Interview With White Whale Games’ George Royer

The physics in God of Blades appear to be shaping up incredibly well. How difficult has this been to pull off – would you say it’s definitely the hardest technical part of the project? Were there any Unity plugins you could use out-of-the-box, or was the physics engine built completely from scratch?

Unity actually has excellent physics support built-in using NVIDIA PhysX. At times we’ve had to manipulate it quite a bit to get the right feel. Overall though, it’s been fantastic to work with. Building the game around dynamic physics has been difficult, but isn’t necessarily the hardest technical problem we’ve faced. It’s been worth all the sweat! Using physics has allowed us to give the game a dynamic feel that otherwise would have been impossible to achieve. We had to spend quite a bit of effort up front building out the physics system we needed, but now we have a set of tools that let us create new content quickly.

How will the controls work, exactly – how does the player make the hero pull off different moves, combos, and special attacks?

We’ve developed a really intuitive control scheme. Basically, you swipe up, forward, or down to do a slash in the corresponding direction. Swiping back causes a quick parry. Combos occur emergently — players can kind of build their own combos by stringing attacks and powers together as they recognize weak spots in enemy defenses or manage to keep their foes off guard. We intentionally didn’t build any combos like you must press “forward, forward, down,” or anything, because we wanted to give players as much control over where the sword goes at any moment. If you parry, counter, break a weapon, stun an opponent, slash his helmet off, and finish him, then you were really in charge of all that. It wasn’t scripted. This kind of thing happens all the time and you end up feeling like a total badass because you get the sense that you invented your fighting strategies.

Every sword in the game has a unique power. They are all physics driven but have their own place in the game’s lore. Powers are on cooldowns and triggered by tapping a button at the bottom of the screen. There are quite a few different ones, but some of my favorites include causing life-sucking vampire worms to explode out of the ground and burrow into enemies, tearing open rifts to other dimensions, disintegrating organic matter, and causing massive electrical storms. They feel super epic and we’re very happy with how they’re shaping up.

Speaking of movement, did the team use any particular media as references for all the sword strokes and variations in handling across the different weapon classes?

The barbaric world of God of Blades is a dramatic place full of weapons with big personalities. Even in the “light” class, the swords are about as big as a person and quite heavy. No fencing weapons here. We wanted the sense of weight to be apparent both from the feel of the swings and from the look of the sword itself. The swings for each class share animations, but the speed and physical forces behind them are very different. You can feel the weight difference when you use different swords, as much from the way the Nameless King swings as the way a sound blow sends an opponent sailing through the air.

Inspiration for these attacks comes from many places. WeaponLord, Namco’s underappreciated 16-bit fighting game, was a big inspiration. Honestly though, the old Robert E. Howard Conan stories are even more important. In those stories, Conan can win fights with either raw, brute power or with his panther-like reflexes. We wanted our swings (and their effects in the physical world) to convey both of these styles at different speeds, and they really do give the player the option to win with speed, cunning, or brute strength.

Naturally, a game with epic combat needs an epic soundtrack. How did you end up selecting Justin Kovar as your composer for God of Blades?

Justin Kovar also went through the same master’s program that Jo and I did. I worked with him on a digital preservation project where we migrated and preserved the original sound elements in The 7th Guest for permanent preservation in the Videogame Archive at the Center for American History. Justin’s an audio guru and a skilled composer and we already knew him, so it was kind of a no-brainer. We’re very happy with the score and I think it’s going to really impress some folks — especially fans of 60s and 70s synth stuff. It fits the mood of the game beautifully.

What devices do you hope to release God of Blades on at first, and does the team have plans to expand to other platforms afterward?

Our plan is to release God of Blades on the iPhone 4, 4S, and all of the iPads. We plan to have scalable graphics settings so that it will run and look great on all of these devices but it looks truly spectacular on more advanced devices. After the iOS release, we plan to port the title to Mac and PC. It’s possible that we could do an Android build — it’s something that we’re still discussing.

Big thanks to George for taking the time out to answer our questions about God of Blades, and to Jo Lammert for facilitating. If you’re as stoked for the game as we are, you’d better keep an eye on White Whale’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account for the latest news!