VGB Feature: Of Orcs and Men Q&A With Cyanide Lead Game Designer Sylvain Sechi – Part 1

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Scheduled for launch this fall on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, Of Orcs and Men is a new breed of fantasy RPG from the collaborative super-team of Cyanide Studio and Spiders. What’s different about this role-playing epic is that instead of killing hordes of dumb orcs and goblins, players will take up arms as these green-skinned races to put an end to their enslavement and persecution at the hands of the Empire of Men.

The premise sounds pretty damn cool, right? We thought so too, which is why we just had to find out more from the developers at Cyanide Studio. So here we are!

In the first part of our Q&A interview with Cyanide Studio, Lead Game Designer Sylvain Sechi fills us in on the game’s back story, universe, tone, combat system, and even the potential for additional games and whether or not developing a Wii U version has been considered. Read along and stay tuned for more Of Orcs and Men coverage here at VGBlogger in the months ahead.

VGBlogger: To start things off, what can you tell us about the basic historical back story behind Of Orcs and Men’s characters and world to help introduce and entice gamers who may not know about the game?

Sylvain Sechi: Ten years ago a long and bloody war took place between humans and greenskins (orcs and goblins). Humans finally managed to put a stop to it and the human Emperor decided he never wanted to have a war against greenskins anymore. His theory was simple: No greenskins, no war. So his solution was simple: Extermination. Unfortunately for you, you’re an orc…

VGB: Orcs and goblins have been the staple enemies for players to hack through in RPGs for years now and are rarely (if ever) featured in starring roles. What drove the inspiration to make the green-skinned people the protagonists in a serious role-playing adventure for a change?

Syl: We wanted to create a fantasy game, using classic fantasy codes, but giving it a brand new treatment and putting the player in control of races he seldom played with a was a good start for us. It also perfectly matched our will to create a dark and mature game. We wanted to get far away from the image that greenskins are usually stupid and vile creatures in the fantasy genre. Orcs can have feelings too :)

VGB: Within a broader historical context, are the orcs/goblins viewed as villains as they typically are? Is the intent to make players feel like they are playing as an evil race breaking free from their oppression and getting revenge or are the orcs and goblins actually the “good guys” in this story?

Syl: The idea behind creating a game that is mature is to create a non-Manichean context. And that is not something that players are used to. In 99% of the fantasy books, games, and movies, greenskins are evil and humans are good. Here we’ve been very careful not to go in this direction and instead of telling you from the start who is evil and who is good, we’re letting you decide.

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VGB: How is the game structured around its two playable characters, the Orc warrior and the Goblin assassin? Do players get to choose their character from the start or does the game script out when the player controls each character?

Syl: The game has been designed so both characters are useful at all times. The only exception is the first, very short chapter of the game where you start with Arkail (the Orc). Each of them have thier own specific strength and weakness but they’re both very able fighters, though each in their own style.

VGB: Is there a cooperative mechanic between the two at all? Perhaps even a multiplayer co-op option?

Syl: Yes, there are cooperative mechanics between them. Most involve combat like the ability to revive each other after a KO in the middle of a fight or the glorious ability to make some “goblin throwing” with Arkail :)

VGB: What are the core combat mechanics like and how does combat vary between characters?

Syl: Combat is real time with the possibility to slow down time to launch abilities. Each character has two basic stances (and a third you can choose at higher level) that define the abilities your hero can use and the fighting style when not in direct control. For Arkail it’s defensive and aggressive. For Styx it’s ranged and melee. Regarding Arkail, you must manage rage to use abilities and be very careful because when your rage bar is full, you’ll lose control of him as he goes berserk. He’ll stay in berserk mode for a short period of time, being very powerful but acting on his own which can be very dangerous as well.

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VGB: What ESRB/PEGI rating do you expect? Are you aiming for a dark tone with vicious and bloody combat and mature dialogue or is the gore/vulgarity factor being kept within reason?

Syl: I’m not a big fan of gore/sex/vulgarity for the sake of it. Some fill their game, books, and movies with it in order to say: “look, it is mature.” I personally think it’s quite the opposite. There is blood, violence and vulgarity in OOAM for sure, but we always tried to make it because it was very coherent with the script or the situations we had created, and not pour gallons of blood all over the place just to “look cool”.

VGB: I understand that Of Orcs and Men is a joint production between Cyanide and Spiders. How did this partnership form, how long has the game been in development, and what roles have each studio been responsible for?

Syl: We started the game development at Cyanide in 2008, working mainly on concept and universe/story. We wanted to work with a developer that was both experienced and passionate about RPGs. We also wanted someone not too far from us to be able to work in close collaboration. Spiders was a perfect match for that. We started working together in 2010. Cyanide is taking care of creative direction and production, Spiders is handling the development and the engine technology with their awesome Silk Engine.

VGB: Has Of Orcs and Men been designed to be a self-contained story/universe or is there enough lore to branch out into an ongoing series? Is there a desire to explore this world further if given the chance?

Syl: When Tom (Thomas Veauclin, Art director at Cyanide) and I started writing the back-story, world and scenario of the game, we made it huge. We really wanted to create a new universe. Rethinking every aspect of fantasy and races. We realized quickly that it was going to be too big for one game but we didn’t want to just cut it in 3 parts because we really wanted to give the player a complete and finished story in the first game. So we kept the back-story and world and rewrote the scenario to make it fit in one game; and we started preparing for 2 other episodes that could come later on.

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VGB: Now that the Wii U is coming and a lot of existing and forthcoming multi-platform titles are going Nintendo, has there been any discussion about the possibility of bringing Of Orcs and Men to Wii U at some point?

Syl: Not yet. I’m not certain OOAM would match the Wii U audience. I guess it ultimately will depend on the success of the game on PC and PS3/360.

VGB: That’s all for now, folks. Thanks to Sylvain for taking time away from development to chat about the game and to TriplePoint PR’s Erin Fan for helping make this feature happen. Check back a little later in the year for part two of our Q&A, when Cyanide will tell us a little more about other topics such as choices and consequences, character progression, and replayability features. Stay tuned!

About the Author

Matt Litten is a 28 year old from-the-womb gamer turned video game reviewer/blogger and current editor/owner/operator of VGBlogger.com. Matt got his first taste of gaming as a youngster on the NES and Atari, and the rest is history from there. In 2004, three years removed from high school and still looking for a career direction in life, Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com, and after a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez Matt turned his attention to VGBlogger, and to this day is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary.