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I'll answer as best I can. I can illuminate the past, my friends.
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SR or LOK related questions only, please. And please keep it respectful. All are welcome to give opinions and thoughts.
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I'm not quite sure how to word these questions, so bear with me please. I'm aware that this particular game is rather divisive in some ways, and am very respectful that the team that made it clearly had their own sense of vision for the game. I am also aware that you were not part of the team that worked on it Daniel. I'm still hoping you may be able to offer some insight with these few questions:
1. How much say did the Soul Reaver team have with the Blood Omen 2 project - if any at all? There are many contradictions and clashes, in terms of plot, characterisation and tone that really set this entry apart from the rest of the franchise. Kain is quite simple, Vorador has somehow transitioned into a benevolent revolutionary, and an ancient race are portrayed as evil aliens. When replayed, it really does seem to stand out. The great themes of Blood Omen 1, Soul Reaver 1,2 and Defiance are wholly absent - oppression, corruption, acceptance and defiance of fate, betrayal, vengeance and overcoming rage, very little of this comes across.
2. Did anyone at Crystal Dynamics wince when, on the back of the Blood Omen 2 boxart, the phrase "PLAY AS KAIN - THE MOST EVIL CHARACTER TO EVER APPEAR IN A VIDEO GAME" was written at the top of the blurb in big red letters? Expanding on that, were there any marketing decisions made that you felt did not do the games justice?
3. When making Defiance and conceptualising The Dark Prophecy - was it considered a priority to address Blood Omen 2's contradictions? For example, was The Seer intended to reappear to address her ambiguous dialogue? Was what-happened-to-Vorador (he is still alive and he shouldn't be) after Blood Omen 2 going to be explained?
4. Following Blood Omen 2's portrayal of the Hylden as almost cartoon-evil villains, Defiance went some way into redeeming the race in a small way - showing that they were the victims of the Ancients' viscious war, and had spent some time buried in the primitive caves of Avernus while the Ancients occupied majestic temples and aeries. We even got to hear them in the Demon Dimension for a while, horribly tormented ("This realm will render you hideous") They were still seen as villainous though, mainly due to the Hylden General/possessed Janos/Mortanius scenes. Were any further efforts (either cut from Defiance or intended for The Dark Prophecy) going to further show us a better side to the Hylden civilisation?
5. One element I like about the series is that it avoids a genre cliche of over-sexualisation of the vampires. Sex simply not a factor for them - humans are "cattle", Kain and Raziel could have been straight or gay or entirely nonsexual and its not important. Blood Omen, Soul Reaver 1,2 and Defiance don't need to titillate the player with immature scantily-clad women like so many games do. Blood Omen 2 takes this in a different direction, with female designs like this and this and Kain's overt interest in Umah. Was this sexualisation of the vampires something the Soul Reaver/Defiance team intended to pursue in future games, or something best forgotten?
6. Did the Legacy of Kain team have any explanations for some of Blood Omen 2's unanswered questions that never made it into a game? Such as what the Nexus Stone was, or the Mass, or what happened to the surviving vampires at the end of the game?
7. Blood Omen 2 seems to portray the Hylden Realm as a green swirling energy storm whereas we get a brief moment in Defiance when Kain enters their realm and it is a dark-red mirror of the material realm, like a "deeper" layer of reality beyond the spectral realm. What in your mind, in the Hylden Realm exactly?
8. Was Blood Omen 2 meant to be an altered timeline from day one, or was this explanation created after-the-fact to help resolve some of the contradictions?
Many thanks Daniel. If you cannot answer some, any or all of these questions then no worries and thanks for your time.
Hi Divine Shadow,
Well BO2 was a completely different team, and they had a lot of their own ideas about the direction they wanted to go. I had a few friends on that team, so I can only say that I wish we'd worked more closely together and collaborated. But even in the best environments, you'll have people who want to make their own statements and go their own way. There was a lot of people who didn't quite get Soul Reaver at Crystal and Eidos. The higher ups wanted more overtly sexual elements with a simpler story and I think that had a lot of influence on BO2. (Additionally Steve Ross had his own style and that had a heavy influence on BO2.) Marketing guys just wanted an easy, marketable design. (Like Doc Martens on Raziel.. *SHUDDER*) SR was a delicate balance of sensibilities, and it was difficult enough for our team to stay on task, so there was a lot of divergence.
1. SR didn't have any influence on BO2. They had creative autonomy. I did raise a few facts when talking to their artists and designers (Uh.. hey.. Vorador's dead you know.. why do you have him in the beginning of the game?) But by and large the most we could do was insure consistency with things like the Reaver. I think that the lack of collaboration between teams ultimately hurt us both, and is pretty evident in the final product(s).
2 We all winced. (see above for marketing decisions) Doc Martens on Raziel, the stupid commercials on TV (people dying darwin-esque deaths of incredible stupidity.. but at least 'they still have their soul' *facepalm*) Like I said, a lot of people didn't get the whole 'city of lost children/lost steampunk' vibe we were going for.. And they sure as heck didn't know what the path of a Gnostic hero was. So mainly it was 'Rawr blood and souls!' Though I do have to give it to them.. I liked Defiance's cover a lot. I wanted them to make a holographic cover for SR1 that would shift realms behind Raziel, you know the kind you rotate left and right to see different images.. But it was 'cost prohibitive'. Man if only they had made a collector's box. It was after my time at Crystal that I made it a personal mission to both involve and educate marketing in the games I worked on.
3. BO2's contradictions were thrown 'over the fence' for the SR team to figure out. It made a lot of our storyline stuff hard to reconcile. Personally I resented it, but damn if Amy didn't come through and tie it all together. The ending of SR2 with Kain's new memories, the Hylden, etc.. she just did an amazing job considering the huge amount of crap she had to resolve. Defiance was meant to resolve Umah and Vorador. I took it as a personal challenge to make Umah alluring and less.. endowed. Hence my original concept of her with the hoodie and mysterious eyes. (Vorador has a thing for mysterious eyes)
4. They would show that even the Hylden weren't as one dimensional as you think. They went through a lot of horrible pain and disfigurement in their dimension. That would be enough to drive the most noble soul mad. But they also committed their share of atrocities.. that's why there was a huge war. (And Murals! Propaganda is important) But in DP we were going to go to the Hylden realm and you could see how it affected them.. and how they were using their magic and glyph technology to keep the influences 'at bay'
5. No we never tried to go that direction. We made the males sexy to be sure, but wanted to also make cool designs over and above that. For me, sexy isn't about how much breast or thigh you show, but rather the beauty of the design and how it compliments what you have vs trying to reveal it. We also felt if we went there, we'd lose a lot of the intellectual and higher level story. And I think everyone can see if we were right when you compare the two games. They're really for two different tastes.
6. We had a ton of reconciliation to do. We were going to put a lot in DP.. but didn't get the chance. The Hylden Lord, having the Soul Reaver for a time, could change history if he could get it in proximity of another Reaver.. or Raziel. Think about that motivation for a second, and you'll see how powerful the Hylden Lord's ambition was. But we didn't get a chance to really explore it further.
7. The Hylden Realm is a demonic dimension that warps and distorts reality with chaotic energy. The Hyden tried and succeeded in carving out a niche that left a few of them unaltered. Using the Glyph network, they created order out of Chaos, even subjugating the native creatures there.. but it was very limited and at great cost. Eventually even their great magics would succumb to the demon dimension and warp. The Nexus stone and device were all part of their attempts to come over. The Demon Realm is not a mirror copy of the Material though, it just touches on it in certain 'weak points' like Avernus. It's not like the Spectral Realm.. it has its own areas, too and time passes differently there as well.
Hope that provides some enlightenment.
These were very insightful answers Daniel, and have certainly helped clear some confusion I had regarding Blood Omen 2. It seems strange to me to give a team full creative autonomy when they appear to be somewhat less experienced with the lore and themes of the franchise. Vorador's inexplicable resurrection (and presumed second death as he is absent in Soul Reaver) sort of defines the absurdity of the situation I suppose.
The more I read, the more I would have loved to see further exploration of the Hylden, their realm (presumably the domain of the "Hylden King" seen in the Dark Prophecy concept art I discovered), and their motivations.
Its worth adding that in a lot of ways I did enjoy Blood Omen 2. The bosses were a lot of fun (and challenging - I really appreciated that), the Eternal Prison was a welcome addition to the lore, and Earl Boen gives a cracking performance as the Sarafan Lord and the Prison Wardens. It was also somewhat satisfying to finally use possession and mist abilities in a 3D environment.
I never thought of this before - I always assumed that the Hylden General was actually ignorant of the time-travel possibilities happening around him. Did you have any idea how far this went? Did he want to re-write the future so Kain's Empire never emerged, or perhaps go back and lead the Hylden to victory rather than defeat in the Ancient war? Fascinating possibilities!
Did you know that the PAL release did have this holographic cover? It was awesome, and shifted realms in exactly the way you describe!
I'll second that! To this day that cover is certainly the best for any game I've owned and probably the best I've ever seen. For those of us that got it, that idea worked perfectly
In case you hadn't seen it, I did take some photos/video earlier, but then found some footage of exactly the same thing on youtube anyway http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sggMuD5LWVE. I will get around to asking some proper questions later.
Heh, I've still got the original holographic-covered SR1 on my shelf I bought back in '99. I thought at the time - although I first decided to buy SR because of a demo I found on another disc - wow, fancy cover. Stood there in the store a while moving it to see the pillars bend like an almighty nerd. 8D
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