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PSLS Presents – Tom Galt, Lead Designer for The Darkness II

March 13, 2011 Written by Cameron Teague

We recently got a chance to sit down with Tom Galt, Lead Designer at Digital Extremes, and talk shop about the upcoming The Darkness II. The game takes place years after the original, and contains some major uplifts like new-and-improved visuals, and a heavier emphasis on your dark friends you carry with you. Check out the full interview below and see why The Darkness II will be a step forward for the series.

PlayStation LifeStyle: What inspired the new visual style?

Tom Galt: First of all we took a lot of inspiration from the graphic novels and the comic books. We brought Paul Jenkins in to help us write the story, he wrote a look of comic books. We immersed ourselves in the IP of the franchise and it just really struck us that it would feel really cool playing a graphic novel in a video game and it would really allow us to have some real awesome looking executions and violence, it just seemed to really fit. We had a lot of experiments and took it awhile to get to it but we are happy with the end result.

What do you think you learned most from the first game?

While we didn’t develop the first game, i think from just playing it Starbreeze did an amazing job. It was one of the first narrative driven FPS games that was really successful. It hit a lot of emotional cores with people, with Jackie and his relationship with Jenny and her death scene. It was an FPS that wasn’t about killing, it was a love story and they did such a great job telling that, that we took inspiration from that and wanted to do the same thing with Darkness II. We are just trying to tell the same type of emotionally charged story that they did.

What are the big changes we can see from the first game to the second? What did you make sure to keep?

I think number one, one of the things we have done is bring the demon arms out and make that a core part of the combat in the gameplay. In the first game, you had that as one of your powers but you had to choose what power you wanted to use. So it lent to people using the same power a lot or backing out of combat, picking a new one and then getting right back into it. So we have these demon heads on screen all the time, they are iconic and now let’s give them gameplay purpose. Ok so right one slashes and can be used in any direction. The left one grabs environmental objects or enemies and you can use all that in combat. It is what we are calling the quad wielding gameplay right now, so you can dual wield and do all this at once. It really makes the action really fast paced and it really also encourages players to come in nice and close. We don’t want you jumping out of cover, picking off guys 20 yards away and then diving back into cover. We want you to rush in there, throw a thing at a guy to stun him, then pick up his body and throw it at someone else while you are shooting at his friend. We want you right in there at the action.

Will there be a lot of objects in the world that your demons can interact with?

Every level has it’s own collection of objects and what we’ve done is built a visual language that the player will start to learn and recognize throughout each level. As you saw you can pick up a parking meter and impale a guy or use a car door to shield you from bullets and throw out guys to slice them in half. There are other things like trashcans and barrels , things like that that knock guys down and let you get up close to them without getting in much danger. We built this language of forms and shapes that players recognize and then each environment has sort of its own collection of objects. We want to have plenty of objects around so if players want to use them in combat they can.

Can gamers expect a long campaign since this is a story driven FPS?

I haven’t timed it out, but we are making sure we tell a great story and we are not padding it to add time if it does not fit the story. We want to make sure we pace it out properly so we get what we want both gameplay wise and with the story, with the emotions we want the player to feel.

Are there choices you can make like with side missions or is it fairly straightforward?

It is fairly straightforward. When using the story to really drive the action, we don’t really have side missions that they had in the Darkness 1 but we do still present the player with choice in the various locations but it is all in service of the story.

How has the up close and personal gameplay really evolved to different play styles?

We give the player a lot of tools and they can choose how to play the game. If you want to get in there and do the dual wielding you can but we really encourage you to use the slashing and the grabbing. We also have a lot of other abilities that we aren’t talking about just yet that build on this foundation.

How does the light/dark gameplay work in The Darkness II? How is your player affected?

When you get in the light your demon arms go away so you can’t slash or grab anything and you also don’t regenerate health. That is really the main thing in the light and it is also harder to see and you can’t hear things quite as well. We really try to use lighting to really make the player feel uncomfortable in the light and to want to get out of it. But we are not actually causing damage or if you stay in the light you are not going to die. It is just harder to fight, it is harder to survive. When you see enemies huddled around a light you can shoot of the light and take them out or you can skirt around the outside and use the darkness. We try to give the player options with the lighting and really create unique gameplay scenarios in different levels that incorporate it.