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Interviews

Retro Gamer

March 27, 2008

 Retro Gamer - The Making of... MediEvil at The Mean Machines Archive (PDF file). Published March 27, 2008.

Behind the Classics: MediEvil

September 7, 2012

What was the original concept for the game? Did you draw inspiration from anywhere in particular for the game’s look and feel?

Chris Sorrell: The first design proposal for the game had the working title ‘Dead Man Dan’ and described a game that was a fusion of Capcom’s Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts with the art style of Tim Burton – especially the look and feel of The Nightmare Before Christmas. In both cases these were things that I was a huge fan of back in the mid ’90s. Lead artist Jason Wilson shared my interest in dark, gothic influenced artwork and we worked together to define the look and feel of the game.

It was an ambitious title for its time – what were your biggest challenges in realising that original vision?

Chris Sorrell: MediEvil presented a real mountain of challenges. The game started life as a project of a small, cash-strapped independent developer – Millennium Interactive. In addition to bringing together a brand new team – none of whom had really made a 3D game of this scale before – we were in ‘sell’ mode almost from day one, with the future of the studio riding on our ability to attract a major publishing deal as quickly as possible.

We were initially working on multiple platforms including Windows and Sega Saturn as well as PlayStation before we finally had the chance to demo the game for Sony. Thankfully that was probably our best pitch ever: SCEE had some really inspiring people in management, they loved MediEvil, and within a few weeks we were signed to make an exclusive PlayStation game. In a few more months we became Sony’s second studio in the UK.

Of course another layer of challenge came from the fact that, like most other developers at that time, we were still feeling our way with 3D. Things like camera and character control presented a lot of interesting new challenges and required us to try out a number of approaches before we settled on solutions that seemed to work.

How close to your original concept was the finished game?

Chris Sorrell: Actually really close. Over the course of development the game became less arcadey and a little more of an adventure – which, being a huge Zelda fan, I was very pleased about. As for the game’s look, I think that was extremely true to our initial goals as you can see if you track down some of the concept art that’s out there on the internet.

Which element of the game are you most proud of, and which element, if any, do you feel fell short?

Chris Sorrell: At the time I might have said I was most proud of how our team pulled together to finish the game without compromising on the quirky attention to detail or scope of the game. Looking back now, I guess I feel most proud of the fact that we managed to create a game which – and I believe this is down to the game’s personality and charm – a lot of people still seem to remember. As a developer, it’s a real privilege to be told that your game brings back fond childhood memories for someone and that seems to happen quite often with MediEvil.

Where do I feel we fell short? Well I would have liked to travel a little further down that ‘Zelda’ path – I think a genuine, deep adventure set in the MediEvil world could have been something quite special. The game was also supposed to feature Morten the Earthworm – who lived in Dan’s empty eye socket. Alas, he didn’t make the cut.

What do you see as the game’s legacy? How would you like it remembered?

Chris Sorrell: Certainly I think we were one of the first games to capture that Tim Burton vibe and I think there may have been a few spooky themed action games that followed MediEvil where the developers probably looked at what we had done. [2002 Capcom fantasy adventure] Maximo springs to mind. I’d be quite happy if people remembered MediEvil as ‘that game with the weird, grunting skeleton dude with one eye and no lower jaw who throws his own arm like a boomerang’.

A PSP version came out in 2005, but the series has been largely dormant since. Do you ever think about where you might have taken the franchise?

Chris Sorrell: I’d certainly love to work with Sir Dan one more time and I have lots of ideas that I think would make for a great new MediEvil game. Sadly I think it’s an unlikely prospect since I no longer work for Sony, not to mention how times have changed in the years since Dan first left his crypt.[1]

MediEvil Boards Q&A

May 7, 2013

1) In one of the files of the prototype, there is an item called the "Trident". Was this intended to be a weapon in the game? If so, what would its use have been like (melee or ranged attack)?

CS - We never got very far with that one. It would most likely have been a ranged weapon - like the lightning - and because of that similarity we decided we didn't need it (or couldn't justify it!).

2) There's a file in the Sleeping Village level called "Ducky" and "Duck shoot". Was there intended to be a duck shooting mini-game similar to the one featured in the PSP remake?

CS - That was a little extra added by one of the level programmers (Matt Johnston). There's a rock jutting out of the pond in the village and the idea was that if you stood there for a moment or two the game would start to spawn ducks swimming across the pond that you could shoot with a ranged weapon. I don't recall exactly why it didn't make the final cut. Most likely there were just too many other things to finish and debug. Shame - I love little easter eggs like this!

3) An in-game model of the exterior of the Asylum is featured within the prototype; 

Asylum

How would this have been incorporated into the game? Was there originally planned to be an extension of the "Asylum Grounds" level which would end when the player reached this area, or could this have even been the introduction to Morton the Worm's level?

CS - That's really part of the grander notion that we originally had for the Asylum - that you'd complete the maze and then go inside, playing a side-viewed platform section as Morten. That platform section never materialized, and we ended up almost having to cut the Asylum interior altogether - until we realized that we could pretty easily create those 'Smash TV' style attack rooms that we finally shipped with. ...Sometimes you put a lot of effort into something and it doesn't pan out and other times something really simple to create totally pays off as those I think those rooms did.

4) This is a bit of an oddball; there's a message in the beginning of the Graveyard level which talks about "visitors from space in sci-fi movies and how gentic cloning is making Mary Shelleys Frankenstein closer to reality";

Prototypebook

Would you happen to remember what the purpose of this message was?

CS - I think that was me - around the time that the demo was being prepared I was working on a display mechanism for the help 'books'. The text you see was just some random words I came across and dropped in as a test case prior to having any real content.

5) There are several level files within the prototype which do not seem to match the levels in the final build of the game;

(The Coffin Vaults, The Fields of Dust, The River, The Muddy Riverbank, The Mud Slide, Circle of Shadows, The Silver Wood, The Halls of Illusion, The Hub, The Great Machine)

This is probably asking a bit much, but would you happen to remember if any of these were levels that were cut from the game? If so, is there anything you'd be able mention about what these levels could have been like, such as with the Jabberwocky chase level?

CS - These were all levels that were originally conceived as full levels and were cut either because a) we didn't have a clear concept for them, b) the idea was more purely 'arcadey' than the RPG-lite feel that we ended up moving towards or - most likely in combination with one of the previous points - we just didn't have time to do justice to the concept. In most cases the best parts of anything we had already done for those levels were spliced into the levels we eventually shipped with, e.g. the Coffin Vaults were the basis for those rooms with the witch puzzle at the base of the Hilltop Mausoleum (and also for the interiors of the Haunted Ruins if I remember right). I think the Circle of Shadows ended up as the tiny scene you see after you come out from the Ant Caves (or was it after the Haunted Ruins?!).

I think you guys have discussed the Jabberwocky level on the forum and got it pretty much right - it was a chase section where Dan was pursued by the Jabberwocky that ultimately we see only in FMV. I did do a little work on this sequence myself (which was unusual because it was the only actual level programming that I did), and it wasn't really working out either in terms of fun gameplay or our ability to make a convincing looking forest chase within our tiny geometry budget so cutting this one was an easy choice (I think I'd been playing too much Crash Bandicoot!). The Halls of Illusion were going to feature lots of mirror based puzzles and doppelganger Dans that you'd have to fight. This was another one where the concept was a little more ambitious than our relatively humble tech could really accommodate without consuming way too much development time.[2]

May 7, 2013 - additional Q&A

1) An English disk of MediEvil 1 has been uploaded online in Spain, and this version is a full build of MediEvil 1 but contains several minor differences from the game we're familiar with. A main difference is that the battle-axe is obtainable during the first visit to the Hall of Heroes. Do you know if this was a beta version of the game? If so, would you have an idea of how it got to be in Spain?

CS - I don't recall anything that would explain this one, sorry... Perhaps it was a review build (i.e. pre-release code) that was leaked? As far as I recall, our shipped European builds of the game were all created at the same time and differ only by the languages present on the disk (was it two per disk, I don't recall?). Spain wouldn't have received an official version that shipped with English as a default and there were never any intentionally released Beta builds. North America had a very slightly different build - actually with one or two more (minor) bugs since our US ship date was slightly earlier.

2) This question is just related to an image in MediEvil 1, which is found in the "Gallows Gauntlet" stage; 

Romantexture

Would you happen to know what this image is? Is it possibly an easter-egg of sorts?

CS - I don't think the image has any real significance - just a texture created by Jason to convey the feel of a worn away ancient mosaic. ...It seems to be a Roman centurion which doesn't make it an image that's especially 'true' to the MediEvil world, but then again we never really defined where (or when) the game is set... Since MediEvil 2 was in Victorian London, its fair to say that Gallowmere must have been a 'Dark Ages' realm somewhere in Europe and hence somewhere most likely ruled by the Roman empire a good while before that? :)[3]

June 24, 2013

1) In one of the early builds of MediEvil, there is an item called the "Lake Key". What was this to be used for?

CS - I believe that was for an area of The Lake that got reworked and the key was no longer required.

2) On Jason Wilson's old website, it was written that:Underneath Gallowmere is an ancient land that Zarok seeks to plunder. Part of this ancient land is the sunken village. Each area of the ancient land contained a number of crystals that Dan must activate in order to cause the land to implode thus ending Zarok's plan of domination.

CS - That's one you're better asking Jason! There are certainly aspects of the MediEvil universe that we never discussed and which weren't fully fleshed out at the time we made MediEvil 1. Different people, e.g. Jason or the MediEvil PSP team may have taken things in slightly different directions to the path I might have chosen. To me, Zarok's underground domain was really just The City of Madness which existed inside within a hollowed out mountain - the area seen in the panning shot after Dan falls down from The Entrance Hall.

3) Also, the Lake is usually the penultimate level in level listings found in the game files.

I think that's just a consequence of it being one of the later levels that we started working on (plus it didn't exist in the very first design documents).

4) Was the Lake meant to play a larger role in the game?

CS - No, I don't recall that being the case.

5) Also, I have question about a character called "Uncle Mad" who can be found in Sleeping Village in the prototype;

Why was this character cut from the game?

CS - Another good question. I don't recall the exact answer but it was likely a combination of

  1. We had to trim a few things to make best use of our time in the last months of development.
  2. Any in game depiction of drugs, alcohol, etc used to be very frowned upon so a drunk looking character could have been a problem with QA regarding the quality/content checklists they have to follow.
  3. He was a character rooted on the spot who threw bottles at you - i.e. very easy and not very interesting for the player to take out![4]

June 24, 2013 - additional Q&A

1) There is a level called the "Programmer's Playground" listed among the other levels in the code. What exactly was the purpose of this zone?

CS - The Programmers Playground was a test level with geometry built to represent all of the different types of landscape seen across the game. By this I don't mean how the landscape looked - the PP was pretty ugly looking with just placeholder textures - but things like different slope gradients, platform spacing for jump height and length, that kind of thing.

Most games feature a test environment of this sort. The advantage is that it allows the programmers to try stuff out, to work with designers to pin down the right player control dynamics, and to get these things right in a prototype form that the art team can then use as a reference as they build the real levels.

Our PP also featured some areas where we would test out enemy AI. We had a few different 'pens' where we had different kinds of zombies mapped and another area where you could pick up one of each of the different weapon types to go shoot them - like fish in a barrel - when tuning things like weapon hit strengths or setting up hit effects.

I wouldn't say this was a problem so much with the MediEvil team, but quite often programmers really don't like having to actually 'play' a game in order to test out features that they're working on - having a test environment allows them to jump right to the content they need (quite a time saving when you need to try out something many many times as you're hooking stuff up or trying to recreate a bug).[5]

July 24, 2013

Hey Mr. Sorrell, I have something that I've been hoping for some time to ask; it's about MediEvil 2 and your involvement with the project. I read in the interview with RetroGamer that you had several ideas written down for the MediEvil sequel, one of which involved the game being set in Victorian London. www.meanmachinesmag.co.uk/upload/media/scans/medievil_retrogamer.pdf

If it's alright, I'd like to ask what other ideas you may have had for MediEvil 2 or, more specifically, what direction you would have taken the game in if you had directed it. Would characters like Kiya and the Professor have existed in your version?


Chris Sorrell - I really only had a few high concept ideas in mind for MediEvil 2. These were: that it could be set in Victorian times, but instead of playing as Sir Dan, you would play as Sir Henry Fortesque, a more recently deceased descendent of Sir Dan's (much like the way they reincarnated the same character in the UK TV show Black Adder). I had a sketch I'd done late one night while working on M1 of Sir Henry wearing a tattered Victorian cape, top-hat and monocle. Also in that sketch was a owl that I had in mind as the game's 'mentor'. …And I had a few random ideas of story/world elements that might be incorporated, a couple that I recall being Jack-the-Ripper and - as an end of game boss - Queen Victoria who, due to some crazy magic had been inflated into a fifty foot tall lumbering giant zombie under the spell of the game's antagonist.

I don't know if every one of those ideas would have stuck had I directed M2 myself, but I passed them all over to James Shepherd during a couple of meetings we had at the start of the project. After the first such meeting a couple of things we'd been discussing clicked together and I went into the second session with a sketch of Dan's head atop one of the severed hands - the basis for Dan-hand.

James ran with the ideas and - of course - introduced many of his own. Jason was involved too, although I don't know how he and James worked together. Overall I liked most of what they came up with for M2, although I disliked the squeaky voiced helper ghost, and definitely in places the game's humour crossed a line for me from the silly/bawdy tone we had in M1 to something a little too puerile for my liking! (I guess the Professor embodied a lot of that.) I would also have definitely kept the Hall of Heroes since I always thought that was one of the more distinctive presentational mechanics we created in M1, oh and Dan's voice was *horrible* - incoherent mumbling was a far better way to go!

On balance I was probably more in tune with what they did in M2 than the changes that were made in MPSP.[6]

Gallery

References

  1. Fred Dutton, Behind the Classics: MediEvil at PlayStation.Blog. Published September 7, 2012.
  2. Proboards Interview with Chris Sorrell at MediEvil Boards. Published May 7, 2013.
  3. Proboards Another interview with Chris Sorrell at MediEvil Boards. Published May 7, 2013.
  4. Proboards Interview with Chris Sorrell at MediEvil Boards. Published June 24, 2013.
  5. Proboards Another interview with Chris Sorrell at MediEvil Boards. Published June 24, 2013.
  6. Proboards Interview with Chris Sorrell at MediEvil Boards. Published July 24, 2013.

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