The Darkness II Q&A: On Graphic Noir and Quad-Wielding

Project director Sheldon Carter discusses more about the story, the engine, and even the PC specs of the comic-laced gore-fest.


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With the development of the upcoming shooter based on the comic book franchise coming to an end, we figured it would be best to get a bit more insight into the game's development. We recently had a chat with The Darkness II's project director Sheldon Carter, whose previous acclaims include being a producer for Dark Sector, as well as contributing to the development of BioShock 2 and Jade Empire.

GameSpot Asia: It seems natural to bring Paul Jenkins on board because he wrote about The Darkness in comics. Elaborate on the process of how both the writer and a group of game designers work together for The Darkness II.

Sheldon Carter: Paul had an understanding of the way the games and comic lore work right away. After all, he also did writing work for the first Darkness game. We had a very collaborative experience on The Darkness II, in which both sides bounced tons of ideas off each other and we tried to be as integrated as possible.

A good example of this is in one of the scenes from the demo we've used to introduce the game to everyone. There is a moment where Jackie is being crucified by our main antagonist Victor. In the starting point of the script, Jackie is trapped and Victor is trying to take the darkness away from him. We worked together and started figuring out the methods and rituals that the Brotherhood--the ancient organization that Victor controls--would use and eventually came up with the scene you will see in the game.

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GSA: Was there at one point any consideration by the team to get the original creators, specifically David Wohl, Garth Ennis, and Marc Silvestri, on board The Darkness II for writing duties? What made the team decide on using Paul Jenkins' talent in the end? SC: The most important thing for us in making The Darkness II was to strictly stick to the story of the first game. The comic books were our inspiration, but the first game was our model.

As such, we kept the same writer from the first game. Paul wrote a bunch of the Darkness II comics, he wrote the first game, and he maintained that storyline for the second.

GSA: Tell us what is unique about the game engine you're using, in terms of technology.

SC: The game runs on our own engine called the Evolution engine. The great thing about using our own tech is that we were able to tailor it to best express the graphic noir art style that so beautifully stands out in the game.

"Graphic noir" is the name of our game's vibrant and red-lighting-heavy art style that's directly inspired from the comic books. Every texture in the game is hand painted to give you the feeling that you're playing in a graphic novel. We wanted to use as broad of a palette as we could for this game because when you look at the comics, you really notice the vibrancy of that palette.

GSA: In terms of the level design for single-player mode, are we looking at linear corridors or more wide-open spaces for combat?

SC: One of the key aspects of the gameplay is "quad-wielding." This means that the player can use a grabbing demon's arm, a slashing demon's arm, and two weapons all at the same time. On top of that, you have this huge assortment of powers and talents, which made level design such a crucial component.

The player needs to be able to have objects to grab and throw, places for cover, and the right space to use the powers. The mixture we've tried to come up with is to keep the game's pacing just right.

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GSA: Will there be a subway system linking each stage ala The Darkness I, or will the game have a level-after-level structure like most shooters?

SC: The subway system made sense in the first game because Jackie was a "hitman" working for the mob. In The Darkness II, Jackie is the don of the family, so he takes his limo instead. It also means that Jackie has a mansion, a place where he can go and talk to his crew, learn background information, and practice his skills.

GSA: Given the first game's huge focus on single-player, why did your team decide to add in multiplayer for The Darkness II with obvious nods to Left 4 Dead?

SC: Everything we've done in The Darkness II has been focused around one key pillar: the service of the story. When we thought about multiplayer for this game, it was very clear to us that we had to advance and complement the single-player story for the player.

We worked with our writer to come up with a campaign that you can experience from the perspective of four unique characters--complete with their own talent trees and very different personalities--that ties directly into the single-player campaign.

GSA: Speaking of which, what kind of locales are we expecting in The Darkness II apart from the seedy underbelly of the city?

SC: Ha! The seedy underbelly is definitely a critical piece of where the game takes place, but we travel to a lot of different locations. Examples include the very top of the New York scene, Jackie's own penthouse mansion, the Brotherhood's makeshift base in a carnival, as well as in otherworldly places that I don't want to spoil.

GSA: Give us a brief description of the level design for Vendetta mode.

SC: Vendetta is a fast-paced narrative co-op experience that corresponds to the single-player story. There are four characters that you can choose from and they all have [their] own unique darkness weapon, powers, and talent tree. It was designed as a team-focused, mission-based experience, and it explores the roles each character plays in Jackie Estacado's fight to defeat the Brotherhood.

GSA: Will The Darkness II's online play use dedicated servers, or are you using another means to handle networking?

SC: Peer to peer. We're a co-op game and our engine handles that very well.

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GSA: What are the minimum and recommended specs for the PC version of the game?

SC: Here they are:
- OS: Windows XP/Vista/7
- Processor: Intel Core 2 @ 2GHz / AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+
- Memory: 1.5GB RAM
- Hard disk space: 10GB
- Video card: 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 / ATI Radeon HD 2600

- OS: Windows XP/Vista/7
- Processor: 2.4 GHz quad-core processor
- Memory: 2GB RAM
- Hard disk space: 10GB
- Video card: 512+MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX
- Sound: DirectX compatible

GSA: Why was the game delayed twice from its original release date: one on July 10 and one on October 4? Was it due to multiplayer additions, or was there something else?

SC: To make a better game! We wanted to make sure that we only put out the best possible game we can. We hold ourselves to high standards, so we polished this game as much as possible and we needed more time in order to do so. Our publisher, 2K, was good enough to allow that.

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