• 3D Festival interviews Kai Rosenkranz on Gothic II
    By Tito A. Belgrave, 19 August 2002
    Our hero suited in the new paladin armor and a look at Khorinis, the kingdom's capital in Gothic II.

    Kai Rosenkranz, 22 years old, is the youngest Piranha. He started working for Piranha Bytes while taking his final school exam, composing the music at home as a freelancer. He was actually planning to get himself a degree but threw his plans overboard so as not to let down the team in the final stages of finishing the original Gothic game. Being interested in many different topics, he took on creating visual and sound effects in addition to his actual work as a composer.

    For Gothic II, Kai is once again (among other things) in charge of the audio sector. When not dealing with music or sound effects, he's looking after the official website. As the webmaster he does his best to be in close touch with the Gothic community. In his free time, he frequently goes to movie theatres or alternatively makes plans about how to save the world. Certainly a fruitless enterprise, but a pleasant compensation for squatting behind a monitor and working on games all day long.

    3D Festival: With an impressive first run of Gothic 1, where does the story continue from there?

    Kai Rosenkranz: The world of Gothic I was surrounded by a magic dome, the so-called “barrier”. At the end of the game, the player fought against the Sleeper, an ancient and wicked creature who has, during his slumber, radiated the energy needed to maintain the barrier for so many years. When the player defeated the Sleeper in the end, you could see the creature being soaked into some portal. Through the disappearance of the magic energy, the barrier collapsed.

    The story of Gothic II starts at that exact moment. The breakdown of the barrier caused an earthquake, and the temple that formed the setting for the prequel’s showdown caved in. The player tried to escape, but was trapped by falling rocks. While he was buried inside the temple, the people outside started to realize that the prison colony was no longer a prison without the barrier. Many of them escaped into the surrounding countryside as the king’s former slaves got out of hand.

    Some weeks later, the player was rescued by his old friend Xardas, who successfully got our hero on his feet again.

    As you can see, you’ll play the nameless hero once again, but this time you can explore the world outside the colony. You’ll quickly realize that being a former prisoner isn’t advantageous at all, as the king doesn’t like people like you running around freely. The kingdom is shattered by the war against the Orcs, and on top of it, there is a civil war. In the course of the game, you’ll find yourself in the middle of an epic adventure.

    Click above to see the lush environment that is Gothic II

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  • 3D Festival: Will the original players of Gothic 1, have to build their character stats from the ground up in the sequel?

    Kai Rosenkranz:As in Gothic I, there is no character generation. You start as the weak and drained hero that was once strong and powerful, but as he was lying unconsciously in the temple for so many days, he lost all his skills and talents. It’s advisable not to take everybody on right from the start, as you have to learn everything anew.

    3D Festival: Gothic 1 had arguably one of the most visually compelling and intelligent game engines for it's time, what can we expect with Gothic II?

    Kai Rosenkranz: Gothic II comes up with a drastically improved version of the engine used for the first part.

    Regarding the graphic technology, we didn’t only add some new features and effects, but also enhanced the frame rate. Unfortunately that’s somewhat compensated by the design’s higher demands on the engine (more polygons, higher texture resolution, tons of objects and effects), but nevertheless the performance is bearable even on stale systems. :-)

    Concerning the gameplay, we gave the AI a complete overhaul. But I’ll come to that later.

    Click above to view Piranha Bytes proprietary tool "Spacer 1.45a" in action

    3D Festival: In Gothic II, how big has the world gotten since the escape from the mining colony? And will there be alternative means of travel?

    Kai Rosenkranz: The world around the former prison is incredibly vast, three times as large as the colony. The world’s extend amounts to more than 10 square miles, so prepare to explore lots of varied locations. You’ll have to be a good walker though, as there are no riding animals or vehicles. In the course of the game you’ll gather some teleportation spells so as not to bother you with extensive strolls. All in all, it won’t become boring as there’s always something new to discover.

    3D Festival: Can you elaborate on what process was used to create the lush environments in Gothic II?

    Kai Rosenkranz: Usually we start with a sketch to commit ourselves to a particular style. After that, our 3D artists Sascha, Mario and Horst start modelling the scene in 3D Studio MAX.
    If you happen to bump into a 26-year-old Rastafarian with a digital camera in front of his face, it may be Sascha searching for new photo realistic textures. His achievements in terms of texturing make an excellent contribution to the visual impact of the game. When the textured model is finished, it’s passed on to the “props and lighting” department. Mario and Björn mainly deal with cramming the world with vegetation, objects like furniture, items and stuff like that, while Horst places the light sources.

    In the last phase, the story departments adds what we call “waypoints” or “freepoints”. Both are needed to navigate the NPCs and monsters through the 3D environment. When you see some guy sitting by a campfire, you can rest assured that he’s sitting on a “freepoint”. Effects like swarms of flies, fog, rays of (volume) light and falling leaves are added by Sascha or even myself if it fits into the schedule.

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  • 3D Festival: What was one of the most challenging aspects you came across in the creation of Gothic II?

    Kai Rosenkranz: That’s a is a tricky question. Everything was challenging somehow or other, but I’ll emphasize the AI. We had very high demands on the NPCs’ reactions and lifelike behaviour, so we came up with a radically changed AI design. Making the inhabitants of our world come to live was a heavy task.

    3D Festival: Was mocap data used in the process of the sequel? If so where was it used?

    Kai Rosenkranz: Most of the animations are hand-made, but we sporadically used mocap data for some special cases. We went into a mocap studio to record some fight moves. The sword fights were performed by professionals, and for a fan of the medieval scenario it was fun watching them. But as far as I know, the recorded data wasn’t usable straightaway. I remember one of the animators criticizing the poor quality, and it took some time to put the finishing touches to the animations.

    Click above to see how Digital Fusion was used to help create Gothic II special f/x

    3D Festival: What hardware and software were used in the development of Gothic II?

    Kai Rosenkranz: Of course I don't know every single tool, but here's what I've caught so far: The game is programmed in Visual C++ 6.0, we use 3D Studio MAX 4 (plus Character Studio) for modelling and animation. 2D graphics like textures and artworks are mainly created in Adobe Photoshop 6.0. The texturing and lighting as well as the adding of objects, items and NPCs are done in our own tool, lovingly called "Spacer", chiefly because it leaves lots of space for improvement. :-)

    Digital Fusion and Adobe Premiere are used for the creation of cinematics, and the music is done in Microsoft's DirectMusic Producer. Some of our own development tools are used for tasks in the field of localisation, data management and story editing.

    Concerning the hardware, I can hardly give you a specific answer, as we use a very wide range of different hardware. We don't have SGI machines, so we're exclusively developing on PCs, many of them above the 1GHz limit.

    3D Festival: Your cinematic department made a solid run in Gothic, will there be a stronger emphasis on the cinematics in Gothic II?

    Kai Rosenkranz: Yes, absolutely. Our one-man cinematic department consists of 3D artist and video editor André. He can surely not keep abreast of the hordes of artists working together on hollywood-type cinematics like those in WarCraft III, but he does an excellent job. He single-handedly produces, directs, creates, renders and edits the sequences on his pc, which is a remarkable effort.

    The large part of the story is told through the dialogues within the game, but there are numerous cinematics presenting the important events.

    3D Festival: Another memorable feature in the original Gothic was the music, can we expect another impressive score?

    Kai Rosenkranz: Well, I hope so. The game audio is my area of responsibility, and I’m working on the music right now. Once again, I use the dynamic music system that worked well in Gothic I, but I threw the old digital orchestra overboard and created a new one. It sounds more authentic, so I’m confident that the music will contribute to the game’s atmosphere. As the number of different locations rose considerably, the amount of varied music grew large. Therefore I grapple with performance problems, but I’ll have that fixed again :-)

    Note: Above link is a 927kb AVI in DivX format.

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  • 3D Festival: Gothic's AI was one of the most adaptable and realistic AI engines to date, but like everything it also had it's flaws, how has the AI been improved?

    Kai Rosenkranz: In summary it may be said that Mike, Björn and Mattias reworked the whole system. It was worth the effort, as the new AI shapes up well. The NPCs watch and understand your actions, and they react accordingly in most cases. Outsmarting someone is much more challenging than in Gothic I, and you’ll very likely realize that the guys wonder about what you do and comment on it with a razor-sharp mind.

    But not only the NPCs reactions have been improved. The same goes for their behaviour when the hero is not around. Every single person lives a life of his own, coping with his own concerns and taking care of his own business.

    Orc concept art from Gothic II

    3D Festival: With JoWood Productions as your official publisher, will the North American market be better distributed to?

    Kai Rosenkranz: I certainly hope so. JoWood is an excellent publisher, and the cooperation turns out to be pleasantly uncomplicated and promising. You can be rest assured that your local store will have the game, I don’t know whether there’ll be a large-scale advertising campaign though. We developers have only very little influence on that, but I’m confident that JoWood will make the best of it.

    3D Festival: The question on everyone's mind now is, when are the projected release dates for Gothic II around the globe?

    Kai Rosenkranz: The German version is scheduled for an October 18th, 2002 release, while the English language version will in all probability be released in November 2002 (the 29th to be exact). But please don’t nail me down to that. I’d rather prefer to say “When it’s done”, but you wouldn’t want to hear that. :-)

    3D Festival: Thank you very much Kai Rosenkranz for taking the timeout to give us insight on the highly anticipated Gothic II.

    Kai Rosenkranz: You’re welcome, it was a pleasure. We’ll do what we can to create another entertaining and gripping addition to the series.

    Talk about this on the CG Talk forums >>

    Related Links:
    Gothic II Central
    Piranha Bytes
    Jo Wood Productions

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