Bone-idle Talks To Todd McFarlane From Big Huge Games About The Team Behind The Reckoning.

Developer Big Huge Games

Publisher EA

Platform Xbox360, PC

Release Date 2012 tbc

Kingdoms of Amalur : The Reckoning will launch early next year. Set in an entirely new universe created by New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore and brought to life by the artistic talents of Todd McFarlane creator of Spawn.

We had a chance to sit down with Todd to chat about this huge project that has taken 3 ½ years to make and will contain over 220 hours of gameplay, giving players what they graved with Fable 3.

Bone-idle.ie : To start out with perhaps you can gives us a little back ground to the game for gamers who might not know anything about it yet?

Todd : Yea so a little bit of background it’s a brand new IP that is coming out so again we need to get our voice out there amongst the sea of other video games, obviously with the fantasy backdrop behind us it’s a fantasy open world RPG.

Bone-idle.ie : So it’s Sword, magic & different races?

Todd : Yea all the things that are kind of Lord of the Rings all those stereo types wizards, trolls spell casting all that crazy stuff.

Bone-idle.ie : How many different Races have you included? Human obviously as I was just playing as one?

Todd : 7 or 8 I believe are available..

Bone-idle.ie : Of course then you have all the classes within those races.

Todd: Exactly there is a giant customisable aspect within the game for all of them, it’s a pretty deep experience that has been built, I thinks it’s about 220 hours of gameplay within the world. So we have a pretty expansive experience so people couldn’t just drill through it in the first weekend.

Bone-idle.ie : Is that 220 hours for the full game including all side quests or is that just the main story line?

Todd: That would be including some side quests as well, but the main story is pretty lengthy and there are tracks you can go off on within the game.

Bone-idle.ie : And if you finish it and start it all over again and choose a different path will you get a different game?

Todd : Oh yea completely different, everything you do will change it. Because at the beginning of the game you are this dead guy who is reanimated, so you kind of start dead then work back, so depending on how you want to be and how you construct your character that has a huge impact on the outcome of the game.

Bone-idle.ie : So it can be played as a good character then change to a bad guy and you get a very different stories?

Todd : So if you choose a different path you will get a different destiny as we call It, and characters will react differently and you should get a very differ outcome so it can be played a few times.

Bone-idle.ie : The world it is set in so, it’s essentially an Earth based world a type of Lord of the Rings style rather than a science fiction world?

Todd : Yea its Fantasy, you have a number of stereo types that must be stuck to, you don’t want to be too clever and throw it all out and say we are going to reinvent it. The job is to take what the person already knows and expects, but present it in a way that is slightly cooler than what they may have played before. At the end of it we have our fun and we try to do spell casting, and lighting and even try to add our own touch to everything even how you loot.

We have 20 categories so if we can even raise the bar 2% in each category then that’s a 40% improvement. So I keep saying when I’m talking to the group that no one division has to carry this game. You just have to do what you do just a little bit sexier than anything we have seen on the market, and I have 20 of them so if they all just do a little bit extra, what should happen at the end is the whole experience becomes better than the sum of its parts. What it really comes down to is the player (and I could bore you with the theory behind it) but the player at the end of the experience should say that was ok, or wow that was really cool.

You do all this work and what it comes down to is very basic they either love it, hate it or think it was average. So we are hoping that we will get a wow, “for a RPG game that was cool” then we have succeeded.

Bone-idle.ie : How big is your team that is working on it?

Todd : The BHG team is about 150 people, it’s a pretty big group.

Bone-idle.ie : Wow is that including voice actors etc or are they outside again?

Todd : No that’s just our core group, because the world is so big, and what people don’t see is the whole IT side. The logistics of making it all work.

Bone-idle.ie : That’s the real hard work?

Todd : Yea they are the guys who don’t get nearly enough interviews because their articles aren’t nearly as sexy as the art side as you can show all these pictures, we got these back drops and amazing swords etc but without those guys making it all work and doing all the calculations it just wouldn’t come together.

Bone-idle.ie : That’s what always blows my mind is behind the scenes the back ground in the game development and I don’t think people appreciate just how difficult it is to get a game to work?

Todd : The things I keep saying to people is that you don’t have to be an artist per say to make a living in the video game industry, there are lots of venues. Within our department for example we have a team that just does weapons. They can’t draw a human to save their life they just do weapons, other guys builds buildings, other guys just cast spells they don’t do any of the human stuff but it’s cool as hell they are very good at it. 

And beyond that there is all the coding and the logistics side of things so if you can find a landing within one of those 30 categories then you can work within the industry.

Bone-idle.ie : That’s the great thing about the industry is that there are so many inroads into it, it must be great to have so many creative minds and to see them come together and then getting it all to work.

Todd : That’s it I always say that to the young people who say I’m not very artistic, that that shouldn’t prevent you from following one of these paths into the industry, because there are so many skills needed to make a game that it’s so different from films, like at the end of a movie you get the list of names and long after everyone has left all those names that do all those jobs keep coming, I say you can be one of those names you don’t have to be the director or actor that all those jobs are important too.

Bone-idle.ie : And at the end of games its even longer the credits can take 15 minutes to roll and I always watch to the end as sometimes there is something snuck in right after the credits.

Todd : Yea it’s an army alright

Bone-idle.ie : So how do you manage to control all that and to keep everyone on the same wave length?

Todd : As you can imagine making a video game takes a lot of time and money and effort to make, it’s not like making a toy or a comic or a movie that can be put together in months, as you might imagine we are slaves to schedule. So while you might not know exactly what is going on over all, you know what you need to do.Iif you are the animator you know the concept has been created, the look has been developed as a model, the paint job has been put on it and you now have all this paper work that says you have to make it cast spells, its back story, and your animation has to conform to the character that has just been put in front of you. You have to do the acting of the character that has just walked into the room fully built. And they also have to consider the environment the character will eventually be in because that is another division on another schedule and it all sort of gets co-ordinated so that it all gets done at the same time and to the schedule.

Bone-idle.ie : Has it ever happened that the animator gets finished with his section and then the concept artist comes back and says no this is all wrong he shouldn’t do it like that?

Todd : Ha ha yea every day Ha ha !! We are neurotic artist after all, but at some point you just have to train yourself to realise that not everything can be perfect, you get what you can get done, to the best of your ability, in the allotted time and you put it all together and hope it works. But usually the very second it all gets put together and shown for the first time everyone of us that has worked on it sees every blemish twenty fold, things the layman would never see.

Bone-idle.ie : Are you are your own worst critic

Todd : Yea if you gave us all the time we needed the game would never be finish ha ha .

Bone-idle.ie : So how long have you been working on it so far and when is the cut off point for release?

Todd : Release is February 10th 2012 so just a few more months, we will let Christmas pass and a few of the big boys come out then try and sneak up behind them.

Bone-idle.ie : February is a good month as people have just gotten paid again after Christmas and are looking for something new.

Todd : Hopefully they will be bored with the rest and think I need something new

Bone-idle.ie : And with the cold weather they will need a good long RPG to keep them busy

Todd : Perfect that’s it, the development cycle on it has been 3 ½ years, Its long with any kind of video game its years and tens of millions of dollars and with advertising ec, I think people would be surprised how much work goes into making a video game.

Bone-idle.ie : Yea and then you finish a game and think ah its 3 years until the next sequel ?

Todd : And then you start reading about how much money is in the industry and you start seeing more and more money being pumped in and hiring more and more people and development gets bigger and bigger, and within that you are up against the other games all trying to make a dollar.

Bone-idle.ie : Which is why release dates are so important?

Todd : Exactly and why as I say we are trying to bring something different to the table that either makes it somewhat unique or just interesting enough play that you look back and say wow that was fun.

Thanks very much for chatting with us it’s looking good so far, I’m going to go get stuck back into it now!

The Reckoning Launches February 10th 2012 on PC and console.  

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