Summary: With Gothic 3 due for release in the US later this year, JCal sits down with Aspyr Media's Blaine Christine to chat about the game. See what features are in store for this RPG
Piranha Bytes fantasy RPG Gothic 3 may just have been released in Europe, but US audiences have a little longer wait to get access to the highly anticipated game. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with the game's US executive producer Blaine Christine of Aspyr Media to find out more about the game and their plans for it.
FiringSquad: First, when the development team decided to start work on Gothic 3, what were their main goals?
Blaine Christine: Well, that’s an easy question for the most part. Obviously their goal was to create the greatest single player role playing game possible and the greatest Gothic game ever. A large part of this for Piranha Bytes (the developer) was making sure they kept their fans happy and corrected criticisms of the first two games to improve on the series. The Gothic team takes this game very seriously and works very hard to be on the cutting edge of RPG gameplay (as anyone who has played the previous games in the series can attest to). There are many vast improvements in Gothic 3 from the previous installment including an all-new graphics engine, a completely revamped combat system, and a much-larger streaming world where gameplay is not interrupted by loading screens. All of these items were top priorities in development, but there are tons of smaller improvements that fans will love in addition to the major revisions mentioned here.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the game's storyline and how it relates to previous games in the series?
Blaine Christine: The developers did a great job of creating a very exciting new scenario for Gothic 3 while maintaining ties to the previous games in the series. All of the old favorite characters will be there again: Diego, Milten, Lester, and Xardas, among others. As always, the challenge with creating a sequel is making a game that welcomes new players, but does not alienate members of your audience that are fans from previous games. Both of the previous games took place on the island of Khorinis, so the biggest change in the story is the fact that for the first time the player is shown the mainland of Myrtana. As you arrive on the mainland with some friends from the past, you discover that the humans have been overrun by large bands of Orcs and your first decision will be what part you will take in the ongoing conflict. This decision will dramatically affect your gameplay experience and ultimately determine the outcome of the game!
FiringSquad: What will Gothic 3's player characters be like?
Blaine Christine: Gothic 3 focuses on one player character, the Nameless Hero, who is the same character that has been seen throughout the Gothic series. The player has the ability to tailor the Hero to whatever style of gameplay they desire. With the open-class system that Gothic 3 uses, the player gains learning points each time they level up which can be spent in any way they desire. If the player wants to focus purely on a combat-oriented character, they can spend points increasing their strength and sword wielding skillset. If they prefer to create a magic-user, it is easy to find trainers to increase your mana and spellcasting abilities. Naturally, you can also mix and match these skillsets and there are many other skills including thievery, alchemy, hunting, and many more. So ultimately the type of character you create will be much different than another person playing through the game – no two characters will be the same.
FiringSquad: How will the RPG features be used in Gothic 3?
Blaine Christine: As far as character development is concerned, see the previous question. In terms of other RPG conventions, you can expect a very robust quest system with a vast array of side quests in addition to the main questlines for the three primary factions in the game. Another hallmark of the Gothic series is their robust AI system which tracks the daily routines of each NPC to create a realistic environment for the player to interact with. One good example of this system is seen when you kill an NPC in the world (killing is a choice – human and orc characters are only knocked unconscious from combat damage unless you deliver a killing blow). If I kill a particular NPC, that character is tied to other characters and factions in the world, so when I wander into another town the friends of that character may try to attack me because they are aware of my deed and other members of that character’s faction (orcs, for example) will be more inclined to dislike me as well. Other stand-out features include: item crafting, full day/night cycles, and reputation based on faction/location. To sum up, pretty much any feature you would expect out of a top quality single player RPG will be included in Gothic 3.
FiringSquad: What are some of the dev team's favorite creatures in the game so far?
Blaine Christine: Well, there are a huge number of creatures in the game, some old and some new, but I think there is little doubt that the Minecrawler is an all-time favorite. This ugly creature is a cross between a preying mantis and a tarantula to my eye. With the new animation system they are using in Gothic 3, its movement is very creepy (as you would expect) and their size is daunting when you first encounter one in the game. Another nasty creature is the Ogre, but I think the main attraction for this ugly foe is their sheer size and the fantastic modeling and texture work that went into its creation. As with the Minecrawler, the first time you encounter one of these guys, you will definitely think twice about attacking him.
FiringSquad: What other unique features will Gothic 3 have?
Blaine Christine: There are a number of unique features in the game. From the immense, hand-crafted world to the fantastic, beautiful graphics engine to the seamless world with no loading screens, Gothic 3 will stand head and shoulders above the rest of the single-player RPG crowd. I think one of my favorite features has to be the use of real-world physics with the bow and arrow. In order to shoot an arrow at an enemy, you must take their distance from you into account. If an enemy is farther away, you must aim above their head since there will be a natural arc to the arrow’s flight path. This makes the archery component require skill and strategy to use instead of a simple point and shoot FPS interface. The newly revamped combat system is also incredibly fun to use. The melee combat against orc and human enemies is very fun and feels strategic because of the blocking and multiple types of attacks based on mouse input.
FiringSquad: There will be no loading screens in the game. How hard was it to get such a feature in Gothic 3?
Blaine Christine: The seamless gameplay world is always a challenge to implement, but can be done as long as it is planned for in advance. This is a feature that definitely requires the developer to think and plan ahead; it is not something that can be added on at the last minute. Happily, this was a key component that was important to Piranha Bytes from the start of development, so the end result is a great gameplay experience for the player where their suspension of disbelief is not interrupted by loading screens. Unless, of course, you die and need to reload. J
FiringSquad: What other graphical features will the game have?
Blaine Christine: Let me preface this by explaining I had help from the devs with the technical aspects of this question. I’m not nearly as smart as I’m about to sound. Gothic 3 supports Pixel Shader 3.0 including real-time lighting and shadows, full day/night cycles, parallax and bump mapping and (if you’re really tech-savvy) the lighting system supports both dynamic and static per-pixel diffuse and specular lights along per-pixel spherical harmonics and ambient lighting with per-vertex ambient occlusion. How’s that for detail? *Snap!*
FiringSquad: Are there any plans for a demo of the game to be released?
Blaine Christine: As you can imagine, it would be incredibly difficult to craft a demo from a seamless world, so there are no plans for a demo at this time.
FiringSquad: What is the current status of the US version of the game's progress and when will it be released?
Blaine Christine: The US version is in the final stages of balancing and polishing. You can expect it on store shelves before Christmas!
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Gothic 3?
Blaine Christine: Simply put, if you are an RPG fan you owe it to yourself to try out the Gothic series. If you haven’t played a Gothic game before, now is the time to try it out. The open-ended nature of the gameplay will certainly be a refreshing change from any other RPG game you’ve tried and the visuals will truly astound you. Thank me later!
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