Archive.png Blood Omen2 Interview: Alex Ness at TeamXbox (by Steve Barton "Bart")

"If you’re interested in both video games and vampires, you are probably aware of the Blood Omen series of games. Now that Blood Omen 2 is about to be released on the Xbox, we wanted to fill all of you in on the details of this "gothic action/adventure"."[1]

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If you’re interested in both video games and vampires, you are probably aware of Blood Omen. Now that Blood Omen 2 is about to be released on the Xbox, we wanted to fill all of you in on the details of this "gothic action/adventure" title. We had a chance to fire off a few questions to the Producer of the Xbox version of Blood Omen 2, Alex Ness. Alex answers all of our questions as in-depth as possible. If you weren’t sure what to expect to see in Blood Omen 2, this interview will definitely take you deep inside this dark world.

Tell us your name, position on the development team, and your history in the gaming industry?

Alex N: I'm Alex Ness. I am the producer of the Xbox version, and my history in the gaming industry is pretty much, Crystal Dynamics. I used to answer the phones at Sega before coming to Crystal as a tester over 7 years ago. I guess I haven't been able to leave.

It seems that vampire movies and books have been a hot topic lately. Has the new Queen of the Dammed movie brought more attention to your game?

Alex N: I don't know. I hope so. It seems like vampire stuff is always kind of en vogue. What's cool is that even though vampires are often portrayed as the bad or evil characters in a story, they are almost always compelling. People usually end up siding with the vampire character, even though it may commit acts of normally-unacceptable brutality.

How long has the game been in development?

Alex N: Well, I'd say about 3 years. It hasn't really been in full production that long, but that's about the time when the creative seeds were sown.

Tell us about the story behind this game.

Alex N: Okay, are you sure you want to hear this? Very well then, here goes…

First of all, Blood Omen 2 takes place two hundred years after Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, and several centuries before the events of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. The vampire Kain awakens in a strange city with almost no memory of his former self (don't you hate it when that happens?) Another vampire, Umah, has taken him in and revived him to health after a deadly battle that Kain barely remembers. He is weak, and has lost most of his former power. Worse still, his weapon, the Soul Reaver, is missing. Umah begins to fill Kain in on the recent past, and pieces of Kain's shattered memory return.

Since the events of Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, Kain had become a commander of an army bent on ruling the land of Nosgoth. In response to his rise to power, another faction appeared in the land: The Sarafan, a group of militant humans led by a mysterious and powerful figure, the Sarafan Lord. Determined to wipe out the vampire threat, the Sarafan clashed with Kain's army for years. This war ended with the Sarafan finally triumphant over Kain's army, and with Kain and the Sarafan Lord locked in mortal combat. The Sarafan Lord won this battle, stripped the Soul Reaver from Kain and threw him off a cliff to his apparent death.

Umah tells Kain that his body was found and revived. He was then brought to the capital of Nosgoth, the city of Meridian. Kain has been unconscious for over two hundred years and in this time, the Sarafan have taken fascist control of most of Nosgoth. Vampires have formed a small resistance called the Cabal, in Meridian to undermine the Sarafan. It is this resistance that Kain is now a part of. The goal of the resistance is simple: kill the Sarafan Lord, and the Sarafan will crumble. Because the Sarafan do not know of Kain's existence, he becomes the perfect agent to find and kill the Sarafan Lord. Kain agrees to help the Cabal for the time being, but he fully intends to follow his own agenda, and seek revenge however possible…
―Steve Barton "Bart"[2]

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It seems that vampires come in many shapes and sizes. What 'look' is Blood Omen 2 going with for this game?

Alex N: It's always kind of hard to quantify this. I guess I would say "gothic, stylized realism". We wanted everything to look painted but not so much so that it looked like a traditional comic book or a cartoon. With that said, we didn't want it to look scanned and photorealistic either. The world is mostly dark and driven by atmospheric lighting schemes. The urban environments of the game are based off of turn-of-the-century Europe; London, Paris, Prague - places like that. There are also some areas of the game that will be less familiar to the player, but I can't talk about those. As far as the vampires themselves go, conceptually, they were all created to look powerful and formidable. That's a little different than what we usually see in movies where vampires can sometimes look delicate or…hmm…let's just say, "festive".

What genre would you put this game in?

Alex N: I think the kids might call this a "gothic action/adventure" title. There's a pretty big story that the player can follow but there's also tons of combat. Hopefully, we deliver in both departments.

What ESRB rating do you expect this game to get?

Alex N: Well, it did receive a Mature rating so unless the ESRB significantly softens its policies regarding violent content in the next few days, Mature is the rating we will ship with.

Tell us about the weapons that you can pick up during the game.

Alex N: Let's see here... there are your basic, garden-variety swords. They come in all shapes and sizes. Then you've got the clubs, which are kind of like a metal baseball bat with spikes on the end. There's kind of a dagger-like weapon you can pick up. For our lumberjack players, there are axes. Last of all, if you're feeling slightly exotic, you can pick up a pole-arm in some of the levels. It is kind of like that light saber Darth Maul had in Star Wars, except it's made of sharp metal, as opposed to whatever energy those light sabers have in them. What's cool about weapons in the game is that any time you kill somebody, you can take their weapon (should they have one). Technically, it isn't stealing because they're already dead. Weapons do break after usage so you'll need to "borrow" many of them throughout the game. There are also some magical relics scattered around that can give the weapon Kain holds more power - meaning that the weapons both do and take more damage.

What different powers do the vampires have?

Alex N: Different, being the operative word here because each vampire posses a unique power. We call these powers "Dark Gifts". When vampires kill each other, they can take the loser's Dark Gift. At the beginning of the game, Kain has lost most of his former power. However, he still does have the ability to turn into a Mist Form, allowing him to sneak through the fog unnoticed and perform unique Stealth Kills on the unsuspecting humans. In addition to the Mist Form, Kain also starts off with a Fury power that gives him the power to channel his rage and deliver a significantly stronger, more powerful, blow with either his claws or weapons. As Kain progresses through the game, he will have the opportunity to gain a Super Jump, Charm, Telekinesis, Berserk, and Immolate Dark Gift. On top of all that, every vampire possess superhuman strength, speed, endurance, and come with their own claws & fangs.

If you were a vampire in this game, what worries you? For example, traditionally vampires would fear light and unfresh blood.

Alex N: What would I fear? How about…the possibility that love is not enough. I guess though, if I were in this game, I would have to fear the Sarafan. They are that pesky religious order that simply wants to wipe all vampires off the planet. How do you sleep at night knowing there is a large group of people dedicated to killing you?
―Steve Barton "Bart"[3]

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What is different in this version of the game, versus the original PSX version?

Alex N: For one, everything is now in 3D. The PSX version was kind of top down, 2D perspective, ala the original Legend of Zelda. Of course, graphics have come a long way since then so the world has definitely been brought more to life. Overall, it's a much larger world too. I used to think the original Blood Omen was a pretty big game but this one is definitely larger and more differentiated. The combat system has expanded as well. Kain has a lot more options when it comes to killing (however, Kain's enemies also have a lot more options as well). Then there's the story side. Since the end of the first Blood Omen, the world has definitely changed. The story is told now through tons of dynamic, in-game cinematics that we just couldn't do for the original game.

What does the Xbox version have that they PS2 version doesn't?

Alex N: The frame rate is higher so the gameplay feels much smoother. Real-time shadows have been added including self-shadowing on Kain. This means that if light hits him at a certain angle, his head for example, might cast a shadow over his shoulder. And also, the resolution is higher which provides for an overall crisper image.

What advanced graphics techniques were used to make this game unique?

Alex N: There are many events in the game where we use color washes, full screen warping, and character masks to achieve some great special effects. The player is going to see a lot of cool visuals while playing Blood Omen 2 that normally are only possible in pre rendered movies or films.

How many people can play this game at one time?

Alex N: This is an adventure only one person can go on. Kain has always been a bit of a loner. A rebel who plays by his own rules. However, the cinematic quality of this game makes it fun to watch too. This makes it good purchase for a guy who has a girlfriend that isn't that into playing games herself. The story is dark and compelling to watch, while the game is also fun to play.

How long will this game typically take for a gamer to complete?

Alex N: This is always such a tough question. It depends on how fanatical you are about playing through games. I could tell you that the crazy, obsessive gamer might be able to make it through in 20 hours while the relatively well-adjusted player might be able get through in 40 hours, but who really knows. You might make it through the game really quick, all the while not knowing you were an obsessed lunatic. Crazy people always think they're sane. And sane people always wonder if they might be crazy. It's just one of life's little paradoxes. Or is it paradigms?

Are their still plans for 5.1 surround sound?

Alex N: The best of plans! We do use 5.1 surround sound, otherwise known as Dolby Digital. I wish I had a system at home good enough to fully experience our sound capabilities.

In just a few sentences, tell our viewers why they should buy this game on release day.

Alex N: Because this is your best chance to assume the life of a vampire and kill innocent victims without fear of reprisal. Because Kain is not only a really cool main character, he's a great role model. Because the story is much more interesting and better written than most vampire movies. And did I mention the nudity? Okay….there isn't really any nudity.

Everyone here at TeamXbox would like to thank Alex for taking the time to answer our questions! Without the help of people like Alex, we would not be able to bring you this kind of detailed game coverage.

―Steve Barton "Bart"[4]

References[edit source]

  1. Thu, 03 Jun 2004 20:36:23 GMT snapshot of Blood Omen 2 - Xbox at TeamXbox
  2. Archive.png Sun, 20 Jun 2004 13:49:11 GMT snapshot of Blood Omen2 Interview: Alex Ness, Page 1 of 3 at TeamXbox (by Steve Barton "Bart")
  3. Archive.png Wed, 07 Jul 2004 13:41:24 GMT snapshot of Blood Omen2 Interview: Alex Ness, Page 2 of 3 at TeamXbox (by Steve Barton "Bart")
  4. Archive.png Fri, 27 Aug 2004 06:29:31 GMT snapshot of Blood Omen2 Interview: Alex Ness, Page 3 of 3 at TeamXbox (by Steve Barton "Bart")

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