Visceral's lead designer on Dante's Inferno
, Greg Rizzer, sat down for a roundtable discussion on the upcoming downloadable content pack entitled Trials of St. Lucia. Similar in fashion to the arena battles brought to you by the Gates of Hell mode upon completion of the campaign, the DLC introduces a new character with possibilities for online co-op play, new enemies, and user-generated content with the level editor when the pack hits shelves April 29th. Here is what my fellow game journalists and I had to discover.
Miguel Concepcion, Examiner: Knowing how much your team prides itself on the 60 frames per second rate in Dante's Inferno, could you go over any of the challenges you guy might have had in optimizing this for the co-op? I imagine it could not have been easy to keep that frame rate consistent.
One of the things we had to do when we started designing The Trials of St. Lucia was to create Lucy as a separate character. I'm sure you guys know of the little technical aspects that when you add more bones in a game engine, the more they have to render these characters. We didn't want to just do another character that looks like a reskined Dante; we obviously knew people would call us on that.
As soon as we created Lucie, including the complexity of her rig with those wings and everything like that, we were also very aware of trying to create a co-op experience. It means usually that you'd probably want more enemies on-screen because you're obviously having you and your friend playing online. One of the things we actually did was go through all of the existing characters from the single player game and when there was time or when we had the resources to do so, we optimized all the enemies.
So basically what we did was we looked for areas where we could save on texture memory, vfx memory, and things like that. The engineering guys really did an incredible task of going through all the assets and found out where we can get memory savings and redo those characters. For the game with two players to run at 60 frames per second, we did it so that when you're creating your own trials, we have this budget meter. What it does is it keeps the creator from blowing out his budget and causing the game to run under 60 frames. We prevent the creator from causing that to happen on his end.
Jonathan Cooper, Gamervision.com: It was obviously a big decision to do cooperative play. Why did you decide on it as well as waiting to put it out in a DLC pack?
One of the things out there is God of War and we obviously draw comparisons to that game. What we wanted to do was to differentiate ourselves in the market by showing that we can do a combo melee style game like this but to do it with online play.
The scope of doing online gaming is if you're taking a single player game and have any form of competitive multiplayer or even coop, it just blows that scope of your product way, way, way, up. When those guys were busy crafting the single player experience and working on that, we were a completely separate team. We hadn't even started on Trials of Saint Lucia until the single player game was well, well into production. This was a situation where we looked at DLC opportunities but we also knew we had to minimize the risk of the single player game not shipping on time.
This is a really big expansion pack; it's not just online. We have an editor, we have user created content, we have leaderboards, and we have all these other components of taking your product online that immediately increases the scope of the product.
Stephen Hopper, Gamezone.com: In terms of the new character, Saint Lucy, what kinds of moves will she have in her repertoire that sets her apart from Dante?
One of the things with Lucy was that we wanted to make this character that not only look different, but actually played different from Dante. Our fans and gamers in general are very savvy as to when someone is putting on a fresh new coat of paint on something. We knew we had to create something with a completely different feel for her. So obviously her being an angel and with Dante's moves being approximately 70% ground attacks and 30% air attacks, with Lucy we pretty much flipped it over, giving her 30% air attacks and 70% ground attacks. It gives her a much different feel.
Once we developed this character, the guys that worked on Dante joined us and we were able to get the senior animators, character riggers, and the gameplay mechanics guys together and they were able to come and conceptualize the more aerial type of attacks from Lucy. I don't know if you had a chance to play it yet, but she really feels different. We've kind of grown accustomed to guys like Dante or Kratos and other characters in the genre with that similar-but-familiar feel. Lucy's different because she's light and quick. Her abilities are really different. When we did focus testing, we found out that hardcore gamers really noticed right away that she has a totally different feel.
Lucy's eyes were plucked out and we wanted to do this thing with the patron saint of the blind. She has this kinetic eye energy attack that's really unique. It actually made me feel like I was playing Ikaruga. It's just another thing that makes her different from Dante.
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