We haven't seen much of Primal since its demo debut at the
PlayStation Experience alongside ECTS in August, but Sony has
stated publicly that the game forms a significant part of the
platform holder's Q1 2003 software push. With this in mind, we
tracked down Chris Sorrell, Creative Director at Sony's Cambridge
Studios, and picked his brains on the subject.
Why do you think Eurogamer readers should be
excited about Primal when it launches early next year?
Because we've put almost three years of dedication
and late late nights into making it something special! It's a very
different game to MediEvil in many respects, but I believe that
like MediEvil it has a 'personality' that sets it apart from most
other games out there. It has a fresh, risk-taking gameplay
structure. It has excellent graphics and sound, unique storyline
and characterisation, and there are plenty of surprises awaiting
you before you reach the game's dramatic conclusion.
How long has Primal been in development for and has it stayed
true to the original concept of the game?
It's been a long journey. Concepting started in August '99, but
our final devkits didn't arrive until 2000 so that was when we
started in earnest. I'd say we've remained pretty true to most of
our original goals (with just a few shifts of direction along the
way). Certainly most of what we started with is still there in some
form, for example, original inspiration came from Tarot cards and
their ideology; while the visual look of our demon realms and
characters has developed a lot since then, the Tarot inspired
structure is still apparent if you know what to look for. In fact,
our development names for the realms remain those of the Tarot
suits - Pentacles, Swords, Cups and Wands.
How much longer will Primal be in development? What have been
your favourite experiences so far?
As I write this we've got just short of two months until gold
disks need to reach the factory. In terms of gameplay and features
we're 99 per cent there - although of course there are always more
things you want to add. My favourite experience so far has really
been just seeing our game worlds come together, especially with
regard to our dynamic data management which means the world never
seems to stop - no crappy level breaks. Of course, the best bit is
still to come - seeing the game in the shops and being able to take
a long break.
EurogamerWhat were the main influences during the making of
Primal and how does this differ from your previous projects like
MediEvil and C-12?
Our biggest influences have been TV shows like Buffy, Angel,
Dark Angel (how could they cancel it?), and a host of others. We
wanted to create a kind of fictional reality, to feature a
believable and vulnerable lead character, to have a fantastical
storyline, but like Buffy, one that balances action and horror with
humour and character development. By comparison MediEvil and C12
were rather more straightforward in that they were set in 'pure'
fantasy worlds with more traditionally 'gamey' characters. MediEvil
also took a lot of inspiration from Ghosts 'n' Goblins; with Primal
we've tried to do our own thing a lot more - to create a game that
has its own distinct look and feel.
EurogamerPrimal comes across as cross between Devil May Cry, Soul
Calibur and Soul Reaver. How would you characterise the overall
visual style of the game?
Rich, varied, and for a video game, very realistic. There's a
lot of attention to detail - we put a lot of effort into trying to
build not just game worlds, but mini civilisations: each demon
realm has its own people who in turn have their own culture -
art-styling, architecture, etc. The games you mention are
interesting and accurate references… I'm certainly a big fan
of Soul Reaver, but its similarities to Primal are purely cosmetic
(and not deliberate). The same with Devil May Cry - we obviously
share some themes. Soul Calibur is the one game here that we did
actually look to for inspiration: since combat is a big part of
Primal, we wanted to try and learn from the best, to try and
capture the essence of this awesome beat-em up in the combat
elements of our action adventure.
EurogamerFollowing The Getaway, Primal looks set to become another big
in-house title from Sony's European studios. Has there been much
internal pressure throughout the last two to three years?
The pressure has mainly come from within: our own desire to
take what we learnt and achieved with the MediEvil games and apply
and significantly build upon that in our first PS2 title. I think
all the SCEE studios have a lot of ambition and drive, and we're
lucky to have tremendous support from the management who obviously
want us to create the best games we can for the platform.
EurogamerPlayers will get to
control two characters: Jennifer and Scree. How do the two
characters differ and how do they interact throughout the
Well Jen's a pretty everyday 21-year old girl (or so she
thinks) and Scree is an immortal, stone gargoyle from another realm
- so they're very different characters. In terms of gameplay it
comes down to the fact that they both have their own strengths. Jen
acquires the ability to morph into the form of each of our demon
races. Each new form gives her new combat abilities - she's really
the fighter. Scree's talents are more centred around the
exploration or puzzle-solving side of things. The boundaries
between the two are blurred however, and we leave it to the player
to work out exactly who's best for each situation. Plus, of course,
sometimes they'll also need to work together.
When it comes to the story, both characters are vital and have a
pretty much equal stake in events. Scree has secrets that he is
initially holding back from Jen. The story really unfolds from
Jen's perspective since she is obviously learning many things about
herself and the demon world she's exploring.
EurogamerTell us more about the different demon forms of Jen and the
four different realms involved.
As Jen progresses through the game she learns that she can
morph into each of the demonic races. Each has their own fighting
style and combat skills, but they have other special abilities too
which of course open up new gameplay and puzzle possibilities.
The worlds themselves are pretty varied and very tied in to the
'balance' that the game's overall storyline is concerned with (a
power struggle between the forces of Order and Chaos). The first
world is Solum, a night time realm of fierce, tribal hunters. Then
Aquis, an underwater kingdom, ethereal and beautiful, but its
inhabitants have turned into savage mutants. Next is Aetha, a realm
of mountains and home to an evil vampire-like race. Finally Volca,
a kingdom built inside a volcano, its evil inhabitants - the Djinn
- the most powerful demon-race of all. Each of the four realms has
its own storyline that fits into the over-arcing storyline that
pushes Jen and Scree through the game; there are around twenty
major characters you'll meet along the way.
EurogamerUnusually, the combat buttons in Primal have been assigned to
the shoulder buttons. How well do you think it will work for gamers
so used to pressing the symbol buttons?
Throughout the game we've tried to avoid being shackled by
convention and in some areas this has certainly meant taking a few
risks (which is scary, but hopefully they've paid off). By using
the shoulder buttons for combat we felt that the controls became
more consistent between exploration and combat. After we
implemented this we found that you very quickly adjust to using
these buttons instead of the symbols, and that their more clearcut
left/right nature actually works better with the left/right nature
of the combat controls.
EurogamerFrom looking at the preview trailer, there's some gory and
violent looking demons and some interesting weapons at Jen's
disposal. What can gamers look out for in both areas?
Well, I mentioned Jen's different weapons in each demon form
and these range from Wolverine-like energy claws to whips and
swords. Each weapon has its own style of combat - even down to the
finishing moves which are specifically designed for the weapon
type. The demons are also varied, from the molten-metal Djinn to
the vampire-like Wraith, each have their own strengths, passions
and schemes. Like the worlds they live in, our characters (a mix of
friends and foes) had a lot of time spent on their design and are
EurogamerApparently Jen was originally less "alternative" looking as her
human form. How many different incarnations of Jen have there been
and also what factors determined her final look?
Our lead artist had notched up over a hundred Jen sketches
before we settled on the final look! Initially we imagined Jen
being a trendy 'clubber', but we found this style of clothing
looked pretty silly when worn by a demon. We tried her wearing
everything from geeky-student gear to…well to what we ended
up with (and a few more extreme versions that seemed a bit too
fetishist which wasn't where we wanted to go with Jen!) I'm very
pleased with the final look. I think it captures the feel we wanted
Jen to have: she's sexy but not in the sleazy 'cheap' manner of
most game heroines. She's tough and independent, but she's also
quite human and vulnerable.
EurogamerThe inevitable Lara Croft comparisons are there. Who do
you think would win in a fight if they crossed paths?
We always knew there'd be comparisons, but aside from both
being female, the two characters are very very different. Certainly
once Jen shifts into her first demon form, any similarities are
lost. As for winning a fight? Jen can adopt any of four different
demon forms and she has Scree to back her up - that really ought to
give her the edge.
EurogamerThere was talk of Hollywood names being involved in the game.
Tell us which actors you got on board to voice Jennifer and Scree
and whether you're happy with the results.
Andreas Katsulas is the actor who played G'Kar in Babylon 5
(amongst many, many other roles) and his was the only voice we had
in mind when originally designing Scree. We contacted his agent and
ended up meeting with Andreas at E3 2001. Having never working on a
videogame before, I think he was quite intrigued, and thankfully
seemed to take an immediate liking to Scree's character.
Casting for Jen was a little more difficult. We wanted someone who
had the energy and hard edge to cope with playing Jen in Demon form
but also a softer more humorous side. Hudson Leick was in Xena:
Warrior Princess as Callisto, a fantastic character who is
initially wickedly evil, but in later episodes shows a more tender
side. It took us a while to get hold of Hudson as she only returns
to acting when she wants to - most of the time she seems to be
doing Yoga! When we finally tracked her down (I think she was
impressed that we even found her!) she was also intrigued to work
on a game and took to Jen right away.
Things moved on from there. We had three recording sessions in
Hollywood with Hudson and Andreas - who were both a pleasure to
work with - and hearing our script delivered by them both was a
fantastic experience. We recorded with both actors present,
something that's not often done in games because of the expense.
This proved invaluable in them both bringing not only their
respective characters to life, but also imbuing the relationship
between Jen and Scree with a real warmth and sense of fun. I like
to think that the end result is some of the best game voice-over
EurogamerWe hear that 16Volt are doing the music. Do you plan to
release a soundtrack?
We weren't too sure how to score the game's intro sequence,
then quite simply, I was listening to a 16Volt CD one night and it
suddenly hit me me: this would be perfect. I checked on their
website, got the lead singer's email address and contacted him
right away. Eric [Powell] was enthusiastic about the prospect and
it wasn't too long before a deal was struck. In addition to the
intro sequence, we decided that their tracks also added just the
punch we needed to in-game combat sequences.
All told I think Primal has quite an outstanding soundtrack: in
addition to 16Volt's tracks, we also have almost two hours worth of
fantastic, orchestrally recorded music for cut scenes/in-game
ambience. A soundtrack CD could be terrific; it's something I think
the marketing guys are considering, but whether it'll happen isn't
really for me to say.
EurogamerWhat are your five favourite games of all time?
In no particular order; Ico, Resident Evil, Mario 64, Jak &
Daxter and Half-Life.
EurogamerAnd finally - make up your own question and answer it.
Do you guys spend your free time hanging around graveyards
because every publicity photo of you seems to suggest this?