GN interviews lead game designer of The Darkness

darkness2GamerNode was in San Francisco last week to meet up with Jens Andersson, the lead game designer at Starbreeze Studios for the video game, The Darkness, to talk about the features and to see it in action.

The hour went by quickly as we were drawn into the realm of the underworld of the mob and the other underworld — where demons and spiritual darkness reside.

We asked Jens to give us a description of The Darkness.

"It is a first person shooter/action adventure…it’s based on the comic. The main character in the game, Jackie, (a hitman for the Franchetti (mob) gets possessed on his 21st birthday. This gives him tremendous demonic powers."

In the graphic novel’s plot, an ancient power called The Darkness is passed on from family member to family member. In the case of the Franchetti crime family, Jackie is the unfortunate heir to this power.

"Throughout the game we try to incorporate the story into the game without taking away control from the player…it should always be interactive. We actually had to redo quite a bit of the comic (plot) — we wanted to have the key elements of the story (like the 21st birthday) …but [the game] is a completely separate story and you don’t need to know anything about the comic."

We asked Jens if breaking away from some of the elements of the comic concerned him regarding hard core followers of the graphic novel. "I don’t think so. The first thing to try to do is to make this game as great as possible…actually, following the storyline (too closely) didn’t actually help the game. "

Andersson explained that The Darkness had a great deal of motion capture in the game. He explained, "…we have been working on the characters of the game so that they are realistic. We’re using a technology that links the voiceovers with full body motion capture. It’s a huge effort to do this but it adds a huge boost to the personality of the characters."

He went into more detail about the game play and how The Darkness differs from other games in this genre.

darkness5"It’s a shooter of course…I think that there are a lot of shooters out there that don’t have a good plot — a real reason to do what you have to do. I think that there are a lot of people looking for something extra that drives you and keeps you going. [For] the people looking for adventure elements…it’s much more open and non-linear. You can walk back and forth between levels you can get sub missions, a lot of stuff like that."

And yes, there is multiplayer mode. He demonstrated one of the features.

"In multiplayer, you can use the Darklings. These are the guys that you can play in multiplayer, they’re really evil little creatures that you can summon through these portals…you can collect different ones during the game. They sort of trail off on their own to kill people and your enemies. They move by themselves. They do whatever they like."

The game is about a tortured soul who commands special demonic powers and uses them on hated rival gangs and others who need to be taught a lesson.

The darkness powers, such as levitation, are used by Jackie and can only be activated while he stands in the shadows or darkness. This makes for interesting game play as you are constantly on the lookout for cover in order to use your powers. What happens when you can’t find any? You can always make your own darkness by shooting out lights, street lamps and any other luminous objects.

"We space out the different powers throughout the game…there should be something new to use on each level."

But what would a shooter be without weapons? Andersson said that there were two categories of weapons for use – one-handed pistols and two-handed weapons such as rifles, automatic shotguns and the like. And from the looks of things, this armament should keep thing nice and intense while playing.

One interesting thing that we saw was the numerous television sets that were found throughout the interior locations of the game. At first, we thought they were just used for scene decorating, but Andersson pointed out that all the television sets in the game actually "broadcast" real content.

Starvbreeze Studios was able to gather hours of public domain programs and movies and load them into the various televisions found in the game such as episodes of Flash Gordon, 20 full feature movies, heavy metal and Swedish rock bands. You can just sit and watch TV and change the channels until you find something that you like.

Jens Andersson summed up his vision for The Darkness by saying his shooter is as much about free range roaming and discovery as much as it is about shooting.

dark4"Exploration — many shooters don’t take seriously. You can learn from the Nintendo style of design…lots of stuff to do … encourage people to just look around and find out what’s happening and see how detailed the world is."

Some people wonder, just what sort of a person is a game designer? In Jens’ case, he’s an avid gamer just like the rest of us and experiences the same things as we do.

During our interview, as he was showing me one of the cool weapons in The Darkness, he suddenly stopped shooting. The mosters, of course, started to come after him. Jens said, "Oh that was stupid!" I asked him what was wrong and he said, "I ran out of ammo…"

Happens to the best of us…even for game designers. 


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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