Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Interplay Entertainment
Developer:Reflexive Entertainment
Release Date:2003-08-13
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
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Ever since Black Isle Studios and Reflexive Entertainment announced at E3 that they would be teaming up to make an RPG, we've wanted to know more about it. So when we were recently given the chance to ask ten questions of Reflexive's Ion Hardie, we jumped at it. His answers below:

GB: How is development coming along? Are any areas of the game finished yet?

Ion Hardie: We are currently in a pre-Alpha state and are getting close to being feature complete. We have been working on Lionheart for about 9 months now on our very own game engine, which has shipped in both Star Trek: Away Team and Zax: The Alien Hunter. Being that it is our own technology, the design team has had a relatively easy time getting things done, though incorporation of 3D characters has been challenging. At this point in time the majority of the art is done, though character animations and spell effects are some of our largest art assets left to complete. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of the maps are complete and we are still tweaking some of the formulas that control combat and spell abilities. Fortunately a vast majority of the SPECIAL formulas used in programming were laid out and implemented early on in the project, so we have been able to utilize those as the game has progressed.

GB: For those players unfamiliar with the Fallout series, could you please describe the SPECIAL system and how it handles character creation and advancement?

Ion Hardie: The SPECIAL system is basically a system of statistics and rules that allow for classless open-ended character development. SPECIAL stands for Strength , Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. Each of these is an attribute you assign some amount of points to and helps to shape and define your character. These rules were first used in the post-apocalyptic role-playing game Fallout, and then again in Fallout 2. This system is immensely open-ended for character development, lacks the drawbacks of a class system, and is infinitely expandable. Characters in the system have Race, Attributes, Skills, Traits, and Perks. Race affects your starting statistics and may give you some special abilities, race specific Traits, and/or race specific Perks. The Attributes are used to make various skill check roles and to determine other derived statistics. At the heart of the system are skills. Skills are measured in points and can generally go anywhere from 0 to 255; these numbers are used in conjunction with other modifiers to determine whether or not you do something successfully in the game. Since there are no classes, your character is defined by what type of skills you decide you want that character to improve upon. You have ultimate control over defining the character however you choose; you decide how you want them to improve and even how much you want them to improve. The system has seen several updates for its use in Lionheart, the most significant of which are the addition of magic and adjusting it to real-time combat.

GB: Have you done a lot of research on 16th century Europe to help create the game's atmosphere? Exactly how much "official" history do you intend on incorporating into Lionheart's storyline?

Ion Hardie: At the core of Lionheart is a basis on reality, despite the fact that our world takes place after a Disjunction that alters history as we know it. The story is built upon a foundation of exhaustive research through countless books and websites to get as much knowledge about general historical events and personnel as we could. After determining the general time period for our story, our lead writer, Eric Dallaire, then focused on events that were both interesting and fit our specific needs. He then researched these topics even further to uncover the specific historical storylines and details that now make up the game's backstory. The intent of building upon this research was to allow us to alter history and still keep as much of the general dynamic behind it as possible. Without giving out spoilers of particular examples of how they fit, it is possible to meet the following historical figures during your adventures: Leonardo DaVinci, Galilelo, Machiavelli - the Italian philosopher, and Cervantes - the Spanish author. and more. If you join the Inquisition and earn the trust of the Inquisitors, you could gain an audience with the Grand Inquisitor himself! As you can see, despite having been altered by the Disjunction, elements of real history and historical figures will play an important part in the game. However, I do want to make sure that gamers realize that this is not a die-hard Earth simulation game. We have changed plenty of stuff about the world we live in.

GB: Tell us a little bit about Reflexive's Velocity Engine. How does it compare to other two-dimensional graphic engines, such as BioWare's Infinity Engine?

Ion Hardie: The Velocity Engine is a robust proprietary Reflexive gaming engine that has been used in previous gaming titles including Zax: the Alien Hunter and Star Trek: Away Team. We are using it for Lionheart as an isometric engine to render 2D backgrounds while real-time converting 3D models into 2D images. This allows us to maintain anti-aliasing with our 3D characters and allows for 3D characters to be blended perfectly into every scene. The engine has the added benefit of affording us extensive amount of equipment changes. The Velocity Engine also gives us the power to modify the ground in real-time, making lava or acid literally chase you through a given level. If you had a chance to play Zax, you most likely were shocked to find yourself in the position of having lava eat the very ground beneath your feet. If you were lucky enough to avoid that horrifying experience, consider yourself warned as you explore the worlds of Lionheart. As far as comparisons with other engines go, each has their strengths. I will let gamers decide for themselves when we ship.

GB: Can you tell us a little bit about each of the four races (Demokin, Feralkin, Human, and Sylvant)? What (dis)advantages are there to playing each one?

Ion Hardie: Each of the races has different starting statistics and they have some race-specific perks and traits that you can acquire along the way. Sylvants, for example, are among the most magical of the races. They are descendents of parents with magical spirits, usually elementals, so they possess unique physical traits such as metallic colored hair or skin. The Demokins are tainted with a fiendish ancestry and often display tell-tale physical traits such as pointed ears or sharp teeth, but they are often clever enough to blend in very well with pureblood humans. The Feralkins display obvious signs of a magic ancestry passed down from some bestial spirit. They exhibit a physically larger stature, pointed teeth, and clawed hands which easily gives them away in a crowd. We added these new races to give players a chance to further differentiate and personalize their characters. Without spoiling too much with specific disadvantages, we also created races to allow NPCs to react differently depending on your choice of race. For instance, you will have a more difficult time speaking with the Inquisition if you are not a pureblood human, especially a Feralkin. Other NPC characters have their own likes and dislikes regarding the races, so choosing your character race is important. As with skills an attributes, it is important for the player to balance the disadvantages with the inherent unique advantages each race presents.