Here’s the memo: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West from Ninja Theory releases in the UK today, the second game from the Cambridge developer following the release of Heavenly Sword for PS3 in 2007.
We asked you for your questions last month to field to Ninja Theory on Enslaved, we picked the best of the lot and NT answered them.
Here, studio chief Tameem Antoniades talks about working with Hollywood writer Alex Garland on its story, the charm of its re-telling of the Chinese tale Journey to the West and more.
Hit the break. Watch 15 minutes from the game here.
Geezerbird – Enslaved marks the second time you’ve worked with Andy Serkis, after a great relationship on Heavenly Sword. After a great relationship working with Alex Garland on this, will you be working with him again in future?
Tameem Antoniades: I’d definitely like to work with Alex again. It goes without saying that Alex is a very talented writer, but he brought so much more than his writing to the game. As a film producer he brought a refreshing perspective to the game, and one that we learnt a lot from. There’s plenty more we can learn from each other!
The Hindle – Were there any other ideas that didn’t make the final game?
Tameem Antoniades: There are always things that get left out. Some because of constraints and some because they just don’t work when you put them into practice. We had a mini-game every time you do a takedown: you’d go into the circuitry of the mech in first person and press buttons to break its bones almost like a music game. We prototyped it but it didn’t look or play very well so we ditched it!
AHA-Lambda – Releasing a AAA new IP in the current gaming market is incredibly risky these days. What do you guys need to break even on this project and what sets this game above the pack that will get people to notice it?
Tameem Antoniades: I’m not able to go into the financial side of things, but I’m happy to tell you what makes the game stand out.
Like you say, Enslaved is a new IP, but it is new IP being released in a market saturated by sequels and spin-offs of established franchises. Enslaved brings something fresh and new to gaming that hasn’t been seen before.
We have built a unique world in Enslaved where all but a few humans have disappeared and nature has started to reclaim the earth. So on one hand you have the sheer beauty of nature thriving, and on the other you have the very dangerous decay of a forgotten human world.
We’ve worked with some first class talent in acting, music and writing to build and tell an encapsulating story in a believable way. Enslaved pushes the boundaries of gaming cinematics and emotion in a way that very few games attempt.
ExclusivesMostly – Are you going to release a demo? If so when?
Tameem Antoniades: The demo is currently available for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
[Note: The questions were sent a couple of days before Namco released the demo on PSN and a week before it went up on Xbox Live – JC]
onlineatron – What inspires you to work on new IPs instead of creating sequels?
Tameem Antoniades: We like working on new IP, but it isn’t that we choose to only work on new IP. We’d be happy to work on a sequel, should the opportunity come up.
Working with any new IP gives you a lot of freedom. There are no precedents set for your characters and world, or pre-conceived beliefs about how your characters should look or act. You can do whatever you like without having to think about continuity, you can just think about what you want to do in that one game.
Aimless – Was Enslaved a hard sell when finding a publisher? Did the game itself change drastically during the pitching process?
Tameem Antoniades: Before we approached any publishers we spent 3 months designing the game on paper, creating art tests and a 2 minute CG trailer. Once we were happy that what we had was awesome we went and spoke to a lot of publishers. Luckily we had a lot of interest for the game, but Namco Bandai Games stood out as wanting to really support us on the game.
We had a very strong idea of what the game should be and a lot of publishers believed in our vision, so it certainly wasn’t a case of having to change the game just to find a publisher.
freedoms_stain – The game is based on the Chinese tale of “Monkey” will the awesome “Monkey Magic” theme song from the TV series make it into the game, possibly as an easter egg or simply the games title song as it’s better than anything you could come up with anyway?
Tameem Antoniades: It is a fantastic song, you’re right. Unfortunately I’m going to have to disappoint you and say that it isn’t in the game.
troyx – What was the lead platform? PS3 or 360?
Tameem Antoniades: We don’t actually have a lead platform. We develop for both the PS3 and the Xbox 360 simultaneously and strive for both to be as identical as possible.
Sleezy Bastard – What do you believe to be Enslaved’s main competition on the market (either right now, or in the coming months)?
Tameem Antoniades: There are a lot of games coming out between now and Christmas, but Enslaved is a fresh, new IP that offers something unique. So in that sense our competition is very limited, however we are of course competing with all games.
locus2k1 – What was it like for the development team to switch from PS3 to multiplatform?
Tameem Antoniades: We really cut our teeth on the Heavenly Sword and learnt a lot about general development. Of course we learnt a lot about the PlayStation 3, but more than that we learnt about how to make action games, how to develop a combat system and how to build deep characters and stories.
We did need to learn new skills for the Xbox 360, but a lot of the skills that we established on Heavenly Sword could be used across both formats.
polygem – How long will it be?
Tameem Antoniades: Enslaved is much longer than Heavenly Sword and is on par with other action adventure games in the market.
Gekidami – Heavenly Sword was apparently planned to be a trilogy. What was the plot going to be for the next games?
Tameem Antoniades: I had this idea that you would play Nariko who finds herself trapped in hell by the spirit of the sword. Kai would be playable in the real world and would communicate with Nariko and try and help rescue her soul.
One day in hell for Nariko would equate to one year on earth for Kai. And so the story would swap between them and you would get to play Kai from teenage girl to old woman. That was one idea anyway.