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games: titan quest interview
Writer/director Randall Wallace goes on a quest.As your hero squares off against sundry beasties and mythological monsters in ancient Greece, Egypt and Asia, Titan Quest is a game that lets you live out your Ray Harryhausen fantasies. Yep, you fight skeletal warriors. Lots of them.
The game is the brainchild of Brian Sullivan, co-creator of the Age Of Empires series, but much of its storytelling is from the hand of Randall Wallace, the writer of Braveheart and Pearl Harbor, and writer/director of We Were Soldiers. Although Wallace is familiar with gaming ("I’ve really enjoyed the Medal Of Honor console series"), he admits that his son is “the real gamer. I've watched him play Diablo II, Kingdom Hearts, World Of Warcraft and Rome: Total War. I sought his advice on many occasions during my work on Titan Quest.”
Presumably, working on a computer game was a very different experience to writing more traditional media like books or film screenplays, though. “Games have their unique requirements,” agrees Wallace. “The current storytelling possibilities are much more rigid than in other media. In films and books, all characters interact with each other based on personal histories that are created by the author. But in a role-playing game such as Titan Quest the main character has to be a blank slate. Someone that speaks and interacts in a way that will work for any player, no matter the skill path he or she chooses. But the possibilities will surely become more open as game technology continues to evolve.”
Of course, the biggest challenge in a narrative-based game is combining playability with storytelling. “A great story should engage and propel the player to want to keep playing a game,” Wallace muses. “However, there is definitely a balance to be struck so that the story does not smother the gameplay. Games have, in the past, seemed to be designed primarily around gameplay, with story development secondary; an add-on. For Titan Quest, we altered the typical game development process so that story development and level design happened simultaneously.”
Games also differ very much from films and novels in the structure of the narrative threads. In the case of the vast Titan Quest, you move along a main story path, but can also spend a lot of time in side quests. “That ability to follow alternatives is one of the great advantages of game structure,” says Wallace. “Options don't work, at least to me, in movies or books. In those forms of storytelling the teller ought to commit to the story he wants to convey. But in games the experience isn't diminished by choosing a different path. And of course the player can always go back and explore the roads not taken.”
As for the content of the game, players can dive into ancient civilizations which “in reality existed thousands of years apart from each other”, but are here united by an overarching mythology from Wallace's pen. This allows “the worlds to exist at one time, and the people in those worlds to face one great evil. I also wanted to include as many iconic elements of the civilizations as possible; characters like the legendary Spartan warrior King Leonidas, and magnificent locations like the Great Wall Of China and the Luxor Pyramids.”
With its unique mythology, according to Wallace, Titan Quest “celebrates certain values: the spirit of adventure, the persistence to fight through obstacles, and the joy of discovery."
Titan Quest is out now on PC.
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