Like the lucky bastards we were, Joel, Al, Rob and myself got to privilege to shake hands and speak with Joe Madureira and discuss details about Vigil Games’ first game, Darksiders. Mad was an amazing individual. I’m not just saying this because I love his work, I’m saying this because he’s seriously just a cool dude. I have yet to wash my right hand, people. And I won’t be doing it for a couple of months, or at least until I see my right hand manifested in fungus and smelling like steamed cabbage.
After shaking his hands, I spew out the whole, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, dude. I’m a huge fan.” thing. Mad laughs, shakes my hand, and asks me if that’s why I was blushing. Unfortunately, I suffer from rosacea and Mad wasn’t aware of this, not to mention that it was cold as hell outside. I wasn’t offended. In fact, I was happy that Mad actually took the time to slam me. I can actually use that as a means to make Mad fans jealous. After shaking his hand, Joel and Al sat in front of him, I stood behind them like a Latin Sasquatch, Rob worked his magic with the camera, and Mad cracked a couple of jokes referencing dead bodies he had stored somewhere. We all laughed, Joel popped out the recorder, I began sniffing and caressing the hand that Mad shook, quietly hushing it for no reason, and the interview began.
DualShockers: What gave you and Haydn Dalton the idea to create a game based on the four horsemen of the apocalypse?
Joe Madureira: Uh, well, basically when we founded Vigil, we were trying to come with something that we wanted to do, like an action/adventure. We were very influenced by games like Zelda starting out, but we were like what if it appealed to an older audience and had more mature themes and stuff like that, and at the same time we felt like publishers wouldn’t really react well to like a fantasy game, even though we loved fantasy, that’s what we love. We kind of were like, what if the game took place on Earth but we kind of turned Earth into a fantasy world and then we started thinking about angels and demons and destroying humanity, the apocalypse, the four horsemen; it’s all really cool themes that get people excited and, you know, out of all the ideas we were throwing around, that was the one everyone kept saying, “We gotta make this!” Usually, our rule is if we don’t get excited about it, other people won’t. So, we really just focus on what we get excited making and just go into it. Laughs And that’s what we were into at the time, man.
DualShockers: One thing we could say, even seeing the demo right now, everyone’s made comparisons to like God of War and Devil May Crywith the strong emphasis on combos, gameplay, etc. How would you say Darksiders differentiates itself from those titles?
Joe Madureira: Well, the biggest difference really is under the surface because it really is an adventure game, it isn’t a linear action game. If you play God of War or Devil May Cry – and they’re awesome games – once you advance the story that’s basically the point you’re at. It’s like a checkpoint, you don’t really ever go back. This is structured more like if you played any kind of Metroid, or any kind of Zelda, even the 2D ones, you know that you start off unable to really do very much, or go many places and as you get new abilities and stuff, “Oh, this bomb unlocks these kinds of walls,” Our world gets bigger and bigger as you progress ’cause War gets more powerful, he gets abilities that lets him explore areas. When you get your horse later on, Ruin is his name, you can go to areas that you couldn’t go on foot originally, so that changes the game quite a bit – you can fight from horseback. And I don’t think that Kratos can pick up cars and throw them at people. Laughs I’m pretty sure. I’m honored to be compared to games like that, they’re really great games. But I think our focus on making the combat look really cinematic and over the top kind of through the essence of that category even though there really is a lot more exploration and adventure. You can swim, you can climb and swing around – there’s stuff that you’re not really seeing in a lot of the videos that we’ve released.
DualShockers: We know that the game starts off with the protagonist War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Will the other three horsemen be playable characters as well? And can we expect multiplayer?
Joe Madureira: The other horsemen are not playable in the first one, we really focus the story on War. He’s kind of like paving the way for the other guys.
DualShockers: We love how you said “the first one”. Everyone laughs
Joe Madureira: Obviously it’s coming, man. If we get to make a sequel we’re definitely gonna push that. I mean, honestly, we wanted to have all four playable in the first one; it was just way too big, we were biting off a lot. We’re a small studio, you know, just starting up. Four player co-op with the four horsemen, come on, obviously, we gotta do it at some point… Laughsand there is no multiplayer. It’s just a single-player adventure.
DualShockers: Any online leader-boards? Anything of that nature?
Joe Madureira: Um, that is something we’re discussing right now.
DualShockers: Any plans for a public demo?
Joe Madureira: There were plans for a demo. But, it’s getting pretty close to release time and, yea, that’s out of my hands – that’s more of a THQ thing.
DualShockers: Are there any plans for a PC version at all? We do know that it’s coming to both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360.
Joe Madureira: You know, they’re talking about it. I’m sure a PC version will drop at some point, but it won’t be until months of the initial launch.
DualShockers: We know you’re not on the technical side of things, and we’re not a site that likes to promote which console games look better on, but we do ask if there was a lead development platform? Because if you know the history lately, everyone’s like “Sony’s so hard to develop for…” and so on and so forth.
Joe Madureira: We started on the 360 first, but not by much. A lot of the game was being developed concurrently, so, you know, there was spurts where we did favor one over the other if we ran into some problems. But, obviously, the 360 was a little easier to develop for.
DualShockers: Do you guys have a North American release date? We do know that there is a PAL release date of January 21st, 2010.
Joe Madureira: It’s the first week of January. I believe January 5th or something. So just return your bad Christmas games and get this one instead. Laughs
DualShockers: How long did it take you to flesh out these characters from the game? Months? Weeks? Days?
Joe Madureira: I’ve banged out some of them in like a day. But some of them take a while. We’ve been working on War for years like on and off. He’s changed his looks so many times… he had no hood, then he had a hood. He had no hair, then he had hair. His sword changed, his armor changed twice…
DualShockers: Being that you’re coming from a comic book background and it’s all about characters and all, did you come up with War first and then decide to take the plunge into game development?
Joe Madureira: This was just specifically for the game. We knew the game we wanted to make before we had the character of War.
DualShockers: Is there anything you do to pump yourself up before drawing? Do you put some music on, like some Barry Manilow and rock out to some “Copa Cabana,” meditate, or anything along these lines?
Joe Madureira: LaughsI do some karaoke. Nah, I’m just kidding. I throw on some hip-hop… rap music… violent rap music , things like NWA, 2Pac. I’m only half-joking. I do listen to it while I’m working. I don’t really psych myself up. Sometimes I’ll look at art books, though. You know, just like other people’s art – gets me all excited about drawing.
DualShockers: Who’s your biggest influence?
Joe Madureira: My biggest influence? Oh, man, this changes like every day. Right now, I look at work by this painter Paul Bonner. He does a lot of fantasy stuff like trolls and goblins, and s*** like that. His stuff just makes me want to draw. I can’t even explain it. Check it out. Paul Bonner.
DualShockers: One last question just to wrap things up, and it’s not really game related it’s more like for your art and what you do. We grew up looking at your drawings, and this is more of a comic book question, where do you think this is headed now? With everything going digital, do you see yourself working more with games, are you going to abandon comics or just stick specifically to game development? Do you see yourself doing one thing more than the other?
Joe Madureira: Yea. I mean, my plans is definitely to focus more on games. I’ve got so much stuff to do it’s going to keep me busy for years to come. Comics? I still love comics and I hope to get to it at some point… but for now, it’s just games for sure.
DualShockers: Joe, thanks a lot, dude.
Joe Madureira: Anytime, guys.
With that, we each shook Mad’s hand, packed our stuff, and walked out the door. I stopped for a moment, looked back, and realized that I had just spoken with one of my heroes. A tear rolled down my left cheek, I waved goodbye to the unresponsive Joe Madureira, and the door closed behind me, sealing my dreams and any opportunity I had to, once again, admire the dude that inspired me growing up. Ok, ok. It wasn’t this dramatic. But it was a great experience, nonetheless.