Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy Q&A
We talk to THQ about its upcoming Egyptian-themed action game.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is the upcoming third-person action game from THQ. The original title is being developed by veteran studio Eurocom, whose most recent claims to fame include James Bond 007: NightFire and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds. The action game features varied gameplay--framed by an Egyptian theme. You'll play as both Sphinx, a mystical being, and the mummy, a recently mummified Tutankhamen. We talked to Rob Loftus, creative manager at THQ, about the upcoming game to find out how things are going.
GameSpot: What kind of a game would you describe Sphinx as?
Rob Loftus: Sphinx is an action adventure game set in a world that is heavily based on Egyptian mythology and iconography. We have two protagonists in the game, with differing personalities, and the gameplay reflects these differences. Sphinx, our main character, is the strong-willed adventurer, and his gameplay is punctuated with arcade action--in the form of combat. Conversely, the mummy isn't able to take on enemies head on and must help Sphinx along his quest by solving intricate puzzles, which involve him being put through some pretty torturous situations.
GS: When did development start on the game?
RL: When we finish up, it will have been about three years creating the engine and the game.
GS: How close has the game come to what was originally envisioned? Did it take any interesting detours? If so what?
RL: While the type of gameplay in the game didn't largely change from the original design, the role of the mummy was increased during development. Reaction to the mummy character was very positive, and his gameplay is very unique. We decided that it would be a good idea to give him more of a share of the limelight with Sphinx.
GS: What previous games has the team worked on?
RL: Eurocom has worked on many titles in the past, and they've had some great experience working with licenses, like James Bond, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Harry Potter.
GS: Where did the technology for the game engine come from? Does it reuse something existing, or is it all new?
RL: The engine powering Sphinx was designed by Eurocom, specifically with this project in mind. Eurocom has had a lot of experience working with the console platforms, and that experience shows through with visual quality in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. Throughout the development of the game there has been a big emphasis on feature-quality presentation, and Eurocom's engine has allowed us to achieve that goal.
GS: What can you tell us about the game's story?
RL: The story follows Sphinx as he stumbles upon the Prince Tut being betrayed and then mummified. It's up to Sphinx to find out who is behind the betrayal, and he gets wrapped up in the more sinister dealings going on behind the scenes of that betrayal. Along the way, the mummy provides a lot of investigative assistance as well.
GS: How did that affect gameplay?
RL: It made the gameplay more cinematic. When creating the game, Eurocom had to keep in mind that they were still creating a narrative. Characters couldn't just be set pieces, since the player had to be able to interact with them--both through action sequences and in cutscenes.
GS: What can we expect from the game in terms of gameplay?
RL: The gameplay with the Sphinx character is about his evolution in ability. As the player explores more areas, he gains access to new items and abilities (for example, double jump and blow pipe). It's up to the player to master these new abilities, in both combat and puzzle solving, to progress. With the mummy, the player is going to be solving puzzles in a new way. Since the mummy is already dead, we can do things to him--like light him on fire and electrocute him. When the mummy is in these states, we can use him to affect the environment puzzles by burning things down or transferring electricity to machinery. You won't play the characters at the same time, but they both work towards the same goal.
GS: How did you settle on the gameplay to have?
RL: It was a matter of choosing what kind of elements Eurocom liked from games they had played in the past. Exploration and puzzle solving elements, punctuated with arcade action, was what was decided upon.
GS: Has anything changed with the recent title change and sharing of the spotlight between Sphinx and the mummy?
RL: We had already changed the game to have the mummy share more of the limelight. It seemed like a logical step to make sure the name reflected that kind of change.
GS: What do you think the game brings to the platformer genre?
RL: While there are platform elements to Sphinx, this game is about exploration and adventure, as the player immerses him- or herself in the large world we've created. Sphinx offers a Zelda-like gameplay experience for the PS2, and we don't think that has been done.
GS: What's been the hardest part about making the game?
RL: Something that was challenging is when you introduce new types of puzzles, like the mummy's, into gameplay. It's up to you to teach the player how to use certain elements of the game. On the other hand, you can't hold the player's hand too much, as that would ruin the satisfaction of finding the solution.
GS: What's been the most pleasant surprise?
RL: Reaction to the mummy has been a pleasant surprise. We knew he was cool, and we really liked him, but seeing how the public reacted to him confirmed that we had something special.
GS: Where are you in development now?
RL: We are wrapping it up as I type this. You'll see us in stores this fall.