Davorin Horak (Razbor) interview
Although it has been plagued by delays and rumors, we at Adventure Gamers continue to very excited about the potential of Legacy: Dark Shadows. One of the lead designers, Davorin Horak, took some time to answer some questions for us.
Davorin, thanks for doing this interview for us! Please introduce yourself, and tell us about your work at Razbor Studios.
Well, overall I’m good looking and always wear snickers. Just kidding. I’m a crackpot for 2D graphics (paper and computer) and Visual FX in animations. In between jobs, I stick my nose in every creative process regarding Legacy. Temporarily, I work on sound FX. As our studio is rather small, from time to time I empty trash bins and make coffee. Soon I will be a father, and like to play RTCW ET. Of course, everyone in our studio is great for work with.
In Legacy, you take on the role of a young woman, Ren Silver, following the trend from games such as The Longest Journey and Syberia. What does it mean development-wise to choose to use a woman as the main character instead of the typical male 20+ that we're seeing in most other computer games?
Ah, that's not an easy question. I think that we partly used a female character because of the trend you mentioned. If you think of that issue, today everyone who play adventure games remember female characters. Maybe because female characters are exotic while men are common. Or maybe a large group of players are men and they like following the footsteps of a female character. Or in the last few years those adventure games became classics and they were very good, while others were lousy. That's one part. As for Legacy, our main negative character is a male and it is a obvious choice for his counterpart to be a female. It is also, I would say, a nice foreground for a storyline. Female characters will have to do some subtle things where male will use brute force. The tricky part is to find those subtle ways without eroding the script. It has to be funny, intelligent/logical and contain all the qualities of good entertainment.
The game seems to take its inspiration from moody, dark sci-noir films such as Blade Runner. To what extent did you go to establish the right atmosphere to the game, by means such as visual effects and music?
Oh yes, Blade Runner is from the top of the inspiration basket but not the only one. The basket is full of noir detective movies and novels, SF movies and comic books. In short, everything we like from pop culture and beyond has some influence on Legacy. The graphic identity is with the story probably the most important thing in a point & click adventure. That's because the scenes will be in front of the player's eyes much longer than in any other game genre. The player will click almost every corner of the scene, searching for clues, so he must enjoy the picture. He'll have to sense the atmosphere we created (more or less), so he can be merged with the main character. And that can be possible only if the graphics creates right mood. As a good spice on top of that comes music, special effects and animations all mixed in a good entertainment.
Not much has been revealed about the game's storyline, except that it will take place in the year 2138, and include links back to the battle of Stalingrad in 1942. What can we expect of the story?
Regarding the traffic on our forums, I conclude that people have high expectations of Legacy, especially from the storyline. It is hard to say if they will be satisfied. What you can expect is a good detective/SF/horror story settled in a future Earth with megacities, colonizations on other planets and smart computers. There is of course some ancient, mythical power involved that surfaced during the WWII battle of Stalingrad, but has it's full potential in the future world of Ren Silver. She as the leading character will be crucial in discovering what that power is.
In the demo version of the game, the player assumes control of a certain character called Jack Black. Who is he, and how big a role will he play in the final version of Legacy?
Well, Jack Black will have a very big role in the game, but players will not assume control of him any further but a few scenes at start. In the beginning it's fine because it gives you a background, a frame for the story without too much explained. Deeper in the game it would shatter focus if you have two main characters that you can control. For example, when you control Jack, you could do something, and with that information you must in a next sequence control Ren who'll have to do something to obtain the same information. It would be at least boring. As for who Jack Black is, you will have to find that for yourself .
Prominent figures in the adventure gaming industry have proclaimed the death of the point & click adventure, although Legacy is, seemingly, a “traditional” adventure. Were there ever any discussion to produce the game as a 3D adventure or even as another genre?
In the beginning there were a lot talking of what should we do. It was obvious that after a few years of FPS on the throne of gaming, and the situation that in the future FPS will dominate, we should do a FPS. But, we were not 100% sure that we could do it. Now we know that point&click adventure isn't an easier task. Also, there were shortage in adventure games and people talked about Syberia, Longest Journey, etc. After some consideration and posting our ideas on the net, we concluded that we have a good story for an adventure game, and that people want something like a classic point&click game. The rest is history. As for the death of the «traditional» adventure I can only say: «They said that western movies are dead. Nobody wants cowboys and indians any more. Then came Clint and he made Unforgiven.» I want to say that if you make good stuff, it doesn't matter what anyone said. You have good stuff and people like it. They get something good, you get the Oscar and everyone gets happy.
I know that Razbor Studios has had some problems regarding getting a publisher for Legacy. Is there any news on that matter, and is the game still scheduled for a November release?
It will be postponed, that's for sure. The problem is that the game was redesigned almost three times from the original concept. Now it's huge and it is difficult to knot everything together and we want it to be perfect. We are now at the end of the making process, and are making contacts with various publishers. We have some finishing to do and a month or two of testing. I'm sad that we had to postpone it, but it seems that nobody in this business is immune to the problem of missing deadlines.
How do you see the future of adventure games?
Like the holodeck in Star Trek. I'm not kidding. Every game is some sort of adventure. In your question you probably mean about the future of point&click adventure games. All genres (by that i mean FPS, RPG, simulation, etc.) will in the future merge into THE GAME. All different aspects of today's games will fuse in the ultimate gaming experience. Of course, that time is far ahead, but computer power is increasing rapidly, so we have to take that in our calculations. Until that stage, I believe adventure games will have their fans because it has some special charm and the full potential of the genre isn't exploited yet.
In spite of the game's locations being in 2D, the characters in Legacy are in full-blown 3D. What can you tell us about the game's graphics, and what does it mean to use 3D characters in 2D locations?
Well, if you want to make classic point&click adventure game you don't need 3D in the game, but only in the making process, because it is easier. After all, adventure games have background pictures and little images on layers in front, representing everything from props, characters and little birds that fly beetwen clouds. That approach has limitations. You have to do all things from scratch with every passing scene. With 3D characters and with use of DirectX it is possible to do things once and run them everywhere. Now you have more creative freedom. But there is a catch. Now, you have to compute depths for movable objects in a scene (characters, vehicles, etc.) in a space that does not exist. We decided to pay that price because it gave us enough freedom for what we want to do.
To American audiences, the name "Dark Shadows" is tied to a cult-classic gothic soap opera from the late 1960's that centered around vampires. Was Razbor aware of the connection? Is the allusion intentional? Should we expect vampires in the game?
I'm aware of that connection and many others with the name Legacy. Although we put a lot of allusions and citations in the game, the one you mentioned is not on a list. There will be no vampires in Legacy, but something that lurks from the shadows. Though there's nothing that Ren can't manage.
How has your company's location (Croatia) affected the development in terms of funding, facilities, etc.?
Well, it's not easy because there is a serious shortage of quality people. Only two or three games were developed in Croatia so far, and only because of someones personal enthusiasm. Above that, we know of another few trys. Unfortunately, nobody here is interested in funding such a project. So we have problems which we maybe wouldn't have if we were situated elsewhere, but who knows. Although we don't have too much, we have enough, especially energy and determination to do this for a living.
Are there any plans for any more adventure games from Razbor Studios, and what do you think about the future of adventure games?
Of course, we are known as a bunch that has too many plans. Seriously, we have two more adventures in plan. As we now have our own engine, we want to exploit it further. I presume that after the fuss we had with demo release, we don't have to worry about the future of adventure games. You just have to make it good. And that's all.