Q&A: Walking the Edge of Twilight
Fuzzyeyes lead game designer Andrew Chrysafidis chats about creating a steampunk world, the importance of decision making, and cycling daytime.
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Although Australia is no slouch when it comes to having strong local studios, many of the games to come from Australian developers recently seem to be made up of outsourced projects from larger teams: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for the PSP, PlayStation 2, and Wii, and Viva Pinata: Party Animals, to name just a few. Brisbane-based developer Fuzzyeyes is aiming to buck the trend by building original IP from the ground up with its game Edge of Twilight. We caught up with lead designer Andrew Chrysafidis to chat about the decision to go with a steampunk setting, how fighting will change during day and night, and what the company is hoping to achieve by introducing mature themes into the story.
GameSpot AU: The PS3 version of EoT was announced after its initial announcement on 360/PC. Will the PS3 version be shipping alongside the other two platforms?
Andrew Chrysafidis: Yeah it will. We didn't announce both versions at the same time because there was some ongoing paperwork with Sony. Just submissions and all that stuff; nothing exciting.
GS AU: Can you go into the main character Lex's background?
AC: Yep, sure. Lex is a half-breed Athern and Tainted Lithern. The Atherns are the industrial race who eradicated the traditional, spiritual Majestic Lithern before they themselves were almost destroyed by the hordes of undead Tainted Lithern. So because of this, he's never been accepted into society and grew up a fairly jaded and hateful kind of guy. Because he also has some mystical Lithern abilities, and he's quite a worthless citizen in the eyes of the Athern Council, he's contracted as an off-the-record killer, thug, and bounty hunter by the local sheriff. Before the game starts, he's living by himself in the wilderness outside of the Citadel of Athyr, which is the Atherns' final stronghold.
GS AU: Why did you decide to give the game a steampunk background?
AC: Steampunk's an art direction that really doesn't get as much love as it deserves. I mean, it suits the history and culture of the Athern civilisation perfectly, so that's a plus right off the bat. You know: industrial revolution, iron cities, technological advancement without the microchip. It's the perfect style for these guys. Steampunk is also extremely open to interpretation, so that allowed us to really create a new and distinct world here rather than being too constrained by tradition in something like high fantasy or science fiction, for example.
GS AU: The game has been described as having two sides to every story. How will your choices affect the story?
AC: Well, the choices we're giving the player aren't so much "good choice" or "evil choice," but more like the choice to investigate and participate or to turn a blind eye. It's going to change your perception of the story, the content of the story, and ultimately the outcome of the game.
GS AU: Can you give us an example of what sort of decisions the player has to make?
AC: You might be intrigued by a part of the story, and a character has told you he can offer an explanation, but you might not like the outcome. Do you give up peace of mind to gain knowledge? We let the player choose how deep the rabbit hole goes. Or maybe a side quest you get seems pretty clear-cut until you hear the other side of the story, and we give you the chance to keep going or turn back. Both choices aren't good or bad per se, but it's going to affect how the game plays out for you. Keep in mind this isn't an RPG, so don't set yourself up for hundreds of subquests. But we're making sure the player feels like their choices do make a difference.
GS AU: In a previous interview, Fuzzyeyes CEO Wei-Yao Lu said the game will tackle adult issues such as greed, oppression, and genocide. What are you hoping to achieve by raising these?
AC: I think mature themes are becoming more and more prominent in adult-oriented games. We figured that if we're making a mature game, then we shouldn't patronise our audience with immature or dumbed-down content. You look at cinema and books and music; for them, adult themes are commonplace, if not flat-out expected. But games are only just starting to deal with real-world, "grown-up" issues. So back to the question of what we're aiming to achieve. I think the answer is contributing to games being accepted as a valid medium to tell meaningful and mature stories. The next battle is the censors, who still can't accept that an interactive medium should be used for that.
GS AU: Lex's combat options vary depending on if it's day or night. Can you go into a bit more detail about how that works and what sort of moves he'll have?
AC: In the day realm Lex is a lot slower, bulkier, and more powerful, and his combat reflects this. Conversely, in the night realm he's quick and ninja-like, so it feels different but it's equally satisfying in each realm. Lex's day persona has a really beefy-looking melee weapon that we're having a lot of fun with, with some mechanical add-ons that we haven't shown off yet.
There are enemies that appear in only the day, only the night, or both realms. We've designed them so that they play off each persona's strengths and weaknesses, so it can get pretty intense. We've also got a lot of cinematic take-downs and a lot of "risk vs. gain" kind of decisions you'll need to make during combat to keep you on your toes, but I won't go too far into those because it's all still being worked on.
GS AU: How long will it take for it to cycle from day to night in the game?
AC: In-game, the transition from one realm to another will take about a second or two. The big challenge with that was whether we streamed the two realms in and out whenever you changed, or if we approached it from a different angle. The streaming idea simply took too long, so the programmers and environment artists have done some neat tricks with flagging different things (like props, water, lighting and weather) as night or day, so they're swapped out quickly without needing to load a different version of the same level. It's looking sweet, so when we get the transition effect polished up, we'll get a video online for you guys.
GS AU: Will you be supporting PS3 trophies for EoT?
AC: Yep, we'll have PS3 trophies in there for sure. We'll also be looking at Home integration with 3D trophies and all that, but no announcement there yet.
GS AU: Andrew Chrysafidis, thanks for your time.