Warner talk Watchmen: The End is Nigh
Watchmen: The End is Nigh is an episodic action title that promises to act as a prequel to the events of the new flick out soon - itself based on the classic graphic novel of the 1980s. The focus seems to be on hand-to-hand combat, and comparisons with the beat 'em up genre have already been drawn, Warner and developer Deadline Games working hard to make the most of the license despite the online, episodic structure. We sat down with producer Jerry Pritchard to get the low down on this brutal downloadable.
Do you feel a certain pressure, creating a game based on a source material as acclaimed as the Watchmen graphic novel?
Of course. With Watchmen, we understand that there is a built-in fanbase whose judgment about the game, the movie, etc., will be based around how closely it captures the look, feel and spirit of the source material. What I’d tell fans is that this game was produced by a team that put the source material on the highest pedestal. Plus, the folks who are inherently linked to this property today all had a hand in the creation of this game: Dave Gibbons, the one and only Watchmen artist; Len Wein, the book’s original editor; Zack Snyder, the film director; Tyler Bates, the film’s soundtrack composer... these folks all covet the source material and have all played a hand in ensuring the game eats and breathes Watchmen.
Episodic release carries a certain risk. How will the game be structured, and what will you do to keep people hooked?
The first episode will be six chapters long and will tell a story that takes place in 1972, as a prequel to the fiction of the Graphic Novel and Motion Picture. It will be a standalone piece that will explore some themes and characters which were hinted at in the source material. I can’t disclose too much about Episode 2 at this time, but I think it’s safe to assume that it will follow a similar formula. If we’re successful, the colourful characters and the opportunity to ‘exist’ in a universe that looks and feels purely "Watchmen" should definitely be a factor in bringing people back.
The game is all about combat, how will you add depth to the experience, and how do you maintain a respect for the plot under these circumstances?
We selected our main two characters, Rorschach and Nite Owl, because of their documented history of fighting crime and gangs on the city streets. We felt that they would not only allow us to build a fun fighting engine around them, but tell an interesting story that had different perspective for each of their dramatically different personalities.
We're definitely bringing a good amount of depth in fighting moves and techniques, with a very real focus on creating differing fighting styles for the main characters. Plus, each playable character will have a few special abilities, unique to them, which they can unleash when the going gets especially tough.
Oh, and make no mistake... this game is brutal. The combat is brutal... the language is foul... the sound effects are disturbing... we really wanted to push the envelope on the hand-to-hand violence in order to fit right in with the source material. Obviously, there will be a lot more fighting in our game than in the other mediums, and we wanted every minute of it to feel, well... brutal!
What are the challenges of the different characters, and who is your favourite?
Players can opt to play as Rorschach or Nite Owl, and we definitely wanted to create a different experience with each. Nite Owl is a formally trained, highly-disciplined martial artist. His primary attacks are heavy punches and kicks meant to take down opponents in a quick and efficient nature. He is a ‘gentlemanly’ sort who won’t do more damage than necessary, but at the same time won’t hold back.
Rorschach, on the other hand, is the opposite of that. This faceless enigma is a feral, untrained and unpredictable brawler for whom anything goes. He tends to benefit from a stick-and-move style and won’t hesitate to deliver low blows, kidney shots and other dirty tricks. He can also pick up and use weapons such as crowbars, bottles, and the odd baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, should the opportunity present itself. To be honest, when we focus tested the game, most players wanted to be Rorschach (he is the more iconic image, I think) but we get a near 50-50 split as to who the 'favourite' is. I think they’re both pretty fun, surprise surprise...
What role does Dr. Manhattan play? Won't he just toast everyone who faces him?
Yes, I believe he would. After all, I would if I were him. The good doctor appears in our game, but is not a playable character such as Rorschach and Nite Owl. He'd just toast everyone...
You tell the story through cut-scenes, how will these work and what kind of style are you aiming for?
Between chapters, you’ll experience a scene summing up where you’ve been, what’s going on, and where you’re off to next. We use these scenes (as well as in-game dialogue) to fully flesh out the story and keep the players engaged in the narrative. The cut-scenes are comprised of an original script from Len Wein and Zack Snyder. They were art directed by Dave Gibbons, the original Watchmen artist and I think they hit the style of the original comic pretty spot-on.
Would you like to work on a larger Watchmen project? A full action-adventure experience, perhaps, with more gameplay variety?
Sure, I'd like to work on anything Watchmen. And so would the team that made the game. We are all huge fans and love the characters and general vibe of the Watchmen universe. In the meantime, our goal was to deliver a kick-ass, downloadable, episodic product on a bit of a smaller scale and I believe we’ve done that.
What touches bring the world of the graphic novel to life, from a visual perspective?
Well, this is a testament to our development team (Deadline Games, out of Copenhagen, Denmark) but the game looks really amazing. Characters from the graphic novel, such as Rorschach, Nite Owl and Knot-tops look fantastic in three dimensions yet remain absolutely true to the source material. I’d argue that the world itself is one of the most important characters. Besides looking and feeling amazing (if you consider hopelessly rainy and oppressive nights as 'amazing') it captures the tone of the city really well. You'll also see some landmarks from the book and movie as you move through the city.
Do you have any multiplayer plans?
Aside from single player mode, Watchmen: The End is Nigh features split-screen co-op gameplay.
What kind of cross-over do you have with the film?
Well, this game is a prequel, sort of a 'from the secret case files of the Watchmen' kind of thing. So you won't find a lot of direct cross-over with the narrative from the movie. However, if you enjoy the film (and/or graphic novel) and find yourself interested in learning more about these characters, at the height of their powers no less, than you'll want to check out Watchmen: The End is Nigh!
Thanks very much for your time.