Opening Pandora’s Box: Developer Talks Legendary

Developer Spark Unlimited is planning to bring a fresh take on the first-person shooter genre later this month when "Legendary" is released for the Xbox 360 and PS3. The game will have players taking on the role of Charles Deckard, an art thief who unwittingly opens Pandora's Box, unleashing ancient creatures of lore upon an unsuspecting world. New York and London will become the battlegrounds of a war between man and legions of griffons, minotaurs and werewolves.

Spark Unlimited's CEO Craig Allen talked with CBR News about the monsters, weapons, set pieces and characters that make "Legendary" a unique experience.

CBR: Given the subject matter, what made you decide to make the game a first-person shooter as opposed to a third-person action game?

Craig Allen: The team's primary design background has been creating first-person action games like "Medal of Honor," "Medal of Honor: Frontline" and "Call of Duty: Finest Hour," so there was a natural tendency toward using that viewpoint. More importantly though, while a third-person viewpoint would have been helpful for creating a stronger and more identifiable central character (because you see the character on screen all the time) it wouldn't have provided the same in-your-face impact that comes from the creatures attacking the player in first person view.

One of the features that's been highly touted in "Legendary" is the advanced A.I. of the enemies. Can you talk about the different tactics that creatures will employ in combat?

Basically, there are three parent A.I. classes that support the creatures in the game: ground, flight and titan.

The Werewolf is the most full featured ground based enemy and has the ability to move on any surface, jump from wall to wall, pick up objects and path through destructible environments. We wanted this creature to be the ultimate predator -- hungry, territorial and unpredictable but highly intelligent in how he would use his environment and objects that could become weapons for attacking at a distance.

The Griffon is our most robust flying enemy and we wanted it to be almost the embodiment of a hurricane. The griffon can pick objects -- like cars -- off the ground, throw them at the player and use its giant mass to crash through buildings.

The Nari uses some of these characteristics for navigating the environment but with the twist that they are not always in a physical form. Players will have to first force them into a corporeal state with an animus pulse before they can attack them.

With the Golem -- a giant creature made up of building materials, cars, concrete -- the team had to develop a system that would allow it to literally transform the landscape. The idea was for it to be like a living earthquake that could change the face of the world and reduce a modern city to rubble right in front of the player.

In terms of gameplay, how do the Titan Class creatures differ from the werewolves, minotaurs, griffons and drakes that Deckard will be facing off against?

While the Titan Class creatures serve a number of functions in the game (like opening a path through a skyscraper) they're really meant to be a bit more of a living cinematic element that gives players a perspective for how our world is being completely changed by this powerful new force that Deckard has unleashed upon it. Since these creatures are too massive to be brought down single-handedly they also provide an excellent opportunity to drive larger scale battles and events.

Werewolves and other creatures, by contrast, are much more focused on engaging the player in unique forms of more personal combat. For example, the Griffons can pick up large objects (like cars) and throw them at you, the werewolves can move on any surface and as a result attack from just about any direction, and the Minotaurs can smash through the environment meaning there's really no place to hide.

Creatures of myth are not the only enemies that Deckard will be battling in "Legendary." Tell us a bit about the human factions that are vying for control of Pandora's Box.

Basically, there's two secret societies in our world: the Council of 98 and the Black Order. The Council of 98 originally sealed the creatures in the box and they're kind of like the United Nations in that they have been seeking to maintain stability in the world. The Black Order, on the other hand, is dedicated to progress at any price and they see the creatures as a force that could be shaped, controlled and utilized. They have no issue with setting events in motion before they really understand the consequences of their actions -- so they're a very unpredictable and dangerously disruptive organization.

Deckard, because he opened the box and became marked with the signet, is caught between these two groups because he is seen as the possible key to ultimately either containing or controlling the creatures.

What sort of weapons will Deckard have at his disposal to battle the hordes of evil?

One of the key design decisions for the game was to reward players for knowing the strengths and weaknesses of their weapons against the creatures in the game. Also, because players are unable to carry an unlimited amount of gear, it forces real tactical choices for how a situation is to be approached.

Weapons in the game include:

Fire Axe (Melee Weapon): Cumbersome, but lets you hack through obstacles and enemies if you are foolish enough to run out of ammo

TechLite Arms H662 9mm Pistol: This weapon is better than nothing but you'll need to be more defensive than offensive if this is all you've got to use.

Cartridge: 9mm

Action: Mechanically locked, recoil operated

Feed System: 15 round magazine

Magnum Research, Inc. Desert Eagle .50AE: Definition of the phrase "hand cannon," the Eagle is powerful enough to take down almost any creature as long as you can keep it on target.

Cartridge: .50 Action Express

Action: Direct impingement gas-operated

Feed System: 7 round magazine

CNE Tactical Systems, Inc. Marauder Model 1010 Shotgun: Great for close-quarters combat, the shotgun can knock enemies back with its powerful blast.

Caliber: 12 gauge

Action: Pump Action

Feed System: 8 round internal tube magazine

TechLite Arms SMP-9 Submachine Gun: This gun is effective against human enemies but less so against the more powerful creatures. However, what the weapon lacks in power it makes up for with a rapid-fire spray of bullets.

Cartridge: 5.7 x 28 mm

Rate of Fire: 1250 rounds/min

Feed System: 50 round magazine

CNE Tactical Systems, Inc. XT9-MU Assault Rifle: If you can control the burst fire on this thing it's easy to zero in and knock down enemies.

Cartridge: 5.56 x 45 mm NATO

Rate of Fire: 750 rounds/min

Feed System: 30 round magazine

Standard-Issue Military M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW): Perfect for taking on lots of creatures at once and then taking 'em all down. You need to watch out for the reload cycle, though. It's a bummer to get eaten while changing an ammo belt.

Cartridge: 5.56 x 45 mm NATO

Action: Gas-operated, open bolt

Rate of Fire: 725 rounds/min

Feed System: 200 round disintegrating belt

Billburg-Osterman Technologies X-F451 Man-Portable Flamethrower: An experimental weapon designed to engulf a large area with fire in a short amount of time. Almost as if the designers knew they were going to need a weapon to take on swarms of creatures...

Damage Type: fire

Ammo: 1-liter blended fuel cell speed loader

Billburg-Osterman Technologies Shoulder Launched Anti-Air Missile Mark 7 (SLAAM-7): With guided high explosive rockets, the SLAAM-7 is powerful enough to take down almost any creature. It can track and lock-on to targets so you can fire and forget.

Rocket: Anti-Air HE Radio-Guided Rockets

Rate of Fire: 1 Rocket/5 sec

M99-R High Explosive Grenade: A 21st century update to the standard military-issue hand grenade, the M99-R contains a transmitter that allows the user to remote-detonate the explosive. This avoids the dangerous and often-fatal need to "cook" the grenade to run down the explosive timer before throwing.

Molotov Cocktail: Homemade explosives from folks who are making do with what they can find. It might not kill a creature right away, but it sure helps whittle them down.

It's evident from the trailers that you're going for a very epic feel in "Legendary." Can you tell us about the scale of the game, and what set pieces we can expect to see?

When structuring the game, the team certainly wanted to deliver an experience that was like playing through a big action summer blockbuster movie. New York was chosen as the starting location both because the city is such a recognizable landmark of our modern world as well as a great setting to showcase the change to our world as the creatures of myth return.

While a lot of fun gameplay takes place in, around and under the city -- there's a sequence in Times Square that is just a fantastically wild free-for-all experience of werewolves, firedrakes, Black Order soldiers and Naris all chaotically engaged in combat while the Golem walks around crushing the city.

In any case, to convey the idea that the return of the creatures was an event of truly global impact it was important to have a variety of other locations as well.

For this game, London and a few other parts of England were selected as a contrasting, more 'old world' landscape. The setting also lends itself to a real shift in tone as the player moves from a more frenetic action pacing into a kind of classic horror movie vibe. But like Times Square in New York, the team didn't want to miss an opportunity to create a really memorable sequence involving an iconic landmark -- so fighting Griffons as a Kraken takes down Big Ben became a notable high action highlight of the overall adventure.

What can we expect from the multiplayer component of "Legendary?"

The team wanted the multiplayer experience to be consistent with the core value of the game -- which involves creatures and humans in kind of a three way combat situation. So in addition to traditional multiplayer combat, you will be able to have certain modes of play that involve the werewolves as part of your battlefield.

You're also releasing a graphic novel written by none other than Mark Waid. How did he become involved with the project?

Our Art Director, Steve Firchow, had previously worked a lot in the comic industry and knew Renae Geerlings from Top Cow Productions. We approached her about putting together an adaption of the game that could be its own unique expression of the material. Renae had also worked with Mark during her years at Top Cow Productions and thought he'd bring the right mix of intelligence, humor and action to the project and called him in to meet the rest of the team at Spark. Fortunately for us, Mark liked the core idea and signed on after we assured him we wanted the book to be a standalone narrative and that he would have the creative freedom to shape the story.

Is the graphic novel a prelude, or will the story parallel the narrative of the game?

The graphic novel parallel's the narrative of the game in terms of staying consistent with certain key events, but has much more character development and more details about the world and history leading up to the start of the game.

Between Deckard, the council of 98 and the Black Order, you've created some memorable characters for the "Legendary" universe. Any chance we'll see future stories with these characters, either in a game or a graphic novel?

One of the things we try to do at Spark is to create a rich world with strong characters in addition to the action game play experience. In terms of "Legendary," we do have plans for at least two more very structured games that evolve the core characters and world -- but let's wait to discuss that until we know what folks think about this one!

"Legendary" is scheduled for release on October 21 for the Xbox 360 and PS3. The PC version is currently planned for a November release.

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