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The Road To Hell: The Creative Direction of Dante's Inferno
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The Road To Hell: The Creative Direction of Dante's Inferno

February 5, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

When you were working on the adaptation, and working on the way that you would have to change the story, did you look at any other adaptations of classic literature? What about other adaptations in game media? Did anything help provide a guideline for the way of your thinking?

JK: Well, we are always looking at stuff. I didn't specifically try to do that, no. I mean, our take on it was definitely original, and it developed here on the team, and we ran with it.

I think, in retrospect, I've always found it interesting that Bram Stoker's Dracula, which Francis Ford Coppola made in [1992] was actually reasonably faithful to that book, and yet he also felt compelled to introduce this crusade narrative, where Dracula had this medieval past, where he's fighting in the Crusades, and the love of his life dies, and that sets in motion these events.

And that was not part of Bram Stoker's novel, and, you know, that's one example that brings to mind how the Crusades have permeated culture... it's a modern idea that people continue to be interested in.

But we obviously looked at everything that's been done with Dante over the centuries, from illustrations and paintings, to sculpture.

There's a really fun sort-of animated puppet movie, almost, that was done a few years back, that updates it with Dante and Virgil starting out in a very urban environment, and descending down into a subway, and there's politicians boiling in hot tubs, and that's a very clever piece that's a little more tongue-in-cheek.

There's been a pretty broad sweep of stuff. There's a novel entitled Inferno; it was written in the '70s, it's by Larry Niven, it's a science fiction novel. He reimagines it as this fascist state, which is fairly literal to, again, the structure, and Virgil is replaced with Benito Mussolini, and Larry Niven basically casts himself as this guy who dies and goes to Hell, and tries to get out. So there's been a lot done on it, and it's definitely a fascinating and rich source material.

When it comes to talking about the Crusades being evocative and popular source material, did you have to do any research on the Crusades? And what did you think about what you discovered, as you were working on the project?

JK: Well I was compelled by this one particular historical event in the Third Crusade, or the King's Crusade, which was a failed attempt to reclaim Jerusalem. And Richard the Lionheart takes the city of Acre, and from there attempts to take Jerusalem but is ultimately repelled.

And in that summer, in the city of Acre, the Christian Crusaders took a bunch of prisoners -- about 3,000 prisoners -- and were holding them, and Richard was trying to negotiate a deal for their release, and ended up just ordering their slaughter. And so, one morning, they just trotted out these 3,000 people and slaughtered them on the spot. Whereas Saladin, when he captured Jerusalem earlier, had spared the prisoners that he had taken, and so it just created, obviously, a really bad dynamic.

And, to me, that was a really interesting historical moment, and as we look for a way to craft the path of our Dante, and sort-of reimagine him as this guy who has gone through a lot of really morally questionable activities, that felt like kind-of a really powerful hotbed of bad choices, and was thematically appropriate. [We] made him part of that event.

And then he comes home to Italy, to find that Beatrice has been murdered, and as he goes into Hell, he basically has to relive that past and face the things that he's done, and the sins that he's committed.

We spent a little bit of time looking into that little slice of history -- and it doesn't coincide exactly with Dante writing The Divine Comedy, which is a little bit later -- you know, Dante's born in the 13th century, and the stuff I'm describing is 12th century, but, you know, it's in that medieval period. And so we played with the timeline a little bit, and it provides kind-of the right backstory for our guy.

How much did gameplay and genre considerations drive the evolution of the story for you?

JK: Well, I mean... a lot. Again, it's an action game, and it's a game in which you do a lot of combat, and that combat is the heart of the game; that's what it is, first and foremost, and that's why it's entertaining, is that the combat feels so good.

And so, we absolutely had to craft a narrative around a very aggressive protagonist with supernatural weapons, and the ability to break into Hell and fight through the nine circles. So, knowing that that's what video games are, and that's what video games are going to be, we definitely had to craft a narrative around that.

And, you know, there are origin stories about how he gets his scythe from Death, and how that plays out. We wanted the acquisition of weapons and the unholy abilities and so forth to really make sense in the story. So, yeah, that was a big consideration, for sure.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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