Guido Henkel Interview

There's a quick interview with RPG-designing veteran Guido Henkel on The Nerd Cave this evening, during which the conversation briefly treads into Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny, Neverwinter Nights, Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, and Deathfire territory. Here's the intro to whet your appetite:
For the readers that don't know who you are, can you please introduce yourself and tell us exactly what you do.

Can you talk a little bit about some of the gaming projects you have worked on in the past? Most notably Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny and Neverwinter Nights.

I've started writing computer games on the Apple II in the very early 80s and had my first game published in 1983 or so. I was a huge fan of text adventure games in those days and the first few years I focused on that genre. However, I was attracted by role-playing games a lot and eventually let role-playing influences flow into these text adventure games. (Drachen von Laas,) for example, a game that was published in Germany only, already had a full blown phased combat system, even though the game itself was still a text adventure game.

Eventually I made the switch to full role-playing games (RPG) and (Spirit of Adventure) was the first hard core RPG I wrote, together with my friend and business partner Hans-Jürgen Brändle, at the time. The success of that game opened the door for us to obtain the license for (Das Schwarze Auge,) a famous German pen&paper role-playing game. We began developing games in that universe, which were subsequently released as the (Realms of Arkania) trilogy.

After the third game in the series I left Attic Entertainment Software, the company that I had co-founded, and moved to the US where I worked for Interplay Productions for a while. During my tenure there I worked on (Fallout II,) and (Planescape: Torment), and also helped start up the (Neverwinter Nights) project, among others.

All in all, I've been in the games industry for just about 30 years now, pretty much since its infancy, really, when computer games were still sold in Zip-lock bags.

What role did you play in the development of these particular titles?

(Blade of Destiny) was developed by a very small team. Attic was still pretty much a start-up company at that time. As a result everyone had to multi-task as much as possible, and we tapped into everyone's full abilities. In my case that meant that I was working on the game as a designer, a programmer, and a producer, and later on also as the publicist and business developer when we began to reach out, looking for partners to release the game internationally. I was wearing every hat imaginable on that project as well as all the other (Realms of Arkania) games. It was my job at Attic, in a sense, to be the Jack-of-all-Trades.

As for (Neverwinter Nights,) I was Interplay's internal producer for the game during its start-up phase. As such I was part of various brainstorming sessions where the foundation for the game was laid, and where technical questions and obstacles were tackled. Apart from the look of the game and the technical design of the block-based level design of the game, we did research on the game system itself, as the AD&D 3.0 rule set was just about to be released, and we wanted to see if we should or should not use it for (Neverwinter Nights.)

I was working hand in hand with Trent Oster on this, who was the producer for the game at Bioware. He was really the driving force behind the project while I was there only to lend my experience to the discussions. I left Interplay a few months after (Neverwinter Nights) really went into development, so my contributions to the game happened really just at the beginning.