Risen 2: Dark Waters Q&A - Voodoo Priestesses and Personal Pirate Ships

We chat with Daniel Oberlerchner, senior brand manager at Deep Silver, about the upcoming high-seas role-playing game Risen 2.

Developer Piranha Bytes is dreaming big with its upcoming sequel to the action role-playing game Risen. The sequel, Risen 2: Dark Waters, takes the high-fantasy setting of the previous game to the high seas, where pirates rule and buried treasure is ripe for the picking. We recently caught up with Daniel Oberlerchner, senior brand manager with publisher Deep Silver, to talk about all the additions coming to this game.

Pirates were famous for having terrible pick up lines.

GameSpot: Give us an update on Risen 2's development. What aspects is the team working on at present?

Daniel Oberlerchner: We're slowly but surely leaving the content creation phase (items, textures, animations, and voice-over) and starting with fine-tuning and balancing, which is commonly called the alpha phase. All NPCs are getting their weapons and inventory set up, the fighting system has to be tested thoroughly, and we also have to make sure that the learning curve for the player is not too steep in the beginning. As Risen 2 offers a lot of playtime, the right pacing in the story and gameplay is important. An old saying goes that 80 percent of the work is in the last 20 percent, and this is true especially for open-world RPGs. Creating the assets is more or less straightforward once the preproduction is done; arranging and combining them to create an interesting world people like to play in is the most important and challenging part.

GS: We were told at the March Game Developers Conference in San Francisco that Risen 2 is intended to be a "full-fledged pirate role-playing game." For the team at Piranha Bytes, what's needed to make a full-fledged pirate RPG?

DO: Wow--where to begin? Let's start with the general scope (aka, the recipe), and then we'll talk about the building blocks (aka, the ingredients). What's generally needed to create any good RPG is an immersive gameworld with interesting characters who offer the player a convincing backdrop for the gameplay to happen in. What makes it "piratey"? First of all, the architecture has to reflect the culture of pirates, so everything you see in the game has to fit the period we want to convey to the player and the lifestyle of pirates. Pirates don't rely on civil engineers to build their houses, so everything looks a bit improvised and chaotic.

Secondly, you must have a language and tone throughout the game which fits the setting. The pirates in Risen 2 live in a dark and gritty world, so living like a pirate also means talking like a pirate. Thirdly, the weaponry we give to the player matches the setting as well: muskets, rapiers, sabres, pistols, bombs, powder kegs, coconuts, and parrots. Yes, you read that right--you can launch your very own parrot at people to annoy them, and knock them unconscious with coconuts. And last but not least, you can craft your own weapons and booze from the items you collect during your adventures.

Each NPC has its own daily routine for you to completely disrupt with your swashbuckling.

GS: We were told in March that Risen 2 will take place across numerous islands, rather than on a single landmass, and that there would be some as-yet undisclosed means of transporting your pirate hero and his companions to and from different islands. Is it safe to assume that this method of transportation might be some sort of ship, perhaps of the pirate variety, as it were? If Risen 2 were, in fact, to have a "pirate's ship," if you will, what other purposes would it serve? Customizable housing? A quest hub? A crafting hub?

DO: Yes, you will be able to command your very own ship in Risen 2! The decision to make the ship the central means of transport in the game was based on the feedback from the fans. In Risen 1, even key characters dropped in and out of the storyline, and the players felt a bit isolated--they wanted a sense of ongoing companionship. For this reason, the ship in Risen 2 will not only get you from point A to point B, but will function as a hub for your companions where the player can talk to and get quests from them. So it helps to add the flavor of a party in an RPG without the hassle to the player of having to manage multiple characters all the time.

GS: We saw in the original Risen trailer that the nameless hero will have at least one companion, a swarthy young woman who seems to be an expert at voodoo magic. What can you tell us about this character? Who is she and what is she capable of? Will she remain at your side throughout the game?

DO: It's a bit too early to disclose her role in the game to a big extent, but I can confirm that she will be one of your companions in Risen 2 who will be part of your crew and support you in fights if you choose her to accompany you on shore leave. Her role will also depend on your actions throughout the game, so make your decisions wisely.

GS: Aside from this voodoo priestess, who else will join the hero on his quest to save the islands?

Your personal pirate ship is both a method of transport and quest hub.

DO: The fellowship of the player character in Risen 2 will consist of representatives of the different factions in the gameworld, as well as special characters you can pick up during your adventures. They will also give you feedback on how you're doing and might also give you tips and hints on how to tackle some challenges. Patty, for example, is the helmswoman of your ship and is a character who made her debut in Risen 1. In Risen 1, Patty asked the player character to help her find the treasure of her father Steelbeard and took him on a treasure hunt all across the island.

In Risen 2 she will not only return, but will also have a reunion with her father, one of the mightiest pirates of the southern seas. Another example of a companion character would be Venturo, who is a soldier from the Inquisition and who shares their basic values but is fed up with all the discipline of the order. All characters who are with the hero will have a different skill set, so Patty, for example, is a very talented melee fighter, whereas Venturo will support the player with his musket. Additional skill sets will even include pairing up with a character who can heal you, or someone who loots killed creatures for you.

GS: We recall from the original Risen that the island home of the hero is under siege by mystical monsters of great power that are disguised as natural disasters. How can the hero possibly prevail against a group of these ancient beings? Is the hero's task to simply become powerful enough to confront them directly? If not, what indirect means must he seek?

Never a dull moment in the life of a pirate.

DO: The reason why games from Piranha Bytes seem so authentic although they take place in a fantasy world is because the hero character always starts off as a humble, normal person who stumbles into a big adventure. So becoming an all-powerful entity is not on the shopping list for the main character. While the forces he has to face are epic, he will still find a way to influence the pendulum of destiny since the titans are also not the only force in the Risen universe. The Risen universe itself is governed by a power struggle, be it titans, their lords, the Inquisition, or the very anarchic pirates who try to outsmart everyone with intrigue and wits. The journey of the nameless hero character will be very like a journey in a sailing boat where he sometimes will have control over what is happening and on other occasions be committed to the ways of the mighty ocean. In the end, he will be able to influence the scales to a degree that can change the world, but how he can do that is something for the player to discover.

GS: We understand that Risen 2 will include a more fully-realized world with characters that go about their own daily schedules regardless of whether players are present or not. While this is definitely an interesting addition, what will it add to the game? How will the hero interact with, or benefit from, characters who wake up every morning to tend to their farm, or sneak out to the tavern every evening?

DO: To understand the focus on daily routines, the AI of the NPCs, and other design decisions, we have to dive a bit into the origin of the Gothic series. When Piranha Bytes created Gothic in 2001, their aim was to create an RPG which follows the tradition of the old Ultima games. The Ultima games in the '80s and '90s already offered a lot of the game mechanics we take for granted in a modern RPG even though the presentation was of course in no way comparable to what players are used to seeing on the screen nowadays. In Risen 2, every NPC has a daily routine and will react to the player based on a set of rules. Many of those rules are similar to the rules in our society: Don't steal or you will be punished. Don't attack or threaten people unless you're ready for a fight yourself. Don't sneak into people's houses when they are awake/nearby or you will raise their attention. All those basic rules give the player a sense of actually having a place as a person in society and thus convince him that this is a real world he is playing in.

Risen 2 does not throw the player into a huge city with thousands of citizens where none of them react to what you're doing. The appeal of the games of Piranha Bytes is to observe the NPCs, and then either play along or try to outsmart the AI by developing devious ways to get to your goals. What we offer is a lively and immersive gameworld to play with, and we equip you with the hero character, who is meant to serve as a vessel for your chosen play style. This is also why there is no character creation screen when you start the game. All decisions you make in the game will influence which skills will be available from trainers throughout the gameworld. Additionally, the game will not only react on your actions in the short term, but NPCs will remember that you fought or argued with them and, depending on the outcome, admire or hate you.

The authorities will be the least of your worries in Risen 2.

GS: We understand that the console version of Risen 2 is, in fact, being developed simultaneously with the PC version (a departure from the previous game's console version, which was developed later than the PC version and didn't turn out as well). Could you give us an update on the console version's development? What steps are being taken to ensure that the console versions of Risen 2 are as close as possible to the PC version? What's being done to ensure that the console versions of Risen 2 are better than the console version of Risen?

DO: Risen 1 was started as a PC-only development, which means that the conversion afterwards into an Xbox 360 game was quite a challenge. For Risen 2 we have all three platforms (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC) in parallel development, so each platform should get the best result possible. To ensure a higher quality, we optimized also the workflow. For example: During the development of Risen 1, Piranha Bytes didn't have the possibility to judge how their content would look on a console instantaneously because they had to send all content first to their development partner Wizarbox, who then in turn had to send their feedback. This took a lot of time, and time is always a scarce resource in game development.

In the case of Risen 2, Piranha Bytes now has all the preview tools from Wizarbox in their development environment to see their creations on the different platforms immediately, which gives us a lot more iteration cycles to get the game right since it is vastly more time efficient. Apart from better organization, there is also a lot of technical progress in Risen 2 on consoles compared to Risen 1. Risen 1 was, for example, in part quite inefficient with its memory management since it contained one huge island and many objects shared a texture file, so if you downsized one texture to save memory, you also lost quality somewhere else.

Risen 2 is now split into smaller islands, and all items do have their very own texture sheet, which allows for much better memory handling. Excellent memory management is vital for console development since PCs nowadays have 4 to 6GB of RAM, and the current console generation is at 256 to 512MB, so you have to be very skillful to get a good result.

It's all right, that alligator was being a total jerk.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add?

DO: Absolutely! I'd like to thank our fans for their dedication and also their feedback, which keeps us and Piranha Bytes on our toes while communicating and creating the game. Stay tuned for more on Risen 2 in the upcoming months, and consider visiting us at Gamescom if you happen to be in Europe in the middle of August!

GS: Thank you for your time.

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Discussion

77 comments
jpnelson82
jpnelson82

How about ship to ship combat? Fable 3 had a hub called the sanctuary, tell us the ship isn't like that.

666NightsInHell
666NightsInHell

console game qith very poor controls and very old looks, unplayable 1st part showed everything

nikrusty2
nikrusty2

Hope the combat is better. The first part's combat really sucked with really silly awkward animation.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@ggregd -- The Inquisition is an organization in the Risen universe. It is not a real-life organization.

ggregd
ggregd

"Venturo, who is a soldier from the Inquisition and who shares their basic values but is fed up with all the discipline of the order." Someone need to read some history, or at least look at the Wikipedia entry for "Inquisition", because this is seriously at odds with the facts.

jediclub
jediclub

first risen game was actually a nice role playing game but some graphical problems made first game unattractive. I hope they will improve graphics and add more items.

runarjenssen
runarjenssen

Gothic 2 = best game. Ever. I have a sneaking suspicion that Risen 2 will be for Risen 1 what Gothic 2 was to Gothic 1; the perfection of a good concept. Can't wait to see what Piranha can do this time. Just can't wait!

Ariliater
Ariliater

my pc cost me 400$ (404 to be precise :p) and i play crysis 2 at full graphics =)

nyran125
nyran125

after getting use to hitman 2 on the console and pc . I now (after getting use to it) enjoy playing with the mouse for camera WAY more than a controller. controller is officially only good for me , for sports games. But thats it. Mouse owns if you get use to it.

Carton_of_milk
Carton_of_milk

I aprpeciate that they gave credit to the Ultima games. I consider Ultima VII my favorite rpg of all time just RIGHT under Oblivion. The first time i played UItima VII and i realised i could pick up almost anything lying around (most of it useless! i filled my equipment with all the stuff untl i later realised i did not need most of it..) and that the chracters had a daily routine, slept, worked....and the game was open ended and i could do most quests in any order? there's no describing the sense of amazement at the time. now of course we take that for granted. Ultima is not only the father of western rpgs, but japanese as well. It's the father of ALL rpg's. The first japanese rpgs were attempting to imitate the first Ultima games (which back then were a lot more simplistic and hadnt yet included npcs). In fact, the game's manual for one of the early successful japanese rpgs, xanadu, is lifted from the ultima games manuals. Something Origin only found out when they went to Japan to discuss distributing Xanadu in north america. Needless to say, the deal wasnt made, instead Origin sued....

siarhei
siarhei

The game looks quite pretty

RetroSEAL
RetroSEAL

@marrowindnic no YOU'VE got to be kidding! a $300 computer will not run crysis 2 with DX 11 graphics. Nor will it render oblivion at way above average either. A ps3 or xbox will. maybe a $300 graphics card.

Philly04
Philly04

Something different to check out. Kind of exited.

TucoBenedicto
TucoBenedicto

My most anticipated RPG for the next year or so.

mgc9811
mgc9811

nice setting and atmosphere, main characters looks gay though. Game looks cool

thebanewolf
thebanewolf

Like the sound of a pirate setting, your own hub/house/base akin to the Mass Effect Normandy, Seemingly advanced AI with own routines, noticeable reactions/outcomes/consequences and of course the talked off improvements. I really hope I'll be able to purchase a new ship(s) and ugrades for it... like new cannons for naval warfare ! Can't help but feel it's too good to be true though...

malikmmm
malikmmm

@mrboone01 thats because hardcore Rpgs are not made for gamers like you.

justoneguy
justoneguy

Pirates + Videogame = Perfection

shaks101
shaks101

This game looks so my type of game. Definitely can't wait for more info on this.

kaem79
kaem79

@jollybest1 Umm! Wasn't that what I was saying!? Anyway, as morrowindnic said: if you know what you're doing, pc is a cheaper gaming platform. But as he said if you're know what you're doing, as many people don't know what they're doing it's cheaper for them to play consoles. A moment of silent is needed, I think.

morespama
morespama

@jasonzilla11 - the way you like to play games is comparable to the way you like your steak, or your favorite color - there is no argument here, back from where I am we say that "the only thing friends and family should argue is about different tastes " LOL

jasonzilla11
jasonzilla11

@morespama LOL, that technically is an opinion! But it's also a fact that PC's can have better hardware, so better and more advanced graphics. While consoles can't get as good graphics, some say that consoles are more fun to play video games than PC's. Also, getting an awesome computer that can run high-tech games can be pretty pricey. So, it depends on what you think. I actually own an Asus laptop, an Xbox 360, and a PS3, and games look amazing on the PC, but I find playing games on the Xbox a bit more fun.

morespama
morespama

PC is way better then console, and this not an opinion, its a fact. I got overclocked E8400 processor (yes, its not even nextgen i3) and GTX460 OC with 4GB RAM - and guess what - for less then £400, I am running Gotihc 4 (which I do agree with posts here was a disaster), Dragon Age 2 (with HD textures), Crysis 2, and Fallout New Vegas and many many other quite demanding games at Very High to Extreme graphics settings. PC games are also cheaper (and for people who are making a choice are even free), have less bugs and are easier updatable, not even speaking about controls. Don't you just hate to play on a PC and feel like you are playing on a console, i.e. Fable 3 (still a decent game though). P.S. Risen 2 gonna rock!!!!!

morrowindnic
morrowindnic

@RetroSEAL you are joking right? Those numbers might of been right a few years ago. But you don;t need anywhere need $800 nowadays. And nevertheless PC do more then just games, Games are much cheaper on PC, and no paying for xbox live crap. Computers are MUCH cheaper then consoles if you know what you are doing.

Kirnl
Kirnl

more like Gothic 1 > Risen > Gothic 2 > Gothic 3 and 4 was just bad as for risen 2 dont judge till we actually see it.

RetroSEAL
RetroSEAL

Guys get real, for a computer to run at the same processing power as an xbox or the ps3, we're looking at over $800 bucks. Thats way beyond a $300 console

cruelselva
cruelselva

the environment in Risen really great, but i dont like the combat mechanism

GarGx1
GarGx1

looking nice but they may be better knocking release on until early next year, there's a hell of a lot of competition starting to come out very soon.

tevic
tevic

Please no more disappearing mountains on the 360 ! Apart from that Risen was a good game.

gamercosti
gamercosti

i hope they will hire a human to code char movement this time instead of a monkey gothic 1 -> gothic 2 -> risen -> risen 2 (other 2 gothics did exist in my mind)

Vincecyc
Vincecyc

Gothic series was one of my favorite RPG (except 4 which is done by someone else(crap!!!)) then Risen not bad except end boss,& when this will be release? Can't wait here!, I just hope it not gonna be 11.11.11, cause i will be sleepless zombie 4 weeks if i got my hand on skyrim & this.

stonhengehill
stonhengehill

risen was not bad i think this one will be better

rashbourne
rashbourne

I'm excited, these guys do good work. I don't like parallel development though, PC only. Screw consoles.

rasputin177
rasputin177

At last! Hope this one actually comes out.

DrunkPrince
DrunkPrince

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

thorn3000
thorn3000

Risen 1 was superior to Gothic 3 in every way except for the lengh and width of the map, I am quite sure that Risen 2 will wastly outclass the already very low-classed standard that Gothic 4 has fallen into...

bandarman
bandarman

Its the first time I actually saw that there's a pirate RPG out there. :P Will wait anxiously for this now that I'm into RPGs. The graphics look neat, hope that it would run fine on my PC.

ronnet
ronnet

@skattestop, It looked bad on a high-end PC but it looked horrible on the 360. It wasn't optimized at all. So basically you were playing the game like you would be playing it on a PC with the specs of the 360. Great specs for a machine from 2005, not so much in 2010. The strength of the 360 (one set specification for which the game can be optimized) wasn't used at all. But they claim Risen 2 will be different, and while I'm not holding my breath it does look promosing. After Disney cancelled the new POTC RPG I'm very interested in this one.

it009x9281
it009x9281

Never played or heard of the first one but im defo interested in this one.

thrice00
thrice00

Wow, Will we have a first well-made pirates RPG?? If so i'm buying. So much played Sea Dogs........

skattestop
skattestop

Liked the first one, it definately had it's flaws, but overall a good game. I just hope the sequel has better graphics, cause it looked pretty bad on a high-end PC. Might as well get it for xbox then :)

Phil-teh-Pirate
Phil-teh-Pirate

At first I was excited about the prospect of an RPG thats set in a "real" period of history, of course an over exaggerated period of history much like Sid Meier's Pirates! Now I see a huge ogre like creature that belongs more in a Tolkien novel than anything else. Personally I'd find evading capture of the local imperial navies, whilst fending off bounty hunters and fellow pirates more than enough excitement given the right context and gameplay attributes. But fighting generic monster a through z is all the same no matter what age you put it in. Don't get me wrong, I'm still interested but just not as much as I was.

greyhulk2
greyhulk2

I wasn't too keen on the first Risen, although it did remind me much of Gothic 3 which i throughly enjoyed. The images of Risen 2 look much better and i hope they can make the story much more exciting. Im going to play Risen again to see if i can change my mind on how good it is.

smoman5000
smoman5000

Looks goooood! I liked the first one very much. You're lame lordbuggeroff.

dinslacck
dinslacck

i hope they improve the in-game graphics because the first one is a joke in term of visual quality.

circus2050
circus2050

One question.What about the armor? I can see only pirates clothes in this pictures.I hope this doesn't turnout to be a fail like Fable 3 where the armor doesn't exist.I'm not a big fan of the pirates thing just because it looks like it's interfering with the usual RPG.

circus2050
circus2050

Risen 2 and Skyrim !!! I've only played Risen 3 times... or was it 4?

jollybest1
jollybest1

@seanbrandowen WHAAA MEE?? I am at work and bored , last day and i am out of here ....i can hear the montains calling me :D.....but i do love my hobby so i will lose some time playing all the games i have this 2 weeks or a part of the 2 weeks, and i love to know my computer because if it gets damaged i can repaire it software or hardware :D......

hoscba
hoscba

Looks awesome! Really loved the first one