October 10, 2012

Björn Pankratz, Project Director at Piranha Bytes

The Gamescom exhibition in Cologne has announced a number of the games that we know and love and the second installation in the Risen series, Risen 2: Dark Waters, was one of them. Announced at Gamescom 2010, the single-player action RPG was released earlier this year for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Curious as ever and intrigued by the process that goes into game development, we asked Björn Pankratz, Project Director at Piranha Bytes about the making of Risen 2.

Björn Pankratz, Project Director at Piranha Bytes1. What was the initial concept behind Risen? Was it a concept that you came up with at a drawing board meeting or something that was in the making over the years?

Building a game like Risen is a process. There are many relevant factors to it. At the beginning of the design phase, everyone is free to contribute their ideas and several meetings eventually lead to the creation of a rough concept. Ideas are one of the things we never lack – also, there is plenty of inspiration in movies, books and the question “what are the things we always wanted to see in a game?”

2. As a developer what factors do you consider when choosing a platform from which to launch your games such as PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 and furthermore how do you decide which graphical technologies to take advantage of i.e DirectX 9 or 11?

We have been a PC developer from the very beginning, so the PC remains our main platform. With the Xbox 360 being very similar to the PC, considering a console version of Risen was an obvious choice. Many players now prefer to play our games on consoles, which is why we decided to make Risen 2 available for the PS3 as well. In both cases, the console version was created by an external team, since our own expertise is concentrated on PC development.
As for new technologies, we always need to consider whether they can be implemented at a realistic cost and time, and whether they are worth the investment. For each project there generally are some innovations we decide to implement and a few we have to drop.

3. The choices in Risen do not follow the traditional good and bad methodology, in fact much of the time the player is forced to make a choice that falls into a moral gray area, much like ‘The Witcher’. What influenced this decision?

We designed the decisions in Risen – especially those made during dialogue – based on situations one would encounter in real life. We think about what the player in front of the screen themselves would possibly like to respond, and offer them that possibility.
An anti-hero with clear vices and virtues can be a strong means of identification for the player, as opposed to a clichéd shining hero or an implausible villain.

4. Do you have any plans to release any expansions for Risen 2?

We can’t yet talk about what will be next.

6. When designing the landscapes, weapons and characters of the game where do you draw your inspiration from?

Our inspiration is basically taken from everywhere. Older and newer movies as well as classics, comics, the internet and even just chats with colleagues and other artists come together to form a foundation. We then discuss those ideas to agree on a style and color palette, for example for a certain guild, and weave that style into characters, items, clothes and architecture.

7. Are there any parts of Risen or Risen 2 that particularly stand out for you? What are your best bits?

The gnomes are extremely popular. They have become exactly what we wanted them to be in terms of design and implementation. As for memorable moments – I am sure each player will find their own!

To coin­cide with our inter­view with Björn Pankratz, Project Direc­tor at Piranha Bytes, our friends at Koch Media have given us 5 Xbox and PS3 promo copies of Risen 2: Dark Waters to giveaway! Please click here for your chance to win!


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