Exclusive Q&A: Edge of Twilight

Edge of Twilight is one of the most exciting concepts we’ve heard in a long time. Promising to push the boundaries of videogame storytelling, the blurred moral lines and cinematic, world changing scope of this steampunk action adventure are an enticing prospect for any fan of gaming’s artistic side.

Of course, with high ambition comes a high risk. Many times, we have followed a game with amazing ideas that just fall flat on their faces, or promises of deep and immersing storytelling that devolve into the flat, mundane black-and-white disappointment we should have known was coming. Very few games have ever truly lived up to their idealistic artistic endeavors, and a jaded gamer wouild be forgiven for exhibiting cynicism at Edge of Twilight‘s goals.

Destructoid wanted to know more, to see if developer Fuzzyeyes was full of nothing but pipe dreams, or if it was truly committed to delivering something with real meat and power. In this exclusive Q&A, Destructoid talks to Fuzzyeyes CEO Wei-Yao Lu to discuss the game’s light and dark mechanics, main character Lex’s struggles as a hard nosed bounty hunter, the war between Hellayem’s two principal races and, of course, how the studio plans to give we “games-as-art” snobs the enriching experience we so crave. 

Read on for our special Q&A.

Destructoid: Hot Dog King

, your past title, and Edge of Twilight could not be further apart from one another in concept. What made you want to veer off in such a different direction?

Wei-Yao: Because a lot of our married developers had to sleep on the couch after the first Hotdogs screenshots were released ;-). But nah, we knew the growing Fuzzyeyes team was insanely talented so we really wanted to let them flex their creative muscles. Edge of Twilight also lets us do something with much more thought-provoking and serious subject matter. It’s a natural progression for us.

Destructoid: How did you come to choose steampunk as the game’s backdrop?

Wei-Yao: Well steampunk’s a pretty dangerous style to go for, so the risk was appealing to Fuzzyeyes. Safer styles like high fantasy or sci-fi are alright, but done to death and really don’t stand out very much. I mean, steampunk’s been used a lot already in other areas too but there’s very few guidelines for what steampunk really is, which is both a blessing and a curse. 

There are a lot of steampunk fans about the place but it’s mainly just the Japanese scene that’s delivering, so there’s a large western market that really isn’t being catered for.

Destructoid: What theme is more relevant in the world of Edge of Twilight — steampunk, fantasy, or a combination of both?

Wei-Yao: Steampunk’s the main art style you’ll see being that it’s the hallmark of the Athern race and you spend most of your time in their city and their old abandoned facilities and whatnot. Of course the fantasy part’s important too, but those areas are a bit sparser. 

Destructoid: Were you inspired by fantasy novels at all when creating the game? If not, what were your inspirations?

Wei-Yao: Regarding novels, The Scar and Perdido Street Station by China Miéville were pretty inspirational for a couple of the artists and animators, and also Infernal Devices by K. W. Jeter. Comics are a big inspiration for art direction too, like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, Bleach by Tite Kubo, Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa, and the Steampunk series by Joe Kelly and Chris Bachalo. 

Story-wise a big influence is other games that aren’t even of the same genre but aren’t afraid to deal with mature themes – by mature I mean as in real issues that we’re dealing with in this day and age. Metal Gear Solid games do a good job of having mature storylines but not being so serious that they’re a chore to play through. We aimed for that territory. 

Other inspirations… Our lead animator said pinball tables. This is concerning.

Destructoid: Several games in the past have talked about a story that blurs the line between good and evil, but rarely do they deliver. What are you doing that others have not to ensure that your game is as deep and layered as you promise?

Wei-Yao: The big question! The first thing we did was make sure there’s no good or evil in the game. That made blurring the line a lot easier. If you look at any political situation anywhere in the real world, one man’s good is another man’s evil. The only difference between those men is perspective. So we’d only be insulting people’s intelligence (and proving a lack of our own) by saying “This guy’s evil. We don’t know why.” 

A lot of what we’re doing is deeply embedded in the story and history itself but the player does make choices too. Unlike most games these aren’t choices of the “dark” or “light” path but more the choice to participate in or ignore something. While they’re often seemingly innocent, choices like these can inherently change the story’s outcome for the player and the people in the world. Sometimes it’s for their better, sometimes for their detriment. Just like the real world.

Keep a look out for some back story material that might be floating around the net soon… 😉

Destructoid: You talk about how characters in the game have a justification for everything they do and that nobody is truly evil or truly good. Do you have an in-game example of one of these characters, or a justified action?

Wei-Yao: Sure, just look at the back story. There are two expanding societies, both of which require Ether to survive. The industrial Atherns combust the Ether for fuel, the spiritual Lithern have a spiritual lifeline to it. The very nature of these two civilisations means they can’t coexist. The actions of one are seen as evil by the other and vice versa. The Atherns resort to the genocide of the Lithern as a necessity to keep supplying their own people with Ether, but one particular Lithern is driven by rage and vengeance to divide night and day, trapping the Atherns in the realm of day before sending in hordes of undead Tainted Lithern to destroy them like they did his own race. So tell me who’s the good guy there? 

But you want something more in-game than that… Ok, so Lex (the main character) sees something and the player might have certain feelings about this; curiosity, apprehension, and so on. Another character has already said to Lex that he can help find out more about this, but it’s heavy information. You might not like where it leads you. Do you go back and talk to that guy to find out more? Or do you let ignorance be blissful? Even inactivity is a choice, and even that affects the outcome of the game. 

Destructoid: It seems that brooding male lead characters have been the standard since Cloud was introduced in Final Fantasy VII. Lex obviously has a dark background — will he be more of the same, or can we expect something a bit more complex from him?

Wei-Yao: To be honest I’ve never played FF7 (gasp!) so I really don’t know how brooding Cloud was. Lex has had a pretty dark past for sure but it’s turned him into a hard-ass more than anything. Being a half-breed he has no sense of identity, no sense of belonging and he’s stuck in a rut of carrying out menial thuggery for the government under threat of persecution. Lex has subsequently developed a very sardonic attitude to the world and everyone in it. 

Destructoid: The storyline of Edge of Twilight has been described as one that “dynamically alters based on the player’s level of involvement.” Can you provide more clarity on that concept for us? Sounds like it could be fascinating.

Wei-Yao: Yep. There are a few branches of the story that you can pursue if you want, or you can ignore them. But if you start delving deeper into the stories that interweave through the world of Hellayem then you’re going to start making ripples and uncovering things that affect the story, and not just the ending but to the extent where the game actually becomes something else entirely. 

Destructoid: What is the combat system like and how much does combat play a role in the overall gameplay? What else can we expect to do in the game?

Wei-Yao: The combat varies for both Lex’s day and night persona, but in both realms it’s very cinematic, using dynamic camera work and some insane animations. In the day realm he’s very brutal but in the night realm he’s very swift and deadly, which lets the play styles vary quite a lot and often require different ways of tackling the same enemy between realms.

As for how much of a role it plays, the design team said from the start that the gameplay would be equal parts combat and exploration/puzzles. So when you’re not battling the Tainted Lithern or the unfriendly wildlife we give the player a lot of environmental puzzles to solve. Most of these make the player use the two realms to try and find an exit from an area by using machinery in the day combined with spiritual abilities and agility in the night. 

To give you an example; you might enter a room as the day persona and the exit is right there beside you but it’s too high up and requires the night persona’s agility to climb up to it. So you’ll need to find a point to change realms, but that might not be as easy or apparent as it seems. The environmental puzzle starts to form, requiring each persona’s unique abilities and multiple realm changes to get through.

Destructoid: You recently compared the game to Soul Reaver, God of War and ICO, and presumably these are heavy influences. What is it you have taken from each of these games and adapted for Edge of Twilight?

Wei-Yao: Hahaha, we raised a few eyebrows with that statement. I wouldn’t say we compare ourselves to those games, just that we’ve taken inspiration from them because they each do a lot of things right. 

Soul Reaver was quite obvious because they too used the dual realms of night and day to affect the gameplay, but again that’s one I haven’t personally played through. We mentioned God of War because it handles combat very, very well. It’s smooth, cinematic, responsive and has some fantastic take-downs. Edge of Twilight is less acrobatic and more forceful than that though, but it’s still a great example of combat done well. ICO‘s level design is second to none and the way they do looping paths, emotional level design, atmosphere, pace, and environmental puzzles is amazing so we really took a lot of inspiration from that game. 

Destructoid: Will the day and night changes in the game affect the gameplay or just what Lex can do in-game? Will it change the environment, or is the light and dark tied to specific locations and events?

Wei-Yao: It’ll definitely affect the gameplay in regards to combat, movement and abilities. That gives us a lot of creative freedom in designing the enemies, environmental puzzles and other gameplay elements. Some enemies are harder in the day than in the night, others are tougher in the night than in the day and some only exist in one of the two realms. So what realm you’re in really does play a big role in how you play the game.

And yep, it also changes the environment. One example I can think of off the top of my head is that there’s less water in the night realm. Raging rivers become gentle streams, rain stops, reservoirs are empty and even the sea level drops. Not only that, but being that night and day are independent of each other now, some scenery may have deteriorated and broken away in one realm but not the other and this too begins to play a major part in how you find your way through. 

Destructoid: What made you decide to make a game like this a single player adventure without any multiplayer?

Because we’re telling a story and focusing all our attention on doing that well. Multiplayer is just something that wouldn’t work within the Edge of Twilight universe. It could never make sense, so we pooled our resources on the single player experience instead.

Edge of Twilight is currently in development for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, and is scheduled for release in 2009.

Jim Sterling