Continuing our on-going series of interviews with European developers, this week we take a look at Rebel Act Studios, who are currently developing an impressive looking third person action game called "Blade".
We caught up with Xavier Carrillo, Project Manager of Blade, to find out more about the game and the company behind it...
Rebel Act Studios started life as an off-shoot of one of Spain's biggest computer games publishers, Friendware, who have distributed games in Spain and Spanish-speaking South America for Cryo, Rage and GT Interactive amongst other companies.
"Friendware decided to enter into the developers world, producing a small external team", Xavier explained. "That team has been reinforced and integrated into Rebel Act Studios, and Blade is the achievement of all these changes and evolutions."
Spain is hardly a Mecca for game design though. "In Spain you don't have very much of a gaming industry in terms of developing games, [although] in terms of sales Spain is the 5th [biggest] European country. You'll find few companies with international impact."
"That was a big disadvantage for us, but everything is changing. Commandos was developed by a Spanish team, and we are finding very skilled people in Spain - all our technology is made in Spain."
There is, of course, one big advantage to being based in Spain though, and that is ... "the Spanish way of life". Which might go towards explaining why the game has been in development for so long now!
"Blade has been in a three year development process", Xavier told us. "We have been improving the design and the technical features, because we wanted a game different from all existing games."
So what exactly is Blade?
Well, Xavier describes it as "a third person combat game set in a Middle Ages fantasy world, a mix between Conan and Lord of the Rings". The game will feature "a very powerful combat system inspired by Soulblade and Soulcalibur", and Xavier promises that combat will be "very interactive".
"You have more than 60 different weapons to choose from - one-handed and two-handed weapons, axes, spears and bows... And the combat system allows you to make different combos depending on your experience level and the weapon you're fighting with."
There is also a choice of four different characters, each with "a specific animation set, exclusive combos and attacks, and specific weapons". So although at heart it is a good old third person action adventure game, Blade also has RPG and beat 'em up elements.
And Rebel Act are working hard to make sure that the opposition is just as interesting, as Xavier told us...
"We have a programmer exclusively working on the characters' AI, and you will have to learn the behaviour of the enemies to defeat them - some circle you like the traitor knights, some are more aggressive and stupid like the Orcs. You'll also face very powerful enemies with magic attacks .. but we want to keep those secret!"
Something else the programmers at Rebel Act have been busy on is the game engine, a home brew affair that is looking very impressive.
When the game made its first public appearance two or three years ago it was looking truly revolutionary, and although since then other games have closed the gap, Rebel Act have been keeping the engine up to date and it still has some nifty features...
"It's a portal 3D engine with real time physics and real-time shadows", Xavier explained. "It's very powerful, and allows a lot of interactivity with the environment. Everything has been done to reinforce the feeling of reality."
It's ability to handle huge outdoor vistas is a strong point of the engine, and the water in Blade is some of the most beautiful you will see in a computer game. The real time lighting and shadow effects are also pretty impressive, and the player can pick up torches and other light sources, with realistic shadows being cast on the walls as you move around.
Developing the engine in-house has obviously taken a lot of work though. What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating your own engine from scratch, rather than licensing an existing engine as many American companies seem to be doing these days? Xavier's answer was that "it's more flexible" to build your own.
"You have complete control and can model the engine depending on your design requirements. But of course it involves more programmers, and all the work done by the other departments has to be based on the evolution of the engine."
This constant evolution of the engine while the game was being designed is obviously one of the reasons why Blade has been in development for so long, but it looks as though it may well have been worth the wait.
With a mix of RPG, action and beat 'em up elements, a strong story-led single player game, and multiplayer that Xavier describes as "frantic", Blade is shaping up to be one of the best fantasy action games since Heretic II.
Spain might not be very well known for its computer games, but with titles like Blade and Commandos coming out of the country all that could change...
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