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GB: When was development of Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone first begun, where do you currently stand in the development cycle, and What primary goals are you looking to achieve with this PS2 title?
SFS: We started development in January of 2003, and we're currently finishing up the last set of levels for the game and getting ready to start tuning and squashing bugs.
Our primary goal is to take D&D to a new level of gameplay experience that exploits the power of today's game consoles. We're heading away from the traditional dungeon crawl, and towards a cinematic action adventure with the unique gameplay twist of being able to play any of the party members at almost any time in the game.
GB: Will the game be single-player only, or do you plan on offering cooperative or even online play?
SFS: The jury is still out on that question!
GB: Are you using an existing engine for FR: Demon Stone, or was it built exclusively for this new game?
SFS: The engine is actually in its third generation on PS2 -- it's a revision of the engine we used for the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. We've made a whole bunch of improvements on the engine for this game, including the ability to have more characters on screen and richer-looking higher-polygon characters as well. We've also added special high-resolution heads on the characters to really bring the cinematic experience to life.
GB: Can you give us a brief summary of the background and history within the game, and what the player will ultimately be looking to accomplish?
SFS: At the beginning of the game, the party comes together, and inadvertently releases two evil forces that were imprisoned long ago by the wizard Khelben Blackstaff. The story is about their harrowing quest to re-trap those enemies. Of course, we worked closely with author RA Salvatore, and he has a couple of interesting twists and turns along the way.
GB: Other than the primary storyline and objective, will there be side-quests that the player can partake of? If so, can you give us some examples of the side-quests players might be given?
SFS: The game is focused on RA Salvatore's cinematic, roller-coaster ride of a story, so there aren't side quests in the traditional RPG sense.
GB: Any plans to provide the game on other platforms, maybe the Xbox or even the PC?
SFS: Check with Atari for details on this!
GB: Do you intend to stick with three classes for the game, or is it possible you may add more before release? Any plans to include hidden or "locked" characters?
SFS: We feel that a party made of a fighter, a sorcerer, and a rogue offers an interesting mix of great gameplay opportunities, so yes, we're sticking with those three. As for hidden or locked characters, we've got some interesting ideas on that front, but nothing definite to announce yet.
GB: Will each character's equipment be separate, or will loot be put into a "pool" that all three characters can choose from? If it will remain separate, how will trading occur between each character? Additionally, will magic items the player finds be completely random or will we see classic unique items from the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset?
SFS: It's a little bit of both -- experience and gold are shared equally between the characters, but you upgrade each character individually, both in skills and in weapons, armor, and magic items. We are definitely including unique items from the D&D rule set, such as frost brand and flame tongue swords, daggers of wounding, robe of the archmagi, belt of giant strength, elven boots, potions, pearls of power, ring of jumping, Dwarven plate armor.. The list goes on.
GB: Tell us a bit about how the combat system will work and how the characters will react as the player switches between them.
SFS: Basically, our goal is for the AI of the party to feel as intelligent and responsive as possible, so when you're playing a character, you should find that the other characters work to support you. For example, if you're playing the Fighter and get low on health, the Sorcerer will cast a Protection spell on you to help out.
The combat system is a pretty straightforward combo system, where you're rewarded with more experience points for using combos and more advanced combat tactics. Killing enemies also charges up your "super meter" -- when it's charged, the player can use a devastating area attack that kills enemies all around them. Each character has one of these, so it becomes an incentive to switch to that character when their super is charged up.
GB: In conclusion, what gameplay aspects do you feel will set Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone apart from the other action RPGs available on the market? Any other final comments about the game?
SFS: Switch on the fly gives the player a whole new palette of gameplay choices. It also creates a whole new layer of strategy to action adventure games. Should you run into the combat with the fighter and concentrate on using cool combos? Or is it better to switch to the rogue and use the shadows to kill enemies quickly from behind?
As the gameplay situation changes, the player can quickly adapt by switching to the character best suited for the new challenge. Imagine that while the player battles a large group of huge Trolls, a group of Troll rock throwers appear in the background and begin bombarding the 3 heroes with rocks. Instead of having to battle through the melee Trolls, the player can switch to the sorcerer, cast a hold monster spell on them and then pick them off from afar with his lightning bolts.
There isn't always one right answer about which character you want to use in a given situation. One player may find that he progresses faster featuring the rogue, another may think she plays best with the sorcerer, etc. Different people have different styles of play, and we hope to see debates on the boards about which character is really the best one to feature in a certain level.
We'd like to issue our thanks to everyone at Stormfront Studios for taking the time to answer our questions!