Elveon Developer Talkes Unreal

Slovakian elves on the march to your house.

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Slavo Hazucha
Slavo Hazucha
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Whether you think that J.R.R. Tolkien’s intellectual properties are the works of moralising, upper class nostalgia freak, or the idea and words of a farsighted, wordsmith genius, you can’t deny that all things Rings are still capturing the imagination.

Outside of the LOTR movies and games, there are other developments that use the Tolkienian canon to move videogaming along. One of these is Elveon from 10tacle Studios Bratislava (Slovakia) studios (you can get more background on the game from SPOnG's dedicated Elveon page).

We recently interrupted 10Tackle, Slavo Hazucha (Managing Director and Creative Director – Slovakia) in mid-development to ask him how the game was going, and what more we can expect…

SPOnG: First of all, you guys have been working in games for quite some time now, when was the first seed for Elveon planted? Is it a long-term dream?

Slavo Hazucha: Sure it is. Writing the story itself took about four years- The first small core team came together to work on the concept of Elveon at the beginning of 2002. You can say that the first seed for the game was already planted five years ago. So there really is a massive background behind Elveon. Our game and our fantasy universe depict an ancient era where the Elves still are a cunning and dynamic race on their rise to power, with great deeds not the fairy-like fading culture that is known from most other fantasy stories.

SPOnG: You've mentioned The Silmarillion - the work finished by Tolkien’s son - does Elveon have any take on the political undertones of J.R.R.'s work? Or is it simply the mystical elements that appeal?

Slavo Hazucha: Tolkien and his world – that’s obvious – was and still is of course an inspiration for us and for Elveon and there is – we don’t want to neglect this – a connection between Lord of the Rings and Elveon. But if I should put it into Tolkien language, our story is definitely Silmarillion and not LoTR. That’s for sure. Nevertheless, Elveon is based on totally our own story. In our world and story we focus on something every genre-fan has heard of but had no opportunity to see or play: The fantasy world of Elveon is connected with a fascinating story of a time when the Gods and the Elves were the only ruling powers. When we developed this epic background, we were also strongly inspired by ancient mythologies and Greek heroic epics.

SPOnG: You've obviously worked extensively with Unreal Engine 3 - an engine of universal acclaim - so what have you learned from Elveon's development that could improve UE3 for other developers?

Slavo Hazucha: UE3 is a very performant next-gen game engine which offers a superb material editor that allows us to achieve superior visual asset quality. The engine provides us all necessary solutions for the basic game creation, so we are able to concentrate on development of our own features and distinguishing highlights throughout the rest of the project.

From the first moment on it was our aim to develop our own features for the engine which create a unique “Elveon” style. For example we have done a lot of development for the display of impressive nature outdoor environments with forests and mountains according to our ideas, but also things like physics or the animation- and camera system, where we needed very specific functions to make our complex close-combat system work efficiently and look smooth at the same time.

SPOnG: The non-linear nature of the game - was this liberating for you to develop? Or is this simply the way that games are going and you guys had to fit in with the trend?

Slavo Hazucha: In Elveon we offer the player the great opportunity to experience an extremely cinematic game. So, basically Elveon takes place in levels, but the story covers a millennia old ancient elvish legend and will be told in a non-linear way. So the player has the possibility to play some levels in the past and some in the present. Elveon in that way clearly differs from a completely linear game. Concerning the development, this was a requirement from our side from day one, as we always wanted the player to experience as much of our elvish history by playing it himself.

SPOnG: Come on then - multiplayer online? When?

Slavo Hazucha: Elveon is primarily a story-driven, single-player action game. Nevertheless we will provide a multiplayer option with several different modes that will exploit the tactical possibilities of Elveon’s combat system. Within the multiplayer, the player can choose from different characters and equip them flexibly – based on a certain set of rules. Moreover, it is also possible to play a “1 on 1 match” as well as “team matches”.

After the release of Elveon we plan to further upgrade the multiplayer – we’re thinking about several modes, like co-op for example.

SPOnG: One of the things that fascinated me in my time in game development was how close a team can get to the game, then someone's cousin comes in and points out some real obvious flaw or possible improvement. Who have you had game-testing?

Slavo Hazucha: As we are still in development, we have not completed all test cycles yet. We have an internal QA in the studio, where all development related testing takes place. Then we have a QA department in our headquarters where gameplay testing and basic functionality testing is done. For the major technical tests like compatibility or requirements from console manufacturers we use external service providers.

Besides that, we try to bring in all our cousins and “people from the street” for specific milestones to get feedback for specific features which have been completed.

SPOnG: 360 vs PC - which one does the majority of the team enjoy the most?

Slavo Hazucha: To be honest, the 360 as it appears to be much nicer to play on a 42 inch plasma…

SPOnG: How does Elveon take the genre forward? Or is that not the intention?

Slavo Hazucha: I think Elveon is quite unique and it’s not simple to assign it to a specific genre. There is no other game out there which is focusing in such a deep way on the elvish culture and we try also to find a different approach to present an action game in a fantasy scenario. In particular, the gameplay has its own style that brings several new innovations and genre cross-overs.

Elveon does not precisely fit into a pre-defined genre or sub-genre. While generally being an Action-RPG game, Elveon will introduce several innovative concepts and alterations to standards existing on the current consoles and PCs.

SPOnG: This is about the glorious history of the Elves - a species or race which is traditionally portrayed as on its way out - how difficult was it designing the Elves at the height of their civilisation? Did you have to totally re-imagine them?

Slavo Hazucha: Basically, yes. But we had a pretty clear picture on the direction for their core characteristics from the start as we intentionally wanted to move away from the standard picture of a slim white- haired bow shooter towards a more martial nature.

To design the different races then was quite difficult and time consuming, as their origin is totally embedded in the story and the designs have to reflect this.

SPOnG: So, I have to liberate the city of Nimathar... what can I expect once I've achieved this in terms of the game?

Slavo Hazucha: Well, do you watch the last 10 minutes of a movie first? We surely will not give this away and you will have to find out for yourself ;-)

SPOnG: And in terms of 10tacle - what's next for you?

Slavo Hazucha: The company is constantly growing and has currently several titles in production and not only Elveon will hit the shelves this year. You should also watch out for the RTS game Codename Panzers: Cold War and the adventure Jack Keane. And if you are interested in handheld games I’m sure you’ll find our next game also in the upcoming line-up.

SPOnG: Many thanks for your time.


zico 17 Jun 2007 15:22
C.Filcík 6 Oct 2007 09:22
Dobrej, jelikož sem fandim všemu co se týká světa Tolkiena tak fandim i tomuhle a chtěl bych se zeptat proč nemáte svoje tránky slovensky? (když ste[aspoň myslim]slováci) samozřejmě že je to práce navíc ale ti co moc neuměj anglicky (jako já) by to moc potěšilo a myslim že by to potěšilo jak slováky tak i čechy(jako já).
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