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Archive Exclusive: Interview with the Director of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 at IGN (by Douglass C. Perry and Amy Hennig)

  • May 10, 2000
  • By Douglass C. Perry, Amy Hennig, and IGN

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In the third chapter of the Legacy of Kain series, the world of Nosgoth is not what it seems. Raziel travels back in time, Kain is not necessarily the devil he once seemed, and the Elder and the crumbling world itself hide secrets Raziel would never have dreamed before.

In this exclusive interview with Amy Hennig, the director of Crystal Dynamics' Soul Reaver team, we give you the straight facts on how Raziel's world unfolds, how the game takes advantage of the powerful PS2, and just how the game is improving over its predecessor.

IGNPS2: I always thought that LOK Soul Reaver was such a phenomenal looking game, the engine for it on PlayStation was so robust, it was really a gorgeous, well thought out world. What do you think will differ, and how will it improve over the first one?

Amy Hennig: The fact that it's on PS2, you mean?

IGNPS2: Yes.

Amy: The thing you have to remember is that we were already pushing the envelope with the PlayStation1, and the first things that we made sure that we were going to be able to do over on the PlayStation2 were the morphing and the data streaming off the disk -- you know, the foundations of our game. And so what's cool about that is that the same kind of comparative improvement over your standard game will also apply to PlayStation2. We can take the DRAM and the VRAM and condense it down to a much smaller area than everybody else can. And so the same things we said about the game on the PlayStation1 still holds true against our competitors on the PlayStation2, I hope. So the main things you're going to see will be 60 frames per second, always, never dropping below that. The increased DRAM will allow us more architectural detail than we had before, the increased VRAM allows us more texture detail, more variety, more richness, more color, higher resolution. We just have a wealth of memory now, given what we were up against last time. More and better special effects, more detailed characters and enemies -- basically, at the minimum, each of the characters will double in polygon count. Our current Raziel model is about 1,000 polys. We'll probably go up, we're just trying to be conservative right now. And of course all the characters will have higher resolution, more color depth, textures. So a lot of it is incremental improvements that you'd expect from the hardware. We can do what we did before, but we can do more of it, and do it better, we can do it with more detail.

That's really what we're focusing on. There's nothing specific about the hardware that's like "oh, well now we can do this." Now we can have the immersive environments that we really wanted, we can have the texture variety that we really wanted. And plus we can do the things that we did before like the morphing and the streaming. What we're going to be up against this time is that we have all the memory that we could possibly want, it's just going to come down to framerate, I think that's going to be the new theme for developers on these platforms. That's just in terms of technical stuff, in terms of gameplay stuff, just game design things, there's more there.

IGNPS2: You mean changes in the gameplay?

Amy: I think what we're trying do is make incremental improvements in a lot of areas, where I think we had a lot of systems that worked well, but we're making them even more robust. We're going to have more variety of enemies and more combat events in the game. That was one of our problems on the PSX1, is we couldn't have the density of enemy interaction that we wanted just because of framerate issues.

IGNPS2: Do you mean that there will be more characters on the screen at the same time, or that there will be more characters in general fighting?

Amy: There will be more variety, so its not just all vampires, and there will be more on screen, and there will be more frequent interactions than in the first game. And also we're going to make sure that we kind of plan out some of the enemy interactions, the enemy setups, kind of more up front so that we have more force interactions, not as simple as something like a Zelda example, but the idea that you can't get past this room until you defeat the enemies who are the guardians, and they are the lock for the door that you have to get through. We'll do more of that.

We're going to have even more story, dialogue, and cinematics. Throughout the game I think that was a little patchy. I mean, obviously we're our own worst critics, but I think that could have been more consistent throughout Soul Reaver 1. And there's actually even more acquired abilities. So in the last game we gave away physical abilities that you got from the boss characters, and in this game he starts with all the physical abilities he got, but we're revamping the whole Reaver system and the whole spell system. One of the criticisms, which was completely valid, of the first game, was that some of the enhancements that you got, the powerups and the weapons and stuff like that, weren't really necessary to complete the game, I mean they absolutely weren't. That was kind of intentional, but it didn't come out the way we wanted, and we didn't have time to make it come out the way we wanted.

IGNPS2: So in this game you're going to start off with all the physical abilities that you acquired in the last game.

Amy: Right, like swimming and scaling walls. And you're going to start out with the Reaver. So the kind of acquired abilities you get in Soul Reaver 2 will revolve more around weapon enhancements and spell-type abilities and some physical abilities. But they're all absolutely required to finish the game. There's nothing that's just "yeah, get this if you want it." And we'll do that in a way that doesn't break the nonlinearity of the game. There's still a linear story, and there's still sort of a linear path, but we always want the player to have two or three places they could go at any time, kind of using Zelda as a model there. But eventually you'll need everything, some of it you can get in the order that you want to get, but that was definitely a problem. We'll have very, very few block puzzles; everyone will cheer.

IGNPS2: That's funny, I liked the block puzzles. There were just a lot of them.

Amy: Yeah, there were just too many of them. There are still blocks, and there's still dragging stuff, I think that's sort of a key behavior that you need in the game, but we just used them as a fallback way too many times. There's a few reasons for that: Part of it was different people working on different levels and suddenly you look at how it comes together and oh, wow, we all used blocks. But the other part was just trying to come up with more in-depth puzzles and not having enough tools in the toolbox. So that's something we addressed right away, well how can we get more tools in the toolbox? The engine already had a lot of capabilities -- the whole goal all along with the engine was to make sure that the designers and artists really had the autonomous power to do cool stuff on their own and not have to put a request in to the programmers. That you can key up cinematics, that you can key up puzzle events, all based on this contextual scripting system. We're doing a lot more of that.

In a way, without confusing anyone, I don't want to use the wrong term, but in a way it's kind of more of like a graphic adventure-action game. What you can do...pretty much there are infinite permutations of what the designers can do based on time and schedule. If they come up with a puzzle where they need Raziel to interact with some unique object, and that's the only time he interacts with it in the game, and they can get the animations done and write the script to do it, then that's great. So it becomes I think for the player, a much more exploration and problem-solving game than just run, run, fight a guy, run, run, push a block, hit a switch kind of stuff. We're using all that as a good foundation, but we're adding all the stuff we really wanted to do last time.

IGNPS2: So you feel like it'll be a more balanced game?

Amy: Oh, absolutely. I think that people will feel like everything is layered up better.

IGNPS2: Yeah, I get it.

Amy: We're going to use Spectral a lot more, it was a little incidental last time. It's going to be a lot more necessary visiting Spectral to solve puzzles.

IGNPS2: You mean the Elder or the Spectral World?

Amy: The Spectral plane, the whole material-Spectral shifting. Sometimes you know, Spectral in some places turned into more of a punishment than part of the game flow, and now it's more part of the game flow. More use of symbolic puzzles, so that you really have to study the writing on the walls, the murals, what the markings mean...

IGNPS2: Oh, boy, that's going to be fun...

Amy: That's what I mean by "kind of." I mean, there's a lot of mistiness and graphic-adventureness in there, but I don't want to overstress that because I don't want to confuse people. But it's that sense that you're using your brain, not just your thumbs. And like I said, more context-appropriate object interaction, not just classes of objects like blocks. And then the one thing that I think is really cool, and I think we'll really be able to blow out, is we've added the ability...you know how you could pick up weapons in the last game?

IGNPS2: And it was really sort of magical, it just drifted into your hands.

Amy: Yeah, a little telekinetic action to explain why we don't have a million animations for picking up every object. The thing is, we expanded that system. Last time it was good for weapons, we could have him contextually pick them up, how he could rip them off the walls sometimes, but after that it was just a weapon, there wasn't really much purpose to it. A lot of people have said that they really want more RPG-ish puzzles...I don't want to turn Soul Reaver into a traditional RPG by any means, I don't think that would be appropriate, but I think in terms of people miss having an inventory...The thing is, fictionally, we can't really give him that, it does break the fiction, he can't carry anything between Spectral and material and that's sort of one of the core aspects of the gameplay.

IGNPS2: Right.

Amy: But we wanted to have the kind of puzzles where you need to get an object from point A to point B, that makes the gameplay much cooler. So, like, one of the things in the level that you'll see at E3, we just have one instance in there because it's an early level of this, he has to bounce light around the level using these dish reflectors, but there's one reflector that's missing, so he can't finish the puzzle, he can't do what he needs to do, because the little holder for it is empty. So what the player has to do is find this reflector, which is pickup-able at one end of the level and physically carry it all the way to the other end and place it. So you have not only a contextual pickup action, but a contextual placement action.

IGNPS2: Does that fit into the logic of the game, or is it just "Ha-Ha!" you've got a reflector on the other side of the world? In Resident Evil you've got to walk all over the place to solve these puzzles...

Amy: We're trying to be really careful about how we're designing our levels, we're really being methodical about it, and I think you'll see that when I say "at the other end of the level," these aren't linear levels. Everything is recursive, so you might have to go down one spoke of the level and it brings you right back to the beginning, it's not like you go A-B-C-D and again down the line. So when I say "beginning of the level" to "end of the level," it may only be two or three rooms, but because of the way it kind of loops back on itself, in terms of the actions you take, it's the end of the level, do you see what I mean? So don't worry about that -- believe me, I hate that kind of thing. I like things to be easy and obvious and fun, and once it gets tedious I get really annoyed.

IGNPS2: I mean, I loved Resident Evil, I've played those games, but there were some puzzles that were clearly made so that you just walked all over the place.

Amy: No, it's more like...I think an analogy I would make, although he has an inventory, is that in Zelda, you have to find the silver key. You walk into a courtyard and you see three closed doors, and you know that you're going to be able to open them, and it's not like when you find a key that you 're like "now I gotta run thirty miles back to that door," those levels all kind of turn back onto themselves. Essentially we can do the same thing, it's simple as we say here's a "key" object, and I can find it and bring it to point B and then make an action happen. It could be something as simple as a literal key, if we wanted it to be, but it can be anything we can think of, the way then engine works. So if it's an idol that you have to bring back, or a gem, or a piece of a missing mural, anything we wanted to do, whatever feels contextually appropriate for the level. It's up to the designers.

IGNPS2: I see.

Amy: So I think it'll be pretty cool. And that's why I was saying, you know, kind of graphical-adventure-ey, in the sense that you're thinking "I've found this object, I'm going to need it, now where do I need to take it?" Or you see something that has the absence of a part, so you think "Oh, I need that, I wonder where I'm going to find that?" I think people will dig it.

IGNPS2: Cool. Now, I've got a couple more questions for you. How have you envisioned the long term strategy, story of Kain?

Amy: For the franchise?

IGNPS2: Yeah, how does this fit into the whole thing -- what chapter is this?

Amy: Well, I guess it would be chapter 3 [laughs]. But we're jumping all over the timeline, which I hope people will enjoy. One of the things that we're doing in this game, which I think was fairly obvious from the end of the last one, is that we're going back in time, and the whole game will take place in the past Nosgoth. For anybody that played Blood Omen, there's going to be all kinds of locations and characters that they're going to be familiar with and will get to visit again.

IGNPS2: Now that's cool.

Amy: I think it will be really cool. For anybody that didn't play it, the other reason that we want to do this is that...we're very dedicated to this world and this franchise, and we want people who didn't play Blood Omen to be familiarized with all these parts, because it's going to be important. So yeah, our intention as a company is to keep making Kain games as long as the public wants them.

IGNPS2: So this isn't a prequel per se, but it allows you to go back in time?

Amy: Yeah, we'll be visiting time periods that are before Blood Omen, during Blood Omen, after Blood Omen.

IGNPS2: So will you...I mean, I'll be honest with you, I didn't play that much of Blood Omen, I and don't remember Raziel in that game.

Amy: He's a new character.

IGNPS2: How will that work? We he be restored to his full vampire self? Will he be human?

Amy: The idea is that there are all these events in Nosgoth's history, only a short span of which you actually get to see in Blood Omen. So what we're trying to show is some of the other intrigues, some of the other mysterious things that are going on in Nosgoth before and after what we see in that short time span in Kain, in Blood Omen. And to show that he did have, that he will have some impact on the events in Blood Omen. But not in a way that a player, having played Blood Omen, would have been aware of at the time.

IGNPS2: So Raziel's going to go back in time. And you play as Raziel the whole time; you're going to see or take part in these events, but not in order to change time?

Amy: Well one of the themes...I mean I don't want to give away too much of the story...

IGNPS2: I understand, I was just like, wait, if Raziel wasn't there, then who are you going to play as?

Amy: No, he's there, but if you think about his nature, he's kind of this angel of death, spirit creature, so he's not just a mundane guy. That gives us an ability to play with what he witnesses, and what his role in things is.

IGNPS2: And that will mean that he'll still remain decrepit and decayed?

Amy: Yeah, he's wrecked -- he is what he is. But I think there are a lot of themes that we want to play with, and a some of the things that were evident in Blood Omen and Soul Reaver were some of the themes of free will, versus destiny, and what that means, and the nature of good and evil, and one of the things that was definitely a text or a subtext, depending on how much you were paying attention, in Blood Omen was that some of the worst evils are committed in the name of righteousness. We're not trying to make a black and white game, in some ways I think Kain isn't the villain, and Raziel isn't necessarily that much of a hero.

IGNPS2: They're ambiguous.

Amy: Right. They're both tragic, flawed heroes. Crystal has a huge investment in Kain as a character, we're not writing him off as some sort of villain, a nasty villain guy. Hopefully we'll get to this in Soul Reaver 2 and people will understand, but I mean there's a lot more to this story than would meet the eye.

IGNPS2: How are you coming to grips with the PlayStation 2, how do you like the hardware?

Amy: Obviously the programmers could speak better to that than I could, but they jumped right on it. I mean, obviously we have weeks and weeks of optimizations to do, but they got the game running in no time, I haven't heard them complain about it. They're really enjoying it, and finding it, I think, relatively familiar and easy. It hasn't seemed to be too much of a challenge, actually. They're real smart, though.

IGNPS2: They created a great engine for the PlayStation, so they're probably, like, wow, look at this giant room we have, look at all this great power we have.

Amy: Well, it is a whole different beast in the sense that the way we had to do our rendering on the PS1 is completely different, as far as I understand it, than on the PlayStation2. There's a lot of stuff that we kind of had to kludge around, that didn't...I mean, there's obviously no z-buffering, so we had to come up with ways of kind of faking z-buffering, subdivision of textures and all this kind of stuff.

So a lot of the things that we struggled with for so long, and actually worked so hard to solve, well, that's out the window, because the hardware self-solves it. So they're really excited about it, they're really energized by the opportunity and the challenge. It's something that we've been wanting to do for a while now.

IGNPS2: How long has the team been working on Soul Reaver 2 for PlayStation2?

Amy: Very short time. Like a month.

IGNPS2: So you started in April?

Amy: We started talking about it long before that, but in terms of saying we've got the dev stations, and we're going to really figure this out now, yeah, it's been since the beginning of April. That sounds about right.

IGNPS2: When is the ideal time that it's going to come out?

Amy: We're shooting for spring 2001.

We spent a lot of the time since we started Soul Reaver 2 optimizing the code, cleaning up stuff that got kind of put together as we went and wasn't necessarily thought through from the beginning, aspects of the code like our event system, scripting system that got kind of built as we went, and we went back and cleaned it all up. We just rewrote the tools from scratch because it was a nightmare last time, losing work and stuff. But I think we're much better at using the geography that we've got in terms of layering it, making it dense and making it interesting, so that you don't spend three months making a level that somebody can run through in twenty minutes.

IGNPS2: That actually brings me to another question which was one of my criticisms as a player, which was that I never knew which way east, north, west, south was...

Amy: I know, that was sort of unfortunate.

IGNPS2: And I'm curious as to how...I think a lot of people had hard times...not getting from one place to another, but knowing where to go.

Amy: Even our testers did, and we knew it was a problem, and it was just one of those things that just in the rush, we really have to get it out, we just said that's unfortunate, but there's nothing we can do about it. It's too big of a problem.

IGNPS2: So for this one, how are you going to approach that, directional systems?

Amy: Well, what we're going to do is, we haven't done it yet, but we're going to put a compass on the screen. We've talked a lot about having a map at this point, an in-game map, a living map that shows your progress and stuff. At this point, though, I think we won't do that. Just because it's a lot of work for the programmers and the artists to do that, keep it up and make sure that it's right and I'd rather spend that time on the game itself and not a map that you open sometimes.

IGNPS2: So a simple compass, and people know where they're going? Amy: Yeah, I think so. We're going to make sure that it makes sense, and then what we'll probably do, I would say definitely do, although it's not my decision ultimately is that we'll have a paper map in the package, in the manual.

IGNPS2: That's kind of cool. People like that.

Amy: I think that'll be enough. And I mean, it comes down to saying if it would take weeks and weeks to get that right, to have an in game map, versus spending those weeks and weeks on the actual game content, then that's an easy decision for me.

IGNPS2: Well, I think that it helps with a lot of different ways in which people think. They visualize things, or they can think really logically, some people have really good memories. But if you give them a map, and you give them a compass, they can see it top-down and they can go oh, that's where everything is, and they just sort of memorize that and then it's so much easier. The more you can do to make complex things simple, the better the game will be.

Amy: We're really going to keep our eye on that, because the testers were telling us last time, and we absolutely believed them, it was just sort of a dilemma in terms of how much time we had left and how much time it would take to fix. But the testers are very close to the team, and are going to be telling us very honestly how they're responding to these things right from the get-go. And that applies to everything in terms of balancing the power of the weapons in combat and stuff like that. It's just some of that stuff I would have loved to spend much more time on and we just didn't have it.

IGNPS2: In Soul Reaver 2, we're going to be visiting some of the geographical areas that were in Blood Omen. Will we be also visiting brand-new ones, and areas that we were able to explore in the first Soul Reaver?

Amy: Yeah. It's really more about the Blood Omen world than the Soul Reaver world, but they were already connected. It was a little bit tenuous in Soul Reaver but we're trying to make that less tenuous now. Yes, there are absolutely new areas, we're not just going to make 3D versions the Mansion or Kain's Mausoleum. We're using the locations that make sense with the story. It's probably going to be about half and half.

IGNPS2: So for instance, if I've played Soul Reaver, am I going to see levels that I've seen before?

Amy: Not the levels themselves, no.

IGNPS2: Not the levels themselves, I mean, but when you walk out on that bridge and you look out over this huge eternal swirling section and you look at all the different areas you can go...

Amy: Key landmarks, I think you'll find. We still have to do some adjustment as far as figuring out how many levels we'll have, which ones we might have to abridge a little bit. So I'm being careful this time; when early previews went out last time people came out with a lot of expectations about features and things. Basically, everything I say right now is subject to change, because until we're finished I can tell you absolutely what's in it. But I want people who played either or both games to have a lot of "a-ha" moments and say that's really cool, how they tied that in. And for people that didn't play either game, it shouldn't be any impediment, it's just it'll be that much cooler for people who played Blood Omen, who are fans of it. I think they're really going to be satisfied.

IGNPS2: But you're not going to be required to have played that game.

Amy: No. Absolutely not. It'll just be another layer. I would think that naturally you'd enjoy it more if you got every single reference, knew who everyone was, and if there were sort of oblique references to things you would get them, it's kind of a cool extra, but no, it wouldn't be required at all.

IGNPS2: Given the size of Soul Reaver, which was enormous, how big would you say this game is in comparison?

Amy: I think it's going to be comparable. There's two ways to look at that. There's flat-out floor space, geometry, how much actual geography there is there, and then there's gameplay time. I think it's possible that Soul Reaver 2 will be geographically a little bit smaller, because I think we had some wasted space in the last game. I think there's stuff that we could have used better, and made denser. We spent a lot of time on these large areas that really didn't have much to do in them. In this game we're really layering it up and making it dense. I think it'll be although it sounds contradictory, it'll be geographically smaller and actually be a longer game.

IGNPS2: That makes sense. Next, I was going to ask, how are you able to change the landscapes?

Amy: The morphing.

IGNPS2: How are you able to morph them, and is that process the same on PlayStation2?

Amy: It'll remain the same, and be enhanced. It's one of the cornerstones of the game, and it's critical to the fiction and the character. It's already working, it's already functioning on the PlayStation2.

IGNPS2: How does that work? In a short explanation, I mean, are those all built, and you do interpolation between the two?

Amy: No, that would be pretty much impossible, in terms of maintenance. We could do it, I mean, in traditional 3D if you wanted to morph something you would actually have two objects, you'd have your base object and a morph target. But you could see, I mean, how many hundreds of times do we go into each of those Max files [I think she means 3D Studio Max], to change things and push things around, if you had to maintain two you'd lose your mind. So what we store is the differences between the vertex values, so it's something that we can tweak and maintain the whole way through. We just deform it, and deform it by hand. It's not like there's any process, some button you push that says "Spectralize this." It's an artist process, and we just store both values for the vertices.

IGNPS2: So you designed where there was morphing, I mean throughout the whole game you designed two geographical worlds.

Amy: Yeah. Sometimes it's just aesthetic, but a lot of times it's critical to the gameplay, and we're even going to do more than that - like you can't make a jump because the terrain doesn't allow it, but then in Spectral everything's so twisted that you can, that kind of thing. And we've also got one more layer that I think we don't have in our E3 level, just because we had done this stuff for the PS1 and we need to fix it for the PlayStation2. In addition to the environment morphing, we also have texture morphing, which I think adds that one more layer. We wanted to do it in the last game, but it was just more bite and we already had a mouthful. The idea is that you have a mural that may be significant, and you shift to Spectral and the mural changes and gives you information that you wouldn't have had otherwise.

IGNPS2: That's so cool.

Amy: Yeah, it's very cool. And like I said, it's already working, they just need to convert it over.

IGNPS2: So what about load times? There's still going to be load times, right?

Amy: Uh-uh. It's all streamed off the disk, so you'll never be aware of it, and actually it's even faster on the new system. Everything's a give-and-take, you think great, we'll never fall below sixty, but if you start slapping a bunch of geometry out there, you're threatening your framerate all over again. Same thing with the streaming, you could say oh, well, it loads faster so no problem, but you're also loading more. More textures and everything. But no, we have to be careful and conservative so we don't end up with problems and stuff that doesn't load, but that's the other hallmark of the game engine is that you'll never be aware of it loading at all.

IGNPS2: You mentioned weapons and glyphs in Soul Reaver and you didn't really go too far into it in this one, but are there going to be brand-new weapons?

Amy: The Soul Reaver itself is your sole carried weapon. In terms of weapons that you can find and use, yeah, we'll have more variety of those, and because we have more variety of enemies that have different vulnerabilities and thing like that there are going to be more ways to destroy them and fatalize them and whatever word you want to use. More than just impaling and burning, we'll play with more ways to do it because I think that's one of the things people really enjoyed.

IGNPS2: Oh, yeah, I agree.

Amy: In terms of stuff that you earn, that becomes kind of innate, right now, with the caveat being that everything's subject to change based on our schedule and what we're going to have to adjust as we go, right now there's seven elemental Reaver enhancements that you can find, that you have to find. This is stuff that we wanted to have in the first game, but there was just too much, we couldn't do it all. So things like Earth Reaver, Air Reaver, Water Reaver, Fire Reaver, that kind of thing. There's seven of those, and then seven enhancements of those enhancements. There's going to be a lot of side quests, that's where the elemental forge levels come in, and that's the level that we're going to be showing at E3, the first one of those that you find.

IGNPS2: Are you going to show a playable at E3?

Amy: Yeah, it's all playable, it's a whole level that you can play from start to finish. I mean, obviously there's a lot more stuff that we want to do to tweak and tune it, but it's good to go.

IGNPS2: Nice going, after one month.

Amy: Yeah, I mean, we've been working on the game longer than that. We had to do a lot of stuff after Soul Reaver 1, Dreamcast and localizations and ports and things like that, but we've been going pretty much full tilt since about January or February, I guess, design work and stuff like that. So obviously I think the intention is that on the show floor it's all Dreamcast, and then behind closed doors it's PS2, both playable.

IGNPS2: Cool.

Amy: So yeah, should be good. On top of the weapon enhancements, there's also nine, again, could change, nine additional spell-type things. It's not really spells, it's all kinds of things. Instead of having a spell menu, he just has the ring menu, and he there's things he can do from that, he can summon the Reaver from that, he can shift, he can influence the environment in other ways. Some of these things are more physical abilities, some of them are more mystical, but there's nine more of those. So there's actually more things to earn in this game than there were in the last. Less physical abilities, I mean it's not like now I can fly, or now I can burrow underground, it's more like new ways to interact with the environment that you couldn't do before.

What's cool, I think, is the whole kind of layering philosophy. When you get a new Reaver, each of the elemental Reavers has several things that it permits the player to do now. There's sort of a carried function, it may affect whether Raziel can see in an area that he couldn't see in before, whether he's lighter weight or heavier, that kind of thing. Some of them have aimed functions, so just aiming it allows you to do something. The Light Reaver, for instance, allows you to use it like a flashlight so you can look into dark areas and illuminate places that you couldn't see otherwise. Then they have a projectile function, the projectile may do something that nothing else does in the game. It has a blade function, and then what we call a key function, the idea that you can use the Reaver of that elemental type as a key with other objects and make things happen. For instance, the Dark Reaver allows you to create shadow bridges in places and get across chasms that you couldn't cross before. Things like that.

And then on top of that there's the enhanced move, which is generally a charged-up kind of move which allows you to do something else again. So even when you get this one ability, you actually do about six things with it. It's very cool, and it's all leveraging all the work that we did on the last game, in terms of the systems, being able to trigger events based on your state -- I'm carrying this, therefore I can do this, and I can't do it otherwise -- so it's kind of fun. There's a lot of system that ended up getting created in Soul Reaver 1 and we were never able to take full advantage of just because they came in so late, but we could see the potential of them, and now we're able to take advantage of all that potential. It's pretty neat as a designer, the toolbox is so full that we don't even know what to do with half of it. I think people will really enjoy it.

IGNPS2: The last question I had was one you sort of answered, which was "How has Raziel changed?" But you pretty much said he's wrecked.

Amy: Yeah, well, he is what he is now. He's this undead guy. Undead, undead undead guy. There's no coming back from that. And he's got a role to fulfill. He's sort of born again into this new form, and there's a reason for it. I think when we say, well, how will he change, how will he grow, hopefully that's what comes through the story, is that it's internal, it has more to do with self-realization, and that we'll convey that to the player, and they'll kind of go through that as Raziel does, having these epiphanies about himself and the history of Nosgoth and the machinations behind the machinations... I think it'll be interesting for people. It's not just there's some set pieces and some set characters, and you fight them and go on to the next one. I think it'll be a pretty interesting story for folks.

IGNPS2: I know you don't want to really give too much away, because that's a big part of the game, the story, but can you give us an abbreviated version of the story that doesn't give too much away, so we know what we're starting with?

Amy: Well, certainly what you're starting with. I'll probably be so vague that it won't do you any good. Obviously the last game left off with Raziel pursuing Kain through the portal and coming face to face with Moebius which was one of the main characters from the first game. Hopefully we did enough backstory on him in Soul Reaver for people who didn't play Blood Omen, but he's a sneaky character, and he was never up to any good in the first game. Definitely a manipulator, and the implication is that you find yourself back in Nosgoth's past. You're still sort of single-mindedly, relentlessly pursuing Kain, but some of the revelations that we want the player to go through along with Raziel is that he's being pretty simple-minded, he's sort of being very black-and-white in his interpretation of things, and being kind of petulant. He's really not...I hope it came across in the way they talked, but he's not really as heroic as Kain is, and he has a lot of stuff to figure out, basically, about what's going on. That's going to take him through familiar locations, familiar characters, and familiar events...

IGNPS2: I always thought that Raziel was a pawn in a much more powerful player's game...

Amy: Yeah, and the question is, who's the player? There's about three of them, and he has to untangle all of that. Is it Kain, is it the Elder God, is it Moebius, is it something else? He's going to have to have a series of revelations before the end of the game. Part of what we want to have come across is a change in his character, not necessarily his physical form but in his character, because he's kind of a self-righteous little twit, in a way, and he's got a lot of stuff to learn.

IGNPS2: You just said "self-righteous little twit." [laughs]

Amy: Don't you think so?

IGNPS2: Oh, yeah. But I'm not creating the game.

Amy: [Laughs] No, I mean, that was intentional. Usually you don't do that to your game characters, I guess, but I hope it came across. I mean, it's funny, everybody has different reactions depending on how hard they listen to the voiceover I guess, but Kain's a little bit more mature than Raziel is, and he's definitely an interesting character with an interesting history, and that's something that we want to continue exploring.

IGNPS2: Cool. Well, that kind of covers everything...You've been on since day one, really?

Amy: Yeah, I started in 1995, and my first job was to work with Silicon Knights on Blood Omen.

IGNPS2: So you're originally with Crystal [Dynamics], then?

Amy: Yeah, I joined in July of 1995 and worked on and off with SK and the rest of the Crystal staff that was working on Blood Omen for I guess a year plus on the game. For anybody that's worried about...I mean, there's a lot of fans that are worried about, kind of, the changing of the guard, I understand that, and I just want them to understand that obviously I'm a fan of the first game, I worked on the first game, I'm committed to it, I'm committed to honoring the franchise, and I don't want them to think we're a bunch of sellouts or something.

IGNPS2: The conspiracy theorists will always think you are.

Amy: Yeah, I know. We can't actually be good-intentioned creative people, we have to be a bunch of scheming sellouts. Oh, well. I guess that's more interesting...

IGNPS2: You're really just an executive trying to increase your corporate profits.

[laughs] That's right. You know, you wouldn't say that if you could see me.

IGNPS2: Well, thanks for everything. I can't wait to play the game at E3. See you there.

Amy: OK, thanks. Bye.

Interview by Douglass C. Perry
―Douglass C. Perry and Amy Hennig[1]

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