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Did you ever say, "What wouldn't they do?" Did you ever deliberately avoid certain things?
TC: I don't think there was any specific conscious effort to that. The biggest thing that we tried to avoid, just in general, was just trying to do something that was so expected. There are always certain things in the genre... You have to have these kind of classes in the game, for example. If you make a gnome, for us, people have an expectation of what a gnome is like. If you made a gnome that was 12 feet tall and had giraffe legs, you'd be like, "Eh, really? That's a gnome for you guys? You kind of missed it? You're going off in this tangent."
You're being too deliberate in saying "we're not like other games."
TC: Exactly, to the point that you're breaking the heart of what it is you're trying to do by just being unique for unique's sake. So, for us, what we try to do is always try to find a unique angle on things. So, there's a mix of familiar, understandable, and relatable, and there's always a twist on it.
And then again, some of these things are built into the lore. So, for the cases of the gnomes, for example, one of things [bestselling author and game world creator] R.A. [Salvatore] was really big on is gnomes are not comic relief. He didn't want it to be like the wacky like "Hey, I'm a gnome, man!"
It's like, he really said, "If you're going to do it, we've got to really make them like they're the seed of knowledge in this thing." They're the ones with libraries. They're the ones that have this sense of experimentation. They would know about magic in the world. They would be on the cutting edge of things as they were developing.
He's big on universes that function. He's big on the idea that the society actually works, the society makes sense.
TC: Yeah. The fun part about it is having a back story to pull into. So, when we talk about stuff, like there are different cities in the game -- I can't go into all the details -- but if you happen to find them, it's really cool, because we really wanted to have that identity of that city feel fully fleshed out. So, for us, a city that might be based off one of the races in the game would feel totally different than a city based off of another, and the fact that it still has a city center. It still has an epic feel to it.
Did you have a feeling about making the city center feel consistent, and functioning, and realistic?
TC: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we would get into huge debates. There's always a challenge... You know, we didn't set out to create a simulation... But we would have debates about how many actual structures would be there and how many individual characters would be walking around. We would talk about just the core.
Whenever you talk about a city, for example, there's all these things like, Where's their water supply? How would they get this? Where is their means of transportation? What are the main things that they do? Is this a merchant city? What it is about this city that makes it that city, versus another one? So, we would have all these in-depth conversations about this stuff.
Even at the concept stage, we would start to dive really, really deep on this. Like we would come up with all these things -- like the gnome city, for example. What are symbols that are recurring that are relevant to the gnome culture? What are the glyphs and the language like? There's actually a fully developed gnome language in the game, and it's not just an alphabet. It's a full, structured language. An incredible amount of depth went into this stuff.
When you're talking from a process perspective, how did you start with this "design it from the ground up" mentality, and where did you start?
TC: I don't know how familiar you are with the back story of the project. It was originally a different project. When 38 [Studios] came on board, we basically started the IP over. So, we went back and sort of built everything from scratch. The first thing we usually do is, we sit down and have a lot of conversations about it. We looked back to all the [material] R.A has written... I mean, we keep saying, "Oh, he's got 10,000 years of history that he wrote for this game!" He really did write that. There is this huge tome of knowledge on this stuff.
And the cool part about it is we could dive back through all that and start to find things that we're like, "Oh, this is really cool! We really like this. Here are the races of the games. This is what makes them, them." So we went back and we tried to craft each of the weapons, craft the weapons that they would use, the armors, the clothing, the cities, the environments that they're in, basically feeding back to that one basic idea.
That's kind of what my job is, to take all the individual pieces of those and try to craft it like, "Okay, a little bit less this. A little more this. This is maybe a little bit too standard, like I've seen this before. Why don't we try to innovate a bit more on this, this, and this? It's a great process.