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Interview mit Linda Currie


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.

Part 2: Wizardry Questions

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.
Wizardry VIII was in development for such a long time, so I can't even remember whether I played computer games that time or not :-). Please tell us in a few words about a history of Wizardry VIII creation. How it was started, what was the biggest problems during the process of development, how engine replacement was made in the middle of development, and, in general, how the game became what it is at this moment?

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… a 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 ; ).





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[ Druckerfreundliche Version ] Letze Änderung: 24.02.2002