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GB: To start things off, how is The Dark Eye: Demonicon coming along? Can you give us a quick summary of where you stand in the game's development cycle?
Carsten: The development of Demonicon is progressing extremely well. The pre-production is finished and a large part of the story can already be played.
GB: What is the storyline behind Demonicon? What will we be trying to achieve during the course of the game?
Carsten: Demonicon tells a suspense-packed story about love, betrayal, and dark powers. The beautiful Calandra, our hero's best friend since early childhood, was abducted by an evil church. On his search for the girl, the player character travels to the most dangerous regions of the Blacklands. They will become involved in events shaking the very foundations of Aventuria, and their actions will decide the fate of the world.
GB: Take us through the character generation system. We understand that pre-generated archetypes will be available for those wanting to jump into the game quickly, but what about those of us who want to meticulously craft our characters?
Carsten: It's very important to us that players are able to identify themselves with their virtual alter ego. Therefore, in Demonicon you will start with a detailed character generation process in which you will be able to modify nearly everything of your avatar. Besides choosing gender, race, or profession you may also design the outer appearance according to your imaginations. Even smaller details like tattoos and scars are editable. Those who would rather directly plunge into the adventure can fall back on a number of archetypes: premade, ready to play characters.
GB: Why did you decide to set Demonicon in the Black Lands? What does this dark, demon-infested section of Aventuria bring to the game that other areas wouldn't have? Are there any other prominent or familiar DSA cities or regions that we'll be adventuring through in the game?
Carsten: Our goal is to create a game world with as much variety as possible, so we divided Demonicon into two large parts: Perricum and the Blacklands. Both are very well-known regions of Aventuria that could hardly be more different from each other. Whereas Perricum is rather urban with major settlements, the Blacklands are a dangerous, barren area where terrifying monsters are walking abroad. All in all, the Blacklands are the perfect choice to convey the gloomy, threatening atmosphere of Demonicon.
GB: Since it's the most recent TDE-based video game, there will obviously be comparisons drawn to Radon Labs' Drakensang once Demonicon is released. How will Demonicon differ from Drakensang in terms of its control scheme, dialogue system, quest layout, and other such gameplay elements?
Carsten: Two of the most important differences are character generation and character development, both of which were implemented only rudimentary in Drakensang. As described above, in Demonicon role-playing game fans can let their imagination run free and design their player character according to their own preferences based on the rules of The Dark Eye, of course. During the game, there's a strong emphasis on character development by leveling up and finding new equipment and items. Another distinction to Drakensang is our combat system: It presents combat far more dynamically and gives the player the feeling of being right in a battle. We'll also break new ground regarding camera perspectives: Demonicon has an isometric camera which can be zoomed and rotated freely.
GB: From what we've read, your plan is to present the player with difficult, plot-critical choices during the game. Can you give us an example or two and take us through what effects each choice will have on the rest of the game?
Carsten: First of all, every quest will have at least three different solutions, and combat is not always the best or the easiest approach. Moral decisions will also play a great role in the game. For example: Will our hero form an alliance of convenience with a mad ruler? Such an alliance would yield valuable information, but in the long run, it could also hurt our hero's reputation and alienate potential allies. Alternatively, he could seek help from a resistance movement, and the insane ruler would then relentlessly try to hunt him down. At the same time, though, the resistance could stir up a rebellion which would be of invaluable help to our hero in later quests. So there is no single correct way, but many different possibilities to develop a special relationship with the game world by making your own choices.
GB: According to the game's official website, you're using an internally developed engine for Demonicon. Tell us a bit about the capabilities of the game's engine, and why you decided against licensing an existing engine.
Carsten: Opposed to a middleware solution, using a proprietary engine we can make sure that the tools we use are perfectly fine-tuned to the game and that all involved, from our artists to our level designers, can achieve the best results. Our engine supports all the important rendering techniques, such as HDR, parallax (occlusion) mapping, ambient occlusion, or soft shadows. We also employ a new technology for texturing terrain surfaces that allows us to achieve a high viewing distance without having to abandon details like normal maps, relief maps, or reflection effects. Another important argument for a proprietary engine was the rendering of realistic character movements. In this way, characters in Demonicon are not just controlled by predefined animations, but can correctly interact with other characters and their surroundings.
GB: You've stated that the game will feature "perfected" AI, which is a lofty goal for any game. What steps have you taken to make this claim become a reality?
Carsten: Just because an NPC has a good AI doesn't mean that he acts (alive) and believable. We need to do more here than just employ efficient technology, so we write individual biographies for all of our NPCs and let them follow their daily routines. At the same time, however, their AI lets them react freely to events happening around them.
GB: You're also implementing a "believable" day/night cycle. What sort of changes can we expect to take place when the sun rises and sets on Aventuria?
Carsten: Especially at night, Aventuria will look like the dangerous place it is. We use the few nighttime light sources in such a way that an especially mystical atmosphere is created. Also, NPCs, animals, and monsters act differently at night, which can be an advantage but also a disadvantage for the player. Many quests will be easier to solve during the night than during the day, and vice versa.
GB: Demonicon will have a multiplayer component, though very little is known about it at this point. What are your goals for multiplayer? Will there be a cooperative mode, and, if so, will it allow friends to play through the entire single player campaign as a team? How about PvP?
Carsten: Especially in a role-playing game, you have to deliver more than just a simple deathmatch mode. That's why in Demonicon, we provide the possibility to play the single-player campaign cooperatively with up to eight players. Apart from that, we're planning additional, multiplayer-only quests and an arena mode for PvP.
GB: Since Demonicon will be hitting consoles, do you have any plans at this point for offering any type of DLC? If DLC becomes a reality, would PC gamers be able to purchase the add-ons as well?
Carsten: Naturally, a game like Demonicon is predestined for exclusive items or bonus quests that can be downloaded separately. Of course, we will provide uncomplicated access to this additional content for owners of gaming consoles and PCs as well.
Thanks for your time, Carsten!