MediEvil 2 Director Interviewed
We sit down with the creative director of Sony's upcoming MediEvil 2 to discuss the game and the future of the series.
GameSpot News recently had the opportunity to sit down with Sony Cambridge's James Shepherd, creative director of MediEvil 2 for the PlayStation. We discussed everything from the new MediEvil characters to the PlayStation2. Here is the full transcript of our interview session:
GameSpot News: MediEvil was widely regarded as a brilliant piece of software. Was it hard to come up with an idea for a sequel that could top what you already achieved?
James Shepherd: As Dan goes back to his grave at the end of the first game, we knew it would be set in a different time period, the only question was when? We didn't want to get accused of doing "MediEvil 1.5," so we decided to go for something radically different. We quickly settled on the Victorian era, the birthplace of all things Gothic, and the perfect location and inspiration for our "Comedy Gothic" game.
GSN: How big is the pressure then (interior or exterior) to do something more unique and brilliant than the first MediEvil game?
JS: The main pressure to do better than the original comes from within the team itself. You always want to improve on your existing games. The things you never got time to put in, or would have done differently, you can address in a sequel.
GSN: How and when did you get started with the sequel? During the development of the first game?
JS: We started on the sequel shortly after the first game was released. Everyone within the studio loved Dan, but we weren't sure whether the public would like him. He's no "oil painting," and being a skeleton, he doesn't have the hourglass figure of certain other game characters in the action/adventure genre. Luckily, people loved him, so we got the chance to turf him out of his grave to save the world once again.
GSN: Were there things that you couldn't implement in time for the first game and thereby saved it for the sequel (e.g. see Soul Reaver)?
JS: Loads of stuff. To tell you everything would be to give too much away. We always wanted to get some other playable characters into the game and to play on the fact that Dan is a skeleton. Also in our game, he wakes from five hundred years in the grave, so we thought a bit of love action would cheer him up.
GSN: The biggest strength of MediEvil was the intelligent puzzles within the levels coupled with dark humour. Do you plan to focus on puzzles for the sequel, or are there completely new tasks for the player?
JS: The thing we found that most people enjoyed about the first game was the integrated mix of puzzle solving, exploring, and good old-fashioned bashing heads in. We want to keep the same game style as the original but improve on all of the above areas. If you like killing things, the fighting and the weapons are better. If you like exploring - with our new, modular loading - we have created levels up to three times as big as the original game.
Finally, if you like solving puzzles, there are some real "brain teasers" in store for you that will quite literally have you ripping your head off.
GSN: There are three new characters playable: DanHand, Headless Dan, and Dan-Kenstein. How will they be integrated, and what will it be like to play as DanHand and the others? What will their tasks be?
JS: Dan quite literally loses his head in one of the earlier levels of the game. This rather painful inconvenience actually gives him a whole range of new abilities. The first of these is DanHand. Without giving too much away, remember the hands that ran around making a nuisance of themselves in the first game? This time, Dan can actually use them as DanHand to solve puzzles and explore new areas. When Dan is in DanHand mode he can switch to Headless Dan, and the two characters have to cooperate to get through the trickier areas of the game, solving puzzles for each other.
Dan-Kenstein is a version of Dan you get midway through the game for a one off-level. His name should give you a clue to what he's like. He doesn't have weapons, as such, but he possesses a wicked left hook.
GSN: Can you describe a typical task/level of MediEvil 2?
JS: There isn't a really typical MediEvil 2 level. From fighting giant bone demons to exploring the streets of "Old London town," we tried to make every level offer the player something different and exciting.
My favorite is the level Dan-Kenstein where you have to collect body parts for one of the mad professor's experiments. Dan is in a race against time to kill a number of bizarre mutants to get the bits of body he needs. When you see what you have to kill to get the "bum," you'll see why it's my favorite level.
GSN: There's also new weaponry for our superhero, Dan - how bizarre will those be?
JS: Dan's weapons have been given a total overhaul. He still has the best weapons from the first game; you'll still be squashing things flat with the hammer and chopping things to bits with your trusty sword. We want to add more variety to the weapons and greater diversity to the ways enemies react to them. When I say you will be blowing away fat bearded women with a steam-powered Gatling gun, that's how bizarre it's going to get.
GSN: What was the hardest part of the development of MediEvil 2, or are sequels basically easier to get together when you don't have to start everything from scratch again?
JS: The hardest part of the development has been deciding which level ideas were "crazy funny" and which ideas were just plain crazy. We wanted to make the sequel as good as possible; we recoded a lot of the core technology, so in some ways it was like starting from scratch. The results speak for themselves though - bigger levels, better enemy logic, and more moves for Dan. The easy part of doing a sequel is that you already have the character, and you know people are going to like him.
GSN: Can you tell any interesting funny anecdote about the development of MediEvil 2?
JS: Development isn't a barrel of laughs. The funniest things tend to happen when we socialize after work, and the programming team tries to chat up girls; but it's funny sad rather than funny "ha! ha!"
GSN: I assume this will be the last adventure for Dan Fortesque to appear on the current PlayStation. Are there any plans/possibilities that we will meet him again on the PlayStation2?
JS: It is highly unlikely Dan will be back on the PlayStation 1. As for Fortesque on the PlayStation2? Personally, I would love to bring him back. I've grown quite attached to the bony little bugger. It's really up to the great game-buying public - if he proves to be a hit again, then anything's possible.
GSN: If you had one wish, what would be the craziest thing you personally would want to see Dan Fortesque do in the future or in a possible MediEvil 3?
JS: I think that by the end of MediEvil 2, after saving the world again, he deserves a little leisure time. A nice sunny holiday in the Caribbean would be ideal. After all, he doesn't have to worry about getting sunburnt.
As for his next adventure, I'd like to see Dan in America, on his giant Harley Davidson, pulling chicks, flaunting the law, getting his kicks on route 66.
GSN: When can we expect MediEvil 2 to be completed?
JS: MediEvil 2 will be hitting the shops Easter 2000.
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