We played the old games, as we try to gather as much informations as possible. The technology progress allows us now to get you into Conan?s shoes and be a part of his great adventures as never before.

After reading the story of your Conan game at www.conangame.com, we just couldn?t stop sharing the joy with each other here ? wild tribes of Picts, carnivorous monkeys, the city of Kordava ? the diamond of the East, songs of Stygian sands and the final battle on the top of the volcano! We can?t recall any developer, which wanted to bring such a long list to their game. Can you tell us about your work on the plot of the game ? do you use a well-trained interpreter-writer? Can you call your Conan a game which can be positioned as an encyclopedia of the world by Robert Erwin Howard?

Our storyline is written by Jan Kanturek, a famous Czech translator of Howard`s work and great short stories writer. We wanted to create an epic storyline which is not only based on the Hyborean universe and is well known for the hardcore Conan fans, but is also attractive for people, which never heard anything about Conan and his world.

What would be the style that you will refer to with Conan by Cauldron? Merciless style of Howard?s books? Or maybe the stories by Lion Sprague De Camp? ?New Conan? by Robert Jordan or Harry Turtledove? What period of Conan books do you use as the source of inspiration?

The main source of our inspiration for this game were novels written by R.E.Howard and the Conan comics. But both films were a great inspiration for us in the field of combat design and in the first place, with the music. Therefore we are very proud that we can use the best tracks from the original soundtrack, done by Basil Poledouris.

What is Conan 3D Engine ? a new engine created by you to fit the needs of the story, the characters and, of course, sword-fights? What extra features does it have if we try comparing it, say, with your CloackNT engine?

This engine is different from CloakNT, as it is multiplatform engine. It will use all the technological and graphical possibilities of every platform. Therefore, every version of the game will be different, depending on hardware of PC or the consoles. We have special teams of programmers that are optimizing the core-code for every platform. So through this concurrent development we want to achieve the maximum of performance for every platform.

Health and stamina bars can?t make an RPG game out of Conan. But who said that it?s bad ? we don?t need him to run away from fights with numerous opponents! But 3D action games with gore and blood can vary. Nevertheless, will we see complex duels a-la Die by the Sword or pure action a-la Rune or the golden middle of Blade of Darkness: Severance? Can you spill some beans about the favorite fighting style of Conan with his sword or an axe? (The moment with the helicopter axe in the movie is one of the favorite in our editorial office!)

Conan after killing enemies will gain experience points for which you can ?buy? new attacks and then piece them together to combos. There will be description to each combo (like impact, what is it doing, for what is it suitable and how you make it work) so it?ll be easy to decide which one to ?buy?. Also on your way, you have to resolve diverse puzzles. During the game, you can put together the Atlantean sword that Conan used in first movie also. It helps you in fights against strongest enemies, without it it?s almost impossible.

We are trying to achieve the right balance between the adventurous part and the fighting. Therefore, you will find in the game the right mix of these game elements. The main 70% of gameplay shall be the action part, while the other 30% are various traps and puzzles, which must be solved to progress or even to survive.

What can you tell us about the blood and gore ? will it look natural? We don?t know if you have spotted that one or not, but each piece of Conan stories and books has something like ?..and Conan has slipped in the puddle of blood on the floor..?. Are you going to stay close to the original ?blood setting?, forgetting about ESRB ratings system and such?.. We would love to see that!

We tried to make a compromise so that everybody can find his or her own top event. When you fight with enemies, you won?t stop until they are drowned in a puddle of blood. However, it will be there only with sense of purpose, as we want to be open to the wide public. I can?t imagine Conan without bloody bodies. :)

We would like to learn more about XP points and the skills that our hero will obtain, both fighting and not. Can you share some light on this topic? And why does our favorite Cimmerian need any skills not connected with blade mastering and opponents slashing?

As I mentioned before you can ?buy? attacks for XP, but also you?ll be able to buy quicker health or stamina recovery, concentration and other helpful elements, but it will cost much more, so you will have to decide what you want to have for your XP. For example you can get a basic combo for 90XP, and stamina recovery costs 2000 XP, so you can afford it only when you've killed plenty of enemies.

Will Conan have any economics elements in it, like money falling out of dead bodies, visits to weapon shops, and so on? We must not forget that Conan was not only famous for being a huge lover of slashing and killing, but also the #1 thief in the whole Aquilonia! We just can?t believe that we will miss acts like steal everything, get drunk and go beat a nearby camel!

Conan is action, action adventure, and we won?t interrupt you from fighting, so you won't have to visit a blacksmith to repair your weapons or collect useless weapons from dead enemies. In our story, you have to concentrate to follow the trace of the murderers, on this quest. Find them and avenge the death of his relatives with no mercy. Everybody who stands up ub his way will taste his cold steel in the stomach, except those few who try to help him. :)

Is there anything besides the cold steel in the hands of your Conan ? some magic or crossbows?

Conan always used weapons only for close combat and that?s same in our game. There will be magic effects and also enemies like sorcerers will use magic against Conan, but he won?t be able to use magic. He is a barbarian and his strength is in fighting. All of the weapons are two handed, and we want to emphasize the arms Conan uses, like heavy sword, combat axe, war mace?

We have heard something about NPCs ? a female thief and a male mage. It seems that Conan will be able to talk with them. Is that really serious or just a feature that would be used in the features-list of the game?

The female thief is Zairin, a very beautiful woman, with long blond hair, green eyes and pale skin. Conan must talk with NPCs when he wants to progress, they will give him useful hints and informations, but as I mentioned before Conan fights alone on this quest.

Conan is a fighting game ? that?s a no brainer, but how many enemies can attack our hero simultaneously? What can you tell us about the AI of the enemy ? will we see different behavior from different opponents? Are there any ?classes? which divide the enemies by, say armor class, weapons class, magic usage and so on? Will we see any other creatures from Howard?s creations (in our opinion, he has lots of in common with Lovecraft)?

As many enemies can attack Conan as there are in the particular situation, it depends on the level and difficulty settings. The AI differs with behavior, armor, weapons, all things you?ve mentioned. When you are attacked by a beast it goes directly upon you and bites you till you?re dead, while soldiers have more tactics in their fight, they can defend themselves with shields and so on. Every single enemy has its own specifications, but I can?t describe everything, it would be a long list. :)

We can?t miss asking about the Arena. Gladiator fights were very cool in Conan the Barbarian! As far as we understand it, the Arena that you?ve showed at E3 is a MP mode, which can be called? fighting! Lots of fight styles, lots of weapons, and traps all over the place ? it seems that one must obtain a copy of Conan for its VS mode! Any ideas about on-line battles? Can we hope to see modifications that will introduce kung-fu masters?

You'll be able to play Conan via net on Xbox live and on PC through GameSpy. There will be 16 arenas with 16 different characters, some of them will be from single player game and some will be especially made for multiplayer. At this time, I can?t tell anything about modifications, because the game isn?t out yet, but I?d like to see that too. :)

If Conan the barbarian met a puzzle on his way (which were brought to TPS genre by Lara Croft), he would sit down on the ground and begin to sob. Please, tell us that there will be no levers in Conan, neither touch-plates nor the key from the door to the Black montains of Cimmeria. There won?t? (said we, crossing all the fingers!)

You?ll have to climb, pull triggers, and aware of touch ? plates. But there will be different kind of puzzles as in Lara Croft. You will have to torture your brain a little bit to get through them, however no hard jumping.

The original art that can be found on the official web-site is outstanding! It can suit the cover of any fantasy book without any limitations. Who is the master behind it? Is it true that your Conan is based on the sketches of an early Marvel comic books? And who will feel himself in the hat of Basil Poledouris while composing the soundtrack to your game?

The master behind Conan is our artist Milan Dubnicky - he has done the sketches, and is the lead levels artist. The music is made by our music artists Juraj Karkus and Lubomir Ruttkay, they have a hard task to follow the B. Poledouris soundtrack, but they've created a really outstanding atmosphere with their music art. You can feel it, when you hear that music.

Conan is your first multi-platform game. What are the limitations that you have stumbled across already? Will we need gamepads to play Conan on PC? Could you also tell us a bit about cinematic camera ? will we see slices from the movie about Conan like it was made in Enter The Matrix?

It depends on your preferences: I played Conan on both and both are comfortable, but for PC I prefer keyboard with mouse, and when playing consoles I like to use gamepad. The camera system was really hard to make, as we wanted to have a different system that would show the best view of Conan and the environment. There are fixed cameras in the level that shows Conan from the best angle, and also one camera follows every Conan's move. We try to give you the best view from them, but there is also a free camera, and with it you can look around Conan as you want. Players will be also able to switch to first person view to better see what?s in front of them.

Can you be more specific with the release date of Conan? Are there any other plans to go further with this license? Maybe Cauldron has some classified info on the upcoming Conan movie? If that is so, please, give us a hint what will be the connection of the game and the movie?

The person of Conan is the only connection between them. We have to wait for the reactions of the players, and then there will be space for some further plans. We plan to release Conan in Q4 of 2003.

Thank you very much for your time and answers. We will keep following the life of Cauldron, as we were doing that since the release of SpellCross!