Lazygamer Exclusive Interview: we chat to Digital Extremes' Sheldon Carter about The Darkness II

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Last night, I was fortunate enough to be given a 15 minute telephone interview with Sheldon Carter, the Project Director at Digital Extremes. They’re busy putting the finishing touches on the sequel to 2007’s The Darkness, which was developed by Starbreeze Studios. The game is based on the successful comic and graphic novel series of the same name, published by Top Cow Comics.

Publisher 2K handed the sequel project over to Digital Extremes, whose previous project was Dark Sector. Now, with a new developer at the helm of the sequel, what can fans of the original expect to see when Jackie unleashes the Darkness within him?

LG: We last saw the Evolution engine at work in 2008’s Dark Sector. What improvements can we expect to your implantation this time around?

Sheldon: Yeah, you know we’re happy with what we did with Dark Sector but for Darkness we’ve really kind of taken it to the next level. Our art style is called “Graphic Noire” and one of the key components of “Graphic Noire” is high contrast lighting and dynamic lighting. So those are the things that we’re really pushing the envelope on. Whatever you’re doing in the environment you’re going to be getting those big shadow, you’re going to get great scenes cast with that, so that’s a major improvement between what you’ve seen in Dark Sector and what you’re seeing in Darkness II.

LG: With The Darkness II running on your own Evolution engine, the game’s obviously going to have a different feel and look about it. How much of the original’s atmosphere will you maintain?

Sheldon: I think the atmosphere is something that we’re clinging onto pretty tightly. We want the same feel in terms of atmosphere but the difference is really, like I said, the “Graphic Noire”. So what we’ve done is we’ve looked through the comic books and the graphic novels, and flipped through the pages and things pop out at you. You know you’ve got the red and the blacks, and we wanted to emulate that for the game. We wanted it to feel to you that you’re playing a graphic novel when you’re playing

Darkness II – that’s the key.

LG: Though Jackie does spend a proportionate amount of time dealing with the mob, as a Darkness bearer his natural enemy is the Angelus. Any plans on featuring her?

Sheldon: We’re just talking about what we have in our demo so far; there’s no reference at all to the comic book Angelus in that demo.

LG: You’ve said there’s more focus on two of the elements that permeated the first game: the story and the action. Will there still be explorative, adventure elements?

Sheldon: I think our main focus, and actually one of the great things, is that Paul Jenkins, who wrote the first game and who wrote most of the comic books, he’s back and writing on Darkness II. One of our key mantras has been “in service of story”, so where the story takes us is how much of that you see; it’s a very narrative-focused game.

LG: What new Darkness powers can we expect, or what changes have been made to the ones seen in the first game?

Sheldon: We’re not going into the individual powers, but what I can talk to you about, which is a pretty interesting improvement and change, is the way we’re using the Demon Arms. What we’ve got now for Darkness II is Quad Wielding, and what that means is that you’ve got your Grab Demon Arm and you’ve got your Slash Demon Arm, and these are at your fingertips at all times. In Darkness 1 it was kind of modal; you’d always be switching between powers and functions to do different things. In Darkness II all of that’s at your fingertips at the same time, so you can be grabbing a car door, slashing a guy with the Demon Arm, shooting two guns through the car door, all at the same time and all within seconds of each other.

LG: How do you plan to engage gamers who’re unfamiliar with either the comic book or the original game?

Sheldon: I think there’s a core fantasy of being a Mob Don. You know, this is two years after the events of the first game, so Jackie is now the Don. So there’s a core fantasy of being a Mob boss and then on top of that is having this demonic power inside of you; I think that’s [a fantasy] that everybody kind of can relate to at some degree. And then on top of that, with the way the core story is of this game that’s so narratively focussed, we’re going to bring players in really quickly; we let them know what the story is of Jackie from the first game. It’s pretty engaging right off the hop and gets you right into the character.

Last Updated: March 4, 2011

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