In a lengthy, near hour-long interview with Game Informer, Ninja Theory’s creative director Tameem Antoniades talked about a number of things regarding the development of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, as well as the price, release window and the gameplay length.
During the interview, Tameem mentions that they scrapped the directional combat that was originally implemented into the game and decided to go with a more basic hack-and-slash mechanic.
Some gamers were a bit disappointed that Ninja Theory stepped away from the directional attacks, blocks and counter-strikes. However, according to Tameem he mentioned that the combat felt too robotic using that method. So instead of using directional combat, they decided to stick with a basic hack-and-slash mechanic.
Tameem also mentioned that the Senua Studio is also an offshoot that they’re using to help other studios bring their projects to life. According to Tameem, he says…
“If somebody wants to do a concert with a virtual character – like Hatsune Miku – but in real-time, or a virtual production, or stuff like that, we’ve got this tech now that we can do this stuff. So we setup a division that’s like ‘come to us for this stuff’. And people have been coming to us with various things, like adverts, or interviews with real-time characters, and stuff like that… and we’ll see where that goes.”
The technology that they setup for Hellblade utilizes middleware and tech from Cubic Motion and 3lateral to inject a plugin into Unreal Engine 4 for real-time, CG-quality performance capture. Said capture can be rendered in real-time right in the engine runtime environment, so it’s a huge step forward in software technology that cuts out a lot of the hurdles in the production pipeline when it comes to CG and high-quality lip-synching and facial capture.
Tameem also mentioned that Photo Mode will also be present, so you can snap shots from your favorite moments in the game. They had some trouble with the camera clipping, but they eventually got it working.
Additionally, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice price and length entered into the discussion, where he explained…
“[…] it will be about half the size of a typical action-adventure [game], and about half the price, is what we’ve always been saying.”
He goes on to say that the typical ballpark for those games are between eight through 14 hours. So I’m guessing that would mean Hellblade might be around four through six hours long? Maybe?
He was reluctant to say how long the game would be, but he did mention that they didn’t want filler. He told Game Informer…
“What I hope it is… I hope it feels like there’s no filler in it; that it feels like it’s a good, worthwhile experience that will stay with you and it doesn’t feel like it’s padded out. Because I think that’s one of the things I feel [is] frustrating about triple A games is this idea that you have to justify the price point and so you’re encouraged to fill out the game with stuff that – if you wanted the pace you wanted it to be at – you probably wouldn’t put it in there.
“I don’t think we’ve fallen too much into that trap in the past, hence our games have traditionally been a bit shorter maybe… but yeah.”
When he talks about filler content the first game series that comes to mind is Assassin’s Creed. A lot of games pad out the story to justify $60, as opposed to being a moderately lengthed game for $30. Back in the day games were pretty expensive and pretty short, but most of the notable ones were well worth it because they didn’t pad out the gameplay and they did make sure everything was fun from start to finish. These days it’s all about gouging, content as a service, and drip-feed DLC.
Hopefully they focus on making Hellblade a solid gameplay experience first and foremost. I think if people know straight up that the game is only going to be three or four hours, they won’t mind paying $30 – $40 for it.
As far as release dates are concerned, there isn’t one. However, there is a rough release window and they’re gunning for a 2018 release before the fall. Again, nothing is concrete but Tameem made it known they dearly want to avoid the holiday rush and all the other big AAA titles with massive marketing budgets that will be releasing on the tail end of 2018.