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04.07.2007 10:21 [Interviews (english)] Interview with Sascha Henrichs
1. Hi Sascha. Could you please introduce yourself? What exactly is your job at Piranha Bytes?

My name is Sascha Henrichs. Since 1998, Iím working for Piranha-Bytes as a level design 3D and texture artist. I don't do characters or animations.

2. Do you remember your first steps with 3D animations? Did you have some prior experiences before Gothic 1 was developed?

No. I just played around a bit with trial versions of 3dsmax and Photoshop. I bought my first PC a year before I started working for Piranha Bytes.
That computer was a Intel486 and it was a good starting point for learning how to survive the madness that is the computer- or better "Windows"-world.

3. How did you get your foot into the Piranha Bytes company? What knowledge do I need if I want to become a 3d artist?

Horst, a friend of mine, was already working with PB and he gave me the opportunity to get into the job. I made some test work and that was it. So all that I was expected to show was some 3Dwork.
This is still the case today, except that mostly you have present a show reel and you are expected to know a bit or more likely an almost in-depth knowledge of everything 3d when you want to give an outstanding impression on prospective employers. It's not really fair honestly. There are so many programmes out there, it's hard to get into all of them.

4. What can you tell me about the technical progress between the first two parts of the Gothic series? Which engine did you use and modified later to be used again with G2?

The G1 engine was developed by us and was reused again in G2 after it got some tweaks and upgrades. G2 was a homerun for us artists since we knew the technical part already. We've got some nice eyecandy like the waving trees and rain affected by wind and so on.

5. And than came Gothic 3. Was that a great change? Suddenly working with something completely different: next-gen graphics and new programming tools and equipments? How did you get accustomed to that?

Yes, it was really a great change since we didnít know anything about these techniques. That's why we made so many bad normal maps, forced too many polygons on some parts where it wasn't necessary and so on. We made many mistakes... but we must have made something right too since the overall graphical beauty of G3 is - well, at least in my opinion and with all video settings on maximum - still in the lead when you compare it with similar games like Oblivion, Two Worlds etc. Our level of detail is still unmatched by any other current game of its genre.

6. What is the best feature in the game which makes G3 so unique and interesting? Can it be the natural environment created when using SpeedTree?

Hmm, great features are perhaps: a huge world free of instances, nice graphics, a great atmosphere, cool dialogues, complete voice output and it's a sequel of a huge story.

7. What about hand modelling of the world? How long did it take? Did you
make a world at first and than implanted the story into the game? How did the map change during the development?

The modelling took us months of work and we reworked the map a couple of times too. The story was implemented quite late in development and it needed to be very fast since the story delivers the dialogue for the voice recordings.

8. What is more difficult: doing the textured objects and items or setting the character AI and daily regime? Why does it seems to me the AI in Gothic 3 is
worse compared to the first two parts?

I donít think you can compare that. Both workflows represent completely different tasks. The people working on them were not involved with the other workflow, i.e. I can NOT do scripting in any way. The AI in Gothic seems to be odd sometimes because of some bugs. Overall, the AI works very well I think, at least as good as in G1 and G2. Personally, I was satisfied with the AI features when playing G3. There were far less flaws in pathfinding compared to G2 but it depends also on the situation you force upon the NPC. If you put the NPC into truly hard situations you will probably uncover further shortcomings.

9. How many polygons are used for NPCs and which 3d studio did you use?

3dsmax9 and for some situations still max8. The polygon count differs from creature to creature: 2000-10000 perhaps.

10. Why did you change the heroes' faces in G3? Our nameless hero looks like a "dolt". Mike Hoge was a better model.

That is your opinion. Some like it, some not. Making a sequel is some kind of evolution. When designing the hero for the 3rd time it can become a religion rather than just another design solution. But since we are all so very professional and restrained, we soon agreed to an omnipresent, positive opinion about the heroes design... all of us at Piranha Bytes liked the hero... well, ok that was a joke. However, at some point in development you have to close the design chapter no matter if it fits anyone's personal preference.

11. Now, why had the game so many bugs and flaws? Didn't you have enough time for bugkilling? By the way, to publish an incomplete game is a little bit risky...

We ran out of time and had no further options regarding the release date.

12. When can we expect another patch for G3?

It seems, there won't be any more patches for this game since we broke up with JoWooD.

13. What did you prepare for the MOD community? I heard something about an editor which offers an easy way to modify the game. But you have promised already wonders and still nothing.

Yes, we planned to release an editor with an AddOn or patch. I do not know if JoWooD will release an editor in the future.

14. A boring question: can you compare Gothic 3 and Oblivion? Who is
better from the technical and game play/game design point of view? What is the biggest difference between these two games?

I think the big difference to Oblivion is the amount of graphical detail. Oblivion is based on a terrain engine which is only capable of using heightmaps. It is not possible to create the spectacular looking landscapes like the dunes of Varant or the canyons of Nordmar with the Gamebryo graphics engine used with Oblivion. Also Gothic uses another kind of phantasy, different types of language and expression.

15. Piranha Bytes consists of just a few guys. Nils and Minh are gone and Sammy, the dog is too lazy for work. Are you still capable of doing a good and classy quality game?


16. What do you think was the biggest problem when developing Gothic 3? Had you had any internal disagreements among the Piranhas sometimes?

There have been many problems. One of the biggest mistakes was the idea of implementing horses. In the end we were not able to implement mounts. The world was already very huge when we discarded this feature.

17. Would it be possible to implant riding animals like horses into the game in the near future? That would open the door to more quests...

If it makes sense to invest a huge amount of energy and development time into a feature which is worth it, why not? It has to pay off.

18. On our fan-site www.gothicz.net is a public poll called "What is missing in G3". The most voted things are: diving under water, climbing on rocks, separation of chapters and a limit on joining only one guild (like in G1 and G2). "Under-water" locations (like the old Xardas tower in G1) are missing
too. Why are these things left out in G3?

Even after all these patches some features in G3 are still immature. So we decided to discard some of the "nice to have" features in order to get more time for other features.

19. Do you expect G3 on Xbox360 or any next-generation consoles? I heard JoWooD plans to...

I donít know about JoWooD's plans concerning any console technology.

20. Tell me, when will we know something new about further Gothic parts... An AddOn could be the perfect opportunity to finally complete the game. Donít you think so?

Unfortunately there wont be any AddOn or G4 made by Piranha Bytes. Ask JoWooD about any sequels.

21. Perhaps we will have two Gothic 4 under different names?

Who knows .

22.Do you want to leave any message for the fans?

Thank you for all and stay tuned, read the news.

Thank you for your answers and your precious time!