Q&A: Silicon Knights' Denis Dyack
Veteran developer talks about Too Human's road to the Xbox 360 and the looming next-gen console war.
TORONTO--In the back corner of Lot 332, a downtown nightclub transformed by Microsoft into its flashy X05 Canada event, was Denis Dyack. Dyack is president of Silicon Knights, the development studio that brought us Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (1996) on the original PlayStation, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (2002) for the GameCube, and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (2004), a GameCube remake of Konami’s PlayStation stealth shooter with some additional content.
Accompanied to X05 by producer Henry Sterchi, who served 11 years at Nintendo of America, Dyack discussed the vision behind the studio's next project, Too Human. The game will be published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360 sometime in '06 or '07. The pair also showed off the game's first official trailer, as well as other video clips and a handful of in-engine screenshots.
If the title "Too Human" sounds familiar, it should. The ambitious sci-fi action game was originally conceived and developed for the PSOne in the mid-'90s, before being set aside for other projects. After Silicon Knights signed an exclusivity deal with Nintendo in 2000, the game was resurrected for a GameCube release. However, it again appeared to be on indefinite hold when the deal ended last April. When Sega announced it had signed a deal with Silicon Knights early in 2005, it was assumed it would be the publisher. However, the Sonic factory will instead publish another project, which is yet to be revealed.
GameSpot sat down with Dyack at X05 Canada to get the skinny on Too Human, on going from a Nintendo second-party developer to making an Xbox 360 exclusive, and his predictions on how the next-generation console war will play out.
GameSpot: What's the premise behind Too Human?
Denis Dyack: Too Human is a game trilogy where you play as a cybernetically enhanced god who must protect Earth from hoards of machines. It combines swordplay and gunplay, and there are tons of Norse mythology in the game. You might say Too Human is like Lord of the Rings meets The Terminator.
GS: Cool. And perhaps a little The Matrix, too, with the protect-the-world-from-evil-machines theme.
Dyack: Sure. Too Human is different from other third-person action games in a few ways, though. For one, the player will increase in skills over time, so it's not like the hundredth fight is the same as the first. New skill sets will be acquired and used as the game progresses. Also, I've said this before: Video games will be the dominant [entertainment] platform in the 21st century. And we're really pouring in Hollywood-style production values into the Too Human trilogy. For example, our intelligent camera system knows when to gracefully pan in and out and around to suit what's happening onscreen. The camera may pull out when there's an epic fight so you can see how realized our gameworld is, or [it] may zoom in if you're looking at, say, a statue. Also, it will be a lot more accessible than other video games.
GS: But Too Human has been in development--off and on--for a very long time, hasn't it? More than 10 years?
Dyack: [Laughs]. Well, it's a long story, but let's say the kernel of the game, the concept, goes back as far as 1994, or even earlier. The short story is that we worked on Legacy of Kain, and then after that, in 1996, we were going to work on Too Human for the PSOne, but then started on Eternal Darkness, originally for the Nintendo 64. It eventually came out for the GameCube, and then we worked on Metal Gear Solid [for GameCube]. So it wasn't really until we spoke with Microsoft about the Xbox 360 platform that we started to actually work on the game, which hasn't been that long.
GS: When is the first Too Human game set for release?
Dyack: Late 2006. But it may get pushed.
GS: You were a second-party developer for Nintendo, but this didn't work out. What happened?
Dyack: We're not talking about business details. They wanted to move in a different direction than we did, so we parted ways.
GS: What direction is that?
Dyack: They wanted to create smaller and simpler games, and we wanted to make deeper and more-epic game experiences.
GS: Off-topic, but what do you think about the Nintendo Revolution controller?
Dyack: It looks cool and innovative, but I haven't seen the games yet, so it's hard to say. It does seem very interesting, and I think it opened a lot of eyes.
GS: Can you predict who will win the next console war?
Dyack: It'll be close, but I think the Xbox 360 will do a lot better than people may think.
GS: So do you predict the Xbox 360 will outsell Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution?
Dyack: It will be close, but it always boils down to who has the best games. It will certainly be tight, but, yes, it is possible this time for Microsoft to beat Sony.