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Piranha Bytes Interview on Risen 2: Dark Waters

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Piranha Bytes Interview on Risen 2: Dark Waters

Interview - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Tue 9 August 2011, 15:13:18

Tags: Piranha Bytes; Risen 2: Dark Waters

Björn Pankratz, Project Director at Piranha Bytes, was kind enough to answer our questions. Here we go:
1. Why pirates?
We think that the pirate setting with its atmosphere and the gritty world goes perfectly with the Piranha-Bytes style of games. We already had pirates in our previous games – for example in Gothic 2 – Night of the Raven or in Risen. So this time we decided to dedicate a whole game to the topic.
2. What lessons have you learned from Risen? Lessons that could be translated into meaningful gameplay improvements?
As always we collected all the feedback from our fans and the press before we started to design Risen 2. One of the main critic points was the way the story was told in Risen 1. The beginning of the game seemed overwhelmingly complex for beginners because of all the freedom, and the fourth chapter was too thin story-wise.
To tackle these problems we applied a technique we call the “pearl principle”. We changed the game structure in a way that the game starts with a small world that becomes bigger and more open the longer you play. The story is like a string of pearls that is split up at certain points, but comes back together again at a later point. Through that we make sure that there won’t be a very thin last chapter again.
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of PB games, in your opinion?  How will the weaknesses be addressed in Risen 2?
With Gothic 1 we created something new and innovative – an Action RPG in a seamless world with a lot of dialogs and a great story. We stuck to that principle since then, but PB games were always hard to pin down. What was it? A fantasy RPG? Well, yes. But the game world wasn’t filled with elves and dwarfs. You had to play it to understand the experience. An Action RPG? Well yes, but there’s a lot more dialog than in Diablo. But now with Risen 2 it’s much easier if somebody asks you what type of game Risen 2 is – it’s a pirate action RPG!

4. We've heard that Risen 2 is the most expensive PB project. Why? What  will this extra budget give us?

Some of the main critic points of Risen 1 were graphics-related. The animations looked poor, the women were ugly and the characters in general didn’t show the quality that other AAA role-playing games had. That was just down to the fact that we just didn’t have the internal resources to create all these great-looking graphics assets. We’re still a small team compared to our competitors. Now for Risen 2 we knew that we had to improve in that area, but we also didn’t want to sacrifice our team atmosphere. So we asked a lot of specialized companies to help us in that area. They created many of the sophisticated graphic assets, and we used them to build the game. Through that we can have it both – an internal team and a great looking game. So where did that budget go? Into all these graphic assets that make up the beautiful world of Risen 2!
5. Michael Hoge said that the combat system has been rebuilt. He also said "what we improved mainly is the look of combat". So, what's been changed and why?
The combat in Risen 1 was challenging and had the right complexity, but it didn’t look great. So we tripled the number of animations and added some special moves that add to the variety of the combat. We also changed the controls of the character that makes it now much easier to fight against multiple enemies.
6. Deep Silver's Doberlec mentioned that decisions of your character will have a strong impact on the gameworld. What can we expect?
At many points in the game the player has to make decisions that will influence the rest of the game. We already unveiled the fact that the player will have a crew on his boat. So dependent on what decisions the player makes and which paths he chooses to take other crew members will be available to him in his missions, altering even cut-scenes and other events. That’s one example of many.
7. Björn Pankratz said that the dialogue system has been improved and that we'll get more distinctive answers that will help us "shape our character". Care to elaborate? Any chance to see stat- and skill-checks in a PB game one day?
We’ve changed the character development system from ground up, and some of the skills also influence the choices the player has in dialogs. Plus we also tried to create more optional answers for each dialog giving the player the chance to ‘role-play’ a lot more with his character.
8. According to Daniel Oberlerchner, Risen was too non-linear (people could go anywhere, which, apparently, was an issue). Risen 2 promises to be more linear, with mandatory quests blocking access to new areas/islands. Do you think it's a good idea? If yes, why?
We don’t think that linearity in general is a good idea. It actually depends when in the game it’s used. At the start of the game more linearity is good, because the player doesn’t know a lot about the game world, the controls and the mechanics. If at that point in the game too much freedom and too many choices are presented the player is overwhelmed. So we decided to make the game start a little more linear than usually. But later in the game, when the player has already mastered all the basics, freedom and openness are good. And that’s the way we implemented it.
9. Also Daniel mentioned that the difficulty of the first game was "frustrating" in the beginning, so to, uh, welcome new players you can't die in the first few hours. Any concerns that lengthy tutorials (according to Daniel, the first island IS a tutorial) and low difficulty can turn off the hardcore audience?
No, that came across the wrong way. We don’t believe in lengthy and boring tutorials. The game starts in a small area, and every time the player does something for the first time we explain to him how to do that. But it’s still already the real game! So you dive right into the story and the game world, and learn to master the game as a side effect.
10. Björn said that providing multiple quest solutions is one of the priorities. With that in mind, is there any chance to see dialogue skills in Risen 2? Also, how is the character system looking so far? Anything you can share?
As I said before, we’ve changed the character system from ground up. All the stats, skills and perks revolve around the pirate theme. But we don’t want to give away everything already. Stay tuned for more information on that!

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