GameSpot spoke with Sirtech's director of product development, Ian Currie, about the upcoming role-playing game Wizardry 8. We asked him about the game's current status, its long development, and how it differs from the previous games in the long-running series. We also asked about Sirtech's efforts to find a publisher for the game, now that it is nearing completion, and about the company's plans for the next games in the series. The full interview is posted below.
GameSpot: First, let's talk about the Wizardry 8 development team. How many people worked on the game? Did most of them work on the previous Wizardry games?
Ian Currie: Hmm. I don't have an exact count, but the team was fairly large, and not all the people worked on it the entire duration of the product cycle. The core team was about 14 people, but it probably goes up into the 20s. We've never had so many people work on one game before. I'd have to take a look at the credits and count them all...
GS: How long has the game been in development?
IC: The game has been in development for four years. It hasn't always been full steam ahead, though, although the last year and a half was very intense. At the beginning, we didn't have the full (or proper) staff complement or the technology. We had to overcome a few bumps related to this. We've never been so much a technology-oriented company as we are one that specializes in gameplay, and back then the various 3D engines that exist now weren't available. So, while we did license some 3D technology, a lot of it we've had to build ourselves. There were other complex issues as well--from a design perspective. One of our dilemmas was how to modernize Wizardry without completely changing the type of game it was, and another was the transformation from 2D to 3D and all the issues that come with such a change.
GS: You've announced that the game is mostly finished. What's left to do on the game, if anything?
IC: All we're doing at this point is trying to break some of the more complex quests in the game. The game is huge and very nonlinear, so there are lots of possibilities for things to go wrong. We try to do quests in reverse order or other (sometimes stupid) things to try and break or confuse the game. Balancing the game was a huge undertaking (nonlinear games are always more challenging in this respect), but we're quite happy with it now and aren't making any more changes. Everything is pretty much done and "locked down" at this point.
GS: How does Wizardry 8 differ from the previous games in the series? What new features does it include?
IC: A million things are different in Wizardry 8. It'd take all day to list them all! But I'll mention just a few of the highlights. New features include a full 3D engine and world, 3D monsters, hugely improved monster AI, scads of new spells, a formation editor for your party (so that you can have your strong fighters protect your weak mage), full speech for both your characters and all the NPCs in the game, 36 different personalities you can choose for your characters, a new class called the gadgeteer (he makes odd-but-deadly devices out of pieces of junk he finds lying around), new special abilities for all the classes, a sophisticated NPC interaction system that combines the best aspects of both parsers and keyword systems, and a new "real death" iron man mode. Whew!
GS: Were there any mistakes in the previous Wizardry games that you specifically tried to avoid in this game?
IC: One drawback of Wizardry 7 was that it was hard for newbies to get started--they could be killed quite easily early in the game. We've designed the beginning of Wizardry 8 to be much more forgiving for new players. We've also eliminated Wizardry 7's random dice rolls in creating and leveling up characters. It was confusing to new players, and it was frustrating to experienced players, too, because they had to continually re-roll to get the character they wanted. So, we've gone to a point-spending system that gives players much more control over their characters.
GS: You've released some tracks from the game's score, which was composed by Kevin Manthei. How does the music tie in to the game? Did Kevin work on any of the other Wizardry games, and if not, how did you find him?
IC: Kevin worked on Jagged Alliance 2 as well, and we enjoyed working together. He is unbelievably quick to zero in on the exact mood for every piece, and the quality of his compositions is top-notch. He's really captured the "epic" feel of Wizardry. Having his music in our game is a big plus.
GS: What kind of progress have you made in finding a publisher for the game? When can we expect to hear more about an official release date?
IC: Well, the whole publishing side of things is so complex. We've worked too long and hard on this product to simply give it away. As you know, a successful game doesn't just depend on the quality of the game, but the marketing effort involved. We need a marketing commitment that is commensurate with the quality of the game we've developed, or nobody wins. Obviously, we have been in negotiations for a while, but until a deal is signed, it doesn't do any good to speculate.
GS: Now that Wizardry 8 is mostly complete, what will the team work on next? Is there a Wizardry 9 in the works? If so, can you tell us a little more about it?
IC: Well, we're very ambitious, and we're trying to plan things smartly. Wizardry 9 is already in the works. We've mapped out a lot of the design already, and we're already starting initial plans for some drastic technological and gameplay changes for Wizardry 10. Our goal is to start production on Wiz 9 as soon as the design is wrapped up and simultaneously start R&D on Wizardry 10.
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
IC: Did I mention how great Wizardry 8 is? Make sure you try the demo!
GS: Thanks for your time.
For more information about Wizardry 8, take a look at our previous coverage of the game.