The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
24th Jul 2009 | 06:00
A game based on the first Fighting Fantasy book is coming to DS this Christmas. Developed by Big Blue Bubble and published by Aspyr, the DS exclusive has the full co-operation of original authors Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.
We've been told by the publisher that the game is still waiting on final dates for UK, Europe and Asia. Don't worry it will be released over here though. We've got a couple of exclusive screens too. On with the show.
Why have we had to wait so long for a Fighting Fantasy game on the current hardware?
Damir Slogar: This game has been in production for almost 4 years. Getting the maximum performance out of the hardware has taken some time. Also, it's take quite a bit of time to create the large number of art assets that are found in the game.
Have you had any input from the book's creators Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson?
Slogar: Of course. We showed the playable prototype of our game to Ian Livingstone back in 2007. Ian immediately recognizsd the potential and we agreed to continue the development using the Fighting Fantasy brand.
Around the same time, Steve & Ian had just published the 25th anniversary edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain so the choice to base the game on that book was obvious.
We started the design of the characters and environments while getting constant feedback from Ian. Some of the main monsters (such as the Orcs and Minotaur) went through numerous iterations because Ian thought that they were not scary or gritty enough.
Meanwhile, we were struggling to find a publisher for the title. Everyone we showed the game loved it but the 'big guys' like EA, Ubi or Activision were not interested in DS only titles.
Another challenge was the high cost of manufacturing because the game is using one of the largest cart sizes and largest save EEPROM (in part because you can draw on the in-game map using the stylus). Last year we managed to sign the game with one publisher, but as the global economic crisis hit everyone hard they went out of business.
Luckily we finally met Aspyr and they really understood the value of the FF brand and technology behind the game. As the game was nearing completion in terms of gameplay features we needed someone to re-write all the story and dialogues to make it a real Fighting Fantasy experience.
Of course who else could do a better job than Steve Jackson himself? So we recruited Steve to help and he did an amazing job bringing the characters and story to life through his writing.
How have you brought to life the 'choose your own adventure' aspect of the books in a game?
Slogar: We had to give it a more modern twist but we managed to keep all of the core elements including character creation, skills and attributes, items, weapons, etc. Players can always choose their own path (and get lost, despite having a detailed map at their stylus tip) and many missions can be completed in different ways.
How will the game be different from traditional RPGs?
Slogar: What is traditional RPG? I've been playing RPGs for close to 30 years now and I have a hard time defining 'traditional RPG'. Obviously, we were inspired by some of the top games in the genre like Dungeon Master, Eye Of The Beholder series, Ultima Underworld and, more recently, Oblivion. As you will notice, all of those games had strong action elements and Fighting Fantasy is no different.
How will you stop people cheating the system by just going back and choosing the option that doesn't kill them?
Slogar: In our game a player will never get killed by choosing the 'wrong' path. He might choose a harder path but there is no way the player will know this unless he goes through both of them. The gamer can always go back to the area where the enemies are not as strong in order to level up.
How will the combat system work? It is live action of dependant on the throw of a dice?
Slogar: Combat is real time and it resembles a FPS game, but obviously with lot of focus on melee combat. Dice results are applied to the character's "luck" attribute and have a limited role in determining the outcome of a combat. As in most of the RPGs, math behind the combat is fairly complex as we are comparing stats of the player (including all armour, spell effects, equipped weapon and special items) with the stats of the enemy and adding all additional factors (distance, type of spell VS type of resistance, type of weapon VS type of armour, etc.).
What reference material did you use for the visual design of the game?
Slogar: We looked at the art style used in the original book series and tried to incorporate it in our vision of the Fighting Fantasy world. We created numerous concepts for monsters and environments before we started the final art production.
Any Wi-Fi features or the ability to team up and go adventuring with a friend?
Slogar: Our rendering engine is constantly using close to 100% of the CPU power so adding multiplayer would be overkill. It also wouldn't fit in the spirit of the Fighting Fantasy universe.
Why is there no PSP version?
Slogar: At the time we started DS development there was barely any interest from publisher for PSP titles. Later during the development this changed a bit but at that point our engine was so DS specific that we couldn't make it work on PSP.
Episodic gaming is big these days. Would you ever consider an episodic release on XBLA or PSN?
Slogar: Personally, I don't see the big difference between releasing the sequel from episodic content. Of course, I would like to see Fighting Fantasy on 360 or PS3 but I don't believe it will happen as downloadable content, at least not in the form it is now (FPSRPG).
How will you make sure the game appeals to today's gamers that don't know what the Fighting Fantasy series is? To them it's just another RPG.
Slogar: We just have to make a good game. All of the titles that made it big were 'just another RPG' at some point, but the good ones found their market.
Warlock of Firetop Mountain is only the beginning. Do you envisage turning allL the books into games or just the best ones. Who decides which ones will get made?
Slogar: Fighting Fantasy books have been on the market for over 25 years. It would probably take about the same amount of time to turn them all into video games. Seriously though, we would love to make more games based on the series and of course to expand to more platforms. The success of this game will be, of course, a key factor in deciding where to go next.
What's the most impressive feature about the game in your opinion?
Slogar: Obviously the amazing graphics is one of the things you will immediately notice. The game is based on our 3D engine that supports dynamic lighting, soft shadows, high resolution textures, and all this is running at 60 fps.