As part of our 2003 E3 coverage, Celestial Heavens' GhostWriter had a chance to talk with 3DO's Marketing Manager, Rick Reynolds. The interview took place next to the very noisy 3DO booth, and while we originally planned to provide videos for this interview, the sound quality turned out low due to the environment, and since we have non-native English speakers a transcript is provided instead. You can, however, listen to Mpeg audio files discussing The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse found later in the interview.
RR: I have actually two roles: One based on New World Computing products and one based on 3DO products. So on the 3DO side I have The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in my protfolio, and the other half of my time I spend on New World Computing. On anything that New World does, and they consider me a part of the team, I have a desk and an office down at... actually in the old building I have a desk and an office, in the new building I just have a desk and a cubicle, because we've gone to a more cubicle system.
CH: You've got it split in two?
RR: It's split in two.
CH: How do the recent changes at the 3DO Company affect New World Computing?
RR: Well, the New World group is actually quite seperate from 3DO. Not only are there seven or eight hundred miles of seperation, but their team is run very independently and very seperatley. I think I'm the only 3DO employee that regularly goes back and forth between the offices. So all the changes happening at 3DO and the reduction of workforce we mentioned in our recent press release, it's not affecting New World at all. The New World team is a small, tightly-knit team. They enjoy being a small game company, and they have their small work office that they're in. They're doing just fine down there, we're not going to touch that.
CH: How are Trip Hawkins and Jon Van Carneghem handling all the new developments in the Company and at NWC? Do you know how they feel about the limited success of Heroes IV?
RR: Trip is happy with a limited success, it's better than a failure. The game's still making its money in terms of what life it has. But Jon Van Caneghem, on the other hand, would like it to have been received a little better. He's got a little bit of a perfectionist streak in him, and he thinks he can do a much better job. That's part of the reason why he's taking over the management of the actual game design and for the concept for Heroes of Might and Magic V.
CH: Which is different from his involvement with Heroes III and IV?
RR: Right. Jon helped managed the design of Heroes I and II, and most of III, but towards the end of III he started working on other projects. And IV was entirely managed by David Mullich, the game's design was done by Gus Smedstad.
CH: 3DO recently listed a number of job openings on the official site, and most of them were filled rather quickly. How did that work out for the company? Who are the team members that work on the game now?
RR: Actually, New World's been very picky about who they pick up. They'd much rather wait and not pick up a new employee until they've got just the right person. And my understanding of it is the Senior Programming Designer position took a long time to fill. They worked on it over and over again and it took a long time to find him. But so far I think they're very happy to have the team they've gotten together, and everyone from the Agoura Hills location that took the opportunity to move to the new offices are very excited about the new team.
CH: They just moved their offices recently.
RR: Just last Saturday (3/10/03).
CH: Have you been to the new offices? Can you tell us what their new location and daily activities are like?
RR: A little bit. I haven't been to the new offices yet, but it's on the ground floor of a little building on a street full of - I don't know if you've been to Solvang, it's a quaint little town that looks like it came straight from Europe.
CH: Is it like Santa Barbara, a similar city in that region?
RR: It's far smaller, it has cobblestone streets, and many of the restaurants and bars are filled with tourists. It's a destination to stop and see a little of what Europe is like in the middle of Central California.
CH: What went into the decision for moving the New World offices up to Solvang?
RR: That's a good question, there were several elements that went into that. One is, they definitely wanted to go back to their roots of being a small development team. They didn't want to have the trappings of a bigger business, they wanted to concentrate on their core design features. And they wanted to go back to Jon managing the design team instead of Jon managing the business, so they made the team the size they wanted it to be, and picked it up, it's actually very near Jon's home, and the whole team moved away to this area that's quieter, more quaint, also a little bit more rural, to just concentrate on doing what they really love together. And at the same time their overhead is so small that they're immune to cost-cutting measures or anything like that.
CH: And what are their days like while working?
RR: They're not a big team, so they don't have a lot of meetings. They'll come in in the morning, and they usually start off with coffee first, the artists will sit down and start working on their art projects. They're such a small team that they all know what each other are working on, so they don't find themselves needing to be coordinating as much. One artist might be working on the towns, another one might be working on the different monsters, some might be working on elements for the map and the map generating tool (the editor). Others are working on special effets and things that happen when you cast a certain spell.
CH: And what about the designers, programmers, and producers?
RR: The programmers will be working on things that, as they get something working, some of it will be passed on to a tester or assisstant, to try out these things that need to be tested so that the new developments work properly. The producers will then be coming around, looking over people's shoulders to make sure the game's design fits together, to see how the art's developing or the programming. The game designer's will be writing each new chapter about what will happen in each section, what part of the story works here, which back story will go there, etc., so they clearly have the story and design down.
CH: According to the latest press release the game is said to be released in Spring 2004, with an announcemnt coming this summer. What factors may come into play that could change that? Will NWC be given all the time they need to finish it?
RR: We definitely don't have a rush to get Heroes V done by a particular time. There's no particular magic to making a release date for it like Spring, for example. If this were High Heat Baseball we have to have it out before the other baseball games because we have to compete with the others. Right now (for Heroes V) we just have a target, that's mostly driven my Jon Van Caneghem, he just wants to have it out in the Spring. And we do plan to therefore have it out around that target time according to him.
CH: So 3DO is not pushing for that date so much as Jon himself?
RR: Right, the (NWC) team is driving that. If the team needs more time, they'll take more time. However, we will be having the PC version and then we will have the Macintosh version. The Macintosh version will follow the PC version by about three months. We're going to again likely be working with Contraband.
CH: Who did the last one (Heroes IV Mac)?
RR: Right. We don't have a whole contract with them ironed out yet, but we do have a couple of plans for how to work with them, and we'll do better this time, plan earlier in advance. New World has been very pleased working with them in the past.
CH: At what stage of development is the game in now?
RR: Most of the game design has been completed. Some things still need the artwork finished, but we're not yet ready to call it playable. No one has seen any of it yet. Even I haven't been able to see the results yet. It's not at that stage. I'm estimating that we'll be able to see something like that by about September.
CH: The fan community is getting anxious for news. Gus Smedsted used to post on the Round Table and Christian was quite active in the Community. Will there be more participation by 3DO/NWC people in the 3DO Community or the Round Table, including yourself?
RR: There was a little delay because I was so involved with setting up E3 and James Dickkinson (Producer at NWC) was so invoolved with moving the offices over to the new location. He got down on his hands and knees and pulled cables, did the networks in the building, he moved all the machines himself, and he absolutely did not have extra time to go post on the various forums. I haven't either, so we had a slight delay. But we will both be there much more later.
RR: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a 3rd person action game. It's sort of a cross between Silent Hill and Devil May Cry. It has the pacing, horror-genre, and suspense of a Silent Hill, until you get to the combat scenes which have a more Devil May Cry feeling to them, although Abaddon is not quite as acrobatic and over-the-top as Dante is in Devil May Cry.
CH: Abaddon is the main character we're looking at here?
RR: That's correct. You are a fallen Archangel. You're no longer welcome in Heaven, but you actively oppose the Devil and his minions, including the Four Horsemen.
RR: You face them one at a time. In the Book of Revelations, as each Seal is broken, one of the Horsemen comes to the earth, and you have to defeat them one at a time, until later when you do face them all. You are no match for them, you cannot defeat them all by yourself, one against four. But what happens in the storyline is that three mortal humans have been chosen by God to help you fight them. None of the three knows this though. You have to go and hunt down these people, convince them to sacrifice something of their own personal lives to go and oppose the Devil. And then if they agree they suddenly have supernatural abilities they didn't know they had to assist you in fighting them.
RR: We have a lot of help building this game. The characters were co-designed by 3DO and by a famous comic book artist from England named Simon Bisley, best known for the covers of Heavy Metal magazine. And we also have a lot of help from three time Oscar winner Stan Winston, whose creatures are famous in everything from Terminator to Edward Scissorhands and Jurassic Park. He visually designed the different characters in the game and did an amazing job, particularly on the bad guys, the Four Horsemen and their four mounts.
CH: He actually designed them in the computer, or in models?
RR: A combination of both.
RR: In addition to Stan's help with the characters, he also got so excited about the characters that he licensed them back from us to make action figures. His team designed a set of collectible action figures that are articulated, made in resin, which are being shown here in the booth. They're the hand-painted, reference items that they're going to manufacture the figures from.
CH: Those are the actual ones?
RR: Those are the actual ones in the glass case.
CH: We'll get a picture of those for sure.
RR: Niko will be manufacturing them for this Christmas and they'll be shipp9ing. I'm excited to get a set for myself. They're absolutely beautiful.
CH: Yeah, they're pretty stunning.
RR: And Simon did a lot of work on some comic book transitions, whenever you to do a break in the action of the game to go to a back story element, there's a nifty comic book art transition factor that he did, and it's beautiful. (continued)
RR: Simon went ahead and did a whole graphic novel for us that we're talking to a certain comic book company to release comic books and a graphic novel for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The comic book industry is excited about it because this is the first time Simon Bisley has done a comic book again in six years, and they're looking at it as Simon's return to comic books, and they're excited to see that.
CH: Whose idea was it for the game, whose conception was it to begin with?
RR: The original idea came from Trip Hawkins (3dO's President) to make a game about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. He wanted the four horsemen to be the bad guys, and Michael Madheim sat down with another writer to write the whole story behind it.
CH: How many hours can a player expect the game to last?
RR: You can expect to play for fifteen to twenty hours at our current calculations.
Celestial Heavens wants to thank Rcik for his time and generous answers. The E3 show was a blast and the Four Horsemen game looks like it will be a lot of fun, especially if you're looking for an action game with a dark theme. Look for it in stores around Christmas of this year.