As the follow up to the cult Demon’s Souls inspired Lords of the Fallen game, German developer Deck13 has teamed up with Focus Home Interactive to work on the forthcoming sc-fi inspired The Surge. And having taken lessons from its previous RPG title, Deck 13 is now looking to ensure that its next game will be worth paying serious attention to when it’s released in 2017.
I spoke to Adam Hetenyi (Head of Game Design, Deck 13) and got to ask him as to how he intends for The Surge to stand out in an already congested gaming marketplace, and as to whether there are plans for Deck 13 to revisit the foundations set by Lords of the Fallen in the form of a sequel. Enjoy!
As the Head of Game Design, what does your role involve on The Surge?
I sort of maintain the quality bar. I schedule out all of our design work. I do a lot of review in terms of every level, every enemy, combat pacing, UI improvements, feedback for our systems, as well as polishing the core features of our game, and the combat where we’re able to target the different limbs and chop them off and then use those components for crafting.
What would you say is the biggest inspiration for The Surge?
Well, we developed Lords of the Fallen before. That was the most recent game that we did. We’re sort of in the business of making action RPGs at this point. And we really, really enjoy the sort of tactical combat that you have to pay attention to in your move sets. It’s not super easy in some cases. There’s a high skill ceiling, a lot of learning that you need to do. So certainly, people who have played the Souls games will recognise some inspirations here in the sort of combat and the way the game plays. But I would say that those are inspirations, and people who play those games will hopefully find a lot to like about The Surge as well.
Lords of the Fallen was basically Dark Souls set in the Viking era. And The Surge is basically Dark Souls set in a futuristic sci-fi-oriented era where you fight robots. Why the flip from, say, medieval to futuristic time periods?
Yeah. I mean honestly, I think that we’ve needed a sort of sci-fi game like this for a while. I’m a big fan of these games as well. And they’re all set sort of low-fantasy. And so this gives us a way to differentiate the game and kind of move in a different artistic direction, a different sort of feel and tone. And because our sci-fi setting is sort of near-future, kind of dystopian, it lets us use the sort of exo-suit stuff – which supports the kind of combat gameplay that we wanted to do. It had to be more fast, more agile, kind of more stick-and-move, have more risk but more reward as well. So it kind of opens up that design space for us and lets us use a different setting, a different sort of level design, as well as use those aspects in our combat systems, weaponry, and armour and that stuff.
I believe Lords of the Fallen came out after Demon’s Souls?
Yeah, yeah… We were pretty inspired by Demon’s Souls.
The problem is that a lot of people saw it as a poor man’s Demon’s Souls.
And as a consequence, it was buried under the dreck. I mean, the quality standard of games coming out now is so ridiculously high. A lot of good games get buried underneath the pile. But what steps are you taking to ensure that The Surge doesn’t suffer from the same critical fate that Lords of the Fallen suffered from, even though a lot of people liked it? At the same time, what steps are you taking to ensure that The Surge doesn’t get lost commercially as well?
One thing I like to tell my team all the time is that we live in the real world. And it’s like not everybody is a Blizzard having a bajillion dollars and as much time as they want. So of course there are development realities. You have to make compromises based on the budget and the timeline and all this. But at the same time, Lords of the Fallen developed a pretty good little following. And people respected that game, I think. Especially, coming out on next-gen consoles early, it allowed us to gather a niche audience. So we’re able to build off of that. We learned a lot developing that title. There’s a really good post-mortem that Thorsten Lange and Jan Klose wrote and put up on Gamasutra, which kind of shows the development process and is very open about it, showing what went right and some of the things that didn’t go as right. So we’re always able to refine and do better the next time.
So this game is building off of that foundation. So we know how to do these games. We may not have the budget or the scale of, say, a FromSoftware product. But there’s a lot of really good stuff there. We have a great engine. The combat feels very good, and we’re improving it every day. And we have these differentiating factors that we hope will be memorable for people, that are visceral, fun, and impactful. And they’re not just there just to differentiate us. But rather, we’re carving out our own identity and using this game and going forward into the future.
Sure, we may not be doing a $100-million project, that’s okay. We can still make a damn good game. We can still impress people with the work. So I think doing as best as we can and focusing on quality, focusing on polish, which is something that’s really important to me as well, running the game design team. I think we’ll produce a product that people receive well and enjoy and play.
You’ve talked about how you wanted to do a Dark Souls game in space…
“Dark Souls in space” [chuckes], “Sci-Fi Souls”, all right? “Diesel Souls”… somebody called it. And don’t say I said that… [Laughs].
Are there any plans for revisiting the world of Lords of the Fallen sometime in future, and maybe building on all that hard work and creative vision in terms of a sequel?
Right now there is not. When we worked on the Lords of the Fallen, we were working with CI Games, City Interactive, which is a different publisher. So they own the rights of the game. I believe they’re still developing Lords 2. I actually haven’t heard anything about it in a little bit. I don’t know if they’ve put that project on hold or what. But right now, they basically own the rights of that game. We developed it before, but us developing a sequel to Lords is probably not going to happen. So we work with Focus now. They’re our publisher. And they’re really, really devoted to us developing The Surge and kind of fulfilling our vision with the project. So if anything, if The Surge goes well, then maybe, hopefully, we can do more games like that in the future with Focus. I would really hope so, because we like them a lot, and we get along really well. They support our vision and we hopefully support their capacity to make more games.