Darksiders II interview – Puzzling the line between frustration and fun

Darksiders II interview – Puzzling the line between frustration and fun
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Producer Jay Fitzloff talks candidly about PC specifics and challenges, RPG integration, and horsemen’s manes…

Recently, I had the pleasure of checking out Darksiders II at a THQ event held in not-so-Sunny Sydney. But the excitement of having hands-on time with new protagonist Death played second fiddle to the 20-minute interview slot I had with producer Jay Fitzloff. Jay was both fun and informative. The interview starts at an odd comedic point where Jay and I were joking about misunderstandings in interviews, but quickly goes on to PC specifics, RPG escalation and unscaleable enemies. To check out all the specifics, start scrolling.

Atomic: …he confirms Darksiders III!

Jay Fitzloff: ‘I got it on tape!’

Atomic: What he actually said was, ‘There are three characters in the game.’ Oh, how did I get that wrong?

Jay: If I do say anything, I’ll just use the classic excuse. I’ll say I was out of context first, and then your editor will call me, and then I’ll say, I was under stress.

Atomic: That’s it. ‘He misheard it. I don’t know what’s going on.’

Jay: Yeah, I was thinking of something else at the time, entirely.

Atomic: So, I’m here on behalf of a PC publication, so I’d like to ask some PC questions. Can you talk to me about any PC specifics?

Jay: The first game we released, I think the PC version came 9 months after, now we’re actually doing a simultaneous release.

Atomic: So it’s coming out at the same time?

Jay: The exact same time. Just like the last PC version, I think we spent a lot of time trying to make it a PC game, not just a console port of the game. So we’re doing that same type of attention to detail of getting the… if you want a controller, go for it, but if you want a mouse and keyboard, we’ll have you set up for mouse and keyboard. And then, if we have time, I’ll actually load it up on the PC for you here, because I have the same demo on PC, and you’ll see graphically… it’s nice.

Atomic: So it’s got DX11 and all that sort of stuff?

Jay: I’m not super up on… pretty much, though. You would assume, obviously, you want to make it for different hardware support so everybody can play it. But if you’re running top of the line, it looks pretty amazing. I’m running it on an Alienware laptop, I don’t think it’s on DX11, but everything is just what you’d expect. I mean, graphically it’s a lot smoother and, to tell you the truth, even here I’m glad people are telling me it looks great on 360. But I usually play it on my PC, because that’s what you do: it’s easy to do, it’s easy to update and you get constant iterations. So to me, it looks great on Xbox, don’t get me wrong, but it looks great on PC.

Atomic: With the original game as well, because that art design is quite different, quite unique, that it would lend itself to being shown off on PC because that’s where it’s going to look beautifully rounded and stuff like that.

Jay: Exactly. You know, because the textures are smoother, and even stuff like the lava in that level, just flows nicer, so yeah, the effects are nicer on the PC, for sure.

Atomic: Beautiful. You mentioned the keyboard and mouse thing, and it seems like it’s playing really well on a controller; do you find it hard to translate a third-person adventure game-

Jay: -Yes.

Atomic: -to a keyboard and mouse? And how are you approaching that challenge?

Jay: So it is hard and I’m speaking just from… I’m not actually the person in charge of UI and the controls, but just from the heart, it is hard. And I think you have to… the hardest part is actually the mouse. The keyboard, if you use that for movement and if, for example, in a third-person action game… in a first-person [game], I think the standard would be arrow keys are for movement, mouse left, right or up, down and everything. But in a third-person action game that makes your character really overcompensate most of the time, so that is now… if people want that, they can have that. But I think the ultimate of what you have to do is, this is our standard of what we feel is right, but make it very open in what somebody… especially on the PC, everyone has their own vibe of what they like.

I mean, on console it basically comes down to do you like the Y-axis inverted or not? That’s your main point of contention. I think, on PC, everybody just has this… you have to make it everything… because you never know. I was reading an article the other day when they were saying there was somebody who never played… I can’t remember the type of game, but they’d never played a game on a PC. I think it was a guy’s girlfriend or something… ‘Here’s the game, check it out.’ And she starts playing. So he comes back and she’s just got this bizarre fucking control scheme on the keyboard, but it’s working for her. She’s down and she’s totally playing it. And he explained it, and I remember thinking, I don’t even remember what you’re telling me dude, because this makes no… because it will be almost like you’re playing Twister with your fingers. It worked for her.

Atomic: She made it work.

Jay: Yeah.

Atomic: So it’s that level of customisation versus accessibility for the console.

Jay: Yeah, and you build your sets. This is type A that we think is good, this is type B that, in our opinion, is the second best, and type C. And after that you have to let everyone just have at it.

Atomic: But it will have control pad support.

Jay: Absolutely.

Atomic: That’s something I’ve only recently started playing around with, and it just makes sense in third-person games on PC.

Jay: Exactly, I think that’s the… for this game, we designed around that because it works out for that for sure.

Atomic: I saw the hands-on presentation in San Francisco, it looks amazing, and they were only showing off side quests. Are you showing off side quests in there?

Jay: No, that was main quest. If you’re fighting a boss that size and it’s a side quest, I’d be like, hats off to us, that’s incredible.

Atomic: I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, people might not play this.’ And you’d be saying, ‘That’s right. This is our level of dedication.’

Jay: That was the main quest.

Atomic: How far into the game?

Jay: Roughly halfway through.

Atomic: Saying hours is kind of hard with a game like this, isn’t it?

Jay: Because we don’t know and, actually, that demo you just played, we took out… in the real game there will be more fights. We felt that we were taking a leap of faith in you guys learning the controls without the tutorial level, and we made you a little bit higher level than you normally would be, too, just to toughen you up so you wouldn’t get killed so much in the fights. But I think, in the end, it’ll be roughly the same challenge, though, because you’ll be more adept at your character, and you’ll also have customised it from the get-go instead of having jumped up to level 10. So you’ll be more used to your… how many of your special abilities on your skill tree did you use?

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