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An Interview With Gabriel & Bisser Of Haemimont Games
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition was recently announced for consoles, for those interested you can read my first impressions. At the preview event for the release I managed to grab an interview with two members of the Victor Vran team. Gabriel Dobrev, CEO of Haemimont Games, and Bisser Dyankov, Producer at Haemimont Games, agreed to an interview and I want to thank them for doing so. The interview is a tad long as it’s a transcription, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
Ben: Okay so why don’t we start by explaining what Victor Vran is? If someone didn’t know what it was how would you explain it to somebody?
Gabriel: We’re trying to make an action RPG that brings back the action. It’s a game where your positioning and how you read enemies that you see makes a lot of difference compared to just standing in the middle and just bashing buttons. That’s not going to take you very far. That’s the core idea behind the game. There are other things that are bery interesting about i. It’s very fluid and also very accessible. You don’t these choices that you have to read to know exactly how to build your character. If you take the wrong turn now you don’t have to rebuild it [your character]. You can change everything in your equipment; your weapons, your outfit, anything you want.
Bisser: There are no classes in the game.
Gabriel: Yeah there are none of these long term choices that you have to stick with as you play. There is a lot of experimenting with what you can do in the game.
Ben: It was a very long process because obviously you said you was in Early Access on PC. What’s that journey been like?
Gabriel: We entered Early Access with the idea that we had this short 8 hour game which is very nice to play. Once we started the players started asking questions because they saw this is a very much Diablo like game and they wanted to see the Diablo features. This was something that we’re very happy that we found out during the Early Access, that people recognise for whatever reason that is Diablo and we have to deliver Diablo. Everything else is just a no. So we set out to create the content and the mechanics that will really give you what you want to do and keep you interested for a long time. I remember when the first guy said in a forum that he was able to complete all the achievements, which means all the challenges as well, that he was at 200 hours. I think we succeeded.
Ben: Definitely I think it is, it’s hard to explain. It’s weird because I’ve played other Diablo-esque games but they always become very tedious after a while. I don’t know what it is about this game, if it’s because there’s a constant onslaught of enemies. I don’t know what the factor is but I’ve not found myself becoming bored with this.
Bisser: It’s because you have to constantly re-evaluate every situation and because of the positional combat we’ve implemented. Like if you just sit in one place and button bash you will die. It doesn’t matter how high of a level you are or how good your equipment is. We’ve given the player different tools to do that positioning. It’s either through the jumps or dodging, or specific effects and weapons that will transport you from one location to another. This is what Gabbie started with. We wanted to make it really action centric, where your combat skills are important. This is why we believe Victor Vran has to exist and be out there.
Ben: Yeah I tried to do it early on. I think I had the guitar that shoots the plasma balls, and I was like “I can just stand here and do this” and I ended up just getting surrounded and dying. So I was like “Okay I can’t play it like that at all”.
Bisser: We was also generous with the equipment because we didn’t want people to die too much. It can get a little bit trickier with the regular stuff.
Ben: So there’s a lot of trial and error? It’s very much running a weapon and seeing if it suits how you play?
Gabriel: We’re trying to make that a very smooth curve. So when you start you don’t really face strong enemies, you hit a button and they die. Then there is two enemies, and one by one you learn. All of the different enemy classes have their own abilities that, for example, the skeletons you have to kill twice unless you Overkill on the first try. Then all the different weapons that do a lot of damage start to play a little bit different because if you do a lot of damage to skeletons they won’t rise a second time. So you are kind of finding less enemies with that weapon. Other enemies have these areas so fighting with them is very different. The range weapons have a big advantage against those because you don’t have to go into their areas. Monsters also telegraph what they’re going to do, and typically they give you enough time and that’s not a problem. Say there is this brute that is smashing a hammer, and he’s taking two seconds to smash that hammer. There’s no way a brute can hit you. Well not unless he’s in the area with 50 other different monsters. The first time you meet the brute you’re like “Okay you swing so slowly” and you just make circles around him, but then you meet several and you meet them in a combination with something else. You really have to pay attention to what’s going on.
Bisser: The gentle learning curve was something we specifically wanted, because we wanted the player to learn the enemies they’re facing and to devise strategies on how to defeat that type of enemy. Then there is the emergent element where we start combining different types of enemies that require different types of tactics. Re-evaluating every situation and approaching it the best possible way. That’s why we’re giving you the freedom to constantly change the equipment, meaning your skills, because you can just see that the battle is not going as planned. You’re welcome to try and experiment with new things, like immediately pausing the game and changing the weapons to change your skills.
Ben: Yeah that was really handy when I was trying to take on the warpig, I ended up using this book that casts fire magic and that proved to be really helpful and it was nice to be able to on the fly change that.
Bisser: Since so much of the gameplay is within the positional approach to every battle, we believe this is what Victor Vran is giving to action RPGs.
Ben: Let’s talk about the expansions a little bit. There’s two coming out. You have the Fractured Worlds and the Motorhead: Throughout The Ages. What made you pick those two? When you was thinking of making expansions for the game, what was it that made you decide to go with those two?
Gabriel: Very different decisions for very different reasons. Fractured Worlds is something that players have more or less requested from the beginning. Randomly generated levels, endless content. We did release a pre-level that is kind of randomly generated but not quite, so we were not really happy with how that system worked. We decided that we will go and create a completely new system that will generate more interesting levels and also beautiful looking ones. We have this system where if you look at a level it’s like someone crafted it. People wanted that. We also had to address problems related to multiplayer how people could drop in and drop out of your game, and keep their challenges. We have these levels that are generated every day for everybody and they’re the same for everybody. We also have this fracture which is an endless dungeon. You can down as much as you want and it gets a little bit harder with each level. You can always jump to any level you have been to. There’s even a positive that if you play multiplayer with someone who is deep down, you can visit them just to be able to get deep and then try all the different levels. We kind of expect to watch who goes deeper in there. Also we have a lot more in Fractured Worlds. We’re increasing the level cap and adding another slot for another type of item; the Talisman. These change the way your character looks but they also charge and you can unleash them at a certain point for a huge effect. They’re created with recipes that you find around the world. Really a lot of just more Victor Vran, and Victor Vran fun that’s the core idea behind this expansion which is what the players requested.
The Motorhead one is a completely different story. We actually tried playing the game with different music in the background and we decided Motorhead fits because of the rhythm, pacing and everything. We decided to approach the band about licensing a few tracks and see if there is a match in what they want and so on. Then we started talking and then it was “Can we do something more than that?”. Then there was the question of “Do we do a little bit?”, because Victor Vran and Motorhead; they don’t do little bits. It has to be the full thing, entirely dedicated to Motorhead otherwise it just doesn’t work. So this is how we ended up working on the Motorhead expansion. Doing something that is entirely dedicated to the band and what they stand for.
Ben: If you had to pick one of the expansions to play, would you pick Fractured Worlds or Motorhead?
Bisser: That’s not a fair question.
Ben: [Laughs] No?
Bisser: No, they are completely different.
Gabriel: I mean I would buy them both.
Ben: But they are just completely different?
Bisser: Ah, the new item slot is important and then all of the Motorhead content with these three different worlds.
Ben: Just try both that’s the end story yeah? [laughs]
Gabriel: Yeah they’re both such different experiences compared to what the original game is so these are 3 completely different experiences.
Ben: Okay so last question. Now we have obviously the game on console and the two expansions, what’s next? Once the console launch is done, is there anything else you guys have planned? More plans for Victor Vran or are you going onto other stuff?
Gabriel: The plan is a vacation yeah [laughs]. Well we first would like to see how people respond to what we have done that’s very important. The other thing is that we always change between titles because we don’t want to be doing the exact same thing again. So I think that we will see how people respond. It’s not a case of tomorrow we’ll have a new announcement. This is something that we like to let rest for a while and then do something else, maybe come back with some fresh ideas about what we are doing.
Ben: So it’s very much a community decision? If the community say this is brilliant can we have more of this kind of thing?
Gabriel: Yeah that’s also a possible thing. We have done that with Fractured Worlds so it might be something that we’ll consider.
At this point I went to finish the interview, however Gabriel and Bisser requested that we continue and explain the Motorhead DLC a tad more. At first I thought this was strange but I’m glad I agreed as it helped to clear up the worries I had about the Motorhead expansion simply being a cash grab.
Gabriel: The first thing is that we wanted to make this expansion about Motorhead. The test is very simple; if you change Motorhead to something else, does it still work? If it still works then it isn’t really Motorhead, it’s something a little bit more generic. So we started with the pub with Lloyd [Kaufman] there. He’s been Lemmy’s friend for many many years. Also Lemmy sitting in the corner is something else that could only be Motorhead. And of course the hub had to be a pub because of them. One of the monster types we have is succubus, so that’s also very much a Motorhead thing. If you go to the World Map you will see these three different, completely different worlds. [points to one] This is the World Of Wars which is a theme that exists in the music in many many songs; about corrupt politicians, wars and destruction. Then there is the Wild West world which is a symbol of religion and its effect on our lives. Then the Medieval world where we have the reign of the Queen of the Damned with her greed. All of this is built from the labels. The Wild West is not from chance. If you know them they had a period when they had these album covers, so it’s very much influenced by what they stand for.
Bisser: Lemmy was a huge fan of collecting World War 2 memorabilia. What we tried to do is find the most appropriate way to tap into the concepts and the ideas behind forty years of music from Motorhead, and of course use the fantasy world of Victor Vran to bring those aspects of those ideas to life. Having everything in a fantasy setting allowed us to have crazy things, one next to another. But we do believe that they’re within the general concepts and ideas that the Motorhead music deals with. Of course we’re telling the story, we’re using the demons. Victor is facing demons that have infested these worlds. A change has happened to Snaggletooth, which is the creature that Lemmy has left behind to oppose the demons. We’re telling the story about that. But the essence behind the band’s music is something that we have tried very hard to do an honour to an to represent.
Ben: Yeah even though it’s influenced by Motorhead it’s very much an embodiment of their music and what they stand for. It’s not just throwing Lemmy and Motorhead into something to make an expansion. It’s actually very heavily based on what they do.
Bisser: Thank you for putting it into words like that, I was trying to battle the demons.
Ben: [laughs} No it’s fine.
Gabriel: [laughs] So we have these three worlds and we also have a lot of elements in the game like the guitar. You can play riffs. Let me find some enemies. [pause as he finds in game enemies]. You can do stuff like this [he presses a button to make Victor perform a knee slide with a guitar].
Bisser: You can call the bomber right now.
Gabriel: I can call the bomber.
Ben: I do love the amp tower though, I think it’s brilliant. [pause] It’s important to remember that you didn’t just look and go “How can we make people want this expansion? I know let’s put this legendary rock band into it”.
Bisser: We also have these journal entries that you find around the way which are led by Lloyd. They’re an important part of the story, of what Victor is facing but they’re related to what Motorhead has been sending out as a message. As Gabbie said you can’t just go light with Motorhead; it has to be all of it or there is no point.
Ben: [laughs] Yeah definitely.
Gabbie: There are also scribbles from Lemmy that you unlock at some point in the story. Unreleased material that fans can see for the first time. You do collect album covers. A lot of the demon powers, or motor powers as we call them in this expansion, are related to like the Iron Fist and the bomber are song titles. And here you have this monument of rock that combines different stems from music, and they build up as new waves of enemies come around. So that’s a different way to experience the music. We do believe we have the content there. What I really like is the fact that it’s infused with themes that are important to the guys [Motorhead].
Ben: It definitely shows. I think this is the main expansion I’ve been playing. I played the base game but I thoroughly enjoyed the Motorhead DLC [laughs].
Bisser: One of the effects of this special guitar is that enemies start headbanging [uses effect on screen].
At this point I finished the interview as there was nothing left to ask. If you read this all the way through, thank you you absolute trooper.