Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Codex Interview RPG Codex Interview: Ion Hardie on Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader

Discussion in 'RPG Codex News & Content Comments' started by Infinitron, Jan 18, 2017.

  1. Make America Great Again Infinitron Trade Master Patron

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    Tags: Black Isle Studios; Chris Avellone; Interplay; Ion Hardie; Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader; Reflexive Entertainment

    During Black Isle Studios' twilight years, Interplay had them publishing all sorts of third-party titles in a vain effort to stay afloat. Possibly the most interesting of these was Reflexive Entertainment's Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader, an action-RPG set in an alternate history fantasy Renaissance Europe. Due to its unique adaptation of Fallout's SPECIAL system, Lionheart had a good deal of hype going for it amongst the Black Isle fanbase. Unfortunately, despite a promising opening chapter set in the city of Barcelona, the game turned out to be a big disappointment and was soon relegated to the status of forgotten curiosity as the genre moved on to other things.

    To this day, every so often somebody on the Codex will remember Lionheart, and wonder what the hell happened. A few months ago, community member Fairfax decided to finally do something about that. He established contact with lead designer Ion Hardie and via an extended email correspondence, got the details behind the game's troubled development. As an added bonus (and since it took us way too long to get around to posting this) he also got a few words from Chris Avellone, who had a small oversight role on the project. Read and enjoy:

    Fairfax: Yes, most reviews focus on how the game got worse after Barcelona, and I agree, but the game deserved more credit.

    Ion: We should have just made the game shorter, cut out England entirely and focused on the ending scene. We tried to do too much in the time we had. Black Isle was going under and was late with just about every milestone payment...we had to hire people that we didn't have their first paycheck for, which is always fun.

    Fairfax: Did you get the milestone payments later?

    Ion: We had to withhold the game eventually...at the end, they asked us to trust that they would pay us, but we had too many bad experiences for that. We did get the money, but only because we played hard ball...and Feargus was on our side.

    In hindsight, it's one of the better stories of the development of the game, though we didn't think so at the time.

    Fairfax: A lot of people who really disliked the game recognize Barcelona had good parts. I liked it a lot, and I felt it was a glimpse of what the game could've been under different circumstances. Did the payment issues with Interplay kick in while you guys were still developing Barcelona?

    Ion: It started right as we signed the contract...they had issues getting us the initial payment. However, we were about to let a lot of people go as our "hand to mouth" development strategy wasn't working very well. As dire as Interplay's situation was, ours was at least as much so. We were literally one day away from making some really hard choices that might have shut us down for good when I heard we got the contract. As hard as it was to get money from them, Lionheart still kept us alive, and I credit Feargus for that.

    To this day, I still buy whatever Obsidian makes to support them/him for helping us get the Lionheart contract. I bought one of the signed copies of Pillars of Eternity through Kickstarter for a few hundred dollars, and it sits on my shelf, unopened. I'll play it someday...when I make the time.

    Fairfax: And when did that happen? I've never found information on how long the game's development took.

    Ion: It took 18 months from story ideas first being thrown together to gold master, and we had to hire people in the middle, and sometimes without their first paycheck (as we discussed). We revamped the story with "the Disjunction" a few months in, and that changed everything (for the better).

    Fairfax: In terms of budget, how did it compare to the other Black Isle games, for instance? And do you know how many copies were sold?

    Ion: I could have told you those numbers at one point, but they've vanished in the mists of my memory. However, I do know we got the contract because we said we'd do it cheaper than just about anyone. Another remnant of our failed "hand to mouth" strategy and a sign of how desperate Interplay was that they took it. In retrospect, we bid way too low…

    Fairfax: Do you remember if it was profitable?

    Ion: I don't think it was profitable. The fan backlash was loud and hard to miss. They saw it as a treasured developer dying a slow death, and they wanted something to save them...and Lionheart wasn't it.

    Fairfax: You mean Interplay wanting to save Black Isle?

    Ion: I mean the fans wanting Lionheart to save Black Isle. The writing was on the wall that trouble was brewing. In the end, Feargus offered to make Black Isle work for an ownership stake, but Interplay said no. Probably better for Feargus that it didn't work out.​

    Read the full article: RPG Codex Interview: Ion Hardie on Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader
     
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  2. Lostpleb Novice

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    The only bad thing about Lionheart is that it was a damn good demo shipped as a full game.
     
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  3. Make America Great Again Kem0sabe Arcane

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    Barcelona was indeed pretty fun, but the rest of the game was devoid of quality content, and as was pointed in the interview... That combat system.

    I remember reading about the setting and becoming enthralled by the fantasy twist and the world's colliding thing, which is very reminiscent of the Witcher series and how magic entered the world there.
     
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  4. abnaxus Arcane

    abnaxus
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    Has anyone even managed to finish this game?
     
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  5. Make America Great Again Alienman Arcane Patron

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    Didn't know they made Star Trek: Away Team. Really liked that game. Actually now that I think about it the engine used in that game is very similar. Wonder if it is the same.
     
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  6. Fairfax Arcane

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    Shoutouts to the users who asked questions, Chris Avellone for the comments and Ion for doing it in the first place. He actually did the interview in the middle of a trip and was very nice about the whole thing. I'm glad he's doing much better now.
     
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  7. I'm With Her Mustawd for prison Arcane

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    Warning to all that your accountants are extremely important
     
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  8. o_dawg Novice

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    I finished the game. Someone else in the world did at some point as well, since I had to refer to a FAQ a few times to solve some areas.
     
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  9. Jedi Master Radek Arcane

    Jedi Master Radek
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    Great job!
    [​IMG]
     
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  10. Au Ellai Barely Literate

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    This is an awesome interview. I remember getting hyped for the game and excitedly buying it on launch day, only to be slowly disappointed over the next few days until I just kinda stopped. Don't remember how far I got, not even sure I got past the first city. The game felt like it was brimming with potential but so many aspects just felt unfinished, and the combat wasn't any fun, especially since I was expecting turn-based due to the SPECIAL Fallout lineage. I thought for some reason it'd have a realtime/turn-based toggle like Arcanum did. One thing I loved was how they gave your experience for stealth for sneaking past an enemy that was roughly equal to the amount you'd have gotten for killing it. I tend to take violence over stealth just because it's incentivized by exp, so I thought it was really clever essentially giving you the same incentive for stealth. Unfortunately nothing else in the game was quite that clever.
     
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  11. oldmanpaco Master of Siestas

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    Why did I never know that's why they lost the license? I always assumed WotC lost faith in them or something.
     
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  12. Florian Gheorghe Learned

    Florian Gheorghe
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    Man, I remember this game as I did played the demo and liked it a lot. It also uses the SPECIAL system. I did not get to play it more because of the bad reviews. Did anyone got to finish it? Maybe I can play it now. It still looks great after all these years. Thank you for the great interview!
     
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  13. Make America Great Again ERYFKRAD Arcane Patron

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  14. Florian Gheorghe Learned

    Florian Gheorghe
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    The game is still better then Wasteland 2 right? :D
     
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  15. Elwro Arcane Patron

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    I remember it also for one of the worst cases of level scaling in history.

    There was an option to restart the game while keeping your character's levels. I remember being completely slaughtered after Toulouse because earlier I had insisted that my char develop dialogue skills. So I decided to restart and try different things in Barcelona. Well, soon afterwards it turned out that the mundane enemies outside of the city were roflstomping me to the ground.
     
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  16. Fairfax Arcane

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    Probably because not much was known about BG3 at the time, plus the D&D licence became a mess after Hasbro was bought by Atari, and Interplay's financial troubles were an even bigger mess.
    Here's what happened, according to one of their reports:
    At that point, Interplay owed money to Atari, Warner, the IRS, their employees and others. The "accounting error" is an explanation other former devs have mentioned before, but it was just the management's attempt at damage control. They simply couldn't pay their debts, and at one point they almost got evicted from their offices for failing to pay rent.

    I've finished it, and as I mention in the review, I wouldn't recommend it.
     
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  17. karfhud Learned

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    Nice interview, thanks for that. Good to get some insight.

    I've been wondering, though: why did Interplay, in the dire straits that they were in, go with an idea that's fairly risky, rather than try something with a higher chance of success? They had the Star Trek IP, right? They could also, maybe, strike a deal of some sorts between Black Isle and Reflexive on something like IWD3? (I don't know what Icewind Dale 2 sales were like, but the critical reception seemed to be at least satisfying)
     
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  18. Make America Great Again Zorba the Hutt Arcane Weasel

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    Interesting interview, thanks, never played this game but feel like checking out the start at least now :salute:
     
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  19. Make America Great Again markec Arcane Patron

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    As I said in another topic, I was pretty hyped for the game due Black Isle being involved and setting being something original and interesting. But the moment I saw Reflexive Entertainment logo I got bad feeling about it seeing how just recently I got disappointed by Away Squad.

    The game could have been good despite shitty combat if only majority of game wasnt nothing but combat.
     
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  20. Apan Scholar

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    Thanks for the interview!
     
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  21. Goral Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

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    That seems impossible but if that's true kudos to them that they've managed to release the game at all. I wonder what other Lionheart creators are doing now though, it seems they've abandoned gaming industry.
     
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  22. laclongquan Arcane

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    I was goddamn hyped for Lionheart too~
     
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  23. Tito Anic Savant

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    I liked "Lionheart" very much (S.P.E.C.I.A.L, exploration, alternative history), almost beat it with pugilist, but stopped after i wasted healing resources (healing pots doesnt renew in shops:?). Would be great if somebody fix combat and economy in game.
     
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  24. Fairfax Arcane

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    Interplay at the time couldn't tell what was risky and what had higher chance of success. As Ion said, they saw Lionheart as an opportunity to make a quick buck. As for Icewind Dale, IWD2 was still being developed when the Lionheart contract was signed.
    One big issue is that they weren't counting on their stock going to shit for good. By Dec 2001 it was being sold for ~$0.50. NASDAQ delists companies with a share price below $1, but they give companies time to recover. Interplay stock went from ~$0.50 in early 2002 to ~$0.08 by the time it was delisted in October 2002.

    Many of them stayed at Reflexive for years, but I couldn't find much from after they were bought by Amazon.
     
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  25. Nazrim Eldrak Educated

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    Good read! I enjoyed the honest and insightful interview very much.
    I played and own Lionheart:Legacy of the Crusador and I agree that the city Barcelona is the best part.
    Leaving the city completely behind, the gameplay is getting more focused on fighting enemies without much story.
    It is a little bit sad, because the world seems very fascinating.
    Spoiler ahead:
    Show Spoiler
    The endboss is an Islamic State looking guy who transforms himself into a Dragon and if you are not prepared he will fuck you up! No kidding:mixedemotions:
     
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