It's the mark of a good developer when they admit that they made a mistake. Not only have Reality Pump, developer of the fantasy title Two Worlds, admitted that they could of done better, they've taken the lessons learned from the first game and tried to make Two Worlds II the best game it could possibly be. Join us, as Strategy Informer talks to producer Scott Cromie:
Strategy Informer: Speaking candidly, the first Two Worlds game probably wasn't received as well as you would have liked - What lessons have you learnt from that game?
Scott Cromie: The biggest problem we ran into with the first Two Worlds was time. We decided late in production to port the title to consoles and simply lacked the time and resources to do it properly. When we began production on Two Worlds II we did so with the mindset of developing a game across all platforms. No more porting, the GRACE engine at the core of Two Worlds II was developed for uniform presentation on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, and even Mac. We’ve really created something special here. Never before have I seen a game of this size that looks this beautiful on consoles.
The second thing we really improved upon was narrative presentation. The first Two Worlds featured poorly delivered Old English dialogue that really did nothing to add to the atmosphere and came across as more of a joke than anything else. In addition, there were serious issues with a very shallow and disconnected plot structure. These were two major problems we were adamant about changing for the sequel. The complete dialogue and narrative structure of Two Worlds II was written by two critically acclaimed authors and all the voice recordings are scheduled to take place in North American studios. To be completely honest, players and editors are in for a real surprise.
Strategy Informer: What are the main improvements/changes you have made to this game that will set it apart from its predecessor?
Scott Cromie: Other than what I mentioned above, one of the major improvements we’ve made is to the combat system. The fans spoke and we listened. Not only have we added active blocking and executable combos but we’ve also completely reinvented the archery and casting system. The goal was to do what Mass Effect did with the Role Playing Shooter genre. We wanted to incorporate everything players know and love about open world RPGs while giving them the addictive combat of a hack and slash. I think gamers will be extremely happy with what we’ve managed to come up with.
Strategy Informer: Two Worlds operated with a classless-based progression system. What do you think the advantages are over class-driven models that you normally see? Is there a danger of players not specialising enough ?
Scott Cromie: There is definitely an advantage for having a classless-based system because it avoids forcing the player into one specific playing style. In other class-based RPGs, if the player chooses a Mage class they are forced into use magic as the means of completing quests. However, a classless system offers more diversity in allowing the player to truly shape the character and gameplay they want to. The player can run into the danger of investing valuable skill points in a variety of skill sets thus decreasing the effectiveness of one particular skill. A jack of all trades master of none scenario so to speak. However, when players are forced down one route, say magic, and they come across an enemy that is either immune to magic or a more powerful Mage, they are unable to effectively engage in combat. Allowing for a diversity of skill sets ensures that the player has multiple tactical options available to them. Additionally, like its predecessor, Two Worlds 2 will allow the player to digress their character in particular skill levels and reapply those skill points to other fields. This ensures that the player never “makes a mistake” in investing skill points.
Strategy Informer: One of Two Worlds' plus points was its online component, a sort of 'poor man's' MMO if you will that was intriguing to say the least - what improvements to the online aspects have you made?
Scott Cromie: Unfortunately, we are keeping the multiplayer component under wraps for the time being. What I can tell you is that this is the closest to a console MMO I’ve ever seen on a console. Look for exclusive sneak peaks a little further down the road.
Strategy Informer: One of the main problems of the last game is that the console port wasn't to the same level of quality as the PC version - what steps are you taking to ensure that doesn't happen again?
Scott Cromie: The GRACE engine powerhouse behind Two Worlds II allows for an unparalleled visual uniformity across all platforms. This is the definition of a next-generation video game experience. We’ve seen games like Dragon Age: Origins utilize great graphics and beautiful environments on the PC but fail to translate those well to consoles. We’ve made huge strides to overcome issues such as these and as a result have been featured in numerous industry publications – highlighting Reality Pump’s monumental breakthroughs in programming and design.
Several of these technological advances have been so groundbreaking that they have even been included in upcoming colligate textbooks. The fact is our breakthroughs are changing the way we are able to see and experience video games on consoles. No longer do console manufacturers need to release a new system every 2 – 3 years. The technology at the core of the GRACE engine enables graphics rendering and physics processing to be achieved on a far less expensive and advanced machine. Four years ago when Microsoft released the Xbox 360, no one could have conceived that the technology would have lasted this long. With the monumental technological advances made with the GRACE Engine, it’s no wonder why Microsoft and Sony are putting off the release of their Next-Gen consoles for another 2 – 3 years.
Have there been many difficulties in porting the game to the home console?
Scott Cromie: This is not a port. Two Worlds II is being simultaneously developed across all platforms in order to maintain a constant visual uniformity.
Strategy Informer: Will the faction dynamic still exist in the second game? If so, how have you improved on it since last time?
Scott Cromie: Faction dynamics is an extremely important aspect of Two Worlds 2. In the first Two Worlds, faction affiliations were present but their existence was limited. As the player gained ranks in a faction they were given several rewards in the form of discounted items and additional quests. In Two Worlds 2, the player’s choices in faction affiliated quests have a direct outcome with other opposing and allying factions as well as the rest of the world. The player will have to choose carefully the quests they choose to accept from different factions because alienating opposing factions will lead to closure of alternative quest arcs. In addition to the benefits of the discounted items and quests, allied factions will offer the player skills and items that cannot be accessed anywhere else.
Strategy Informer: I hear you ousted the old writing team and brought in a new one - were they really that bad?
Scott Cromie: The fact is that the original writing team wasn’t that bad. In fact, they are responsible for creating the entire Antaloor universe, laying the ground work for what we’re doing now. The problem was with presentation. We found that the original writing team, although talented, lacked the ability to effectively convey their great ideas to the player through game play scenarios. As we all know this is the trick to making a compelling title. Writing a novel or script is one thing, but finding a way to communicate a deep and enthralling narrative through an intricate web of quests in a non-linear, open world RPG is a completely different animal. The new team has come up with some ground breaking approaches to storytelling that, up to now, haven’t been seen in the genre or, for that matter, very prevalent in the industry.
Strategy Informer: The hero working with Orcs, who are the hated enemy of humans in this world I understand, opens up an interesting area in terms of story and relationships - how are you going to capitalise on this?
Scott Cromie: There is a very strong prejudice between humans and orcs hidden just beneath the surface throughout Two Worlds II. This is a very prevalent aspect of the plot and narrative structure and really adds to the dynamic nature of the interpersonal relationships that drive much of the story. Unfortunately, that’s all I can divulge at this time. Look for more character and setting details to “leak” a little ways down the road.
Strategy Informer: Do you hope to continue the Two Worlds franchise after this?
Scott Cromie: Well, you’ll have to play through Two Worlds II to find out what we may or may not have in store next.
Big words indeed. We haven't yet had a chance to garner any hands on time with Two Worlds II, so whether or not it will be as good as Cromie says it will be remains to be seen. One thing is for certain though, in such an over saturated market, Two Worlds II certainly will have a fight on its hands.