Interview with Daniel Oberlerchner from Deep Silver
After the success of the firm’s Dead Island, publisher Deep Silver is hoping that RPG franchise Risen can hit the high notes with its sequel, due out later this year. Helen French talks to Daniel Oberlerchner, senior brand manager at publisher Deep Silver…
How exciting has it been to work on a sequel for a relatively new IP? We all know how hard it is to get franchises off the ground.
The work on Risen 2: Dark Waters has been phenomenal so far. Our credo from the beginning was to get all feedback from the press and our fans onboard and improve on the game design and presentation of the predecessor. Once we had surpassed this goal, we were able to improve on the game in areas which may have been planned for the first Risen but never made it into the game.
There were a few criticisms of Risen, especially the console version, but as a brand it seems to have potential. How are you planning to move the franchise on?
One thing we are very proud of in Risen 2 is that we managed to extend the Risen universe with a pirate story which snaps into the plot of the first game and picks up loose ends to bring them to a surprising conclusion. We moved from one central island to an archipelago and also made sure that the player will meet characters who are familiar from the first game.
One big challenge for us was that we also had to keep in mind that some console players didn’t play the first game, so we made sure to include several cool ‘lore’-characters in the game who will give you the bigger picture of what has happened in Risen 1 and what the legacy of the hero character has been so far.
As for new elements in the game – let’s just say, you can become one of the most notorious pirate captains in the southern seas and attack people with dirty tricks – such as with a trained parrot, hit them unconscious with coconuts, or transform into a pet monkey to ransack ancient ruins. It’s a love story for anarchy.
Pirates and islands tend to bring Monkey Island to mind – but we at PCR suspect Risen 2 will be a rather darker affair. Would you say that’s right?
Yes, Risen 2 will be for a mature audience. The game world gives you an insight into the darker sides of the human soul where corruption, obsession, greed and betrayal reign freely in a cutthroat society. There are also going to be moments of relief, because we didn’t want to continuously keep a dark and gritty atmosphere over so many hours of playtime, but those moments of fooling around are brief and have been positioned in a conscious pacing.
I’d like to add that there are however also some Monkey Island references in the game – couldn’t do without them and players will, of course, love to discover them all.
What will gamers get from this world, do you think, that they perhaps won’t get from other RPGs?
I think that the biggest difference between Risen 2 and any other RPGs out there is that Risen 2 offers a new setting, greater depth in gameplay and also that it challenges the player in creative ways.
When we decided to go for a pirate setting, we wanted to throw the player into situations and places he hasn’t been in before and we’re pretty confident that Risen 2 will be able to deliver on this promise.
The world of Risen 2 delivers a gamer- driven experience, which means that a lot of the game is simulated (daily routines, social rules, weather, and so on) and we give you a toolkit of skills and a very neutral avatar which you can use with your preferred play style.
Risen was one of those games that seemed to strike more of a chord with PC than console players – why do you think that was, and do you think it will be the same for Risen 2?
Piranha Bytes, the developer of Risen and Risen 2, does have a long legacy of creating RPGs for the PC, namely the Gothic series. It’s been creating RPGs over the last ten years and since this genre is very prone to create emotional ties to the audience, we had fans for Risen even before we announced the game in fall 2008.
For Risen 2 we want to extend our community as much as possible, including to console, because we firmly believe that this type of RPG will appeal to a lot of people if they give it a go.
Following on from that, what do you think the differences are between PC and console players – and how do you cater to those differences with the same game?
The difference between the PC and consoles is that the PC serves as a device for work, entertainment and communication, whereas the consoles are more or less focusing on entertainment, though communication features are being slowly introduced.
The media consumption habits of console players differ from those of PC gamers in the way that the majority of console gamer don’t have many hours in the day to dedicate to games. That doesn’t mean that they don’t spend a lot of time playing a game once they know how to play it, it’s just that the attention span is lower, the need for early incentives is higher, so that the content has to be prepared for folks who come home from work in the evening and want to enjoy their game in chunks.
The way we tackle this challenge without diluting the experience for the dedicated hardcore gamer is that we don’t force the help we are offering to beginners down the throat of every player.
We made sure that the learning curve is not as steep as in Risen 1 and also restricted the actions a ...
You said recently that there is a technology gap between platforms – between Xbox 360 and PC, for example, but that it was important to create the optimum experience for each one. That must be a challenge.
Although the technology on PC is constantly evolving, the question you have to ask yourself is whether that means that you have to move at the same pace.
In the case of Risen 2 we are very fortunate that we don't have to lead in the technology race. Risen 2 already looks stunning in DirectX 9 because better technology doesn't necessarily allow for a better RPG experience.
Although Risen 2 features fluid animations, advanced lighting, particle effects, 3D soundscapes and very cool water shaders with real time caustics and refractions and all those bells and whistles, it’s the living and breathing world that is the star. In the end, it’s not about the brush that paints the picture, but the artist.
What do you think the market holds for PC games?
Traditionally, creating games is taking a bet that a specific group of people (aka the target audience) will buy your product when it lands on the shelves.
You’ve got to have a certain product quality to be able to charge a specific price point, which in turn makes it necessary to look for a publisher to invest into you and your idea. Depending on the case, the publisher provides also deeper insights into the market with market research and experience (very much like a business angel advises on how to manage a startup).
Nowadays, small developers are not required to hit the entry barrier of the retail market anymore because the internet and big content delivery systems like Steam or iTunes enable them to get into direct contact with the consumer without the middle man. This fosters experiments and created the wave of indie games we’ve seen lately.
Brand loyalty is a direct consequence of knowing the people behind the product – it’s very hard to be loyal to an anonymous brand without a face, which is why even bigger companies have to step into social media and engage with their consumers.
Lastly, any news on the rumoured Dead Island sequel?
I’ve checked my black orb of prophecy, but it unfortunately remained cloudy today...