GB: Are all the class features that are stated in the third edition players handbook going to be in the game? If this is not the case, then what features are going to be left out. (e.g. bonus feats for fighters, smite evil for paladins, special abilities for rogues, deflect arrow feat for the monk, etc.) If any features have been deleted, do you feel that the different classes are still balanced compared to each other?
Chuck: When we were transitioning the game from 2nd Edition, where it started, to 3rd Edition, we had to at some point draw a line on what we could include based on the changing nature of the rules as they were being developed by Wizards of the Coast. With this in mind, we still wanted to be able to include as many of the new feats and special abilities as possible. Therefore, the compromise we made as to what was included seemed to work fairly well for keeping the characters balanced and attractive to the player. We are including the bonus feats for fighters, the ranger's favored enemies, the barbarian's rage, the paladin's aura of courage and smite evil abilities, the monk's stunning fist, diamond soul, and purity of body abilities, the rogue's sneak attack, and a list of 17 other feats as well. There are some things that are left out across the board due to what we had to work with when the rules were presented to us, but for the most part, the character classes, skills, and feats represent a nice sample of the total sum the P&P rules describe.
GB: What skills are going to be part of the game? To what extent are skill going to be a part of the game? Can you give an example of how skills are going to be used in the game? Is this done automatically by the computer, or does the player have to indicate when he wants to use a skill?
Chuck: We are including the following skills in Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor... Concentration, Disable Device, Heal, Hide, Move Silently, Open Lock, Search, Spellcraft, and Spot. Skills are very useful as players progress throughout the course of game play. For example, Heal is a universal skill that can save dying characters from meeting the Grim Reaper at Death's Door. Move Silently and Hide and checked against monster's Listen skills to determine surprise. And what rogue wouldn't be complete without the ability to disarm that nasty trap guarding the treasure. The player can elect to use a skill at any time that it would be warranted, but the AI will also use skills like Spot and Search to find items that may be hidden. In essence, we are trying to give players the best of both worlds without stripping away too much control.
GB: In the player's handbook, a character gets skill points. Seeing that only a limited number of skills are implemented, will the game also work with skill points? Does the game follow the rules stipulated in the player's handbook concerning number of skill points? If this is not the case, then what can we expect at character creation concerning skills and skill points?
Garrett: We are not following a system built around skill points in the game given the changes that were going on when we received the rules for 3E. By the time we had a codified rules system that was final we had already designed a system by which skills would be assigned by character class. The points a character receives as they increase in level do follow the Intelligence modifiers of the character plus the static number according to class, and they are distributed amongst the skills that character possesses.
GB: Will alignment play an important role in the game? Is there a danger for Paladins of losing their paladin status when committing "evil" acts? Can a lawful character become unlawful?
Chuck: Unfortunately, although players can choose alignment, there will be little effective difference on the game. We didn't want to tailor the storyline to different alignment based parties for fear of having players miss something, even if it was minor. We are currently looking into throwing a few items into the game that can only be used by specific alignments to make them have some meaning aside from character building, but this remains to be seen what we can accomplish before we ship.
GB: Will Myth Drannor feature "dead" and or "wild" magic areas? If this is the case, will the player know when the party enters such an area?
Chuck: We are not supporting "dead areas" or "wild magic zones" within Myth Drannor. The corruption of the Mythal has caused some strange occurrences to take place that may differ from what reader's of the popular fiction or campaign accessories may know of Myth Drannor.
GB: Will players be able to adjust the difficulty of the game?
Chuck: There are no plans to have a difficulty setting for single player, but the multiplayer dungeons will scale algorithmically to the average level of the characters playing to add some variety to combats and monsters encountered.
GB: What are the differences between playing a single player game and a multi player game?
Chuck: Oops...looks like I may have jumped ahead on answering the last one. :) Well, multiplayer will have a set of unique magical items restricted to it, as well as random dungeons levels that scale difficulty, and of course you'll be able to play with your friends. Single player is meant to be more story intensive with multiple side quests and character interactions with NPCs and their environment. Multiplayer is a hack fest designed to let you reach the upper echelons of your level limits while having fun with your buds.
GB: Are the system specifications that are mentioned on the official game homepage still the correct specifications?
Chuck: Yes. (Minimum requirements: 233 Mhz, 64MB RAM, 8x cd-rom, 12MB video card. Recommended requirements: 400Mhz, 128 MB RAM, 8x cd-rom, RIVA TNT 2.)
GB: What sort of documentation will come with the game?
Chuck: We are planning for a manual which will roughly be around 80 pages, along with a huge fold-out map of the overland area of Myth Drannor that has monster stats on the back for players who are interested. A strategy guide done in house and through Prima will also detail more specifically the areas of the game, the treasure,and the strategies for building a good party and navigating through the perils of the ruined city and the Cult's plots.
GB: Can you give us an insight into your PR-strategy? In the beginning there was a lot of news about the game, but this has steadily decreased. The latest update on the official homepage was 3 months old (until yesterday). Will PR-activities increase in the coming months?
Garrett: We'll have a big advertising push near the release of the game. At this point we're not adding anything new to the game and since the website's been up for a year, a big chunk of the game has already been posted at one time or another. Chuck (the Associate Producer) will continue to add screenshots and answer questions about the game.
GB: Will there be a playable demo of the game?
Chuck: Yes. We plan to release a playable demo of the first area of Myth Drannor, along with character generation for people to explore. Right now a definitive date is a bit elusive but a safe bet would be around late March early April.
GB: One of the news items that has come out the last couple of months is the purchase of Hasbro Interactive by Infogrames. Has this had any influence on the production of the game? Does SSI currently have any contractual agreements that ensures the fact that SSI can produce future D&D games?
Chuck: There has been no adverse effect for Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor due to the buyout. As for future titles, that remains to be seen, but we are trying to negotiate another possible D&D title for the future. Whether or not this will happen is too early to tell.
GB: How do you personally see the future of D&D computer gaming? (at SSI and in general)
Chuck: Well that's is partially contingent on how much of the D&D license is taken over through Infograms and what pathways there might be available to us in using the license. There are plenty of good RPGs ideas we have floating around internally, but D&D is a favorite for many of us "old time gamers" here. :) We'll keep out fingers crossed and see what the future holds, but if you are asking my opinion, I'd love to continue doing D&D based games in the future.
In conclusion, I'd like to issue a sincere thank to Chuck Yager, Garrett Graham, SSI, Stormfront Studios, and the people at Mattel Interactive for making this interview possible. We hope all of you enjoy reading about Pool of Radiance as much as we do =).