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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 3 of 4 Next

Going back to when you were originally coming up with the idea, was it inspired by Dante's Inferno, or did you always have this concept of altering the story, and changing the protagonist, at the very genesis of the project?

JK: Well, at the very genesis, it was definitely Dante's Inferno, and his vision of Hell. And I think the idea of reimagining him as a fallen Crusader was our way of addressing the issue that the poem, while providing us a roadmap in so many ways, doesn't have a strong motivated action hero. And so that was our response to that; that was really the way to bridge the gap between the poem and the video game.

I definitely get the sense that maintaining the stuff with Beatrice... It's a gap we're starting to bridge with games, I think -- having that sort-of romance motivation, character motivation. How did you blend that successfully with this hardcore action game, and keep that tone appropriate? Was that a challenge?

JK: That was the part that worked really well for me. I think everything is a challenge about making the game, but having that clear romantic goal in mind is the backbone of it.

And so, there were a few necessary components -- knowing that Beatrice was a real person, that Dante was a real person, that their biographical story is actually written and interesting -- that gave us a lot of confidence that that was a universal story.

I see him as a guy who is deeply violent, and troubled, and is led down a bad path; but ultimately you've got this one, like a lot of stories we've seen over the years, he does have good in him, and he really does care for this person. He's come back from the wars hoping to forget his past, and forget about everything else, and be with the woman that he loves, and start over, and live a normal life.

And she represents the only source of light for him, and so when he comes home, and finds that she's been brutally murdered, and then her soul is denied going up to Heaven and is pulled into Hell, it sets him off. And he wants to make things right, and I think that provides a strong motivation.

And when you're playing a game, you want to know how that's all going to work out. You know, is he going to save her? What's he going to learn about his past? Why is all this happening? Who killed her? Why is she dead? And the story starts to unfold.

Working with source material that's actually medieval is incredibly rare for games, but also, contemporary sensibilities are quite different. Obviously, that's what led to a lot of the change. Was there anything about the story that you felt couldn't work in this market, or couldn't work in this medium?

JK: Well the poem is incredibly sophisticated. The Divine Comedy is a three part piece that's 14,000 lines, and... there's a lot going on there, and I think the game is clearly taking the top couple of layers of that, but it does not go deep into the more theological, or philosophical, or what-have-you elements of the poem. Ultimately the game is this gateway into Dante's vision of Hell, but it's not meant to replace a reading of the poem, obviously, which is much more sophisticated.

We were pretty deliberate about saying, hey, his description -- the adventure moments that are in the poem about how they descended down this cliff, and they crossed this river, and they encountered this monster, and they talked to the judge of the dead, and all of those kind of moments are what focused on delivering.

A lot of the secondary characters that he stops and talks to -- whether it be historical characters like Emperor Frederic II, or a mythological character, or these Florentines that are mentioned in the poem -- we wanted those to be in the game, but where they might go on and on for three paragraphs about their life story in the poem, they get like a line or two in the game so just get a brief sense of the sins they committed.

Whereas you might mention a hundred of them in the game, we did fewer of them, because ultimately there's only so much talking that you can handle in a game. It's about the action, and the combat, and so forth. It was heavily abridged, and I think that gave us the opportunity to pick and choose the stuff that was more appropriate for the game.

And, you know, it's very medieval. Like, there's some stuff in there about certain sins that are punished, or certain religious figures. There were things that we stayed away from because it wouldn't serve the game to go deep into that stuff.

Do you see a game, or a potential for a game -- not necessarily in this franchise, but a potential for games to explore some of the stuff you guys couldn't tackle? You know, through a different genre, or different storytelling techniques?

JK: Well, that's a big question. I think that there are certain genres -- like the role playing genre -- where there's like more dialogue, and there's more, I think, appetite from gamers for a lot more narrative.

Thematically, I think we're starting to see these stories be more compelling, more emotionally resonant. I think we're getting to the place where the production values, where people are caring about the characters more and more, and the performances of these digital characters are becoming just more and more realistic; and I absolutely think that's going to continue, and that as those production values increase, the sophistication of the stories and the themes is going to continue to grow, for sure.

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