Hunted: The Demon’s Forge Interview

InXile Entertainment execs on the future of the RPG, the nature of fantasy, changing up co-op gaming and giving Blizzard their first contract.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, March 17, 2010

Findley: Yeah, the demo isn’t exactly representative – those areas were specifically called out to make certain points. It doesn’t really reflect the percentage balance and weight of the thing, you can’t look out for that one.

Fargo: There is a deeper story thread that goes through the world, where you’ll have the opportunity to talk to spirits and stuff like that. That’s going to be up to the player, how deep you want to get into it.

[Ed: At this point Fargo and Kaufmann were called away by PR staff for another set of interviews. Curse Bethesda's even-handed attitude to the press!]

Findley: About the depth of the product, one of the things is puzzles for example. In the 90s, we could give you a puzzle, and if you couldn’t finish it, you were stuck. You’re dead in the water. You’d have to go find a guide to help you or whatever. You can’t do that any more, but that doesn’t mean you get rid of puzzles. What you need to do is make it so they can always move forward, but we can still give you puzzles of varying difficulty and what we do is reward you for that stuff.

I do love a beautiful sunset.

I do love a beautiful sunset.

For me that’s just an example of a twist, of how you need to recognise today’s player, but that doesn’t mean… Because I love the magic mouth and the riddles, ‘what the heck’s he talking about’, and I love the fact that there are going to be people who say ‘I can’t figure it out,’ but we didn’t stop you. And then you can go online and do whatever, meet with your buddies and we’ll have some really complicated ones and stuff – that’s fun stuff. I think that’s just a microcosm of the difference.

In the old days, we used to not let you save the game unless you made it a certain point – you could be five hours in and we’ll wipe out your progress. Well we can’t do that any more, but we’ll have our versions of that. Checkpoints are a version of that.

VGD: What would you say is the balance between combat and puzzles in this game, in rough percentages?

Findley: You know, probably 70-30 with combat in the lead, because that’s what people spend the most time doing. Even when you go and explore, what are you doing? You’re finding things to make you more robust in combat. Even classic Bard’s Tale you were in combat most of the time. So I don’t think it’s that different. But it’s the fact that you can stop, and look around and explore and think ‘is that a secret door back there?’ That’s the magic of it.

VGD: Regarding The Bard’s Tale, you guys were behind the Xbox and PS2 remake a few years ago…

Findley: We were feeling cheeky when we put that one together! We’d been playing role-playing games our entire lives, and we thought ‘you know what, let’s make a role-playing game where the character acts like he’s played too many role-playing games’. So we kind of had fun with that one!

VGD: Can you talk me through the mindset that took you from spoofing the role-playing genre to Hunted, which seems to be much less ironic?

Findley: We’d been involved with, I’d been involved with serious RPGs my whole life. So that was really us just feeling cheeky, but on this it was like ‘OK, let’s get back to the classic stuff that we like to do’. And then also with this particular one, we really looked at the Unreal Engine… Well, first we said let’s do a product that the engine does exactly what it’s supposed to do, so that we can spend 100 per cent of our time on the graphic fidelity and the gameplay.

That’s what this is about. Because if you try to use the Unreal Engine to make a certain kind of game – if you want to make a car racing game out of it, good luck! You can do it but it’s not really set for that. But for this kind of third-person experience, it’s perfect. So right off the bat we got to start in a place where we could focus on the important things.

Graphically it shows, I think, and hopefully you get a sense of our thinking things through, what we’re doing from a gameplay philosophy perspective, that we’ve been able to focus on just those things. So it was really getting back to our roots.

VGD: Did you ever think about having a larger playable party? I suppose that’s one way you might differentiate Hunted from a game like Army of Two…

Findley: Well, there was no Army of Two when we started! [laughs]

VGD: True! I’m sure that’s something many developers find frustrating, releasing a product two or three years in development slightly behind another product, and being accused of plagiarism.

Findley: You know, look, with all games it’s about trade-offs. Everything’s balance and trade-offs, right. And so for us I still look at it that up till now, every kind of dungeon crawler ever has only been single player. So as far as I’m concerned we’re moving up by changing to two. If there’s a pure action game that goes from two to four, or whatever, there are trade-offs involved in going from two to four, you know.

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