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Silicon Knights' Dyack on Too Human: 'we do plan on finishing the trilogy'

Ben Gilbert
Ben Gilbert|@RealBenGilbert|May 3, 2011 9:30 AM
During the Game Developers Conference nearly two months ago, Silicon Knights head Denis Dyack met with me in a hotel overlooking that week's event at the Moscone Center. He wasn't there to show off his studio's next game -- X-Men: Destiny -- to press, but for unspecified "meetings" with unnamed folks. Spooky.

And while we touched on the subject of XM:D during the half hour, the first questions I had for Dyack were about his studio's last major release, Too Human. Primary among them: Is the Too Human trilogy dead? "No, not at all," Dyack told me. "It is still on the table and we do plan on finishing the trilogy."

When it came to other questions about Too Human, however, Dyack was far more verbose. With the intention of setting the record straight, as it were, Dyack outright denies that Too Human was in development for 10 years. "It is true that an earlier version of the general 'Too Human' concept was first shown on the PlayStation in 1998, but that was a completely different game than what was released on the Xbox 360," he said. "Among other things, the original concept was a single-player, third-person action/adventure game based on a detective called John Franks trying to discover who had killed his partner." It's a far cry from the Norse mythology-based dungeon crawler we played in 2008.

There was a period of time when Silicon Knights was working on other projects, including a GameCube remake of the first Metal Gear Solid game, Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes. Dyack says it was impossible that his studio was working on Too Human for 10 years because of this, and that "in reality, the development of the Xbox 360 game started in 2004 after MGS: Twin Snakes." He also noted that "we created an entirely new engine during this time, [so] the development time was actually extraordinarily short."

The engine Dyack is referring to, of course, is the modified version of Unreal Engine 3 that both Too Human and the company's ongoing litigation with Epic Games derives from. He added, "If it were not for our well-publicized problems with Epic, which we have outlined in our lawsuit, we would not have had the significant delays with Too Human, ultimately would not have been forced to create our engine during mid-development, and would have had a better game in a shorter period of time."

Dyack also contended that the game's average on Metacritic, currently sitting at 65, doesn't adequately represent the quality of the final product. When I brought up a common complaint reviewers had -- that the Valkyrie sequence after each death was far too long -- Dyack reiterated that the animation "is not actually 30 seconds, but closer to half of that," and pointed out that "recovering from death in Mass Effect was significantly longer than a death in Too Human ... yet those issues were rarely mentioned as negative in the reviews of Mass Effect." He did admit that "many of the reviews saying they saw the Valkyrie a lot seems to indicate that the game may have been too difficult" and that "the game wasn't tuned as well as it could have been for the casual gamer."

"Many of the reviews saying they saw the Valkyrie a lot seems to indicate that the game may have been too difficult."- Denis Dyack, founder and president of Silicon Knights

Despite some negative reviews, Dyack insisted that Silicon Knights' last title sold quite well in 2008, the year it was released. "Too Human actually outperformed almost all of the games released on Xbox 360 in 2008," he boasted, adding that it had "sold around 700,000 units" since launching around 30 months ago, "with the notable exceptions being those products that had a much greater marketing spend compared to Too Human" (referring to the Super Smash Bros. Brawls and Grand Theft Auto IVs of the world).

Dyack also wanted to point out that the game's budget was "smaller than most big budget titles, even when you include the costs of creating the Silicon Knights Engine, which were very significant," only specifically saying the total was "less than 1/3 of that inaccurate '80 million' rumor" -- which is to say "less than 27 million dollars," in case you were wondering.

As you might imagine, Dyack had lots more to say during our conversation. The story continues tomorrow with Dyack's insights into the game preview process since his company's last game was released (spoilers: he still doesn't like it!), and how he plans on handling X-Men: Destiny.