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Wiki-Icon-NR Face To Face: Demon Meet Your Maker in Game Informer issue 77

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Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain garnered a cult-like following of hard-core fanatics, frieks, and ghostly goths. When Crystal Dynamics announced the continuation of the Kain universe, this congregation of gamers scurried out of hiding and demanded information. For years, Game Informer tried to feed the demand and sedate the blood lust, but never once were successful in tracking down the development beast. The Soul Reaver team moved about the industry like an apparition, surfacing periodically to dispense little tidbits here and there. At the last minute, after learning a few tricks from the Ghost Busters, Game Informer finally cornered the leader of the Soul Reaver pack, Amy Hennig, for an in-depth interview on Soul Reaver and the future of the Legacy of Kain universe.

Game Informer: A few months ago, we didn't dare ask. But now that the game is finished, why was Soul Reaver delayed so many times?

Amy Hennig: It's always hard to nail down a ship date when you're working with brand new technology - you do your best to schedule conservatively, and adjust the scope of the project as necessary, as you go along. The enthusiasm generated by our early demos was both a blessing and a curse - because people were anxious for the game's release, there was a lot of pressure to set dates before the game engine was even fully established.

GI: Gamers have been hearing about this game for quite some time. Do you think the numerous delays and the constant hype from the press has turned gamers away from the product?

Amy: I hope not - that would be a shame. Like I said, the hype is a double-edged sword - it's flattering to have people so enthusiastic about your project, but at the same time you just want to be left alone to finish it! There's something to be said for working in complete anonymity, then unveiling the game when it's ready - premature hype tends to generate too much pressure and distraction.

GI: What happened between Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics? We heard blood was spilled over the Kain license.

Amy: I really can't comment in detail on that. The issue was resolved, with Crystal Dynamics retaining the right to the Kain franchise (for this and any future products).

GI: Exactly how long was this project in the pipeline?

Amy: We started early conceptualization around February of '97 (with a very small team), and began prototype work that April. We filled out the team and began full production in October. So it's been about 2 years from the first concepts, and about a year and a half of actual production.

GI: Raziel is certainly a cool new character, and the concept of turning the hero into the villain is definitely interesting, but why abandon Kain as the lead?

Amy: At the end of Blood Omen, Kain was presented with a decision: he could sacrifice himself and thereby save the world; or, in choosing to preserve his own life, he could damn the world. For the sequel, we assumed the latter - Kain embraces his vampire nature, and establishes himself as a "dark god", subjugating Nosgoth to his rule. We thought it would be interesting to fast foward a millennia or two, to see what Kain's decision engendered.

Given this ending, it seemed appropriate to introduce a new protagonist, and set Kain up as the nemesis. Kain is by no means a monster or mustache-twirling villain, though - in many ways, he's a more complex and sympathetic character than Raziel himself.

GI: How does Raziel talk without a lower jaw?

Amy: Very supple throat muscles.

GI: It appears as though many of the voice actors in Soul Reaver were the same voice actors from in Blood Omen. Is this true? And if so, did the voice actor for Raziel do anything in the first game?

Amy: Most of the original voice actors from Blood Omen are reprising their roles (or voiceing new characters) in Soul Reaver - Simon Templeman returns as the voice of Kain, and Tony Jay, Anna Gunn, Neil Ross and Richard Doyle are all back as well. Veteran voice actor Michael Bell plays Raziel - he wasn't in the original game.

GI: Is there any connection between the Necromancer in Blood Omen and the Elder God in Soul Reaver?

Amy: Other than the fact that Tony Jay does both their voices? Maybe...

GI: Was there any material that remained on the cutting room floor and didn't make the game?

Amy: Sure, that always happens. We decided to cut a couple areas out, to eliminate some problematic gameplay, and shave some time off the schedule. There were also a couple of mechanics that we felt were cool, but ended up underutilized in the levels, so we decided to scrap them for now, and invest more design time in them for the sequel.

GI: Was there anything that you would have changed?

Amy: Of course - developers are always their own worst critics. In hindsight, for example, I would have liked the spell system to be more integrally woven into the game, and I think we could have explored some of Raziel's mechanics in more depth. It's always difficult to design gameplay and the game engine simultaneously. But any minor disappointments are far outweighed by what we've managed to accomplish.

GI: What next? Rumor has it that Crystal Dynamics is working on two new Legacy of Kain titles. Obviously, a sequel to Soul Reaver is in the works.

Amy: Crystal and Eidos are totally committed to the Kain world, and plan to expand the franchise with multiple future titles.

GI: We hear that Kain might return to the slaughter fields.

Amy: Specific sequel plans are still under wraps - but players can expect to see more of both Kain and Raziel in the future.

GI: In Soul Reaver, Raziel inherited many amazing powers. What can we look forward to in the next game?

Amy: We plan to explore some of the established mechanics in even more depth, and expand their functionality - especially plane shifting, gliding, projectile use, and Raziel's underwater mechanics. There's a lot of richness there that we didn't have time to exploit. In terms of additional mechanics, we still need to sort these out - but we've always planned to explore shape-shifting and possession of creatures.

GI: Is there a possibility that Raziel may evolve again?

Amy: Potentially, but not as a vampire - the transformation into his current form effectively halted his vampiric evolution. As Nosgoth's first reaper of souls, he's on a completely different evolutionary path.

GI: How about Kain? Will he evolve like Raziel?

Amy: Kain continues to evolve, like all vampires. But if you mean will he grow wings, no - that's an evolutionary development unique to Raziel and his descendants.

GI: Any chance that you may bring metamorphosis back into play?

Amy: Like I mentioned above, we're talking about it for the sequel - we considered a shape-shifting mechanic early in Soul Reaver's development, but decided that we had enough technical challenges with the data-streaming and world-morphing technologies. We decided that when we tackled shape-shifting, we wanted to do it right, and spend the time to make it as cool as possible.

GI: Is Soul Reaver the last incarnation of the Gex engine?

Amy: That's hard to answer - there's not a discrete game engine that gets reused. Each game leverages off technologies developed in previous titles, evolving and improving the engine with successive generations. The animation engine, for instance, has its roots in the 3D Baseball game Crystal developed a while back. We plan to keep expanding the existing technology, adding features, rewriting modules that don't work well, and bolstering the ones that do. After all the effort and wisdom that went into our existing technology, it wouldn't make sense to scrap it and start a new game engine from the ground up.

GI: Is there a lucky lady in Raziel's future?

Amy: I don't know how lucky she'd be - Raziel's jaw isn't the only thing that got burned off in the vortex.

―Game Informer[1]

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  1. Archive Face To Face: Demon Meet Your Maker in Game Informer issue 77

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