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RPG Codex Interview: Dan Vávra (Warhorse Studios)
Interview - posted by Zed on Mon 11 February 2013, 20:24:58Tags: Dan Vávra; Kingdom Come: Deliverance; Warhorse Studios
There's not a whole lot we know about Praguian developer Warhorse Studios' current project. So far untitled, the game they are working on is set in a historically accurate medieval world. We know that Warhorse will try to combine an open world experience with notable storytelling, as this is very much the strength of the studios - the people there have been involved in games such as Mafia 1 & 2, Operation Flashpoint and ARMA. They have also said the untitled game is an RPG. Like, really an RPG. Besides a leaked engine demonstration (see video below), that's just about everything we know of the game today.
I sent a series of questions to creative director Dan Vávra (whom you may have seen lurking the Codex) for the purpose of getting some insight into his creative thinking, but also, perhaps, learning a little more of what will go into Warhorse's first game.
Warhorse Studios got the attention of the RPG community by announcing the licensing of CryEngine 3 to develop an ambitious open-world RPG. For the purpose of this interview, I'll just call the game "Warhorse RPG". While the game remains unannounced, what can you tell us about the state of it? There was a video leaked from a presentation of yours not too long ago, showing some really impressive visuals. Should we expect big announcements this year?
Speaking of paying for development... What are your thoughts on crowdfunding, or pre-orders, as means to at least partially fund a game? Recently, there has been talk of Larian Studios going that route to raise some additional funds for their projects.
Warhorse Studios personnel have quite a bit of past experience working on 'realistic' titles. Not only in terms of gameplay realism, but also game world realism. It sounds like that's your approach for Warhorse RPG as well. What does game world realism entail when creating a fictional medieval world? Have you forced any must-read literature or must-see movies on the team?
One time, one of our graphic artists was creating a model of a pie. It looked absolutely photorealistic. But it had icing sugar on top. So I told him that it's great, but that regular people didn’t use sugar that much and icing sugar didn’t exist. He was not happy. And if that’s not enough, we consult a lot of stuff with three historians—people who do living history and fencers.
The jolly folks at Warhorse Studios, with Dan Vávra on the far right (with the dog).
What sort of realism is most important to you? Realistic gameplay, realistic game world, or realistic behavior? In regards to Warhorse RPG, in what areas are you striving for realism?
A real-world example: I am making a castle for my game. It might be a fantasy game, so I may mix different architectonic styles or came up with my own, but I still have to stick to some rules. Are there long-range weapons in my world? Are there any flying enemies? Who lives in the castle? How will it be defended? When you think about such things, you could never design those absurd caricatures of medieval castles you may find in most RPGs. The Witcher is one of the few exceptions. Probably because those guys are from Poland, and unlike Americans, they have real medieval castles all around them.
Speaking of the Witcher—The Witcher 3 was announced recently, with the main feature being that the game will have an open world approach. We have also heard speculation about Dragon Age 3 moving towards having a more open world as well. Why this sudden interest in open worlds for RPGs, do you think?
Ah yes, Skyrim. I suppose it's the de facto king of the hill. What are your thoughts on Skyrim?
The engine presentation. With over half a million hits on YouTube, it has garnered quite a bit of attention.
You are obviously passionate about medieval Europe, but you have also created Mafia I & II, set in prohibition-era gangster America. Are there any other settings that interest you? Something you'd like to work with in a hypothetical future?
To touch on one of the Codex' favorite subjects: what do you think makes an RPG? In the context of open world games, the line between simulation/adventure and RPG seems quite blurry. What makes Warhorse RPG qualify as an RPG, for instance?
Today, computers are powerful enough for accurate real-time visuals with all the simulation calculated in the background, and the controls are so sophisticated that it's possible to make very accurate skill-based simulation of combat or movement. So the RPG is no more about the dices and stats—it could be completely skill-based and it will finally resemble the real world as we all desired back in the days of pen and paper. Of course, a lot of people who are used to old rules or don’t like skill-based video games will not like it, but that's not important. Of course, you can still have character progression, and it's necessary to display it through stats, because you can't feel that your videogame character is hungry or feels pain and how much. Stats are also needed for things like the simulation of intelligence, persuasion or speech, because voice and face recognition is not up there for AI to recognize if you are lying or how you grimace as your speak in-game. So we have to simulate that through some stats and virtual dice throws. But one day, the ideal RPG should be like the famous Star Trek Holodeck. For me it's about that. Simply put, RPG is about role-playing in a complex world with lot of possibilities and about the development of my character. The more real it is, the better.
Does your definition of a open world game include multiple alternative ways to solve quests? You say "RPG is about role-playing in a complex world with lot of possibilities and about the development of my character". What kind of possibilities are important to you, exactly?
Huge thanks to Dan Vávra for taking the time to answer our questions.
Thanks to Crooked Bee, too!