Crispy Gamer

The Too Human Side of Denis Dyack, Part Two

We tracked down Silicon Knights President Denis Dyack post-GDC get details about the development of Too Human and more; read on for Part Two of the interview. Go here to read Part One.

Crispy Gamer: Originally Too Human was going to be a five-disc PlayStation game, then it was moved over to GameCube, and now its final spot is on the Xbox 360. How has the original vision fared throughout the years?

Denis Dyack: I think the themes about technology still resonate strongly within the game itself. Beyond that, it?s metamorphosed several times, and what it is now is the result of the collaboration between Microsoft and Silicon Knights. The online play, the idea of the trilogy and the online hunting and gathering were pillars that really worked well with Microsoft?s Live and the way that the online functionalities worked on the Xbox 360. So, we took the concepts that we had in our previous incarnations of Too Human and molded in -- I?d say perfectly for the 360 and in a way that really took advantage of the faster hardware -- all the things we could to tell a story.

There?s a ton of story... We originally envisioned Too Human back in the day when we created Legacy of Kain, which was 120 hours' worth of game. I really don?t think people want to play that much anymore. [laughs] So breaking it up into a trilogy was just the right thing, because the story -- I am such a believer in the story right now -- really is told in a trilogy. Each part of the trilogy is self-contained, but the story arch is very, very tight. We?ll see. I don?t think that we?ll see any stone unturned. To be able to do a trilogy on the 360, quite frankly, is pretty exciting. We can take advantage of downloadable content, we can continue to balance multiplayer -- we can just do so many things that we couldn?t have done on the previous platforms. The other thing is that there really hasn?t been this type of game in a really long time -- not a really good one, anyway. Similar, perhaps, but not done at this level. There certainly hasn?t been this type of game on a console before. The closest is PSO, but we?re very different from PSO because of the action elements you saw yourself, and I think it?s going to resonate a lot.

Crispy Gamer: How far into development on PlayStation was the game when you decided to move it over to GameCube? How far were you into development on GameCube when you moved it over to the Xbox 360?

Dyack: It was pre-Alpha. Not as far as people think, actually. It stopped on the PlayStation because we became a second party of Nintendo. We had intentionally planned on bringing it to the GameCube all along once we became a second party; the timing just never worked out. Once we stopped the PlayStation version, we were never really actively in full development until the 360. We kicked some ideas around, and we did a couple of technology prototypes on the GameCube, but there was really no point at which I would say we had a full team on it, and it was definitely starting to move forward. Canonizing and talking about the story over the time has been just fantastic, and I think that gives us a real leg up as far as content goes. But as far as the actual full production goes, once we stopped the PlayStation version, we really didn?t think about it nor was it ever in full production again until we moved it to the 360.

Crispy Gamer: What?s it like to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel? Is this what you eventually wanted?

Dyack: Yes, the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train. Yeah, it?s awesome, actually. I can?t describe it. Morale is really, really picking up -- internally, people are starting to see the potential of the game, and it?s such a big project that it?s hard for something like that to occur to you until you?re near the end. The reception that we got from GDC, on top of all of the focus testing results that we have -- people say, Wow, this is really good -- and there are a lot of elements missing when we focus test. All of those things together make us think that we really achieved what we set out to do. In the end, whether we?re crucified or people love the game, we feel really good about what we?ve created, and it?s going to be a real watermark for the company when this comes out. I?ve always said, when you release a game there?s no feeling like it. It?s not like when you graduate from school. I don?t have any children -- it?s probably similar to having children, but it?s not quite that important. I think this is going to fall on the higher end of the scale of really big moments for Silicon Knights, and I think it?ll be a defining moment for us.

Crispy Gamer: Originally on the Xbox 360 you were building it with the Unreal technology, and then you switched it to the Silicon Knights engine -- how much did this change set you back time-wise?

Dyack: Quite a bit of time. We generally don?t want to talk about that stuff because it goes into the litigation. It was a significant setback. Props to Microsoft and our other partners for seeing us through the problems that we had with the engine. I think that through all the hard effort, we came through it. Considering the way the game turned out now, we managed to create the game we originally set out to make.

Crispy Gamer: Can you say where things are right now with the suit with Epic and can you say how much longer this is going to be?

Dyack: I cannot. I?m sorry. I can?t comment on the litigation.

Crispy Gamer: Back at X05, I went to dinner with you and Mark Rein -- are you guys on talking terms, at least?

Dyack: I would like to say that Silicon Knights is always on talking terms with anybody. So, sure.

Crispy Gamer: Silicon Knights is growing quite substantially right now. How large is the company?

Dyack: We?re about 175 people. We expect to grow by another 60 to 70 people over the next several months. We expect to grow quite a bit.

Crispy Gamer: Will the whole trilogy be published by Microsoft?

Dyack: I think so. I don?t see why not. There are no plans otherwise and the same question comes up -- "Will we be able to finish it up on the 360?" -- and the answer is yes.

Crispy Gamer: Speaking of the trilogy, now that your engine is where it is, you guys are putting the final touches on the first game. How fast do you think you?ll be able to release the second and third part?

Dyack: A lot faster than the first one. I know that sounds facetious, but it?s actually true. Clearly, we?ve thought about this, and that?s the whole idea of doing a trilogy: You can jump right in on the next one. It?s going to be really important that, for each successive component in Too Human, in each game in the trilogy, we keep the vision and focus of where we want to take it. There some really good twists and turns, and I think people are really going to like what we do with it. It will come out a lot faster -- that?s the goal.

Crispy Gamer: The Xbox had a four- to five-year life cycle, and Microsoft feels like they can keep the 360 around a lot longer. If Microsoft sticks to the normal five-year life cycle of a console, that means we?ll see a new Too Human every year. Is that something you think you can feasibly pull off?

Dyack: I think it?s definitely possible. I don?t know if that?ll happen, but it?s possible.

Go here to read Part Three of our interview with Denis Dyack.