Vampire Hunter interview

We talk to Psyonix about its upcoming vampire action game.

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Florida-based game developer Psyonix recently announced Vampire Hunter, its upcoming horror action game powered by Epic's Unreal technology. In the game, players assume the role of a man on a quest to save the world from a vampire invasion. To learn more about the developer and the upcoming game, GameSpot talked to Dave Hagewood, president and founder of Psyonix, and Will Nevins, the game designer for Vampire Hunter.

GameSpot: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. First, can you tell us a little bit about Psyonix? When was the company founded, and what kind of experience did the founders have?

Dave Hagewood: Psyonix as a company actually started about five years ago doing contract Internet and multimedia software in order to get things off the ground. It was about a year and a half ago that we were able to dedicate the company to full-time game development. Before that we spent a lot of time recruiting the right people and simply playing a lot of games.

Will Nevins: I came to the company back in December from Ion Storm. My experience has been self-producing small "just for the fun of it" games, to putting out three triple-A titles. I worked on Deus Ex with Warren Spector, Daikatana with John Romero, and Anachronox with Tom Hall. I've been interested in games since the Pong days, and I started making my own games on an old TRS-80. Ahh, the days...

GS: Your upcoming game, Vampire Hunter, will let players assume the role of a man who has some vampiric powers but is trying to save the world from a vampire invasion. How did this story come about?

WN: The original idea for the game actually came about a year and a half ago. I was talking with a friend of mine who I used to do games with and we came up with the idea and thought of some ways to do it. Then, when Dave and I were talking about it, we came up with this whole opening-scene scenario of hundreds of giant winged creatures suddenly appearing in the sky, swooping down and carrying people into the air, sucking them dry, and then dropping them lifeless to the ground. I think we were both sold on the game after that.

DH: The main character in the game is a vampire in the traditional sense of the word. He has special vampire powers and also many of the typical vampire weaknesses. It is the traditional vampires in the game who are the "good guys," so to speak. We are really striving to show the "human" side of vampires as a race that has been struggling to survive among humans for centuries. That, however, is about where the traditional view of vampires ends in this game. The invading vampires are quite different from what most people think of as a vampire. I wish I could reveal more about it, because the story is drastically different from anything you might expect. But an important part of the game is finding out what these new vampires are, where they come from, and, most importantly, how to stop them.

GS: How will the main character's special powers be used in the game? What sort of powers will be available?

WN: Well, basically to kick evil vampire tail! There will be an adrenaline-type mode that will make the player more powerful. Kind of like the berserk in Doom, but it will be acquired differently than just "picking up the berserk pack."

DH: The player will have better speed and jumping ability than the average human. But the most important power is that he inherits all the combat skills of the one who made him a vampire, making him a master at using the various vampire weapons in the game.

GS: Can you describe some of the characters and enemies that players will encounter?

DH: Most of the enemies in the game look nothing like humans--or anything familiar, for that matter. Mostly they are strange vampire-mutated creatures that creep silently in the darkness waiting for someone to come too close, and then they will suddenly jump out and attack relentlessly, sometimes in droves. The player can expect to do a lot of intrepid walking through dark corridors, contrasted by sudden onslaughts of enemy creatures from all directions.

WN: For this title, the game will only have one character that the player will play as, and the players' "vampire benefactor" (the guy who turned you into a vampire). He guides you through the game and gives hints game objectives, as well as provides information in the flashback sequences. Much of the story will be told in the flashback sequences.

GS: What kinds of weapons will players use to deal with these monsters?

WN: Players will have a combination of melee and projectile weapons that they will be able to use simultaneously. The projectile weapons will come into use from long range, to weaken the enemy enough to finish him or her off with a melee weapon when the player gets closer. It makes the players think more strategically as to how they want to dispose of their enemies, instead of just blindly shooting at them. The sword that the player gets later on in the game is a big part of the story, and it's needed to kill some of the bosses in the game.

GS: Vampire Hunter is powered by the Unreal engine. How did you decide to use Unreal technology instead of other game engines available?

WN: The Unreal technology is an incredible, friendly engine to use for making games. The technology looks great and runs great, and it's ultimately allowing us to do what we need with very little, if any, enhancements. It also allows for a shorter development time than other engines.

GS: How is Vampire Hunter going to set itself apart from other horror action games?

WN: We wanted to do scary environments like what is in Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Undying, and some of the others. However, we wanted to add more action to the mix, and the ability to explore around more intimately. Another aspect is that we are trying to play off of the psychological side of the player by using scare tactics when the player least expects it and placing battles in unusual places. There will be a lot of "sneaking up" type of play.

DH: The action element has been a major goal of the project. There are actually two battle modes in the game, one in the first-person perspective and one in the third-person perspective. Each battle mode has its own unique style of gameplay that is tailored to create the ideal gameplay experience in that mode. In first-person mode, you have complete control over your weapons and aiming, so it's great for blasting countless enemies with your guns. However, in third-person mode, the character will perform complicated combat moves and strikes with the more powerful melee weapons.

GS: What's been the biggest challenge in the game's development so far?

WN: The crunch mode that it took to finish the publisher demo on time.

DH: Yeah, I would have to agree, but I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish.

GS: How is your search for a publisher coming along?

WN: Very well--better than what I had expected. When we sent out the press release last week, the response was overwhelming. The public was very responsive to the concept. It should be a really fun and entertaining game to play.

DH: I was really surprised at how much interest we received in the game since we made it public. Everything is shaping up better than I expected.

GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

DH: We will be releasing new media and news on a regular basis from now on, so everyone should keep their eyes out for it. We really want to get people excited about the game.

WN: We hope to provide a fun and exhilarating experience to the player. We are incorporating some really cool gameplay items, and also some fun and scary things.

GS: Thanks for your time, guys.

Psyonix will be showing the game at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California, beginning tomorrow. For more information about the game, visit the official Web site.

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