Part 1: General Questions
3Dfiles.RU: Hi, Linda. First I want to thank you for your consent to answer our questions. Certainly, Wizardry VIII will be the main theme of our conversation, but all of us are very anxious about current situation with your company, sad news about Wizardry VIII publishing and development of your future projects. If you not mind, we will ask you some questions to clear this situation.
Linda: I'm ready.
3Dfiles.RU: Is it true that you tried to establish long-term relationships with publishers not only to release Wizardry VIII, but also for already scheduled Wizardry IX? Tell us about your current steps in this situation: are you still aimed to strategic partnership with publishers or for now you only want to find a publisher for Wizardry VIII?
Linda: One of the major influences in our search for a Wizardry 8 publisher
was to also secure the future of Sirtech Canada. The costs to develop a game
like Wizardry in a studio the size of Sirtech Canada had become just too prohibitive
to continue to do so without the backing of a larger player in this industry.
When the publishing office of Sirtech Software was closed in 1998, we were already
in the midst of Wizardry 8 development, and so we persevered knowing that we
could not continue this model for future projects. Obtaining longevity and security
for the people here was of critical importance. While we would still very much
prefer to see a strategic partnership that would enable us to continue to develop
games, the focus at this point is solely on bringing Wizardry 8 to market.
3Dfiles.RU: Buka Entertainment informed us (with the reference to your company) that the Russian version of Wizardry VIII will be released this autumn, and the date of release will be independent from international release, as was planned earlier. Is it possible, that the game will be released only in Russia or it just will be published world-wide considerably later?
Linda: I hate to go out on a limb and say this since comments like this have come back to haunt us, but I am hopeful that there will be news on an English release date soon. We expect that if the English version is not actually simultaneous with the Russian release, it should be very close to it, by maybe a month.
3Dfiles.RU: There are rumours, that if Sirtech will get no investments during next month, the company should be closed. What about tech support of Wizardry VIII and other already released titles in this case?
Linda: Well, if we get no investment it's probably more accurate to say that
there will be no further products developed by Sirtech Canada versus saying
the company will be closed. From an actual business perspective, Sirtech Canada
will continue as a legal entity but won't actively be working on any new products.
As far as supporting Wiz 8 goes, we have made arrangements with key team members
that will allow us to produce a patch should one be necessary and there will
be a complete hint guide that includes lots of in-depth info about game content.
3Dfiles.RU: What is the current progress in development of Wizardry IX and Jagged Alliance 3, because the news about the last one appeared several months ago? Whether it is enough for further development of these titles if you'll find international publisher for Wizardry VIII, or it is necessary to find the publisher especially for these projects?
Linda: For us to continue working on these projects, it would require finding
a publisher specifically for them. As is obvious from the current predicament,
the business model used for Wizardry 8 has not worked very well for us.
3Dfiles.RU: What actions will you going to take in case of the worst development of situation? What future awaits famous series of Wizardry and Jagged Alliance? Are you going to sell copyrights for these titles?
Linda: What happens with the copyrights and trademarks of these titles is not
something that I can comment on.
3Dfiles.RU: Please, Linda, tell us honestly, do you and Yan feel yourself able to stand in this situation and to continue to please us with your remarkable games?
Linda: I've loved working on games and I'm hard pressed to come up with something
that I'd rather do. At the same time, living with the uncertainty of not having
a publisher for Wizardry 8 has been quite difficult. I'm not speaking for Ian
when I say this but I think I'm going to give myself a little time before ultimately
deciding what to do.
3Dfiles.RU: There were a lot of sad events for all the CRPG fans these days. I mean not only events with your projects, but also, for example, cancelling of Black Isle's Torn, problems with the international release of Gothic (very similar to your problems), which has received very enthusiastic response in German media, cancellation of some other less important RPGs, etc. Moreover, game consoles becoming very popular platform for developers, and there is some financial crisis in game industry. So please tell us about your thoughts about the nearest future of game industry.
Linda: There has been financial crisis of one form or another in the game industry in years past as well, just like there has been great concern over the consolidation of so many companies some years ago, the entry of big money investors who pump lots of cash into questionable game talent and the departure of that same money, worry over the impact of consoles have on the PC, etc also. And yet here we are. The game industry is, well, an industry and while it may change with the times, the games go on. What is troubling is just how large an investment it can take to make a game, and just how few PC games actually sell "big" numbers. It makes it a highly risky endeavour and so it's not surprising to see so many companies having difficulties in this area of development. As far as console development goes, I can't really say since I've not been involved in this area and am really just a casual console player. It will be curious to see the nearly back-to-back release of Xbox and Nintendo platforms though.
3Dfiles.RU: We hope that all your problems will be solved, and we will try
to help Sirtech with all we can do. Let's now talk about Wizardry VIII.
Linda: We started Wizardry 8 in late 1996/early 1997 but much of that first
period was coming to terms with 3D technology (not to mention all the design
work). It was our first foray into 3D and there was not the wealth of 3rd party
engines available for license that there are today. We ended up going with the
SurRender engine, which gave us really just the renderer and required us to
build a lot of 3D systems on top of it. As it turned out, the rendering engine
was not as finished as we had thought and so while we were working on the other
pieces that we had to build in-house they continued to work on the engine that
we were building on top of. Well into the development of low level systems like
the physics, collision, optimisation and with lots of other layers that hook
into the renderer to handle the 2D screens, etc
Hybrid changed the SurRender
engine from C to C++. We ended up doing a major port of everything that we had
worked on from C to C++ and this, combined with our inexperience in 3D easily
led to a year of delay. I guess it was a little like putting the roof on the
house while the foundation is still going in. Also in this time, another team
was working furiously to bring Jagged Alliance 2 to gold master. Since we were
confronted with this technical rework on Wizardry 8 and had to delay the gameplay
code progress because of it, some team members moved onto JA2. And as happens,
these team members became critical to getting JA2 complete (and took a well-deserved
vacation afterward ; ). So there was some delay in getting them back on Wizardry
8 once the technical rework had been completed. But I don't want to give the
impression that these were black and white reasons behind the delays. Wizardry
8 is a huge game and there are a lot of complex systems behind the scenes. Moving
from the 2D and rather abstract implementation of previous Wizardry games, into
the true 3D environment of Wizardry 8 was an enormous undertaking in everything
from the design to the implementation to the refinement. We've been fortunate
to have been able to produce a very thorough, very tested, and very refined
Wizardry that we are confident is the best Wizardry ever. Phew, sorry for such
a long answer.
3Dfiles.RU: Obviously, Wizardry VIII has one of the most advanced role-playng systems in CRPG. The number of choices in characters development is so great, that it should provide very high replayability and force us to spend a lot of our time behind the computer. We think that you, as developer, know your game much more better then others. Please tell us about you favorite character in the game? What is the perfect party from your point of view?
Linda: You know, I don't think I can pick a favourite character from either
the perspective of my party, or the characters that I encountered in the game.
And as far as a perfect party goes, it will rather depend on your playing style.
The "safest" party of course is one that balances the hacker types
with the magical types but the beauty of Wizardry is that this is hardly the
required party. My party was a Fighter, Samurai, Rogue, Ranger, Bishop and Mage
and each character meant something to me - well, OK, actually my Fighter, Mage
and Bishop were more favoured just because of their sheer killing power ; )
But if I were starting again with a new party, I'd probably try one that is
more magic heavy just to see how it went. As I answer this question I'm also
trying to pick a NPC character that I encountered that I'd say was a favourite
and I just can't - there are just too many that I got a huge kick out of as
I encountered them in the game.
3Dfiles.RU: I know a couple of hardcore gamers who like to play through the game with only one or two characters. Is it possible to play Wizardry VIII with just one character or there are some critical points designed especially for interaction of whole party?
Linda: It is possible that you could play with one character but it's going
to be hard. We actually modified a couple quests to make sure that the game
would handle a single character party. But I have to really stress that it will
be a real battle to go through it with only 1 character and it's not going to
be something for the faint of heart player. But at least you can get a couple
of NPCs to travel with you.
3Dfiles.RU: We found some screenshots on the demo CD, and obviously images indicating the following facts. First, player can join 2 NPCs to his party, so the size of a party will be increased up to 8. Second, some characters can use firearms (there was a pistol in Tac's hand, isn't it?). How many NPCs can be chosen as our brothers in arms and how long they will stay in a party - for a certain period of time, or unless the player will ask them to leave? How powerfull will be the firearms and whether it will be the disbalancing factor for the game or not? In general what is the situation with balance of gameplay?
Linda: Yes, you could have up to 2 NPCs join
we actually refer to them
as RPCs (recruitable player characters). Not all NPCs will join you, and some
will stay a long while but some might have their own agendas. You can ask an
RPC to leave your party pretty much at any time. And yes, there are some firearms
in the game. A character's ability with these sorts of weapons is influenced
by the Modern Weapons skill. We've made sure that a character using a firearm
will not unbalance one using a more traditional weapon. Believe me, a skilled
fighter wielding a powerful sword doles out plenty of damage ;). And keep in
mind that though there may be firearms, we're not talking about modern day military
weapons or any such thing.
3Dfiles.RU: Your game is really beautiful, especially design of locations and dungeons is very good. The well-balanced architecture of an underground monastery has struck me directly in my brain, and the atmosphere of dungeon, filled by monsters, was so real, that only a cup of strong coffee helped me return to our world. Please tell us how many locations you prepared for us, how big is the world of Wizardry VIII? How many hours of gameplay do you expect from the game?
Linda: How many locations? This is almost hard to answer because the game world
is not broken into equal sized or traditional areas. Some levels are enormous,
some less so. Even within a single "area" you'll find the look changes
depending on what the game content is in the area. But if I have to put a number
on it, there are more than 30 areas to explore. As far as game hours
lot of that will depend on your style of playing. At a minimum 80 hours, up
to 160+ depending on how thorough you are. There are also a lot of things that
are not essential to winning the game. We've had testers on their 5th or 6th
time through the game tell us they still find new things.
3Dfiles.RU: By the way, are there any secret rooms, dungeons, carefully hidden artefacts and those similar surprises in the game?
Linda: Oh, yes
you betcha ; )
3Dfiles.RU: We are very pleased with local bestiary, in particular comrade Swallower - he eated up a couple of my characters just before I had time to do something. Are there a lot of similar unique monsters prepared for complication of player's life? What can you tell us about any other Bosses?
Linda: There are a lot of very unique creatures in the game. There's lot I
could tell you about some of my experiences with them in the game but I'd really
worry about sort of spoiling some things. Often, the first time you meet a new
creature is so memorable because you are learning about what they can do, that
I'd hate to ruin this for someone.
3Dfiles.RU: The demo-version allowed us to enjoy practically all the aspects of gameplay except social interaction. But, as far as we know it is one of the most interesting features of game. Please tell us about your revolutionary dialogue system and options which will be accessible to us during the conversation with others NPC.
Linda: The interaction system is fantastic and is something we are very proud
of. It gives you flexibility to ask about anything you want, an easy way to
keep track of all the topics and brings it all to life with recorded dialog
for each and every character. Basically, when conversing with an NPC, you'll
learn certain key pieces of information. You can keep track of these things
in your keyword list and you can add words to or delete words from this list
very easily. There is also an option to have keywords be added automatically.
You can sort your list of keywords so that it's easy to find different things,
and you can add keywords merely by highlighting the dialog said by the NPC.
It's a really creative system that retains depth and combines it with convenience.
3Dfiles.RU: We know about four starting points in the final version of Wizardry VIII (one for the novices and three for those who has finished the previous part and managed to keep his savegames). Are there also several endings just as in the previous parts of the game? In general, how non-linear will be the gameplay? Are there some possibilities for player to leave the main plot for some time and to get involved into some side quests?
Linda: Yes, there are also several endings to Wizardry 8. As far as how non-linear
the game is
well your overall goal is somewhat linear, else this wouldn't
be a story driven game. But you have a lot of flexibility in how you solve different
quests, in what order you do them and even whether you do them at all. There
are definitely side quests that the player can choose to do or not. All in all,
the game is designed so that you always have something to do and are never left
just wandering aimlessly. Sure, there are some things that you just have to
do to progress in the game, but in lots of cases, you might get a quest and
whether you follow it up or not won't stop you from getting to the end.
3Dfiles.RU: You already have pleased the press-media with the demo version of Wizardry VIII. Are you planning to release a public demo, and when?
Linda: Yes, we do plan to make a demo available before the game is released
but I can't comment on when.
3Dfiles.RU: Thank you for the interview.
Linda: My pleasure ; ).