After releasing flagship title Drakan: Order of the Flame for the home computer, Surreal Software has moved from the PC to console platform. Now the sequel to Drakan has hit Sony PlayStation 2, and we have an interview with Tim Ebling, Lead Programmer at Surreal Software on Drakan: The Ancients' Gates concerning the new game.
: What was the main reason that Surreal decided to work with the PlayStation 2 after the first game in the Drakan series was released for the PC? Tim Ebling (TE)
: When the specs for the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system were first released to developers, it was clear to many in the industry that for the first time, a major video game console would pack enough processing punch to even out-perform the average PC. As such, the PS2 proved a powerful lure to many PC developers, including Surreal. Not only that, but we knew we had something special with Drakan for PC, and moving to a console environment would give us the opportunity to share the world of Drakan with a much larger audience. GT
: How does Drakan: The Ancients' Gates stand out and can it identify amongst the large library that the PlayStation 2 has? TE
: While Drakan does borrow certain gameplay elements from different genres, the way that it combines these makes for a completely new gaming experience which really distinguishes itself from other titles currently shipping for the PS2. First of all, in terms of sheer size, it boasts one of the largest, if not the largest, playable areas of any PS2 game. Where else can a player soar as a dragon high above the terrain and see mountains far in the distance, then subsequently fly to those mountains, dismount, and use Rynn to explore amid individual blades of grass? Couple this graphics engine with the unique combination of mounted aerial dragon combat and ground-based melee and magic combat, and you've got something really special. GT
: Considering the original Drakan game was on the PC, are there any concerns about the game not reaching the same audience that enjoyed the PC prequel? TE
: We hope our fans of the PC version will try out Drakan: The Ancients' Gates on the PS2. GT
: The spell system (using the left analog stick to make hand motions) sounds really cool. Could you explain how it works in the game? TE
: Sure. If Rynn is not equipped with a melee weapon (such as a sword), then by holding the circle button, Rynn's left hand rises up and begins to glow with power. Using the D-pad the player can move her hand in four different directions. By using particular combinations of hand movements, one of up to ten different spells may be cast. There are offensive spells, such as Fireball and Soul Steal, and defensive spells such as Regenerate and Fear. Each spell has three different levels of power, each of which can be attained at different points throughout the game, based on using gold or performing quests and having enough magical skill points. GT
: What other benefits are provided in utilizing the Dual Shock controller in the sequel? TE
: By using the analog stick, we were able to take advantage of our animation blending system in a pretty cool way. The system allows Rynn to smoothly blend her forward movement animation from a stealthy sneak to a full-out run, depending on how far the stick is held forward. If the stick is held halfway forward, then she does a sort of "sneaky run" :-) GT
: When the main character Rynn was created, what particular traits did Surreal intend for her to boast? For example, Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider series is a strong and sexy Indiana Jones-type quality. What was the intention when designing Rynn? TE
: Rynn was designed with the same "strong and sexy" traits in mind, however we wanted to balance that out with a sense of innocence as well. After all, unlike Lara, Rynn does not actively seek out adventure for the sake of adventuring. She is a reluctant hero, caught up in events much larger than herself for her own personal reasons, for example to rescue her brother, and to help her fellow humans in their time of need. So even though she can take on a dozen Wartoks in battle, she's still a simple village girl at heart. GT
: What visual flair and vast detail will this Drakan title feature over other PS2 games on the market? TE
: The size scale of Drakan: The Ancients' Gates is unlike any other game currently shipping for PS2. The player can seamlessly move from massive mountain ranges which dwarf even your huge dragon, to find yourself inside small detailed underground rooms, where you can read the minuscule script on a bottle of ale. Also, our landscape textures are procedurally blended, resulting in a look more similar to a watercolor painting than a video game. Detailed and smooth animations, incredible particle effects, high frame rate, and beautiful art all contribute to making Drakan look as detailed and realistic as possible. GT
: If this game does well at retail, is there a chance that we'll be seeing another Drakan adventure following The Ancients' Gates? TE
: A third Drakan game has certainly not been ruled out, but we will be taking a break from Drakan to work on other projects before that happens. GT
: If so, will the next Drakan title most likely be developed on the PS2 again, another console like GameCube or Xbox, or head back to the PC? TE
: Since there are currently no plans for a "Drakan 3", it is impossible to determine what platform the game would appear on. GT
: What were some noticeable advantages in working with the PlayStation 2 console? TE
: After we had migrated our engine to the PS2, the advantages became quite clear. The multiprocessor capabilities of the console worked to our advantage in areas such as our extremely high speed instance renderer and the streaming technology which allows the large world of Drakan: The Ancients' Gates to exist in limited memory. The Final Word
We'd like to thank Tim Ebling for giving us the chance to complete this interview, and wish Surreal Software the best in future titles.
Moreover, be sure to check back with Gaming Target for the full review of Drakan: The Ancients' Gate for PlayStation 2 next week.