When we checked out The Darkness II’s semi-recently revealed Vendetta mode, we also had a chance to speak with the Project Director at Digital Extremes, Sheldon Carter. If you’re interested in what will undoubtedly be one of next year’s most bloodily fun games – which you should be – read on for our interview in which we pick Sheldon’s brain about the art direction, narrative, and more.
Complex: I really like the art direction. It's obviously very unique, and it's very fitting for the comic book setting, as well. Is there any other particular reason – other than just fitting with the comic book – that you guys went with that art style?
Sheldon Carter: Honestly, that’s it. That’s the key reason. We had the books. We thought: this is an opportunity. Artistically, we wanted to stretch our wings a little bit. We thought, let’s grab a hold of this and kind of try to make it look like a comic book.
Did you guys draw any inspiration from other like graphic noire-style games like Borderlands, for instance?
We looked at a lot of different places, but mainly it was all comic books. For a long time, we didn’t have the edge outline on, and then we noticed that it wasn’t feeling the same.
That is obviously a thing with a lot of games, and we initially thought we wanted to go away from that. But you look at the comic books, and go, “You know, they all have outlines. You can’t have one without the other.”
So, even thought lots of other games do those styles, I still say that basically our inspiration came from there.
Why the hesitation towards doing an edge outline?
There are some places where when you put a hard edge on pretty much everything, they’re not gonna look as great as we’d hoped. We were trying to find a way to make it look like that all the time, with those hard edges all over the world. But we couldn’t be true to the artistic form.
What (besides art direction) makes working on an adaptation unique for you guys?
Yeah, art style is one. In this world, the lore is so rich and when you have a comic book that’s been going on for ten plus years, you have all this back catalogue of stuff that the great writers of Top Cow have come up with.
It was really interesting inspirationally to be like, “Ok, what are the things that make The Darkness signature,” and try to pick through those, and come up with the parts we want to bring to the game.
We had the same writer, Paul Jenkins who wrote the first game, but he’s also a comic book writer. Working with him, we went through the back catalogue and decided what were the types of things we could bring, if we really want to be true to this vision of bringing the comic book to life.
Was there anything in particular that you learned from the experience while you guys were developing the game?
For us as a studio, I think this is the first game where we really took a real crack at making narrative being the most important part of the game. It was a pretty big leap.
We’ve always been really action-focused, so we felt like we could nail the gameplay, but for us to really understand what it takes to deliver a really great story to the player at the same time was a challenge, and also something that we love. I just love that we’re a studio that now knows how to make narrative games.
You also chose to take the multiplayer towards that narrative direction. Why not the typical “horde mode” and other multiplayer modes?
It’s like just “going all in.” If we were gonna do this, then we were gonna do it on everything. We definitely thought of those things, and those were popular when we started developing this game.
But we thought, it just wouldn’t be right for the type of game. The experience you’re going to have playing single-player is a deep narrative experience.
And as soon as you get to multiplayer in co-op, we wanted it to be something where you could 1) play offline if you’re that type of player that loves that type of game and be able to get the story just playing through by yourself, but also that 2) even if it’s co-op, you’re both going to get a story.
Which of the characters are your favorite? I played as Inugami.
Yeah, he was our first one that we created. For me personally, I guess if I’m playing through by myself, I’ll go with J.P. because he’s got the staff that can lift guys when they’re in cover, and you can pop them up and shoot them out of the air.
You’ve also got a black hole as a power when you’re being overwhelmed. When I’m playing co-op, they’re all interesting in co-op. I don’t want that to give the cheesy answer, but I’d play any of them in co-op, and I’d play single-player with J.P.
Are there the same RPG elements in the single-player story line as well as multiplayer where you can add to your abilities?
Yeah, Jackie’s skill tree is about 5 times bigger as those guys, but for sure. You’ve got the same kind of customization elements as you go through. You know, being the Darkness wielder, he gets the full suite.
What are some of the other cool abilities you can talk about right now?
Jackie has 4 major trees. He’s got a tree that basically just deals with his demon arms and how they work. He’s got a tree that goes all the way down with weapons. He’s got powers with the swarm channeling and how they level up. He’s also got executions, and all of his executions have different gameplay benefits and bring different rewards.