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Archive PSN Interview with Denis Dyack at PlayStation Nation, 7/21/97[1]

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Throughout the many combined years of gaming behind us one simple but dooming fact has been haunting gamers. Ever since the original Pong and the original Mario Brothers, games have been loosing the fun. Its almost becoming a chore to play them. Sure titles here and there may have been fun but none really stood out as really, outstandingly entertaining.
Silicon Knights last year brought out a title that just, in one word, was truely entertaining. The title was hard to put down, so hard in fact that the gang here at PSN didn't really sleep while completing this game. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is one of those titles that I will always have memories of. So without further ado, here is the interview with Kain creator, Denis Dyack.
―PlayStation Nation[2]

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psn : How long have you worked in the video game industry?
denis : Silicon Knights has been in the industry for over five years now. Our first three projects were multi-player real-time strategy products: Cyber Empires, Fantasy Empires, and Dark Legions. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain was our first attempt at creating an RPG game.
psn : What made Silicon Knights want to develop for the Playstation?
denis : Actually, we were developing Kain a few months before we even knew what platform was best. For the longest time we thought that Kain would be coming out on the 3DO system but thankfully just at about the time when we could not wait any longer the Sony system was announced. At the time Crystal Dynamics was heavily leaning toward the Saturn for all their products but thankfully our Producer Lyle Hall and I were able to convince them to choose the Sony. At first glance, it was apparent to us that Sony was far superior in technology then the Saturn and 3DO in both 3D and 2D. To further make the decision easier for us, the elegant design of the Sony also made the Sony the easiest system to work on.
psn : Can you tell us what inspired Kain?
denis : Four separate things inspired Kain:

1) The Wheel of Time series - Robert Jordan. This series moved me personally because of its intricacies. The subtle and multi-threaded plot lines are what were missing in the Fantasy genre, particularly in the game industry. It was our goal to create a story line that was very complex and compelling as Jordan had done. One of our goals at Silicon Knights is to become the Robert Jordan or Steven King of the video game industry.

2) The Unforgiven - Directed by Clint Eastwood. I am not a big western fan but after I saw this movie I was blown away. This movie was more about people then anything else. This movie was the ultimate definition of gray. There were no real "good guys" or "bad guys". Everyone had a good side and everyone had a bad side and every action had a price. I knew instantly that after seeing this movie that our industry needed a game that addressed these issues. Image a game were everyone in the world was your enemy (including yourself), a world where you had to kill innocents to survive and a world that you are the ultimate pawn. How would players react in this situation, how would they feel. If everyone in world thinks you are evil, are you? Or is evil simply a matter of perspective.

3) Necroscope Series - Brian Lumley. This author created a scientifically based vampire series that was very visceral. This series particularly inspired Ken who wrote the scripts for the story that Ken and I conceived. When we create stories we try to model some classical models that were laid out by Shakespeare. You see, when he wrote a play he targeted his story at several levels. For the drunken commoners in the front rows he would insert dirty jokes to keep them entertained but for the aristocracy in the balconies he would write very cerebral metaphors. For Silicon Knights the gore is our dirty jokes, but for those who want more there is a real story behind Kain. A story that you can sink you teeth into and one that you can learn something from. We tried to address morals, evil and good, propaganda and fate in ways that have never been explored in a computer game before.

4) The Pillars of the Earth - Author?. I never read this book but just stared at the cover, which inspired me to create the "Pillars of Nosgoth" (which is what Kain was originally called). Sometimes it is funny how things come to you.
―PlayStation Nation[3]

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psn : What caused the slowdown on Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain? Was it a limitation of the PlayStation such as RAM constraints?

denis : The Sony has 3 meg of RAM. 1 meg is dedicated to video and 2 Meg is dedicated to data (V RAM and DRAM respectively). The problem with Kain was that we had 2.5 megs of graphics (best in VRAM) and .5 meg of data (best in DRAM). This meant that we had to store graphics in the Sony were it did not belong. This accounted for most of the slowdown.


psn : Can you tell us what Silicon Knights is currently working on?
denis : No, Sorry, I wish we could. Since we generally put more time into our projects then average we have to be very tight lipped about them until the time is right. The one thing that I can say is that no one will be disappointed with what we are making - everything is leaps and bounds ahead of our previous works.


psn : Do you think that we will see a sequel to Blood Omen?
denis : Another tough question. It is not clear whether we will do a sequel to Kain. I cannot say more on subject currently. Sorry.


psn : We kinda think the story of Vorador would make a good sequel or prequel actually. What do you think?

denis : Yes. Vorador was very much like a father figure for Kain. If we decide to do more in the Blood Omen series then it is a safe bet to say that he will be in it. Thus, we would definitely consider a prequel. Through email over the net it appears that Vorador is one of the most popular characters in Kain. Once Ken and myself thought of this character, we knew that there had to be a great deal of history behind this guy. We did not have a chance to talk about this history much in Blood Omen. It would definitely be fun to fully explore the character Vorador.

―PlayStation Nation[4]

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psn : Do you think that the PlayStation's capabilities are maxxed out?
denis : No. Generally, development of smarter algorithms will allow you to get more out of any system. Without question the Sony is far to new of system to say that no more can be gotten out of it. The real question is "because of the accelerated hardware curve have developers reached a point of diminishing returns in trying to get more out of the Sony?" This answer will vary from developer to developer but our answer to this question again is "no".


psn : How many people are involved on the New project?
denis : Everyone at Silicon Knights. We throw everything into our projects, we are committed to doing nothing but the very best games.


psn : The story of kain is very detailed and well written. was the story written as a team effort or was it written by just one person?

denis : Generally, everyone at Silicon Knights contributes to the story - we work very much like a guild mentality where everyone contributes to the content. I created the initial concept and story outline - it was initially called the "Pillars of Nosgoth". Next, everyone at Silicon Knights brainstormed and contributed to parts of the story. We kept the good and threw away the bad. Once this was done, Ken and I then created the detailed story. Ken then started to write it up as well as creating detailed mythologies in the world of Nosgoth. Ken wrote the story & scripts in the game and he did a great job!
―PlayStation Nation[5]

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psn : Are you going to incorporate the Analog feature in your new project?
denis : Yes.


psn : What are some of your favorite games of all time and why?
denis : I will not mention our own games here because I just might be a bit biased.

Defender (arcade) - I would play this game until I got blisters on my hands and thumbs. It had great interface once you got used to it. It had great game mechanics.

Empire - Without this the grandfather of strategy games we would not of had Civilization and other classic strategy games.

Ultima III - (Atari) The best in the series in my opinion. I can still remember when I was sucked into the whirlpool for the first time and I thought all was lost.

Dune II (PC) - This started the real-time strategy craze.

Carrier Command (Atari) - A really neat concept. A multi-player game before its time.

Virtua Fighter II (Arcade) - Great graphics and game play.

Soul Blade (Sony) - Great character design and game play.


psn : Were you involved with the PC version and if so was anything changed for it?

denis : No, we were not involved.


psn : Silicon Knights motto is "Putting the magic back into software". Do you feel you've accomplished that?

denis : I think we have taken some steps in the right direction.

Some background:
When Rick and I first started making games we thought that there was way too much quantity and not enough quality. There was a certain magic missing from games that we wanted to bring to the industry. Since those times the conditions of the industry have only gotten worse and not better. There is so much crap out there right now that it is unlikely a non-gamer will buy a good product out of a lack of knowledge. This means that they are unlikely to buy a product at all. Even the gamers are getting frustrate. This is shown by how 10% of the games in our industry make 90% of the money. Our industry needs to get the non-garners to buy games, to increase the market to the average person. But our industry still seems to be too immature for this, and too many companies are thinking short term and not putting enough time and money into games. It has been our goal to change the industry by putting magic back into it. This is a goal we will never stray from.

Finally the answer:
In order for us to completely put the "magic into software" we must create a game that completely immerses players into a state of optimum experience. It is part of Silicon Knights agenda to discover how to do this. There is no formula that makes a good game and we are unlikely ever to find one. But we now believe that it is not one but a combination of fundamental principles will allow us to do the best games. We believe that a combination of Art, Story, Game-Play, Design, Technology, Music and Sound that combine in a way that makes them greater then the sum of their parts. We came to this conclusion halfway through the development of Kain. So if you liked Kain, wait until you play our next game where we hope to take the next step towards our "Holy Grail”.
―PlayStation Nation[6]

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psn : Do you believe in vampires? Have you always had an interest in horror and vampires?

denis : No. Yes, almost everyone at Silicon Knights loves horror. Both Dark Legions (our previous game) and Kain had very Dark mythologies.


psn : To your knowledge does the PlayStation "C" exsist?

denis : No.


psn : Are you continuing to work with Crystal Dynamics?

denis : This is extremely unlikely for many reasons that I cannot go into.


psn : If Kain and Dracula got into a fight who would win?

denis : Dracula is a sissy and Kain would kick his ass. All Kain would have to do is throw Dracula in the sunlight or water and watch him cry and whimper into oblivion.


psn : Eric McCoy would like to ask
question: Will you use the same voice actors from LOK?(They were the best I have heard on a game)


denis : If it is appropriate, yes. They blew us away. When we first went into the recording studio Ken and I were very concerned that the actors would not be able to communicate the complicated dialog that Ken created. After five minutes with Simon Templeman (who had many years of theatre experience) we knew that there was no problem. We learned never to underestimate the talents of the Actor's Guild.


psn : Where did you get your training to get into the video game business?


denis : Well, I have a Computer Science Degree and a Masters Degree in Computer Science. This is pretty well a must for programmers these days. There are not really many places that can teach you how to create a computer game, however, they can give you the tools. I highly encourage anyone to go to school and get educated. School will give you the tools. The more tools at your disposal the better off you will be. "Knowledge is power" - Nietsche. Whether you are an artist, programmer, designer, producer or director. The latter is now my main role although I have done every other in the past.


psn : Any advice for someone trying to break into the videogame business?


denis : Yes. Always go for quality and your vision. Always think long term. If you put the hard work into your vision the success is likely to come. Never let anyone tell you that something cannot be done. Nothing is impossible it is only unlikely. Read the "Book of Five Rings".

―PlayStation Nation[7]

CreditsEdit

Thanks to Denis Dyack (contributor), PlayStation Nation (publisher), Wolf Reven and Tenaya (archivists), and Nosgothic Realm (archive).[8]

ReferencesEdit

  1. PlayStation Nation News (oldnewsjuly) at PlayStation Nation
  2. PSN Interview with Denis Dyack at PlayStation Nation, page 1
  3. PSN Interview with Denis Dyack at PlayStation Nation, page 2
  4. PSN Interview with Denis Dyack at PlayStation Nation, page 3
  5. PSN Interview with Denis Dyack at PlayStation Nation, page 4
  6. PSN Interview with Denis Dyack at PlayStation Nation, page 5
  7. PSN Interview with Denis Dyack at PlayStation Nation, page 6
  8. Wiki-Icon-NR Recreated PSXnation.com Interview with Denis Dyack at Nosgothic Realm

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