C2E2: Dark Horse's UNBOUND SAGA Coming to Xbox Live Arcade
Mike Kennedy: Unbound Saga is a game coming out for the Xbox Live Arcade, probably in July, we don’t have a date yet, published first party by Microsoft. It’s kind of an old-school brawler, Streets of Rage/Final Fight style, you know left to right, punch, kick, body slam, using weapons all kinds of fun stuff like that. We’ve brought it up into the next generation with ragdoll physics and an RPG element where you can unlock skills and upgrade your character.
Nrama: Tell us about the game’s universe.
Kennedy: We grew up with 8-bit video games and comic books so we brought those two loves together. You are playing as kind of an old-school comics book tough guy in Rick Ajax who knows he’s a comic book character, and he’s kind of a pissy anti-hero, kind of curmudgeonly. In the course of the game, he gets sick and tired of all of the nonsense that he’s being thrown into so he’s on this adventure to break out of the game and confront “The Maker.”
Nrama: This title was released to the PSP this past summer, what kind of changes have been make to the title since then?
Kennedy: We built this title originally in HD on a Windows platform, and when we did the PSP version we actually downscaled it to fit the PSP, we kept what we thought were the most valuable aspects, but we couldn’t fit it all in there. It did suffer from things like redundancy, and physics issues. We had to dumb down a bunch of our particle effects and simplify the audio, but for this [upcoming release] since we are going back to our original intention, we’re starting from scratch, rebuilding from the ground up all over again. New physics system, new particle system, new AI system, all rebuilt to take advantage of the Xbox platform. It’s a whole new experience.
Nrama: The game has a strong comic book look, who designed or influenced the art direction?
Kennedy: The in-game art was all done by the studio in Kiev, they’ve got a bunch of real talented artists over there. The cutscenes were all done by Cliff Richards (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wonder Woman), and we based the look of the game off Cliff’s art, and we supported that with the work of Leinil Yu (Secret Invasion, New Avengers), Steve Pugh (Hardwires, Hellgate: London) and Al Rio (Gen13, DV8) who worked on the Dark Horse Comic that we put out. It was kind of a collaboration of art styles because these characters have this fake thirty-year history, so it’s reasonable to think that their look changed over that time.
Nrama: Will we see different comic book eras' visual styles in the game?
Kennedy: Probably not as recognizable as you think. There are ten episodes, and each has it’s own theme to it but not a visual style, not like ‘now it’s a black and white level,’ or ’now it’s a manga level,’ if we do a sequel we’d love to do that, but now it’s more based on the environment the characters are in.
Nrama: You mentioned ten episodes, how long do you think the game will take to complete, and has a price point been set?
Kennedy: A price hasn’t been set yet, that will be part of the marketing decisions make once we have the final build. With ten episodes, each being ten to fifteen ‘panels,’ depending on your difficulty setting and your capability, it’ll probably take you 4-5 hours for one play through. There’s a robust single player mode, local and on-line coop and competitive play, taking advantage of the Xbox Live network’s leaderboards and matchmaking.
Nrama: Fans of what past games would find Unbound Saga perfect for them?
Kennedy: If you like brawlers, if you like beating up lots of guys on the same screen, like Streets of Rage or Final Fight. Comix Zone shared some inspirations, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all of those brawlers. If you like comics, that whole ascetic [Unbound Saga] really embraces that. Hopefully, were really getting this fun, tactile, you punch a guy and he flops around, you pickup and break a table into a cloud of particles and pick up a table leg, it’s just a good fun visceral experience.
Nrama: What does Unbound Saga have that gamers haven’t seen before?
Kennedy: We took that old school model and brought into today with the ragdoll physics and the particles. I think that adds to the experience, its not 2D sprites, its 3D characters, and that really helps. But I think the characters, they are fully voiced, and the script is entertaining and sarcastic. It makes fun of comics and it makes fun of video games in a loving way. The sarcasm and fun of the title really sets it apart.
Nrama: Is there going to be a sequel to the Dark Horse one shot comic?
Kennedy: No plans, but we’re keeping or fingers crossed for the release of [Unbound Saga] and that will tell what comes next.
Nrama: Working on anything else?
Kennedy: We’re focusing on finishing this up, hopefully by July. I am working on an online shooter call CrimeCraft, and we’re working on adding a single player aspect to that title. It’s an MMO, right now it’s very PvP focused, but were adding this single players campaign aspect that we’re going to flesh out into this great big awesome episodic thing. It’s very early in the works.