Interview: Arx Fatalis enchants Xbox
11th Apr 2003 | 14:43
Xbox is doing well in attracting a broad spectrum of software to appeal to all corners of the market. Arx Fatalis, a fantasy first-person RPG, has already released on PC with success, impressing with its immersive narrative and innovative spellcasting system.
Now Arkane is bringing the title to a console audience, with Dreamcatcher set to publish the game on Xbox later this year. The blend of styles on offer should provide Xbox owners with a unique experience, one which Arkane has spent time refining and enhancing from the original PC code.
Hungry for more? Associate producer Julien Roby has the hot details:
For Xbox owners who may never have heard of Arx Fatalis, can you give explain the type of experience on offer?
Roby Arx Fatalis is a first-person action role-playing game focused on global immersion. It offers the player a lot of interactivity (from food cooking to magic object crafting) combined with a unique magic system which allows you to literally draw your spell runes on screen. Arx Fatalis also offers a large variety of gameplay that includes "stealth oriented" gameplay, brutal fights and intriguing puzzles.
Why do you believe Arx Fatalis will be a success on Xbox?
Roby I'm convinced it will: Arx Fatalis offers a unique experience. It's a real crossover between genre that hasn't been seen on the Xbox so far: action, adventure, atmosphere and role-playing all blended together.
What's the narrative setting for the game?
Roby The game takes place in an old kingdom called Arx, where the sun has died. Allow me to quote an actual sentence from the game intro itself, as it provides a good answer to your question:
"In the fatal year of 226, our sun began to fall into decline and an eternal winter fell upon our world... His Majesty Lunshire, noble son of Poxsellis, decided to move the whole city of Arx underground, into one of the dwarves' abandoned mines. Not just humans, but dwarves, trolls and goblins all worked together for their common survival. All the races finally built their homes in this new underground setting. But today, evil is knocking at the gates...'
What improvements have been made over the PC original? Have you made any particular changes/enhancements as a result of feedback from users of the PC version?
Roby The interface and controls have been redone from scratch to make it more accessible and user friendly. You'll see graphic enhancements making use of Xbox-specific pixel shaders and shadow buffering. Also, according to player feedback, we've redesigned and adapted a lot of quests and game mechanics.
I can also tell you that we've added a difficulty level option to make the combat easier if the player wants to. So now everybody will be able to enjoy the adventure even if you are not familiar with real-time first-person combat.
How does the magic system function?
Roby Magic is based on two things in Arx Fatalis. On your skill and on runes you've found.
One of your character skills is "Magic Skill". Whatever your magic skill is, you can cast all the spells. However, the success level of this spell depends on your magic skill. For instance you can cast "Summon Demon" with a low magic skill. But there is a big probability you'll get a chicken instead...
The second important thing in Arx Fatalis when talking about Magic is the rune system. In the game you will find rune stones. Each rune stone means something. For instance "AAM" means "Create" and "YOK" means "Fire". So if you combine the power of these two runes you will get the spell "AAM YOK" or "Create Fire".
As each spell is done by a sequence that means something, you will be able to find new and secret spells if you find a rune sequence that means something. For instance, if you find the rune "TAAR" which means "Projectile" you can add it to the sequence "AAM TAAR" to get "AAM YOK TAAR" or "Create Fire Projectile".
When you know a spell sequence, then you have to cast the spell. To do so, you will have to draw each rune of the spells directly on your TV screen with your Xbox pad, as if you were a real wizard.
One of the coolest features of the original was this spell casting element using the mouse. How has have you transferred this to Xbox?
Roby This was one of our biggest challenges, but we're happy with the solution we came up with. We now use the Xbox directional pad to draw the shape of each rune. There is one combo for each rune, corresponding to the rune drawing. For instance the rune YOK which looks like a U is drawn by the combo Down, Right, Up.
Console owner may not be particularly familiar with the first-person view in this genre - what do you believe this brings to the standard RPG experience?
Roby The main difference between third and first person is immersion. In first-person you literally play through the eyes of your hero. You see what your hero really sees, you feel scared, you feel the cold of the deep mines... In Arx Fatalis, for the first time in a first-person RPG, you can see your feet when you're walking.
Also the use of 3D Sound has a much stronger immersive impact in first-person, because you actually hear when something comes from behind you. In fact sound is a great tool for creating fear. You can hear a zombie crawling on your left, you can hear a dog howling in the distance - you really feel like you're in the Arx world.
Do you plan to include any Xbox Live support?
Roby Not at the moment.
Since Arx Fatalis 2 has recently been mentioned, why did you choose to bring the original first onto Xbox?
Roby In fact Arx Fatalis 2 hasn't been announced at this point. It is true we're thinking of doing it, but we're still in the pre-production/talking phase for now. The opportunity to develop a specific version of Arx for Xbox is very exciting and we are convinced we'll bring a really unique experience to the Xbox gamers.