A Preview of Inquisition and an Interview with Project Manager Jerome Cukier at Wanadoo
Imagine for a moment sitting in your comfortable living room, setting down your refrigerated soda, clicking the remote to turn off the television, and turning off the lights. Close your eyes, and let your mind wander...back, back in time...
The year is 1348, and you are in Paris, France. The Black Plague is sweeping the land, and two out of every three people you know are dead or dying from the disease. There is no one willing or able to bury the dead, and corpses are thrown into mass graves. Rats the size of cats stalk unafraid among the living dead.
Taxation has forced your family into poverty, and you have no means to escape your surroundings. You are alone, and must survive by your wits. And you are hungry, very hungry.
And if the rampant disease and poverty were not enough with which to cope, Inquisitors roam the land, backed by royalty and the Church alike. Any religion other than theirs is deemed heresy, and you dare not appear in any way to have beliefs that differ. Two accusers that perhaps don't like you for some reason can tell the Inquisitors that you are a heretic, and this is enough for you to be thrown into prison without benefit of trial, and subjected to torture, to include the rack and having your bare feet burned by fire. To receive mercy, you confess to the heresy, whether you are actually guilty or not.
Indeed, the champions of the land, the Knight's Templar had fallen from grace, and had been tortured, many to death, and those who refused to confess their alleged abominations were publicly burned at the stake. And although the crown gleefully confiscated their lands and available wealth, there persisted a rumor that a treasure beyond compare had been hidden by the Templars...
INQUISITION : THE GAME
The French development team Wanadoo will be releasing this game in North America through Strategy First in April 2003.
In the game, the year is 1348, and you are in Paris, France. Your protagonist is Matthew, an unlikely hero who is a thief, and not a very good one at that. Entering Paris to seek his fortune, he attempts to pick pocket a spectator at a public burning at the stake, only to bungle it, and be caught and imprisoned. Your first manipulation of the character is to figure out how to escape the prison cell, and make your way out of the prison to freedom. Inadvertently you discover a Templar Knight suffering torture at the hands of the Inquisitors, who sets Matthew on his quest for the hidden treasure of the Templars.
But no easy quest is this, for Matthew must not only escape the prison, but journey the land avoiding Inquisitors, guards and other unsavory characters as he attempts to find the treasure. He must keep himelf hidden and alive by stealing from the rich, all the while avoiding exposure to the Plague.
This is a third person 3D action/adventure, and all control of your character is through keyboard commands, with no mouse control. You must utilize different keys to activate certain responses by Matthew - hiding in the shadows, sneaking past guards, utilizing a whistle or thrown rocks to distract guards, concealing yourself to learn information, robbing people for money to stay alive, picking locks, and violent action only as a last resort.
INTERVIEW WITH JEROME CUKIER, INQUISITION PROGRAM MANAGER AT WANADOO
Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed by GameBoomers. The concept of this game is extremely exciting, and we are so happy to have you with us to give us more information about the upcoming game. I have read that Inquisition was based in part on the novel "Brotherhood of the Rose". Is there a moral or concept beneath the obvious story line that you were trying to get across, and if so, do you believe this was accomplished?
CUKIER: That's an interesting point. In fact, setting the game in a historical universe lets us accomplish different things, narratively. Typically, medieval-fantasy games involve a good hero loved by all who saves the universe, usually by slaying hordes of evil creatures. I must say I'm a bit annoyed by that vision of things. In our game, the character is no hero, he won't save anything, he's hated by many and despised by all but a few, and in the game, violence is always the worst solution. Yet the universe is dark and mature. So we're just trying to say, forget what Double Dragon, Street Fighter or Max Payne told us, which was that basically, there is no situation that a massive usage of violence can't solve. That's no longer the case.
I've noted that Jacques Simian, who created the story on which Inquisition is based, is credited with working on other published games. Can you give me a little background on him?
CUKIER: Jacques Simian worked as an author on all of our historical-themed games, backing them with strong narrative content, such as Paris 1313, Crusader, Louvre, the Ultimate Curse, Dracula, and is also responsible for editorial content on games we published with third party studios, such as Iron Storm.
You are to be applauded for your dedication in portraying authenticity in architecture, clothing, and so many items in the game. How much time was devoted to this research and what did you use as your source material?
CUKIER: In fact this started way before we worked on this specific game. As I said before, the author, Jacques Simian, worked on many medieval games, and has a keen interest in the period, an interest that we share with total dedication, as some of us were medieval history grads, and we all worked at some point or another on projects set in a similar context.
Were there instances where the appropriate item could not be duplicated for game play?
CUKIER: When we started working on the game, let's just say that sticking to what Paris looked like in 1348 was not the toughest part, graphically. What was hardest was evoking the time accurately but at the same time, ensuring compelling gameplay. For instance, in that time, most streets were so narrow that buildings touched each other across the streets, so people had to light their way with torches even during the daytime. Well, that sounds nice and all, but trying to fit a sensible camera scheme in when you have no game space is just putting realism above gameplay, which is seldom a good idea. Other examples include tables. Simply put, there were no tables at that time - people just ate where they stood. We found that this might confuse the player, so we put in tables. But as far as weaponry or clothing go, those are accurate.
Another pat on the back is due for making the game playable at different skill levels. Was it necessary to make the game keyboard controlled because of the many actions available for the character, or was this done to accommodate console play?
CUKIER: We tried to make the console and PC version as similar as possible, so having a similar control scheme seemed important. Additionally, the current PC joy pads tend to look more and more like DualShock controllers. And we liked the joy pad feel, so the keyboard control is fairly similar to what the joy pad offers.
Were there technical limitations to what you wanted to do with the story, and if so, how were they resolved?
CUKIER: When we first counted how much time we needed to create the graphical resources for the game, we reached something like ten years. So we passed that rather annoying limitation by cutting through the scope and being late...
No doubt because of the subject matter, the game is very "dark" in mood. Is there any comic relief?
CUKIER: Yes, hopefully! The language plays a big role. All of the dialogue has been "medievalized" to give it a middle-age flavor without being too elaborate. The insults are quite colorful, you'll see...
How many hours of gameplay will it take the average game player to complete the game?
CUKIER: I'd say between 10 and 15.
When will this game be released in North America, and where will it be available?
CUKIER: Right now we are aiming for an April release...and you'll be able to find it in a variety of retail stores nationwide.
Is a sequel planned at this point, or is there another project in the works?
CUKIER: Right now we are still busy on the PS2 version of the game.
What are you proudest of in the creation of this game?
CUKIER: What we're the proudest of is that it's really the work of a small team. We're just nine, which is ...hmmm.... rare in this day and age. We've spent many, many nights solving mountains of bugs, eating nothing but cold pizza, and we were very glad when the game was released in Europe.
Again, thank you so much for telling us more about the game, and thanks for giving us a little insight into the people behind the game.
CUKIER: It has been a pleasure to meet with GameBoomers, and thank you for the interest in our work.
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