VGB Feature: The Technomancer Interview with Spiders CEO Jehanne Rousseau

TheTechnomancer_1

Spiders, the studio behind recent RPG favorites of ours like Of Orcs and Men, Mars: War Logs, and Bound By Flame, is returning to the Red Planet for its next title The Technomancer, a dystopian sci-fi epic for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. With development underway for a launch target currently set for sometime by the end of spring, we recently got a chance to pose some questions to Jehanne Rousseau, CEO of Spiders, with coordination by Sylvain Le Roux of publisher Focus Home Interactive. Read along for new details about what promises to be Spiders’ most ambitious RPG yet!

VGBlogger: What, if any, connections does The Technomancer have with Mars: War Logs? Is there direct overlap or carryover that War Logs players will recognize, or is this more or less a standalone storyline set within the same universe?

Jehanne Rousseau: The storylines of the two games work in parallel. It is, of course, possible to play The Technomancer without having played Mars War Logs, but players who did will encounter a few familiar faces and hear about events that happened when they first roamed the Red Planet.

VGB: How deeply do choices impact consequences in the world as the story unfolds? Are there different questlines and/or multiple endings to encounter depending on how you play?

JR: Your choices directly influence your reputation among factions and companions, through the dialogue options you pick, and the way you decide to complete a quest. Will you elect to sneak in undetected, rather than choose direct, forceful confrontation? Will you choose to corrupt guards, or go around them by lock picking doors? Since these factions and companions play an important role in the adventure via the quests they offer, the game experience won’t be the same for everyone. This applies not only to the endings, but also the way you see the story unfold.

VGB: How does the scale of The Technomancer’s world stack up to your previous titles? Are the environments still fairly linear or has there been push to make them more wide open for broader exploration and multiple approaches?

JR: Everything’s bigger in The Technomancer. The levels are more open, and much less linear. The number of quests, the options available to resolve them, the equipment, and the variety of environments have been pushed further to give the players a longer, deeper experience than any of our previous games.

TheTechnomancer_2

VGB: How many companion characters are planned for the final game? Can you choose who to take with you and build relationships with? And what options are available as far as customizing companions and controlling their actions?

JR: There are five main companions and some temporary ones that appear only in a few missions. You are free to build your team as you like (except in some particular occasions) by choosing the two companions you prefer. Each will react to your choices and actions, allow you to build friendships and even romances with some. You can equip them with a wide array of items, but won’t be able to influence the companions’ evolution, skills and attributes since they’ve all specialized in their own combat styles and skills. You could nonetheless give them direct orders during combat to alter their behavior, without controlling them completely. When exploring, the presence of those companions can influence the success of some skills in given situations.

VGB: Has any consideration ever been given to the possibility of implementing cooperative play for players who might want to have a friend play along in place of an AI companion?

JR: No. Our engine has been designed as a solo engine and thus does not allow multiplayer, even cooperatively.

VGB: How do the technomancy powers of the titular Technomancer in this game compare and contrast with the Technomancer skill tree from Mars: War Logs?

JR: Generally speaking, we’ve revamped our skill trees in order to include more skills, especially active skills that you can unlock. In Mars : War Logs, you started with lots of low-level abilities and the skill trees mostly allowed passive skills upgrades. In The Technomancer, you start with fewer skills, but you get to unlock many more through progression. Some will resemble those of Mars : War Logs, but you’ll get to discover new ones, and we’ve designed synergies between the technomancy powers and the different combat styles in a way that will allow you to adapt your progression to the combat style you choose.

TheTechnomancer_3

VGB: What are the game’s three combat styles and how extensive are the associated skill trees?

JR: The three combat styles are rogue, guardian and warrior. Each offer their own special attacks, but they’re also different in the way the player handles movement. The rogue stance, for instance, is based on fast movement and dodging. The hero uses a dagger that he can use to poison, and a pistol for ranged attacks. The guardian stance is slower and less agile, but offers decent protection to the character as he’ll fight with a mace and a shield. Parry and counter-attack play a featured role, as the mace has a high chance of interruption that allows management of even the most heavily-armed enemies. Finally, the warrior stance provides better management options on the battlefield, especially when it comes to dealing with multiple enemies at once. The hero uses a staff that can deal area-of-effect attacks. You’ll be able to switch between combat styles during combat depending on the type of foes you’ll be facing. And, of course, you can always mix things up with the technomancy powers.

VGB: Can you specialize in one particular combat style and play that one way all the way through, or is the game similar to Bound By Flame where you pretty much need to be proficient in all of the styles for different situations and enemies?

JR: It is possible to specialize in one combat style and get away with it, but it’ll be very tough to beat the game without using technomancy. Some players may choose to upgrade their hero in every tree to remain versatile and adapt their playstyle to each situation. Everything is doable.

VGB: Is The Technomancer utilizing the same core real-time combat style as your previous titles? Are there any significant improvements or changes to the formula?

JR: It is still very much an action-RPG, and real-time combat still plays a central role. That being said, we have made many changes to the formula. The addition of a combat style is just one of them. We’ve also added new active skills, a wider range of equipment, tactical differences to each combat styles and their synergies with the technomancer powers, and the possibility to equip your companions. All of these come together to enhance the feeling during combat, as well as maintain a relative difficulty.

TheTechnomancer_4

VGB: Crafting has always been an integral element in Spiders’ RPGs. Can we expect even deeper crafting and customization options from The Technomancer?

JR: Absolutely. There are many more pieces of equipment in The Technomancer, and there are lots of options to choose from when crafting. With the exception of some clothing, each piece of armor and weapon can be improved in different ways.

VGB: Is the Silk Engine being used again for The Technomancer? Are there any new effects or technical advancements the team has been able to achieve in this game that haven’t been accomplished in a Spiders game before?

JR: We’ve used a new version of our Silk Engine that has seen many improvements since Bound by Flame. It is now designed to take full advantage of the possibilities offered by multi-core PCs, the PS4 and the Xbox One, since we were able to let go of the old-gen. The biggest evolution has to do with a new, fully PBR rendering engine that allows more realistic graphics, on top of which we’ve added many effects. Another improvement that we’ve made has to do with our quest engine, which now allows us to design more intricate missions that can be solved in multiple ways.

VGB: Spiders has always had some of the best creature designs, and The Technomancer appears to be taking things a notch even higher. I bet the art team has blast conceptualizing the different monsters! What were some of the inspirations behind the creature designs?

JR: The Martian, partially-terraformed landscapes that we started to imagine, with lichen growing on rocks, brought us to think of the ocean floor. As strange as it sounds, we were guided by the sea’s wildlife in the creation of many creatures. Moreover, the contrast between aquatic species and an arid planet seemed very enticing. Camille Bachmann, our main concept artist for this project, has done a lot of research on deep-sea animals, and combined them with some from our daily life to give them a very wild and original look.

VGB: From the trailers so far the music sounds very unique and stylized. Who’s scoring the soundtrack and what tone and atmosphere are you intending to convey about the world and story through the music?

JR: Olivier Derivière, who already worked with us on Of Orcs and Men and Bound by Flame, composed the music for The Technomancer. He is an incredibly creative person to work with, and he puts a great deal of care in analyzing the specificities of the universe he’s working on. He’s composed different themes for not only the different narrative arcs, but also for each key characters. They can actually blend together depending on the player’s choices and his progression in the story. It is hard for me to reveal the motivations behind the tonality or the instruments that he’s used without telling a lot about the story, as they’re so closely tied to the scenario.

VGB: Has a specific launch date or general release window been determined yet?

JR: I don’t think a specific release date has been announced, but the game should be released by the end of Spring.

VGB: Thanks for telling us more about The Technomancer!

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. 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. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he 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!