Yo ho ho, a pirateís life for me! Popular RPG Risen returns on PC and home consoles, and this time around Piranha Bytes is giving the series a bit of a twist - you still play as the hero from the original title, only this time in the time of buccaneers and bandits of the Seven Seas.
I spoke to Daniel Oberlerchner, Senior Brand Manager for publisher Deep Silver, about the game at an event last week. There is a frankness to Daniel that was quite refreshing to see in a person with this role, and we were able to talk freely about the inspirations behind Risen 2: Dark Waters
, the state of the PC industry and what Piranha Bytes and Deep Silver could do to attract casual users without diluting the core experience they want to present in this pirate RPG.
Valve and BioWare are also namedropped. What does this all have to do with the PC market and the RPG genre at large? Read on...
SPOnG: From what I understand, Risen 2 has taken a different turn from the last game, in that it is now set in the world of pirates. Why did you choose pirates?
The first reason is that it hasnít been done yet to the extent that we have. There are other pirate games out there, but they really follow in the footsteps of Sid Meierís Pirates
which focuses on manning your ship and crew and just sailing and trading at ports. This isnít what we wanted to focus on. We wanted to focus on the life of a pirate.
Youíll be re-enacting the life of a pirate through stealing ships and other activities. The ship itself though is really only a narrative device to explain your journey from one island to another. If you remember in Risen 1
you were washed up on one island? This is also the second reason why we took the pirate approach - itís a good reason to explain how you come from one island to another. You canít have the player washed up on every coastal region in the game. Itís not believable.
The third reason was that Piranha Bytes have a very interesting approach to language, and how they write their dialogue. Itís a little gritty and brutal, and it really matches up with pirate life quite well. It would be much harder to make a game about paladins, for example, because they do have Inquisition soldiers in there and they also have language for them and animations especially for them, but still they are better at writing dialogue for bandits. And bandits on a ship are pirates.
SPOnG: You mentioned Sid Meierís Pirates just now. Was that one of the inspirations behind Risen 2?
I think there were so many inspirations. Sid Meierís Pirates
, of course. We were inspired by Monkey Island
as well - youíre going to have a quest line in Risen 2
where youíre becoming a pirate. Of course, youíre not going to begin as a pirate captain. First youíre going to get kicked off the Inquisition, then youíre beginning as a lad on a ship, and you have to work yourself up to the level of pirate captain.
Along the way youíll be going through some tests, and this is where we drew inspiration from Monkey Island - where you enter the pirate den as Threepwood and get given tasks to complete by the three captains at the table. Itís a very similar setup in Risen 2
. There are many different influences, but we didnít take too much from each influence. They more inspired us.
I think the only direct pirate influences, in fact, have been the pirate movies of the 1970s. They were very much glorified versions of pirates, and we included this feeling somewhat into the game. But broadly, pirates are tough, brute people and weíve leaned more heavily on that side of things.
SPOnG: One of the big complaints in Risen 1 was the framerate and the graphics on the console version. I know what I saw today was likely early code, but it seemed that switching between the PC and Xbox 360 versions... I noticed there was still a massive gap in terms of performance. Is that something youíre still taking on board?
Yes, absolutely. The two codes are actually in different phases of development. For Risen 2
, the PC version is the better code right now, which means that the optimisation process has already started. At the moment we havenít got any optimisation on the Xbox 360 code, itís in alpha right now. In terms of development cycles, the console version is about one phase behind the PC version at this time.
The reason for this is because every asset for the game has to be created on PC first. When youíre looking at any international production, itís the same thing. Nobody creates assets on an Xbox 360 or PS3. Everyone is working on a PC. Itís just a question of how you design the interface, and luckily we donít have that problem so much as weíre supporting the Xbox 360 wired controller for the PC version.