The line around THQ's "Darksiders" booth at the Big Apple Comic Con was a long one, full of throngs of fans eager to play a demo of the game and meet superstar artist Joe Madureira, whose company Vigil Games is developing the title for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Best known for his work on "Battle Chasers" and "Uncanny X-Men," Joe Mad has been working in the games industry for the past several years. He co-founded Vigil Games in 2005, and "Darksiders" will mark the company's first release when it debuts in January of 2010. Joe sat down with CBR to talk about the game and his role as the Creative Director of "Darksiders."
"Darksiders" takes place on a future version of Earth, one hundred years after the Apocalypse. Players take on the role of War, one of the four horsemen, who is wrongly accused of bringing on the Apocalypse before it was supposed to occur. War is originally sentenced to death by a joint council of Heaven and Hell, but convinces the council to send him back to Earth so he can try to find the party who is actually responsible for starting Armageddon. Stripped of his powers, War returns to an Earth populated by angels and demons, all of whom see him as an enemy. He's forced to battle all comers as he tries to unravel the conspiracy to make him the scapegoat for the end of the world.
Madureira told CBR that his role as Creative Director has evolved somewhat over the course of developing "Darksiders." "Initially I did a lot of concepts. I would concept everything from characters and creatures to even some of the attack moves and things like that—we would sort of storyboard them out. As the team has grown and we've gotten further into development, I've taken on more of a directorial role, where I oversee pretty much everything on the creative side, like visual effects and animation. We have leads in each department that really are responsible for most things, and I'll sort of have the final approvals."
In discussing what genre of game "Darksiders" fits into, Madureira said that at its heart, "Darksiders" is structured like a classic adventure game. "You start off being very limited, as far as what moves you've got, and what areas of the world you can explore. As War gains new abilities, upgrades his abilities and finds new items, he can access more parts of the world. Later on he gets his horse Ruin which lets him go places you can't go on foot. Plus a lot of the smaller enemies that are kind of a nuisance throughout the game just become fodder for Ruin and you can trample right over them."
While the game may be structured like an adventure game, Madureira was quick to point out that the combat system is a lot more sophisticated than is typical for that genre. "Usually, adventure games sort of make combat an afterthought, and then you have brawlers that have awesome combat but nothing else," he said. "We wanted to make an adventure game that had the polish and epic scale combat of the best fighting games, then give you a little more exploration to do and a little more adventure."
Madureira elaborated on the exploration aspect of the game, saying that players would be able to go back and revisit areas they've already completed. "You can always go back. If you miss something, you want to further explore something, or you've got a new ability that you think maybe you could use in the area you were just in, you can always go back. That's another reason we like the adventure game structure versus a brawler, where you hit the checkpoint and then that's where you're at the next time you start the game—you can never go back. We were really careful to structure the story in a way that allowed us that freedom, because obviously with story moments, you can't repeat them or see them again because they change the world forever. That was one of the challenges of building the game."
According to Madureira, one of the ways that Vigil has balanced the players' freedom to explore with the need to present the story is through the use of ‘choke points.' Players may have an overall goal in a certain area of the game, and they will have flexibility in how they explore the area and complete a goal. "We give players a sense of freedom, and there's always a choke point—at some point you'll run into the story and it will propel you forward."
Of course, we couldn't finish the interview without asking whether or not there would be a comic adaptation of "Darksiders" anytime soon. Joe said the idea had certainly been batted around during development, but there just wasn't time to work on a comic during the game's development. Once the game launches however, there is the potential for a "Darksiders" comic. "There are talks about after we launch the game, bridging the gaps between the first and second game, having a comic series out there to keep the characters fresh in people's minds and tell a little more of the story, which I think is a really cool idea. So hopefully we can find the time to do that, but it's not set in stone yet."
"Darksiders" is currently scheduled to arrive on January 5, 2010 for the PS3 and Xbox 360. For more information on the game, head over to the official website at www.darksiders.com.