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Dragons are just cool.  They're big, scaly and powerful and they have made for some really great games.  We question Dmitry Zhukov at Primal Software about their upcoming I of the Dragon (PC).  We talk about the dragons, terraforming and city building, destruction on a huge scale, the importance of gameplay compared to graphical bells and whistles, finding a publisher, and influences that have gone into I of the Dragon (among so many other topics).  Thanks for your time, Dmitry!


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I of the Dragon Q&A Conducted by Mr. Nash


First off, what is your name, your role in the development of I of the Dragon, and your passed experience in the game industry?

Hello. My name is Dmitry Zhukov, I was the leader of this project and I was also engaged in the game design.  Before that I worked on our previous title: a comedy adventure game for the Russian market called «Petka and Vasily Ivanovich II: Judgment Day» and before that I worked for a Russian gaming magazine « Game and Entertainment Magazine ».


What were some of the development team’s influences in creating I of the Dragon?

Actually, there were a lot of them… Probably, our Director of Development and the author of the idea and the game concept Slava Pismenny provided the main influence on the project and on the team. The main theme that we wanted to explore in the game is the theme of Power and Freedom! And having touched upon a great variety of ideas, we finally came to a conclusion that nothing unites these two ideas better than allowing a player to become a Dragon.  In other words, a Dragon is a living embodiment of Power, and Flight is freedom … We wanted to give the player the ultimate experience that satisfies those two basic (primal J) urges… Most of the key decisions that we made during the game’s creation came out of this rather naturally.


i of the dragon interview           i of the dragon interview


With a number of different dragons to choose from, what are their unique specialties?

There are three dragons available for the player at the beginning of the game. The Red Dragon – Annoth is a mighty fighting beast. Strong and moderately agile, it does not favor using magic, but his natural abilities are more than adequate compensation. The Black Dragon - Morrogh's magic is of a dark kind. He is able to command undead creatures and has the power over earth magic. He is rather slow, but regenerates rapidly. The Blue Dragon – Barroth breathes liquid ice to freeze his enemies. He is the best magic user. Agile and fast, but not very well protected. While his natural abilities are quite moderate, his wide arsenal of spells makes up for it.


To make things clear, if we try to carry out analogies with other role-playing games, it is possible to say that the red dragon is an analogue of a Fighter, the blue one is an analogue of the Magician, and the black dragon can be considered a dark Cleric (or Necromancer). The resulting strategies during the game will differ accordingly (taking into account that we play as a mighty dragon instead of a trivial human character).


There will be some city building and terraforming portions in the game.  How full-blown will these features be?

Yes of course, an important part of the game is city building and another great feature is terramorphing.


In general, the basic goal of our dragon is to help people in the struggle against evil’s forces, and the important part of this help is building of the cities. There are magical power-sources scattered around the land and a dragon can use this magic to found new settlements for the people. After a settlement is established, a magical clan of “The Rippers” starts to collect energy of enemies killed by us or by the warriors of the city. With the help of this energy our dragon can upgrade these small settlements up to huge cities - fortresses. While the city becomes bigger, it becomes stronger and it’s walls higher and finally it will have a better army, and it means that after a while the city will be able to defend by itself, so the dragon will be free for something greater than protection of the peace in that city.


Reading this might leave you with a feeling, that our gameplay is centered on micromanagement of cities. Not so! While cities are important, this is not a strategy game, so we have intentionally kept city management to a very general level.


About the terramorphing - impossible to do it justice by trying to describe it in words - you should see it! Mature dragons are able to do all these incredibly powerful spells that can totally change the land - create erupting volcanoes, make gorges, rise mountains and giant craters - rain mass destruction from the sky upon the hordes of the enemy down below… even static screenshots are unable to relate this experience! Once again – nothing can compare to playing the game.


Dragons are often known for being powerful beasts that can blast their enemies to charred bits with their flames.  What kinds of enemies will players face that offer a true challenge for such an animal in combat?

Many challenges and different obstacles will arise on our way and a significant part of them will be hordes of malicious monsters. In general, the main villain of the world is the evil Scharborr.  He is very powerful and has an ability to create and control various hideous creatures that represent a real threat to people (and even to a powerful dragon). The more powerful enemies that can really challenge a dragon in a one on one fight are not as common and make an appearance a bit later on in the game. So, at first the challenge is not so much in any one type of monster, but in their sheer numbers and combinations of their attacks.



How destructible will the worlds be?

To be honest, there are not many games that can provide such a level of destructibility of the game-world! Though it’s not very apparent in the beginning of the game, we can ruin and alter the world completely!


Imagine a scene: its evening, a sunset, and the sun slowly comes down closer to the edge of the mountain. In its shadow, near a forest, lies a small city. Monsters approach the city slowly from a distance. They will 


have to go through that forest very soon in order to attack the city… Do you see the forest? – Let’s set it on fire with our fire breath ‘till there are only smoking, sticking trunks left smoldering! Then let’s blow up the smoldering trunks with a smartly thrown explosive fireball! The magnificent forest turns into burnt wasteland in mere seconds… 


You say – a mountain obstructs our view? – Let’s level it! And even make a crater instead!!! Then let’s just plough this place up thoroughly with some canyons!


What about the city? These people are starting to get on our nerves? Let’s summon a few giant boulders that will fall from the sky on the small houses and inhabitants. We’ll leave nothing except for tiny pitiful fragments! 


Now what about these monsters? Some are running away, but a few are still trying to bother us… Freeze ’em? Burn ‘em? Blow ‘em up? Slow ‘em down? Stun? Poison or curse them? Bury them? Maybe kill and then resurrect them?


Or did you have something truly wicked in mind? Anything you like, Sir, as long as you have enough experience!


Oh wait, I’ve destroyed the city that I was supposed to protect… Why did I do that? Oh well. Got carried away a bit there... But what a power trip… : - )


i of the dragon interview          i of the dragon interview


Can you give us any examples of how some of I of the Dragon’s missions will play out?

Quests? Well, we tried to diversify them as much as possible: protection of settlements, clearing of certain areas from monsters, protection of a caravan, interception of enemy attacks, survival, gathering of artifacts and so on.


Will there be any online play options?

The I of the Dragon is single player only. Sorry. Maybe in a sequel…


Does the “I” in I of the Dragon bear any significance to the game as opposed to using “eye”?

Well … some word-play. We are Stephen King fans… And there was a short novel that he wrote for his daughter a while ago. Not really horror, more of a fairy tale, actually, called “The eye of the dragon”. Good story, good title… But in our case we wanted to create a game that lets the player feel what its like to become a dragon, so to say, to unite the "I" of the player and the "I" of the Dragon.


What kinds of graphical goodies will be in the game to keep up with current glam graphic trends in PC gaming where high-powered video cards are the order of the day?

If you look at the really successful titles, like Diablo or The Sims, they do not require the latest hardware to be played on. The technology is important, sure, but the gameplay is where it’s really at. The most important parts of a game happen in the player’s mind, in his imagination, not on his computer. And there are a lot of people out there that cannot afford to compete with the hardware manufacturers. 


So, yeah, we wanted our game to be accessible to as many people as possible. That is why we have quite low system requirements. And although we chose to be a bit limited in what we give to the player in terms of flashy razzle-dazzle, we have concentrated instead on providing the substance that many of these glam titles lack...


What are some of the magic spells available to players in the game?

Lots of spells… All sorts of spells… All good! All different!!! There are more then a hundred in the game… Starting to sound like a used car salesman there.


Oh well…  The best ones are closer to the end, naturally…  : - )


Have any unexpected surprises arisen during the development of I of the Dragon?

Fortunately, no!  : - )


Though it might seem a bit hard to believe, the project went strictly as planned and without complications from the first idea to the final chord.


Although this is our first international title, we’ve been making games for almost ten years now. The keystone to success is the absence of big surprises during development and good planning. I understand that it might sound a bit dull and disappointing for some journalists and gamers, but even in our industry, it’s 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration...  


What has been the most challenging aspect of making the game?

Hmm… Lots of big challenges! Difficult to choose just one…


The creation of the main character? We have spent countless man-hours (seems more like man-years now): tons of books, thousands of pictures and art with various reptiles and dragons, made hundreds of sketches. That surely was challenging enough…


The creation of our real time terramorph technology?  Peter Molyneux’s Magic Carpet inspired us a lot, but that was a long while ago, and what was acceptable then, was not good enough at the start of our project. So that was challenging too.


But the most challenging of all, I would have to say, was finding a US publisher that would be brave enough to release the game.


A typical dialog with a Publisher went along the lines of:


“Ooh… A dragon game? Good! We really like it… But… It’s too innovative!”

Too innovative?  But it’s a game! It’s supposed to be innovative!!!


Oh well. Seems to me that says something about the state of the industry we’re in…


Or “About your game…”

But it’s selling quite big in Russia…

“Russia? Where’s that?”

Oh, for god’s sake! Just play the game! Its fun.


Can you tell us a bit more about I of the Dragon’s story?

With great pleasure! I’ll tell you in a sequel. Or a prequel. There will be more history, more battles, more freedom and more power! I can let you in on a secret: we’ve got this idea to start the second part of the game not with a young and inexperienced dragon, but with a mighty and mature beast!!!


Imagine, what levels of power can be achieved then!?! Can you really imagine? I could not. But as soon as it will be clear to me, I will do my best to give this opportunity to everyone who wants to feel the pure power of an old Dragon. It will be unique, available only in this game.


Is there anything else you would like to mention about I of the Dragon that we haven’t covered?

Not really. We’ve covered a lot of ground. But there is always more…

Play the game! Be a Dragon! Feel the POWER!!!!!  And choose freedom…


(March 21, 2004)


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