Two Worlds II – Interview and Preview
by Mark R
It’s no secret that almost three years ago now, I drew my flaming Valermos and hacked my way through the dense forest of negativity surrounding Two Worlds on release, only to find myself in a beautiful clearing overlooking rolling vistas and a storyline with side quests that were enjoyable enough to hold my attention for a good hundred or so hours. Regardless of my own opinions though, the guy at the front door selling pitchforks and torches spitting fire was doing a roaring trade, and so the trepidation surrounding the follow up Two Worlds II already has the gaming journalists straddling the fence between mere apathy and utter disdain.
From their point of view, the question is whether it will be good enough to convince the journalists that slated the original to back the game and give it enough push to take it from relative obscurity (in terms of the big name releases coming out this year) or simply have them yelp an excited “Told you so”, rounded off with a thumb placed firmly on the nose. As someone who adored the first Two Worlds release, however, it’s not about that… it’s about whether or not it will live up to my positively grand expectations and steal my evenings away for the two or three months after the release. Thankfully, Mirek Dymek (CEO of Reality Pump) was good enough to not only put my mind at rest, but have me regress back to that childhood state of being excited to open the biggest present of all on christmas morning. At the very least, the box will be awesome!
As someone who had been looking forward to the release of “The Temptation”, I asked Mirek how far into the development of The Temptation it was before it became clear that it was going to grow beyond simply being an add-on to Two Worlds…
When the “The Temptation” came out, it was based on the technical foundation of “Two Worlds 1” – so the effort involved in this development phase was transparent and manageable. We had one aim here – and that was to create new content. But even this type of work takes time, and we eventually realized that a game based on the old engine could no longer be cutting-edge. That’s why we took a radical step at a very early stage and started developing something completely new – something that really advances the RPG genre.
Will Two Worlds II follow the “open world” format of Two Worlds to allow the player to go at their own pace without being shoe-horned into any linear story lines?
In “Two Worlds II” sandbox fans and gamers alike will really get their money’s worth, because the story is solidly written and exciting. This time the main story is divided into several chapters. During the introductory chapters, a player can’t explore as freely as he might like to – but when these chapters have been completed, the whole of Antaloor is open for exploration. Then it’s up to the player whether he wants to follow the main quest or go his own way into the various different regions.
Following on from Two Worlds was never going to be easy in terms of realistic landscapes (moving from desert to coastline etc), so are there any new terrain types in Two Worlds II that we’ve not come across before?
Yes, of course! Players can look forward to a whole host of new regions, including the Savannah, the Jungle and the “Swallows”. And each of these regions has its own flora and fauna – the player will encounter rhino and baboons on the Savannah, for example, and leopards and huge lizards in the jungle. Apart from that, the well-known areas like desert and coastal strips have been optically improved beyond all recognition – they are tremendously realistic now.
These are physically correct, calculated objects. The introduction of light-linked, physical effects enables completely new benchmarks as far as atmosphere is concerned. Lanterns swaying in the wind or sputtering fire torches are calculated with their cast shadows in realtime and integrated into the game. The result of this is a uniquely realistic light design.
Overall, how much development time would you say has gone into making Two Worlds II more environmentally realistic than other games in the RPG genre?
It’s very difficult to estimate development times for each individual area. These tasks have become closely intertwined with one another – all I can tell you is that we’ve invested a tremendous amount of time and effort into making Antaloor as realistic as possible. This involves the technical aspects, like textures and particle effects, plus the multitude of various integrated objects and the AI behavior of the NPCs. We believe that players must feel as though they are being drawn into the game world – and that they must be constantly bombarded with ah-hah! effects. In “Two Worlds II” we’ve achieved total success in all these aspects!
Given the advances in development over the last few years, do you think it’s unfair that most RPG games are still being compared to Oblivion as the benchmark, and is it possible that Two Worlds II may become the new benchmark?
Yes, that is our objective. That’s why we planned the “Two Worlds II” project from the ground up to ensure that we established new benchmarks in the genre. We learned a heck of a lot from our first RPG development and now we’re reaping the benefit of our extremely extensive spectrum of knowledge. Thanks to numerous new game features, absolutely breathtaking graphics and the progress we’ve made story-wise, we firmly believe that we’ll take over the genre ‘throne’ with this game. But to answer the first part of your question, I really don’t mind if a game is compared to another game, even years after it’s been published. Why not? Good game ideas have an unlimited shelf life and can still be trailblazers even after a relatively long time. But we have to remember that each RPG has its own individual style and I believe that this makes a direct comparison very difficult – that’s why many of these comparisons are more or less out of date. Each game should primarily be regarded as a product on its own – people shouldn’t immediately compare a game with its alleged competitors.
I recently found myself disgusted at the poor quality of “Risen” on the XBox 360 compared to the glorious quality of the PC version, and ended up playing on the PC instead. This was primarily down to the company that ported the game from PC to XBox – is this something we’ll have to be wary of with Two Worlds II or is the quality of the XBox 360 game on par with the PC version of the game?
I can kill off your doubts on that one! Right from the outset, we established three separate task forces, one each for the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms. This enabled us to take each platform’s individual technical characteristics into account and – in particular – to address the strengths of each system. Thanks to this strategy, we have now console versions which do not differ in any way from the PC version, apart from reduced resolution of course. We have a high frame rate, no judders, no tearing. They’re all great to watch!
The mirrored floor that was mentioned in an Antaloor Post – how does the XBox 360 manage when it comes to handling such memory-intensive procedures?
The mirrored marble floor isn’t as memory-intensive as you think… it creates no problem for the console. If your are really familiar with the system architecture the marble floor is a piece of cake. Actually we don’t have any memory extensive procedures at all thanks to our previous research. That’s the reason for the great console visuals! We’re lucky in that we’re not curtailed by these limitations – we have our own engine and many years of experience in using it. Nowadays, most developers just license a successful engine and use it without even understanding the technology that makes it work. That’s why games are created to match the engine’s capabilities. We do the opposite: we designed our engine to match the demands of the game. In actual practice, we take state-of-the-art PC techniques and port them for an individual console platform. Then come the optimizing processes, which in turn are divided into several work steps. When we’re finished, we have effects that function just as well on a console as on a PC. Realizing all this, however, takes a heck of a lot of passion and hard work. We took on this challenge – and now we have radically new, technical benchmarks on the consoles – benchmarks which don’t have to hide behind a comparison with a PC. And many PC game magazine editors who tried out the console versions agree with us on that point.
The score for Two Worlds was haunting and dramatic – are you working with the same composer for Two Worlds II?
No, we have a new composer this time around for “Two Worlds II” – but the soundtrack is still outstanding. It contributes decisively to the game’s atmosphere. You can hear the first sample tracks in the Art Gallery at www.twoworlds2.com.
Should we expect to see the reputation system in Two Worlds II and, if so, will it play a major role in the storylines?
Faction dynamics is an extremely important aspect of “Two Worlds II”. In the first Two Worlds, faction affiliations were present but their existence was limited. As the player gained ranks in a faction they were given several rewards in the form of discounted items and additional quests. In “Two Worlds II”, the player’s choices in faction-affiliated quests have a direct outcome with other opposing and allying factions as well as with the rest of the world. The player will have to choose the quests he chooses to accept from different factions very carefully – because alienating opposing factions will lead to the closure of alternative quest arcs. In addition to the benefits of the discounted items and quests, allied factions will offer the player skills and items that cannot be accessed anywhere else.
Antaloor Post issue 6 talked about the new “CRAFT” system where players could create their own weaponry and armor… does this mean that everyone can have their own unique armor or are there any restrictions?
CRAFT technology symbolizes a revolutionary metallurgy system which enables the player to individually design his own weapons and armor. The possibilities are practically endless. The appearance and quality of objects can be modified using various “basic ingredients” like metals, woods and textiles.
And magic artifacts also boost the value of the player’s best creations. All creations can be broken down into their individual parts and re-used. The player can also find pots containing colors and dye his armor to match his tastes. The CRAFT system also enables excellent Balancing. There’s no fast track to unnatural super weapons here: the price for a weapons upgrade increases each time and the effectiveness of the upgrade is reduced with each work step.
Does the CRAFT system also alter the power and strength of the weaponry when you’re taking bits and pieces from existing items?
Only a whole weapon or item of armor can be broken down. I can’t make a weapon less powerful, for example, by removing a magic gemstone from it. If I decide to break down a weapon, that whole weapon must be taken apart.
Finally… how will the combat system in Two Worlds II differ from Two Worlds?
I thought you’d never ask! I’m really proud to be able to tell you that we have completely redesigned the whole combat system! It was a huge task to make combat in Antaloor a lot more vital and much more sophisticated – but we wanted it that way. So we implemented an extremely complex system using standard and special attacks – and thanks to the MoSens system we succeeded in integrating these attacks into the game – and they all flow together beautifully in the game… but let’s get back to the combat part of your question. The player has three different basic attacks – a normal strike, a lunge and a leaping attack. These three are supplemented by active parrying with a weapon or a shield. If the player has distributed his skill points accordingly, more special moves will open up for him – and if he executes these moves successfully, he’ll even get a short video sequence of his actions! Highlights of these moves include a Finishing Move and felling an opponent with a karate kick! Flexible execution of this move is very important, because an opponent will notice if the same attack is always used – he will then change his defenses to match that attack and the damage caused will be steadily reduced. This can’t happen if an attack is flexible and varied!
Based on the nuggets from the Antaloor Post, our previous look ahead at the game and Mirek Dymek’s answers above, you’re currently spending time with a very excited gamer. Oblivion allowed us to take our weaponry and enchant it to provide an advantage over our opponents, but Two Worlds II takes this to a whole new level whereby the player can create their own individual weapons from disassembling existing weaponry… just like the A-Team but people WILL get hurt. As a self confessed graphics whore, the addition of realistic environment with particle physics that interact with the surroundings (swirling dust clouds as you pass through) will hopefully elevate the realism and make the game more immersive than its predecessor.
My only problem… is whether to take a punt on the XBox 360 version and give it the benefit of the doubt, or play safe with the PC.
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