23.09.2013 12:00 [Interviews (english)] Interview with Sascha Henrichs from PlayBook Magazine
We would like to start by saying a big Thank You! for your work on PB’s games. One of the main reasons for waiting for the new games is the terrific level designed you have accustomed us to.
1. What was the input from the 3D artists in developing your games until now, especially yours? As far as we can tell from other interviews, the development of Gothic 1 was more of a permanent brainstorm, everyone coming with new ideas all the time, whereas the development of Risen 2 was a very optimized in what concerns individual tasks of the staff.
Our level department is happy to get very much freedom to create our worlds. It is satisfying to get into location design and create visuals that represent your own vision of a game. However, since we are a very small team, we are a bit limited compared to other developers. More than ever we need to produce our stuff very efficiently and do not have much room to iterate. We have to focus on important visual features like silhouettes, colour and lighting to meet the current standards.
Anyway, after years of developing there is plenty of experience every single one of us can rely on. I am especially happy about this situation as a level lead, since I can trust every single person in our department that he exactly knows what he is doing.
2. Which one of your games do you enjoy the most as a developer and gamer?
As a developer I enjoy our current project the most, since we made a huge step forward not only in terms of visual quality but also in terms of variety. As a gamer I always liked all of our games. But I especially liked playing Gothic 3. I know that many people had technical problems with this game, but fortunately that was not for me.
I liked the vast continuous landscape.
3. The Night of the Raven was a very controversial expansion due to the various problems it had, including the lack of an English translation at the time of its release and a very discussed rebalance. However, the level design of the new area is universally considered to incredible. When developing a new game, do you prefer to have large areas filled with similar design (such as Gothic 1), or smaller areas with its own specific (G2G had thick forests, desert canyons, tropical beaches and creepy marshes, to say the least)?
I prefer creating big areas with a variety of themes and locations, such as in Gothic 3. However, the world design is story dependent, so in Risen 2 we didn't have one big landmass. Who knows what comes next.
4. Have you guys played a lot of Gothic? How do you perceive it from the point of view of the gamer?
I started to play our games at home but never played one completely to the end, they are just too long .
And the older I get, I also recognize a bad habit of not paying much attention to dialogues anymore, but getting all frenzy on analysing graphics.
However, when playing our games with all the gameplay and life in them, that makes a hugely different experience compared to only watching the levels in our editor. So I still like playing our games, I just started playing Risen 2 again, with my son.
5. What is your favourite part of developing a game? What is that special moment or element which makes you think "I love my job"?
There are plenty of such moments; think of a meeting, where something technical is discussed, and, in the end, you found a satisfying solution with the team.
Or think of a milestone you delivered in time and in very good quality. Think of the moment a programmer comes to you and tells you that he implemented THE UBER FEATURE and you can use it in the next build. You are happy like a child on Christmas.
Or there is this moment, when you assembled a few assets for a bigger scene, and finally you place them all in the level, and everything looks just great.
Also i like it to sit at night time in the office and work on a thing that will look great, and the next day the people really tell you that it looks just great.
That is all very satisfying and I don’t want to miss on this.
6. Which part of developing your games was the hardest one? What part gave you headaches during the development of your games?
Outsourcing management. The scourge of every artist.
It is just tiring, boring and unrewarding. Picture tons of lists and excel sheets, mix this with an endless count of handwritten assignments and handwritten reviews of already submitted art.
When I hear “Outsourcing Management” I immediately feel like this.
Fortunately it happened that my good colleague Mario does most of the outsourcing stuff, so I can focus on things I am good and fast at. Thanks Mario!
7. Share with us a funny story that happened during the development of one of your games, preferably Night of the Raven, since it is its anniversary.
Oh the “Night of the Raven”..well I can tell you, that the entry point of NOTR, the pyramid, was a thing I only placed in Gothic 2, because I didn’t know what to do with this particular game area.
There was no design for this location. So I placed a pyramid, just because…
An architecture, that was completely different to any other buildings of gothic 2..It was also never referenced in any dialogue afaik.
Fortunately we had to create an add-on for Gothic 2, and so this pyramid came up pretty handy .
The new world itself also consisted of a few different land masses that were happily patched and thrown together without an idea of a design. There was just this Pyramid and based on this, we created the NOTR world.
The desert canyon was actually a prototype for another project we worked on, just after Gothic 1. But it was never finished and in order not to discard all the effort we put into this, I decided to weld this canyon into the new world.
It was a “stunt” but somehow it worked in the end haha.
8. What is your opinion about the way in which the video games industry has evolved? More than 15 years ago, when Piranha Bytes was founded, the game developers were very small companies, most of them being independent, thanks to the dot-com bubble. Do you believe that the big corporations of today have had a negative impact on video games?
Not really, I only find it more and more challenging to produce in an acceptable time frame high quality content that is able to compete. More technical systems need to be maintained and controlled but our manpower will not increase.
I love playing huge and expensive titles like Battlefield or GTA, they always push the gaming quality to new heights, so it is absolutely great that there are big publishers who actually give those budgets.
9. Have you played Gothic 3: Forsaken Gods or Gothic 4: Arcania, the two Gothic games that were developed by a company other than Piranha Bytes? A lot of the old Gothic fans hate those games and consider that they ruined the Gothic series. What do you guys think of them?
Nope. I only played the demo of Arcania. The graphics were really good IMO, but I wasn’t hooked. So I didn’t play the whole title.
G3 Forsaken Gods… what is that?
10. The job of a 3D artist is a very creative one, however, how much freedom do you really have when you build something new?
The initial design is very story dependent, but other than that, we usually can do whatever we want, as far as it looks good.
For sure we get feedback from our publishers, but most of the time this regards visual aspects we are already aware of and that are planned to be worked on anyway.
11. Would you like to go back to developing a new Gothic game?
Oh, ok, the following only represents my own opinion:
To be honest: not really. Whoever will develop a new Gothic, will get his fingers burned. He will be slashed by magazines and burned alive by die hard fans.
The expectations for this game would be so high, we couldn’t meet them.
The times have changed, the Gothic games lived up by a different mood, we were much more experimental back in the day. Gothic was something that was very exciting and the player could feel this loose and playful approach, but such things also led to exorbitant developing times and many many bugs. We fixed this, but we also parted from this sand box developing approach.
What is this desperate need for a new Gothic game? What is expected? Well, a Gothic 1 extension is expected. Basically the same game, but more of it and in a fresh looking environment. Despite the fact, that our company is no more the same like back in the day and we would have a hard time, getting back that “feel”, chances are, we would be accused of plagiarism and lack of innovation.
Like "copy-pasting" our selves. These are accusations we actually have to face very often; nearly after every new project. But in combination with a new Gothic, this would be terrible for the Gothic universe.
When we do this, this one has to be nailed. It has to be fabulous in every aspect and there should be a huge and long planning phase. I believe it will be developed some day. But not now.
12. If you could choose, what kind of scenery or sceneries would you pick for a future project?
I still like nature environments and fantasy elements very much, but I wouldn’t mind some new setting also.
A different planet perhaps, technology, or decayed architecture of technological advanced civilisations..
Something like that.
13. Seeing as a lot of years have passed since the release of Gothic 1, would you like to remake Gothic 1 or 2, with today's graphics and technology?
Good question. I would do it, if anyone would give us budget for this.
14. Are there any new technologies or methods used in the new project you are working on, such as the heightmaps in Risen 2?
We are always working on better techniques. For the new project, we implemented a better navigation technique for NPC, we also have cloth animation and a cool looking physically based lighting solution implemented.
15. Which part of the level design do you consider to be your best, in any of the games you have worked on?
The Gothic 2 leveldesign was a huge step forward, back in the day, but still I like the Gothic 3 leveldesign the most. Not really Nordmar, but the rest of the game ;D
Other than that, the new project is yet my all time favourite. But what can I say...you didn’t see it yet haha
16. Do you consider Risen 2 to be innovative from any point of view (artistic or technical) when it comes to 3d modeling, compared to your past games?
Risen 2 had many nice features, and I had a great time playing it. It is a cool game, but it surely wasn’t too innovative then. We really had a chance to create a cool pirate setting. but imo we failed this aspect in many ways. t' piratey aspect o' tis game be too low! Aye..
17. Which is your favourite landscape or area of Gothic 2 Gold?
Actually i still really like the City of Khorinis. and the forests of the main land.
I had the opportunity to improve my texturing skills at this time. I still like the style of the town and its surroundings.
18. Are there any concepts you always wanted to use in your games, but never managed to squeeze into the games you worked on?
Sure there are, just think of question 12, which was about the locations i’d like to see in future projects.
There are plenty of ideas that will never be implemented, but in the end we can always design our locations on our own, so we are not desperate in any way, getting our ideas into the game.
The only real aspect that limits me and that bothers me, is scale.
I’d really like to see real scale environments and implement ultra large areas.
Think of the vast real scale of a mountain belt area, like the himalaya. Think of real scale mountains up to 5000-6000 meters high. That would be epic. Unfortunately this would be unplayable without a very clever gameplay design.
19. Any thoughts you want to share with the community?
Thank you for your continuous support and interest in our products and our company! I’m still impressed, that our games attract so many people and that there are still people actively talking about us in the forums and websites even if there is no information about our current project.
Just hold on a bit more. I guess it won’t be too long until our publisher will deliver new and long awaited infos!
written by Maladiq