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Interview: Brian Fargo on Hunted: The Demon's Forge

Kevin Kelly

Brian Fargo is no stranger to the world of video game development, having originally founded Interplay back in 1984. He's worked on titles like the original Bard's Tale and Wasteland, and Interplay developed everything from Battle Chess to Fallout to Baldur's Gate. When Interplay was acquired by Titus in 2002, Fargo left and founded InXile Entertainment, which later released an updated Bard's Tale for PS2, Xbox, and PC. Now both Fargo and InXile are moving onto next-generation consoles with the swords and scorcery co-op title Hunted: The Demon's Forge.

We recently spoke to Fargo about the game, which you can find just after the break. But be warned! Just prepare yourself for the sheer about of verbiage manages to foist upon us when we asked what the initial genesis for the game was. It's quite an answer! Read on to see what he has to say about the upcoming title, including why they limited to two characters, the depth of the puzzles in the game, and boob jiggle. Yes, boob jiggle.

Gallery: Hunted: The Demon's Forge (05/04/10) | 5 Photos

You talked a little bit about the genesis of loving games like The Bard's Tale and Wizardry, which are iconic. How did you go from those to Hunted?

Here's kind of how it started really. I am at home. I'm watching TV. I'm watching movies. I'm watching the Abyss. Whatever I'm watching, and I didn't feel like anybody had done what it felt like to be in a dungeon with today's graphic standards. Let's just start with that. What would that be like, right? And it's funny seeing that onscreen now. That's what I wanted. When you go back and play with Bard's Tale, you are wandering around in the dungeons and you've got the feeling, down there, and going down below, and being lost, and finding secret doors, visually it was never what things look like now.

And so I just wanted it to where you actually felt like you are in a dungeon. That was how it started. So we started to focus on that. Then it became, "OK, well look, we are not going to roll up your characters and have a party at six." Yes. I love that kind of stuff, too, but that's not ... the modern gamer, they don't even know those things. Well, the other part, let me backup for a second. We also wanted to do a game where we weren't fighting the technology at all. I said let's do a product that the technology does exactly what it's supposed to do. And we already intimately familiar with Unreal. With that said, we looked at other technologies, but if you want to go with this kind of perspective, it does this in spades. If you want to make a flight simulator, or an open based, open world driving game, that would be an issue. But for this kind of thing it was perfect. So that was number two.

Mark Rain came down. We were kicking it around, and I was telling him what we were going to do. And he said, nobody is really doing anything with Gears of War. Nobody is doing derivatives of Gears of War, or anything else. But we were searching for what would be the combat system. So it just made sense for us at that point to take that metaphor for today's gamer and mix it but get those elements. And if you've never heard of those games before and never played them before, we still think it's cool. We still think they'll enjoy it. And the way I structured it, I was telling him, is that I think in many ways games have been dumbed down over the years. And I think it's wrong. Even when I used to do those games early on, Bard's Tale, Wasteland, there actually was a younger audience back then. People think our audience is young, but it's not true. But it really was back then. And we always aimed very high, and they always figured it out. We always gave their intelligence the benefit of the doubt. But because of the narrow structure of design, you can't let people get stuck where it's a sin.

But because we put all of this stuff off of critical path, I now have the latitude to get as deep, and as intellectual, interesting, with puzzles and riddles, as I want. Because, you don't have to do it. Nobody can complain. And so, that's why. But I think that said, most of the people are going to go do it anyway. And they are going to have fun, and they are going to solve it, and they are going to compare notes. And how did you find this? Or how did you get that? Or do all sorts of cool clever stuff.

So I guess I answered your question in a roundabout way on where it came from ... right?

How do the puzzles work in single player? Will you trigger the necessary dialogue automatically?

You'll have a journal. You build that up. The one thing that wasn't well explained there is how single player works with the puzzles. As Caddoc you have to look at the braziers in the proper order and that will trigger E'lara to do it. You see, so that way you really did have to figure it out for yourself. We just didn't make you go through the rote action of switching characters and then making her do it, you know what I mean? The puzzle itself isn't in how difficult it is to shoot it. It isn't like a moving target. It's not like that. And if there is, we are not going to play it off that way. Like, what's the point of a puzzle, right? If you're not solving it yourself?

This is Hunted with a subtitle, The Demon's Forge. Does that mean that there could be no more stories in the Hunted space? Are you guys looking at this with an eye towards a franchise?

Yeah. That's a little marketing there on that one. We don't decide all those things. But no, my idea is this. I'm doing this for 10 years, just on this one right here. We want to take this out. To me, I already know exactly what the sequel needs to be on this. So yes, we really want to fill it out. I think there is going to be a lot of really, really, positive reaction to this off-path stuff. It's going to allow people to go, "Guess what? We can go a little deeper in the game guys." People will spend the time to do it. They don't have to just run and gun every two seconds. They are willing to do these things.

Do you have to go off-path to find better weapons? Are can you cruise through the whole game with what you start with?

No, no, you'll find better weapons along the path. That don't require all that stuff. It might be very minor going down the hall, or it will be more battle-oriented. In defeating some creature, it will drop, stuff like that.

Are the puzzles a big component of the game?

For sure. Yeah it is. We like that stuff. We do. So yeah it will be a big component of it. There is going to be some that are very, very, hard that you won't figure out. You'll be scratching your head. You may see the item that you are trying to get to and you may sit there for a half an hour and say, "I give." and move on. And that's okay. Deal with it. [laughs] You can't solve them all. Or maybe you will, who knows. You can pass some up if you want. That's the biggest game design change in the last 10 years. If you go back in the very beginning, back to the Bard's Tale, Wizardry days, you would play the game. You couldn't even save your game until you got out of the dungeon. That was the most punishing of all. And then it was like, "Okay, we'll let you save your game anywhere." The purist hated that because, you just saved you game, and kick open the door. If you don't like the results, you load again. Well, too bad. And then it was the puzzles that you get stuck on. Now of course we are doing it this way.

How are the players dropped into this game? Is there a cutscene that presents the a set up?

Oh, yeah. You haven't seen any of the movies yet. None of that. This is all in-game stuff that we've been showing you. All the cinematic cut scenes, you haven't seen any of those. You asked earlier in the demo why we didn't have more characters. Well, we wanted to develop really strong characters. Like, you know, the banter's fun. She's different. She's the more, no worries, move, run forward. He's the more conservative one. There's some humor. They talk about moments in the past. This is why we focus on those two in telling a story. It's a little difficult when you go, "Oh, I'm going to choose from six different classes" or this and that. You lose that ability to do that. That's what I was asking about the different characters. Not so much we are missing the ability for it to roll in their own.

Was it pretty early on in the story process where you guys were like, "These are our two characters"? I really feel like you're missing a magic user in here.

Yeah. Early on we had a third that we were actually going to do. Then for focus reasons we thought we'd hone it down to two. But within the future, there are some things that we can do. And maybe it's only two out of three that you're playing. Whatever. We'll look at that stuff. But we are taking on a lot as is and you're better served doing the things you're doing really, really well than trying to do a little too much because then you start to fall down.

When a character is finished with the game, what's the end game? Can they go back through the game again with their new items?

Well, that, or you can also go back through as the other character now. Most if not all co-op games, they are really the same person. There is no difference. With this there is truly a difference. Then there will be some other things later which we will later discuss that make the replay significant.

There's a big co-op element to this, but what about pure multi-player, are there any challenge rooms anything in the works?

We're not telling you guys the good stuff yet. We're keeping that hidden.

So what's the scope generally, lengthwise? What are you guys thinking?

I thinking if you're going to play, just straight up, forget wandering around solving puzzles, we'll be consistent with the other games in the category. If you want to do all this other stuff we're talking about, now you're up to 20, 30, now it starts to ramp up.

It sounds like there's a lot of side quests you can do. That is almost going to double your game length?

I would expect, yes. I think that's a fair statement.

How challenging was that? Was the core game scripted, and then you added the side quests and puzzles?

Let's see. We waited until we could feel the mechanics more and then we started to do more of that stuff; what's fun and what's not fun to do. Lighting is actually, her lighting, her bow and her arrow, that was originally for firepower reasons. But then as we did it in a dark cave, guess what, it was kinda cool, and then lighting the braziers became much more significant. That would be an example of something where we took it and ran with it, even from a puzzle telling perspective. So ropes, like radius effects, that sort of stuff. We've looked at the mechanics and now we're taking them out.

What happens if you're playing co-op and you are completely far away from the other character

There will be indicators to get you right back. We're not taking it like it's an old dungeon where you actually get lost and gotta get graph paper out or need some overlay mapping system. We're not going there. There's definitely exploration. You'll find a secret door here that I never knew was here before, or your buddies will tell you, I never looked there. It will be that kind of stuff. But you won't get lost so much. I don't see that happening. We'll have things that will tell you which way to go; will automatically tell you to go back to your ally.

In the demo, E'lara tossed a vial to Caddoc and it seemed to heal him immediately. Do those work on contact?

On contact, because you could be unconscious.

Oh, he was down, right.

He was down. The only way the game ends is if you both go down.

Just like Gears.

Yeah, Gears and Halo.

You were mentioning the Unreal engine, and in Gears, you know, you guys were talking about the comparisons to that. Well, they have the Torque-bow, and a melee weapon or two. Was it easy to develop the weapons using this engine and going into this medieval space?

The ranged weapons was easy. It was the melee that was more difficult. They don't do much on melee, right? And our melee feels good. It feels satisfying. You're breaking shields and you're having your shield broken. That was more difficult.

The shields, we heard about that mechanic where you're going to have to pick up a new one occasionally. Then there's obviously weapons. Are there other items, wear-ables, armor or anything that the characters encounter?

Yeah, you'll be finding some bracers, not the full inventory but you'll be finding some stuff like that. It changes the look of your character and it's protection.

And as this plays out, do we get to learn more about these characters and their background, why they're together?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean that's what is fun. I don't know if you caught the dialogue there where he talked about, "Well, remember the last time you touched something..." So it has a very Indiana Jones feel where there will be a lot of references to other things that happen in that world. It fills them out as characters. We did The Bard's Tale, and one of good things that came out of it was the way the narrator and Bard, they way they interacted is that we're really focused on getting inside the head of what the player is thinking in the situation, and the banter gives us our ability to respond to that. And what that means is that we understand what your head is thinking, player. Because, you know, some games I play, and I'm thinking, "Did they play this game one time themselves?" Well, if there is banter that is reacting to things that you are thinking, then you know the designers played the game. And so we're very focused on that. And when that banter reinforces what's happening, it really shines.

E'lara seems to be fairly well-endowed. After noticing a couple of times in the demo, I have to ask: did you guys put some boob physics in there?

You know, Max would have been the guy to ask for that. He may have, and I am not going to say he did or he didn't, but I'm not sure. I don't know, that's a good question.

She's certainly wearing the outfit for it.

I will say physics are physics. Whatever happens, happens. So whether he tripped the screen and made it happen...[laughs] who knows.

Good talking to you. Thanks a lot.

Thank you very much.

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