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Ron Gilbert On The Synthesis Of DeathSpank
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Ron Gilbert On The Synthesis Of DeathSpank

July 14, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

Are there other things you feel games like World of Warcraft have taught single-player games, or should?

RG: I think that the big thing about World of Warcraft is the whole open world. I had played EverQuest and Ultima Online, but the thing that struck me about World of Warcraft was the fact that the world never loaded. It seems like a small thing, like a technical thing.

Doesn't it load when you go between zones, though?

RG: Well, no. It does when you go between the continents, but the continents are giant. They're the size of Manhattan; you can walk from one end to the other, and it never loads.

For me, when I was playing the game, that was the "A-ha!" moment: "This thing never loads! This is a real world!" I'd look up at the sky and see people flying by on little flight paths.

That was a big thing in DeathSpank that I drew from World of Warcraft. I want this to be really an immersion for the player. Once they start playing, I don't want them to hit loading screens, because that yanks you out of the fantasy completely.

So that was one big thing in World of Warcraft: how they immerse people. And there aren't hard gates on the world! They've really done a good job of that with monster levels.

There's a funny thing about loading times -- everybody knows it's valuable to have shorter loading times, but it doesn't necessarily end up high on the priority list. In the GameCube era, Nintendo was really hardcore about reducing loading times as much as possible, and their first-party games had very impressive and clever solutions to that. But you can't show that in a screenshot, and you don't have to show it in a video, so I think it gets short shrift sometimes.

RG: Yeah, I think it's one of those conventional wisdom things. There's a whole lot of just conventional wisdom that runs through games just as much as movies or books or anything; people just go, "Oh, we've got a load screen. This is a load screen. We'll just do a load screen." They don't really think about it.

I think it's really important, when you're building things, to reexamine the conventional wisdom and go, "Do we really need to do this? Just because everybody else does this, do we really need to do this?" You do see games now doing that; Brutal Legend was a seamless world as well. You're starting to see that kind of stuff, and people are starting to recognize it.

DeathSpank has a comedic tone that's very different to a lot of modern games, and it's in a genre that's not well represented today, especially on consoles -- do you have a picture in your head of what the audience is? That is, who do you see playing DeathSpank? Or did you just go for it?

RG: Well, I was building it for me. I know that seems like a stock answer, but it really is true. I love adventure games, and I love Diablo-style RPGs, so I was just making this game that I wanted to play. Diablo is a really good RPG, but I honestly couldn't tell you what the story was; I didn't pay any attention to it. Adventure games do a really good job of telling a story, and I just wanted to kind of bring those two things together.

I'm kind of hoping that [among] people who play DeathSpank, some of them will be adventure game fans who miss that storytelling and miss the puzzle-solving and miss the funny dialogue, but still like some good action. They still like beating something with a sword.

How much adventure-style puzzle-solving is there in the game? Is there much of it, or is the main adventure influence the dialogue?

RG: There is a lot of puzzle-solving. It isn't to the level that Monkey Island was; that whole game was puzzles, so that was really fine-tuned, and it was very, very hard. If you go back and play Monkey Island today with no hints or anything, it's a very hard game to play. So we didn't go into those really hardcore puzzles with the game. We knew we were speaking to a different audience.

I tried to make the puzzles a little simpler, not so layered like you'd get in Monkey Island. But there are puzzles where you have to combine things, where somebody wants A and you have B and C and figure out how to combine them together to make A. There are definitely puzzles like that for adventure game people.

This is purely a downloadable game. Did that factor into the design at all? I don't mean in terms of storage space, but did it affect your design approach?

RG: Not really, and I don't know whether that's a plus -- history will answer that question! But no, it really didn't. The game is very different from a lot of stuff that's in the download space; I'm kind of hoping in a way that it'll open up the door to the Xbox and the PSN having more games with some real meat on them.

At least on the consoles, downloadable tends to be either reissues of older hardcore games, or newer stuff that's smaller-scale, or just straight-up downloads of full retail games. DeathSpank seems more in between those poles.

RG: Yeah. I'm really hoping this is kind of the future of downloads, and that we can get some really good, interesting games in the download space.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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