Gamekult interview with Tim Cain
Interview conducted 1-8-2001.
This interview was originally conducted by Gamekult. You can find the original version here. Used with permission.
Tim Cain : I will always love Fallout. It was an original RPG that breathed some new life into the genre. In my humble opinion, of course.
Panda : In its release, Fallout gave the feeling to open new horizons. According to you, what are the reasons of its success ?
Tim Cain : I think Fallout was successful for two reasons. First,
it wasn't set in a fantasy world, which was an unusual move 6 years
ago (when we started the game). Second, it had such an open-ended
play style. You can make different characters and actually PLAY
them differently. I think people really responded to that.
Panda : Fallout was based upon a post-apocalyptic world, Arcanum upon a world quite close to Jules Verne. Do your next game will be finally heroic-fantasy ?
Tim Cain : Heh, maybe. I have been tossing around an idea for a
super-hero game, actually. Now THAT has been the kiss of death in
the past. Everyone who has started to make such a game has given
Panda : How did you have the idea to mix two worlds as different as the magic and the technology ?
Tim Cain : Well, it wasn't really my idea. I wanted to do a straight
fantasy game, but Leonard didn't want to set it in the quasi-14th
century that these games seem to be mired in. He wanted something
more recent, like the 18th or 19th century. And it was Jason's idea
to make magic and tech mutually antagonistic. My contribution was
mainly in the basic mechanics of our RPG system.
Panda : Arcanum's technological part seems to use an imagination more European than >American. What are your influences ?
Tim Cain : When I researched the scientific revolution, it seemed
primarily a European phenomenon, at least in its early days. From
mathematics to steam engines and iron works, Europe figured prominently.
I think we all liked the idea of Victorian London and all of the
adventures possible there. We all read books like Tim Power's "The
Anubis Gates" and the comic book series "The League of
Extraordinary Gentlemen" for inspiration.
Panda : In Arcanum, these two worlds are conflicting. Is it a way to incite the player to finish the game twice, the first as a magician and one second as follower of firearms ?
Tim Cain : I think people should play the game FOUR times - once
as a magician, once as a technologist, once as something from both
areas, and once using nothing magical or tech at all. You can play
through the story and the areas so differently, and some quests
and dialogs cannot be seen with the same character.
Panda : The psychology and the perspicacity are important for surviving in Arcanum. Is it true that one may finish Arcanum without having to fight ?
Tim Cain : Yes, you could avoid fighting. There are random encounters,
however, with things that will attack you, like wolves or ogres.
But with some preparation, like a good Prowling skill, or an Invisibility
spell, you can avoid these. And if you cannot, you can have followers
who protect you so you don't have to fight.
Panda : Only a dozen persons works on Arcanum. How organize you the work among the 6 >computer graphic designers and the 4 programmers ?
Tim Cain : We have divided the work among us based on what we like
to do. I mostly do RPG system programming, like the character editor,
skills, combat, the dialog system and the like, while Leonard does
character animations and portraits and also dialogs and quests.
In the end, we all end up doing a little of everything.
Panda : Did you notice concrete improvements thanks to this mode of functioning ?
Tim Cain : It's good and bad. We get really involved, creative
work done, but some things get avoided until we just HAVE to work
on them. :)
Panda : Arcanum will integrate a Multiplayer part, a big novelty for Fallout's accustomed. What can you say to us in this stage of the development ?
Tim Cain : Multiplayer is great fun. If you played Diablo II, you
know how fun it was to explore dungeons with your friends. Since
we are shipping our editor with the game, we hope a community springs
up to supply everyone with fun, detailed modules to adventure in.
Panda : What are the technical or playful difficulties bound in Multiplayer ?
Tim Cain : It is hard work to make a good module. There are a lot
of things to do - make critters, edit their dialogs, make fun quests
and interesting items to find. Then draw maps of towns and dungeons
and fill them up and make sure they are fun to play in. It can be
daunting to keep track of everything.
Panda : Arcanum manages 3D cards. What does it changed, graphically ?
Tim Cain : It speeds up our lighting and spell effects quite a
bit. Basically the game runs a lot smoother on lower-end machines
if they have a good 3D card. We make use primarily of 3D blending
functions. We don't make a lot of use of most other 3D functions.
Panda : John Carmack asserts that video games did not reach their maturity and that a game technically successful is still enough to offer him some guarantees of success. What do you think of it ?
Tim Cain : > I concentrate much more on a game's design than
in its technology. I mean, look at Fallout - it wasn't technologically
or graphically cutting edge. But I think it was a great game. Would
it have been a better game in 3D? I doubt it, especially in its
day. That would have been a waste of our time. Instead we focused
on great game play. And that is our main focus in Arcanum : Of Steamworks
and Magick Obscura as well.
Panda : Have you the feeling that the universe of a game counts really for the player ? Or that the gameplay always eventually taken him ?
Tim Cain : I think the universe may attract a player to a game, and the gameplay keeps him playing. And both are important to make him want a sequel. :)
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