Nihilistic Software was founded in 1998, there were only two things
we knew were certain. The first was that we wanted to form a company
with a small number of very experienced game developers. The second
was that we wanted to make a killer role-playing game.
got started without much fanfare, just a few phone calls and e-mails.
After finishing work on Jedi Knight for LucasArts, the core team
members had, for the most part, gone their separate ways and moved on
to different teams or different companies. About eight months after
Jedi Knight shipped, various people on the original team began
to gravitate together again, and eventually formed Nihilistic just a
few exits down Highway 101 in Marin County, Calif., from our previous
moved into our new offices and bolted together a dozen desks from Ikea,
our first project was to build a 3D RPG based on White Wolf's pen-and-paper
franchise, Vampire: The Masquerade. Before linking up with Activision
as our publisher, Nihilistic president Ray Gresko already had a rough
design and story prepared for an RPG with similar themes and a dark,
gothic feel. After Activision approached us about using the White Wolf
license, we adapted parts of this design to fit the World of Darkness
universe presented in White Wolf's collection of source books, and this
became the initial design for Redemption.
of our transition from first- and third-person action games to RPGs,
we approached our first design in some unique ways. Many features that
are taken for granted in action games, such as a rich, true 3D environment,
3D characters, and the ability for users to make add-ons or modifications,
were reflected in our project proposal. We also adopted many conventions
of the FPS genre such as free-form 3D environments, ubiquitous multiplayer
support, and fast real-time pacing. To this we added the aspects of
traditional role-playing games that we found most appealing: a mouse-driven
point-and-click interface, character development, and a wide variety
of characters, items, and environments for exploration.
conceptual art, such as this rendering of Alessandro Giovanni
by contractor Patrick Lambert, helped the characters evolve as
the art design took shape.
the White Wolf license also meant that our users would have high expectations
in terms of story, plot, and dialogue for the game. It's a role-playing
license based heavily around dramatic storytelling, intense political
struggles, and personal interaction. Fans of the license would not accept
a game that was mere stat-building and gold-collecting.
with our basic philosophy, we built up a staff of 12 people over the
course of the project's 24-month development cycle. The budget for the
game was fairly modest by today's standards, about $1.8 million. The
budget was intentionally kept low for the benefit of both Nihilistic
and our publisher. We wanted our first project to be simple and manageable,
rather than compounding the complexities of starting a company by doing
a huge first project. Also, we were looking to maximize the potential
benefits if the game proved successful. For its part, Activision was
new to the RPG market and was testing the waters with RPGs and the White
Wolf license in particular, so they probably considered the venture
fairly high risk as well.
started around April 1998. When we began, we examined several engine
technologies available, such as the Unreal engine and the Quake engine,
but ultimately decided against licensing our engine technology. The
game we envisioned, using a mouse-driven, point-and-click interface,
had a lot more in common with games such as Starcraft than even
the best first-person engines. We decided to create a new engine focused
specifically on the type of game we wanted to create, and targeted 3D-accelerated
hardware specifically -- bypassing the tremendous amount of work required
to support nonaccelerated PCs in a 3D engine. As an added benefit, the
company would own the technology internally, allowing us to reuse the
code base freely for future projects or license it to other developers.