The Dark Eye Demonicon: Interview With Hilmar Dietrich, Head of Programming, Noumena Studios

In-depth interview about gameplay mechanics, console and PC differences and more.

The Dark Eye Demonicon is an upcoming role playing game developed by the talented bunch at Noumena Studios. The game is published by Kalypso Media and will be releasing in 2013 for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. We recently had a chat with Hilmar Dietrich, Head of Programming atNoumena Studios about how the game is shaping up, the difficulties they faced while developing the console versions and general gameplay mechanics.

Read on for the full interview below.

Kartik Mudgal: For people who are not aware of The Dark Eye: Demonicon, can you please describe what this game is about?

Hilmar Dietrich: The Dark Eye: Demonicon is a Dark Fantasy RPG focused on battle and storytelling. While trying to find his kidnapped sister Calandra and examining the strange demonic gift he carries, the main character Cairon travels the Shadowlands – a world full of mutation, demon spawn and heretic teachings. Hence there is no clear difference between good and evil in this world; he has to make hard moral decisions which have immediate impact on the world.

Kartik Mudgal: The official description states it’s a third-person RPG with brutal melee combos and dazzling magical spells, so what type of gameplay mechanics will we get to see here. How is it different from other third-person RPGs out there?

Hilmar Dietrich: The main character has a demonic gift which enables him to perform magic using his enemies’ life essence. This mechanism is directly connected to special, TDE-specific attacking maneuvers and hit chains. So, magic and combat elements support each other, while the player can focus on his preferred fighting tactics.

Furthermore, The Dark Eye: Demonicon provides a dynamic skill- and crafting system: Depending on your skilling strategy, you can, for example, brew potions and poisons using collected plants, improve your equipment and find hidden secrets. Other skills enable you to influence the story largely and to find out about magical objects and weaknesses of your enemies.

Kartik Mudgal: Was there any specific reason why you guys went the RPG route, instead of making it something else from a genre that will be easier to market?

Hilmar Dietrich: We are huge fans of the “The Dark Eye” pen-and-paper roleplaying system – some of us grew up playing it for whole weekends. Thus it was only natural for us to go that route.  Developing an RPG opens vast opportunities of storytelling, and the Shadowlands provide a great background for extreme topics, action and humor.

Kartik Mudgal: Can you describe the story a bit, specifically the part where it says “believable conflicts and ethical decision-making opportunities”?

Hilmar Dietrich: The story deals with mature topics like incest and ruthless exploitation of bodies and souls – therefore, it’s a game for adults. We think it’s important to take the influence of demonic corruption on the characters seriously and show how they cope with the permanent presence of the undead, demonic temptation and black magic everywhere.

A typical example is the quest of a cannibal who kidnaps people and eats them to empower his blood- and flesh-based magic. After you defeated him, you can decide if you want to kill him. If you do, all his prisoners will die with him because their bodies are connected to the cannibal’s life. Authorities will thank you for this, but people who lost relatives will hate you. If you let the cannibal live, he will release his prisoners, but you can’t be sure if he will keep his promise and stop his murderous trade. People will love you for having their families reunited, but as soon as people start disappearing again, this will come back to you. Shortly after this decision, you can start a side quest in which you get to know the cannibal’s teacher and get confronted with the teachings of flesh-magic yourself.

dark eye demonicon

Kartik Mudgal: How’s the battle system like? Being an RPG, it has to be quite in-depth, so can you give us a few examples?

Hilmar Dietrich: Demonicon makes use of a fast and action oriented fight mechanic. During the cause of the game Cairon encounters a wide variety of opponents based on The Dark Eye lore.

There are the undead, spiders, bandits, mages and powerful demons, which are defeated using swords, axes, throwing weapons and the demonic gift. The demonic gift allows Cairon to cast devastating spells and helps him survive battles against more advanced monsters.

Kartik Mudgal: Tell us something about the vision engine, and the graphics technology powering this game.

Hilmar Dietrich: The Vision Engine is a multiplatform engine developed by a team at Havok, which was formerly an independent company known as Trinigy. On top of that we added many graphical effects like HDR rendering, software occlusion culling, spherical harmonics based illumination and a gamma corrected rendering pipeline.

Kartik Mudgal: How big is the game’s world? And how many hours of gameplay can we expect from the game?

Hilmar Dietrich: The game will have 20 – 25 hours playing time. The player will see the City of Warunk (4-5 small levels), Clawmoor, Moloch Mountain and a secret Monastery of the Borbarad.

Kartik Mudgal: For the PC version, the possibilities are endless when it comes to mods and other things. We can also expect fantastic visuals, are you guys planning to open the game up a bit so that people can tweak it to their liking, especially when it comes to graphics?

Hilmar Dietrich: It’s important to us to deliver the best possible experience not only in terms of graphics. This is true for all platforms. Still the PC will have clearly an advantage regarding the graphics. So it’s not a secret to say it will look better on a strong machine. PC-players will also have the possibility to tweak the settings to their liking and fitting towards the power of their machine.

 dark eye demonicon

Kartik Mudgal: How will the console version be like? Will there be visual parity and are you guys finding it easy to develop on it?

Hilmar Dietrich: On PC we have a special user interface for all gamers who want to play with mouse and keyboard. All other gameplay features were identical to the PC version, so all gamers will have the same experience when they play Demonicon. The visual quality is very close to the pc version because we are not forced to switch off effects or to reduce dramatically the quality.

The development of the console version was a tough experience for our team, because we were developing only PC-games in the past. Our partner studio Gaming Minds (Port Royale-series, Patrician-series) helped us a lot with their experience so that we can release a fantastic looking version for both consoles.

 Kartik Mudgal: The game is also releasing for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. While developing for consoles did you found any advantages for the PS3 over the 360 or vice versa?

Hilmar Dietrich: Both consoles have their advantages and disadvantages. On PS3 we use the always existing hard drive to minimise the loading times which will lead to a smoother gameplay experience. On the other hand is the better graphic chip in 360. We could render some of the effects in higher quality because we are not forced to calculate many things in half precision. We try our best to get best out of both platforms but at the end their will be some slight differences.

 Kartik Mudgal:  As a developer what is your take on DRM? Do you think non-intrusive DRM would work better in some cases? Because fans seem to have a lot of problem with the intrusive kind?

Hilmar Dietrich: It’s still not decided yet what kind of DRM we will be using for The Dark Eye – Demonicon.


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