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Game Profile
October 19, 2008
 Written by Jason Cisarano  on June 05, 2008


Hard to be a God, the upcoming sci-fi/fantasy RPG from Akella, has some big shoes to fill. Not only is it based on a novel by the Strugatsky brothers, it's the second game adapted from the Russian sci-fi giants' work in recent years, following on GSC Game World's hit STALKER: Shadows of Chernobyl. Recently, Denis Epifanov was kind enough to talk to Gaming Target about the upcoming release.

Gaming Target: Hello, and thanks for taking the time to talk with Gaming Target. Maybe you'd like to introduce yourself and tell us something about your role in Hard to be a God?

Denis Epifanov: Hello. My name is Denis Epifanov, and I am the producer of "Hard to be a God" game.

GT: The Strugatsky brothers are giants in the Russian science fiction scene. What inspired the decision to base a game on one of their novels? Was working with Strugatsky source material intimidating?

DE: The decision to develop the game was based on the huge popularity of the Strugatsky brothers' creative work in the first place?and particularly, the "Hard to be a God" novel. Also we were eager to provide an answer to the question everybody was asking having finished reading the book?"What happened next?"

When the work just started, we've had our misgivings, of course. We had to review what has already been done over and over again and answer many questions we asked to ourselves. Are we doing things right? Will the concept of the game stay in line with the idea of the novel? Will our game be interesting and fun to play?

Well, the players can now decide for themselves whether we have succeeded or not.

GT: It seems like it would be tough taking such a well-known, linear novel and turning it into an interactive world.

DE: I'd say that the biggest challenge was to preserve the unique atmosphere of the novel "Hard to be a God". To do this, we recreated the locations, used a lot of the characters found in the novel in our storyline, reproduced the relations between factions, the customs of the populace, specifics of people's behavior and so on. We actually made the world of "Hard to be a God" alive in our game. As for the storyline?we wrote it as an extension of the novel. We've been working with a professional script writer, historical consultant and also took into account the feedback of many fans of the universe created in the novel.

GT: That kind of complexity is definitely one of the attractions of the Strugatsky brothers' work. A press release for the game mentions ?political undertones are very apparent in the book, with references to the negative effects of an overpowering church, differences between capitalism and communism, fascist dictatorship and the Nazis.? How do these themes survive the transition to the game?

DE: Indeed, it is an interesting point in the book. Considering the time, at which it was written, the Strugatsky brothers attempted to veil their criticism in the novel as much as possible. We, however, attempted to emphasize the very cause of what was happening and tried to provide an explanation for things.

GT: The game website claims a ?non-linear storyline with up to 3 endings,? but the experience of playing a pre-release version felt like moving more or less straight from one primary quest to the next, with few available side quests. Can a player really affect the storyline, or does the player act within a predetermined set of events?

DE: The storyline is mainly linear. We planned it in a way that the player would not miss the most important script events regardless of his actions. The branching appears in the end, where the player would have to pick one of the three possible decisions which would affect the fate of the civilization - and this decision will have a strong background from the point of view of progress in the game.

The non-linear part starts when you do various quests not necessarily related to the main storyline. We tried our best to make the quests as interesting as possible. You can have quite a number of things at your disposal - deception, blackmail, bribing, persuasion, brute force and a lot more - choose whatever approach you like to solve a quest; all of them will lead you to your goal, but each one - in a different way.

GT: The combat system feels like a fairly standard hack-and-slash affair. What will make Hard to be a God stand out from previous RPGs?

DE: Indeed, the combat system is pretty much standard. A complex roleplaying system wasn't one of our main goals, either. The system we were using in our game is somewhat similar to that in the Mass Effect. The player spends skills points and gains new abilities when he'd invested enough. Our main target was the storyline anyway.

GT: Do you have a favorite mission you could tell us about?

DE: It is difficult to emphasize particular favorite missions, since the entire game, in our opinion, is very interesting and intense. It is difficult to single out just one mission out of hundreds, but I guess I will give it a try.

For instance, there's a mission which is part of a rather global quest - finding all the pieces of the map-amulet. In his search of the pieces of the map the player comes to the lands of don Picu and don Turza, who are at war with each other. It turns out that don Turza had kidnapped the son of don Picu and now is holding him prisoner in his castle. Needless to say, don Picu is in a very bad mood and won't talk until his son is set free. As the mission progresses, the player finds out that the children of the dons are in love with each other despite the hostilities between their families. Don Turza's daughter will even help the hero to arrange the escape.

GT: The current release suffers from some translated dialog that we might call ?quirky.? Will we see this corrected before the US release?

DE: I am absolutely confident that the localization of any type of content, be it a game, a book or a movie, is always a very difficult task. There are many subtleties which are almost impossible to be put into another language while fully preserving the meaning.

As for corrections in the US release, I can't be sure. The local publishers are doing the editing and adaptation of texts, so if GotGame would like to make particular corrections in the texts, we would easily be able to rebuild the game accordingly.

GT: Will we see other changes between the current UK release and the US release later this year?

DE: Neither we, nor GotGame didn't plan any significant changes in the US release. The only differences between the US and UK releases might occur in game texts only. Of course, all previously released patches will come with the game.

GT: Thanks again for putting up with all these questions. I'm looking forward to seeing Hard to be a God here in the U.S.

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