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Lionheart Interview with Ion Hardie

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Lionheart Interview with Ion Hardie

Interview - posted by Mistress on Sat 25 January 2003, 18:22:38

Tags: Ion Hardie; Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader; Reflexive Entertainment

1. Can you give us a quick and up to date introduction to Lionheart? What are the most significant features of the game? How is the game developing at this point?

Ion Hardie: You play a character that is a descendant of Richard the Lionhearted, and you enter the world of Lionheart some 400 years after Richard causes the Disjunction. The Disjunction is a divergent break within history, which briefly tore the fabric of reality and allowed for magical spirits to be released into the world. As a result of the Disjunction, history as we know it has been drastically altered. The game begins in Nueva Barcelona, a city rebuilt upon the ruins of Barcelona. Spain is preparing to release the Spanish Armada on England, who is occupying much of Northern France. The Inquisition maintains a stronghold over much of Europe in its pursuit and eradication of magic and magical beings. As a descendent of King Richard, you have inherited a legacy from him, passed down for many generations, a power he obtained during the Disjunction. As the events of this alternate history unfold before you, you must decide which path your character takes and which factions you will ally with. Each of your choices will have both immediate and long-term implications as your actions take you through the world of Lionheart. The most significant features revolve around our unique use of the SPECIAL rules system, which is now real time and includes magic. As far as development, we?re putting the finishing touches on the game and expect it to be completed in the very near future.


2. What elements of the game do you think will make it stand out from the competition? Is there anything you feel really sets it apart from the crowd?

Ion Hardie: Rich story, great graphics and historical twists. We have done a lot of historical research to try to mimic and twist history to suit our gaming purposes. Hopefully this shows in the dialog options and places that the character visits. Also, I think you will see that the graphics are top notch. I am sure that a lot of games say that, but just wait until you see the Spanish Armada in the port of Nueva Barcelona, or the dragon battles with fire scorching your screen.


3. Why choose to adapt a system designed for Fallout and a limited number of levels as opposed to design a new system from scratch developed for a fantasy, real time system?

Ion Hardie: The SPECIAL system has a vast amount of features that make it appealing to us as developers and more importantly to RPG gamers out there. Since it is a skill based system, it is entirely classless, which allows for unparalleled customization of one's character. This lets you add a great deal of personality to your character, as well as focusing only on the skills and traits that are important to you. The system is also very open-ended, allowing for almost infinite expandability. And now that we?ve added real time combat and magic, we think the system is even better than before!


4. Combat in Lionheart is real time with pause. What influenced the decision to adopt this system rather than the turnbased combat of Fallout? What was the reasoning behind this move?

Ion Hardie: Feargus Urquhart from Black Isle had done a lot of early concept work in how the system could be modified to take into account the transition to real time and the inclusion of magic. He had been interested in trying it out, and we at Reflexive had plenty of experience working in real time. We were interested in trying out something new and the switch to real time, as well as the inclusion of magic, seemed like great ways to do that.


5. What advantages do you believe the chosen approach to combat gives the game? Are there any main disadvantages you would like to note?

Ion Hardie: Some of the neat advantages, for me, revolve around melee combat, which under a real-time basis, really helps to draw the player into the world and make it feel more like a fight for your life. If the fight gets too much for the player, or you realize half way through that you have the wrong spell or items equipped, you can still pause the game, survey the battlefield, and switch your items accordingly. I personally like the real time feel quite a bit. I would imagine a disadvantage for some players might be the same reason that I like it?maybe they want something more relaxed, less intense.


6. Since Lionheart uses real time in conjunction with a "to hit" roll system, how is ranged handled? How does the interface address problems with targetting an enemy rather than running up on him? What happens if a ranged attack is heading towards a moving enemy that changes direction after a "to hit" roll was successful?

Ion Hardie: To "peel back the curtain", so to speak, every time an attack is started, and conditions are right (target is in range, nothing has interrupted the attack, etc), a roll is done. This roll determines whether the action seen a fraction of a second later will actually contact the target, miss altogether, cause a critical hit, etcetera. What this means for ranged attacks is that, when the die is rolled, the ranged weapon character is in the process of shooting their weapon. If the target is moving, then the arrow/bolt/whatever is let loose at the targets position when the arrow was fired. Let's say this roll was successful. If the target moves to the side, the arrow will still cause damage to the target, even if the graphic of the arrow is next to the target and not exactly ON the target. This is necessary to preserve the nature of the "roll". Otherwise, if you could actually avoid arrows by moving quickly around, you would have more of an action game and less of an RPG?in my opinion.


7. Can you give us an outline of the races in Lionheart? How much variation is there between each race? How greatly does choice of race impact the game?

Ion Hardie: The game will include four main races: Sylvant, Demokin, Feralkin and Pureblood Humans. Each race will begin the game with different statistics, some race-specific traits that can be chosen up front and different races can obtain race-specific perks along the way. Sylvants are among the most magical of the races. As direct descendents of parents with magical spirits, they possess unique physical traits such as metallic colored hair or skin. Demokins are part of a fiendish ancestry and often display obvious physical traits such as pointed ears or sharp teeth. However, they are often clever enough to blend inconspicuously with pureblood humans, if certain racial traits are selected. Feralkins display clear signs of a magic ancestry passed down from some bestial spirit. They exhibit very animalistic features, pointed teeth and, sometimes, clawed hands which make them easy to find in a crowd. Choice of race, especially between humans and the other "tainted" races, dramatically changes the dialog options and some quests along the way. It is much harder for a Feralkin to join the Inquisition than a human, and some merchants will give you a hard time, and worse prices, for being a tainted race. On the flip side, some people are more sympathetic to the tainted races, as they are tainted themselves. Some merchants give tainted races better prices just for who they are - all of which the player can explore through dialog and make their own conclusions.


8. How many tag skills does each race get? At what rate does each race attain perks?

Ion Hardie: Each race gets 3 tag skills, and every race gets a perk every 3 levels. The perk rate can be modified by other Perks and Traits, but the number of Perks and Traits that adjust this is kept to a minimum. Chris Avellone at Black Isle instructed us early on that messing with tag skills, and especially perk rates, was very dangerous and difficult to balance correctly. He actually suggested to us to make sure that Perk rate for every race was the same, which we did.


9. Since a player can pick various traits at the start, what traits do you feel work well together? What traits don't work well together? How well do racial traits stack with nonracial ones?

Ion Hardie: Currently, as a non-human, you have a list of Racial Traits to select from to personalize your character. Each non-human race has a unique list of 10 Racial Traits that modify your character - some substantially. We have Racial Traits that suck the life force from your enemies like a Vampire, but cause healing potions and spells to help you less. Other ones cause acid to run through your veins as blood, damaging those that cause you damage, but decreasing your resistance to certain types of attack. As far as using them in conjunction with non-racial traits, I believe all of them have been given some good balancing to make sure that non-racial traits are still useful and can add to the character overall. In short, they don?t stack to provide extreme advantages to a wily character - but I might be proved wrong by a player more wily than myself.


10. What will ensure that multiplayer quests aren't ruined by multiple people running amok? i.e. Player 1 gets a quest from A. Player 2 kills A while Player 1 is on quest. When Player 1 returns to A, what happens?

Ion Hardie: The multiplayer game that we are creating is a cooperative one. All players will have a quest log, with clearly defined goals to accomplish that are supposed to be done together. If you are playing with a person that goes around killing everything in sight, and that?s not the type of game you want to play, then you are playing with the wrong person. If your question means "what happens if that occurs accidentally", there are no safeguards for that to not take place. If you are on the other side of the map, and the other person you are playing with decides he doesn't like the way the merchant is looking at him, then the quest will be failed when the merchant that gave the quest has his throat cut.


11. Why, when the story is rooted in biblical lore, does it seem to spawn traditional high fantasy creatures? As opposed to "Eon of Tears", where they refused to include high fantasy creatures.

Ion Hardie: In short, I wanted to fight dragons. To us, the inclusion of these fantasy creatures allowed us to create a more immersive gaming experience, and was a game that we were more excited about making - and that's the key. If you find a group of people that is excited about an idea or concept or way of making a game, then the idea to start off with has merit. I wanted to see the mundane reality of Earth twisted with the fantastical creatures and situations of myth and legend. That was just our personal take.


12. Given that Lionheart has both stealth solutions and diplomatic solutions to quests, why is most of the marketing, including the recent trailer, of the game focusing on the more action/combat gameplay element rather than the roleplaying element?

Ion Hardie: I don't know what the marketing machine would answer to that one. To those "in the know" this will come as no surprise, but I have yet to receive a call from the marketing department of our publisher on ANY game I have worked on and been asked "What target are you going for"?, or "We were thinking of targeting the 13-19 year old market with this game" what do you think?. As a side note, in defense of the trailer in the off chance marketing reads this, I do want to mention that not all quests have a less violent way to solve the quest. Sometimes, you may have to kill something.


13. How does the inventory system work in Lionheart? What aspects of an inventory will it model or is it just a "By weight" system like D&D or Fallout?

Ion Hardie: It's by weight only. Inventory limits are decided as a factor of strength. The stronger you are, the more you can carry. We have an inventory window that scrolls, with sorting tabs at the top that allows the player to just look at their armor, or just their weapons, or just what quest items they are carrying around, etc. In theory you could build an incredibly strong character and really carry around a bunch of stuff - which in the chaotic world of Lionheart, is a good thing.


Thanks to Ion Hardie for taking the time to answer our questions!

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