Playing in Darkness: Starbreeze Interview
We chat with Starbreeze associate producer Patrick Liu about the company's hot-looking comic-based game. New screens inside.
Jackie Estacado's coming of age story is a little different compared to the other kids in his neighbourhood. Already soaked in the bloody family business as a mafia hitman, Jackie's 21st birthday brings something new, something evil.
The Darkness is a new game by celebrated developer Starbreeze, which surprised everyone a few years back by parlaying the themes in Vin Diesel's Riddick movies into a hit shooter on Xbox. Now the team is moving sideways, leaving the flicks for a riff on Top Cow's successful comic book series.
"The Darkness has some similarities with our previous game," admits Patrick Liu, associate producer on the game at Starbreeze. "There's a blend of genres between the adventuring and the action. The focus is still on the action - it's mostly a shooter."
Adding to the mood is a story that echoes the feel of the groundbreaking comic series. The events in the game are loosely based on a story arc from the comic, and follow Jackie's bid to regain control over the Franchetti crime family from his conniving uncle, Paulie. The writing for the game is being done in collaboration with Paul Jenkins, writer of the Darkness comic.
To capture the emotions of its actors better, Starbreeze is using a technique it calls vo-cap, or voice capturing. Essentially, the actors' faces and bodies are motion-captured as they are delivering lines, which, according to Liu, "gives the characters a lot more personality".
"The unique thing," he says about the game, "is the Darkness powers. It's non-linear gameplay."
On his 21st birthday, Jackie is possessed by The Darkness - a power that gives him not only the requisite super-person strength but also command over mischievous imps called the Darklings, physical manifestations of the escaped evil that once lived inside dead enemies. As you collect these Darklings you'll be able to employ more and more of them to do your bidding, oftentimes in violent and disgusting ways.
If it seems beastly, then Starbreeze is doing its job. It's all in aid of the overarching theme; Jackie is not a good man, and The Darkness gives you a chance to live in his skin.
Liu says that using the Darklings and your superhuman powers, you'll be able to scare the life out of your opponents. "There aren't very many first-person shooters where you are the monster," he says.
The Darkness will be out for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in June.