Golem Arise! A Q&A with Chris Gyselinck about Vindictus

Ten Ton Hammer has been eagerly anticipating the action-orientated Vindictus, with its promise of combat mayhem for quite some time.
Ten Ton Hammer has been eagerly anticipating the action-orientated Vindictus, with its promise of combat mayhem for quite some time. To learn more about this free-to-play game, we tracked down Chris Gyselinck, Assistant Producer from Nexon. He agreed to give us our answers after we showed him some of our patented fighting moves!

Ten Ton Hammer: For those who are saying to themselves, “What is Vindictus,” give us a little rundown. What is this game about?

Chris Gyselinck: Well, Vindictus is all about what we like to call ‘brutal elegance.” It’s very fast-paced, action-orientated online MMOG. You have some very brutal attacks and some of the best looking graphics that you’ve ever seen, definitely within the MMOG space. Really, it’s all about the action involved in all of this. A lot of MMOGs and online games have auto-attacking or pointing-and-clicking, push button and wait for it to recharge; this is not that kind of activity at all. You’re controlling every move your character does onscreen and it’s pretty brutal in there. Everything in the environment can be destroyed or picked up and used as a weapon, and that includes the bodies of your enemies after they’ve fallen. You can pick them up and use them to beat up their buddies. I think that those of you who haven’t seen the game are going to be really shocked at how intense and fast-paced a game this is. Also, it’s fun, which is the number one thing. It’s a lot of fun to play, whether you’re trying to solo through a dungeon or getting together with a group of friends. It’s a blast.

vindictus screenshot

TTH: Let’s focus on this combat aspect. Right away, it’s what stands out the most. The combat is very fast and very furious. The combat that I’ve seen from videos is pretty amazing. In most MMOGs, you are given the time to consider what to do next, or at least, you have stuff mapped out in your head what you’re going to do. How does that thought process and planning out your attacks relate to this world of Vindictus? How do you manage your combat in this game?

Chris Gyselinck: Certainly, you’re still going to be thinking about it, but it’s not going to be as methodical a thought process. You’re not going to be given the time to sit and make these long decisions about what you’re going to do. You’re going to have to take it as it comes, which I think is a much more realistic approach. I haven’t been in a lot of swordfights, but I have the feeling that you don’t have the time to stop and think when you’re in one. But you still are making a lot of decisions. There are a lot of combos in the game, there are secondary weapons that can be used like the environment I mentioned earlier, and there’s a lot of different strategies in attacking your opponents. The real trick is being able to think on your feet and make those things happen on the fly without the benefit of waiting for a cooldown period or waiting for your enemy to start their auto-attack.

TTH: How does this relate to the UI? How big is it and what can you do with it? Is there a lot of junk thrown in there or is it very minimalist?

Chris Gyselinck: We made it extremely minimalist, and that was a conscious decision. It’s a very small section of the screen on the top and bottom, and that’s pretty much your UI. We did that because the game looks beautiful and we wanted players to see all of that artwork and immerse themselves into the game as opposed to immersing themselves into menus and submenus, which I think a lot of MMOGs have. In a lot of MMOGs, it’s in the center of their games; all of these windows open and each window has stuff in them. For myself, if I don’t normally play that game, I don’t even notice where the graphics are. If you are playing, you’re probably spending more time looking at your UI than the actual game itself, and it becomes more a game of management of buttons rather than immersing yourself into the world that has been created. I think that by getting rid of a lot of the UI, we still have a UI and still have the important things there; it’s not the center of the focus. You actually focus your attention on what is happening in the game.

TTH: I smiled when you mentioned focusing and managing the buttons. I think that you’re absolutely correct when you say most games are about managing your buttons, focusing on what buttons you need to push to heal your party and such and how it detracts from enjoying the game that is being played on your screen.

Chris Gyselinck: Exactly. You want immersion, where you feel like you’re doing the things that the character does. We made the game so that it’s not button management. If fact, you can play it with a controller as well as a mouse and keyboard. While there is a lot of nuances to the gameplay, it’s also very easy to pick it up and just play it. If you’ve ever played any action game at all, you’ll be to just pick up Vindictus and get into battle and have a good time. Of course, it’s difficult to master and it takes a lot of work to learn all the things that you’re able to do, but as I said, if you’ve ever touched an action game in the last decade, you’ll be able to have some fun with this and get in there right away and enjoy yourself.

TTH: Can you go into a little detail on that it’s difficult to master comment? What are you referring to? What aspects would be difficult to master?

Chris Gyselinck: First of all, like any good game, it becomes more challenging as your progress through the story. As you get stronger, so do your enemies. That, of course, brings a level of difficulty into it. There’s also learning what play style works right for you, what combos work right for you, what secondary weapon works really well for you, and especially what characters work well for you. We’re going to have different characters which, essentially, are the different classes. Of course, as with any game, different players are going to have preferences of which character works best for them.

vindictus screenshot

TTH: Let’s talk about the characters then. How many characters will be in the game at launch?

Chris Gyselinck: Okay. During our beta phase, which is coming up soon, we will be having two characters, Lann and Fiona. Lann is a dual sword wielding speedster kind of character. He’s got a lot of very fast moves with dodges and rollouts, all while utilizing those swords to take down as many enemies as quickly as possible. Fiona is closer to being a tank sort of character. She has a sword and a shield. She’s a little bit slower than Lann, but she’s definitely more powerful than him. We’re going against stereotype in this because you don’t usually see the female character being the stronger one, but I think that it’s cool that this is the case here. Fiona’s play style is more different; she has the shield that is used for blocking, which she does a lot more than Lann does. She also has some really powerful shield bash attacks. There’s definitely a different style of play for those two characters. Those two are what we’re just starting off with. Soon after that, we’ll be adding a third character that a lot of people have already seen at E3. Her character is called Evie, and she’s our mage character. She can do some really cool things; firebolts, magic arrows, and a golem that she can actually create using the entire environment around her. As I mentioned, everything in the environment can be picked up. When she summons a golem, it is actually created using the stones and pillars and things that have fallen to the ground during your battles. It’s a very dynamic, cool feature. We’re very excited about her, and we have other characters that we’ll talk about more in the future. We’re starting with the two, and then adding Evie.

TTH: With Evie, her golem ability is one of the coolest things that I’ve ever seen. I was watching a video and was thinking, "How dynamic is this process?" Are there about a dozen models of golems or are there literally hundreds of variations of golems that you can build based on what’s around you?

Chris Gyselinck: There’s pretty much no limit to the variation of how the golem looks. It is totally built from what is on the ground when it is summoned. While it has a skeleton, if you will, that is always the same; the meat of the golem is different every time. Especially in dungeons where you have totally different backgrounds and types of objects. Even if you create a golem twice in the same room, it won’t be exactly the same because there’s so much for it to pick up and create itself with. It’s pretty cool. We have this one dungeon that is set in this cave where all the monsters have been what I call a “monster barbecue” because they have all this raw meat hanging around on the ground, and sometimes the golem will be made out of that meat as well as tinder from the fire and a piece from a hut that I just smashed. Other times in different dungeons, it might just be boulders or a piece of a pillar. It’s a lot of fun in that you never know exactly what you’re going to get from the golem.

TTH: Sounds awesome. Right now, I can easily imagine players taking screenshots and having contests on who can create the coolest golem.

Chris Gyselinck: Absolutely. That reminds me of a feature in the game that deals with screenshots. We have it built into the game so you can easily take and manage screenshots and videos of the game. They’re features built right into the client. We really think there’s going to be a lot of that player-generated fan art stuff out there once people get their hands on it. There’s so much action going on that every time you play, you’re going to have different things happen, and sometimes you’re going to get this really cool looking things captured with the screenshot. I think players are going to have a lot of fun doing that and having little mini-competitions like who can take the best golem screenshot or maybe the best shot of a gnoll flying off a cliff. I think it’s very cool that the players will have the chance to very easily create their own art from the game.

TTH: Along those lines of the most cinematic things about the game, I was lucky enough to try it out at E3, was when Lann was throwing a spear and it goes into the other point of view. Tell us about that.

Chris Gyselinck: It is really awesome. When you throw a spear, the camera angle will change from the normal third person to a sort-of first person spear point of view, I guess you would call it. It’s a new kind of fps – first person spearing! It’ll seem that the camera is sitting on top of the spear so when you throw it, the camera is going right along with it until it hits the enemy. It’s a really cool effect and fun. Especially if you got a guy really good and he goes flying off a cliff or something. You can feel your blood pressure rise if you get a really good throw in there.

TTH: For sure. It reminds me of the movie trailer for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves a long time ago. That thematic following the arrow as it flew. That’s exactly what it is like.

Chris Gyselinck: Exactly. It’s a lot of fun. I find myself throwing way too many spears and running out of spears before I even get to the battle because I’ll be throwing them at my party members half the time!

TTH: I know our readers are freaking over having to choose from two characters. Does that mean that everybody is going to look the same? How customizable are these two characters?

Chris Gyselinck: They’re extremely customizable. That’s why earlier when I was talking about the characters, I mentioned that they were more like classes because you can customize how they look from their hairstyle to their skin color and their height. I like the fact that height affects your stats to a point. A really tall character is going to have a slightly stronger attack whereas a shorter character is going to be a little more quicker, but not as strong. There’s all kinds of ways you can customize your look. Also, there’s your gear. There’s a huge amount of gear that you can craft in the game and you can even dye it different colors. You can make yourself look very, very unique. There’s been a lot of times in the office where we have a group of four and everybody is playing as Fiona, but we don’t look anything like each other because we’re all outfitted differently, have different hair colors, and maybe different skin colors. If we’re talking about Fiona, we might even have different chest sizes. There’s a lot of customization there, and that’s where the RPG comes in. You really get the chance to make your character your own. Either from the way you look or the skills that you focus on or what gear you’re putting on. You can really tailor the character in a lot of ways. You can make it like yourself or like how you want yourself to look like. You can make it however you want it to be, pretty much.

TTH: Do any of these characters have range attacks? I assume Evie will have ranged attacks, but you said Lann uses two swords and Fiona uses sword and shield.

Chris Gyselinck: For the most part, it’s melee up close, but with their secondary weapons, like the spear we were just talking about, there are some ranged attacks. There’s a chain that works really well if you’re part of a team fighting a boss monster. Some of your teammates can use the chains to help pin down the monster so the other team members can go in and attack. There’s even some small bombs. One that I really like is that you can pick up a mining bomb, so it’s an environmental bomb. You want to throw it towards things that when they blow up, they’ll fall down and crush your enemy. It’s almost an environmental attack, but you use a bomb. Of course, you can pick up anything in the dungeons. So you can pick up a rock and throw it at a guy or pick up his weapon and throw it at him. Or you can use the item as a melee say pick up a rock and smash him over the head with it. There is the ability to have some ranged attacks even with the melee characters, even though they don’t have a ranged ability built in per se.

vindictus screenshot

TTH: You talked about the environment there a little bit. Can you expand upon that? Because that seems to be one of the best parts about the combat system in that it seems that everything is up for grabs. If you can use it as a weapon, it can be used.

Chris Gyselinck: Pretty much, yes. It’s very cool in that it is all very dynamic. As you’re fighting through the dungeon, stuff is going to get smashed, a pillar might be collapsing down into five to ten different pieces and you can pick those pieces up and use them as weapons. It doesn’t have to be something that you’ve destroyed either. One of my personal favorites is that there’s a few dungeons where there’s these, I don’t know if they’re melons or squash, food that lies on the ground. I love to pick those up and smash guys in the face with it, seeing the melon explode all over the place. It’s a little bit of fun for me. I like smashing melons. I’m the Gallagher of Vindictus when I’m doing that! Yeah, anything you see you can use as a weapon. Like I said, the more things you damage, the more things become weapons. On one of the levels, there’s some makeshift huts, so at first, you can’t pick them up because you can’t pick a hut up. But if you smash it, you can pick up the pieces, whether it was part of the roof such as a strut, and use them as a weapon. You can do the same battle twice completely different, and then a third time totally different than the previous two. There are no real limitations, because the only limit is you yourself thinking on what you want to do. I like to beat up a bad guy, then pick him up and beat his friends up with his body. To me, that’s rubbing it in your face using a friend to beat you up.

TTH: How does this affect the combat system? It seems limitless. You said the UI is minimalistic. In previous games, when you wanted to attack, you would press ‘7’ for dual attack. Now , you say you can pick up a body to beat the bad guys with. How does all this relate to the combat system?

Chris Gyselinck: Well, it’s actually pretty intuitive. Let’s break it down to mouse and keyboard settings. You have your typical WASD to move around, and your left click and right click are your light and heavy attacks. Of course, chaining different combinations of those create different combos. The E key is how you pick up anything that you’re close to. Once you pick it up, you still have the left click and right click still acting as a light or heavy swing with whatever object it is. E becomes sort of an auto-aim throw, which throws the object at whoever is in front of you and F to actually aim it. If you’re trying to be a little more accurate, you can aim it with F and then one of the clicks to throw it. So, it’s actually intuitive once you’ve done it once or twice, and even with the minimalist UI, a few commands will pop up when you grab something. So, if you forget about using E or F, you can just glance down to the corner, but it’s not invasive. It’s there, but it doesn’t take up your whole screen and distract from what’s going on.

vindictus screenshot

TTH: What is this game like story-wise? Is it catering to the roleplayer, because it sounds so action-packed, it sounds like something you would see in God of War? What is the target audience? Are we looking at the action-RPGer or roleplaying story-based kind of event here?

Chris Gyselinck: I think that we’re looking at both really because it does have a very deep story and it’s not necessarily a linear do this mission which leads into the next mission like most action games do. There’s definitely a lot more freedom and a lot more customization, and the story also plays out like an RPG. What I think is great is, if you are a traditional RPGer, you’ll definitely be able to get into it and love it and there’ll be things that you recognize there that are a little bit different from most RPGs. On the flip side, if you’re more of an action person who may have never tried an RPG because they seem slow-paced to you, you’ll still be able to love this because the action sequences are much closer to an action game than they are to your traditional RPG. I really think that there’s something for everybody there. The story itself deals with a promise made by the goddess Morrighan that if our heroes can defeat the monsters called the Fomors, then they can get to this promised land. Of course, there’s all these twists and turns that you’ll encounter right from the start to keep you on your toes and involved in the story.

TTH: How difficult is the game then? This is my thought process. When I think of the starting process, I can imagine picking up a dude and beating someone else over the head with him while thinking I’m totally awesome. Later, say I’m in a dungeon facing this fierce dragon, there’s only so many bodies I can throw at him before realizing that it isn’t cutting it. What is the difficulty level here? How does it work?

Chris Gyselinck: It definitely gets more difficult as you go along, and, of course, some of our boss fights can be really challenging and not necessarily recommending that you do on your own. At first, it does let you feel powerful and then it changes and becomes a lot more difficult for the average player. That encourages you to team up with your friends and to come up with strategies amongst each other. Like I mentioned before, there’s the chain that a player can use to subdue the enemy so he can’t attack you while the other players attack. You also have items where you can revive each other if you get knocked unconscious to keep you socially engaged. As for saying how difficult, it is hard to say, but I can say that you can set different difficulty levels (we’re starting with a normal and a hard) and then there’s the system we call the Oath of Honor. When you go into a battle, you try to also accomplish certain side missions, and every battle has different Oaths of Honor that you can accept one at a time. Sometimes, those oaths require you to take on a battle at an insanely stronger, harder level so if you really want to challenge yourself and go for the much more difficult version of it, you can do so. If you do so, you are rewarded with battle points which are used for unlocking further quests in the storyline. I don’t know if I answered correctly your question on how difficult it gets, but I think the point is that it ramps up as you go along and encourages team play, but there are different ways to approach the various dungeons.

TTH: Let’s get into detail then. You said that some of the later bosses, you would need to group up. Can you tell us what you can solo? How much of the game can I play just by myself?

Chris Gyselinck: In theory, you could try to play all of it. As someone who likes to play solo from time to time, I have gone through quite a bit of it solo. Some of it is just brutal, and if you just want to solo, I think that you’re missing out on  a lot of the fun of playing with other players, but if you want to remain solo, you’re going to have to realize that you’re going to have to grind your character up a bit so they’ll be able to face these enemies. It’ll take you longer to get to that point as opposed to grouping. There are dungeons that you can solo, especially towards the beginning of the game and there are dungeons that have the Oath of Honor of trying to run it solo. So, there are times when it is encouraged to give soloing a shot. I do think that the game caters to whatever player you want to be, but certainly the most fun is to gather a group of friends together and go on as a party.

TTH: You mentioned the two modes, normal and hard. Are the rewards different for each? Are you encouraged to do the hard mode?

Chris Gyselinck: Normally, it’s about the experience points. In the hard mode, there’s going to be more mobs that are slightly stronger, so you’ll be getting more experience killing more mobs. In the future, we’re talking about possibly introducing a hero mode, which would have some differences in the item drops. That’s a little bit down the road so we can’t go into any real detail on that. For now, the difference between normal and hard is the experience, as well as the challenge and the fun. You can feel very accomplished taking out a whole dungeon of really tough monsters. It can be a lot of fun and very fast paced.

TTH: How many people can go into a group? If I’m going into a dungeon, how many people can I bring with me?

Chris Gyselinck: For most dungeons, you can take four. There are a few raid dungeons where you can take eight, but the average dungeon is four players together.

TTH: Let’s get into detail with the character customization then. Is anybody going to be a healer? How do those characters you take work? What about the holy trinity of MMOGs of tank, healer, and DPS?

Chris Gyselinck: First of all, while there is a little bit of that holy trinity, it’s not quite the same as your average MMOG. I think the reason for that is that this is more of an action based game so it has a different dynamic to begin with. We really don’t have a healer class in the initial two characters, but they do have items that they can use to help heal each other. The first thing that comes to mind is the Phoenix Feather, which is a resurrection feather. If you get knocked down, your team members can use this item to revive you and get you back into the fight. There are other items that you can also use to help each other. The character Evie, that we’ll be introducing later, does have the ability to cast some healing spells if that’s where you choose to focus your energies, so you can essentially turn her into a healer. As for Lann and Fiona, they’re more about the attack than they are about the helping.

vindictus screenshot

TTH: Let’s say I’m in a group and we’re all Fionas. How will we be able to achieve our goals?

Chris Gyselinck: That’s a good question. It’s all about how you set your character up. You have a huge amount of skills that you can learn throughout the game and that you can train up. First of all, your character build up is what skills you’ve decided to focus on are going to make you a little more unique than the other Fionas, so to speak. Then there’s your weapon selection, and different weapons have different strengths. She can focus on sword and shield. Later on, she can learn how to use a hammer, which is a much more different experience than using a sword. Then there’s your secondary weapons. You could each be equipped with different secondary weapons, each which has a different purpose and strength to them. Then, of course, it’s all about your individual play style. What combos you like to use, are you someone who prefers to use the grab attacks to do some wrestling move, or are you someone who wants to dart in quickly and then pull back while blocking with your shield? Everybody is going to have their own play style. I think because the game is so fast paced that it becomes a lot more varied because instead of being a person whose play style is based on hitting 1, then 3, and then 5, it’s a bit more involved with the twitch factor as they call it in first person shooters. Your play style is determined by what’s happening in the moment. I think that there’s a lot of variety. We often have people in the office playing the same character, but you can see the differences between them.

TTH: I don’t want to put you on the spot, but I think I am. Imagine you and I have both leveled a Fiona character choosing different skills and gear. Can you explain to our readers how they would be different?

Chris Gyselinck: There’s definitely huge differences in the skills because there are a lot of skills available, and there’s no way that one player is going to be able to get all those skills, unless you do nothing else with your life. The way you learn skills is that you buy skill books from one of the in-game NPCs. Once you have the book, you can learn the skill. Then there are several levels to which you can level the skill up. You use points that you accumulate in battle to level up those individual skills. The chances of two people going through the game, unless they intentionally do it, I don’t see it very likely that they’re going to have the exact same skills at the same levels.

Some of the differences that I can think of is that with Lann, he can focus on two swords or he can start to focus on two spears, which creates completely different combos and completely different moves because they’re two different weapons, despite the fact that you’re using twin weapons with the same character. With Fiona, you can focus on hammers or swords. That’s a very basic way that I can show some differences. As you play through and strengthen up different things, it’s going to change the way your character behaves.

There are also special moves. Of course, different people are going to gravitate towards different special moves. Each character can have a couple of those active at any given time. Some of those are buffs either to yourself or to your party, some of those are straight up attacks, and some are defensive moves. I think that as you play, the character is going to evolve on their own based on how the player focuses their energies.

TTH: One of the questions we have is about microtransactions. A lot of games now have microtransactions. What kind of items will be offered in the Vindictus microtransaction store?

Chris Gyselinck: By asking that question, you reminded me of the most important thing that I could have mentioned during your first question which I totally forgot to mention, which is that Vindictus is totally free-to-play. There’s no initial cost to play, there’s no subscription fee, and you can go from the very beginning to the very end-game content without ever paying a dime. We will have some microtransactions. We haven’t announced what items will be available, but I can give you that the basic overview is that it will be mostly cosmetic with some small items of convenience, but no items that are game breaking. By paying money, you’re not going to have a major advantage over somebody who doesn’t. You’re going to be able to have a cooler looking outfit, or maybe you’ll be able to buy some health potions. Like I said, these are just examples. We haven’t settled on what we’ll finally be offering for sale. Our philosophy is that we want it to be fun and accessible to everybody, whether they have a million dollars or none. We want everybody who has access to a PC online to be able to play the game, and then, of course, for certain people, we would like to offer the option to make their character a certain way for a small fee or get some item of convenience.

vindictus screenshot

TTH: We know that the game has already launched in Korea under a different title. From our understanding, you’re bringing it to the Western market as well as updating it for a Western audience. Will that carry over to the microtransaction store where different items will be offered in the West as compared to the East?

Chris Gyselinck: Like I said, we haven’t fully finalized our commercialization plan, but I would say that it won’t be completely different, but it will be different. We’re not just copying and pasting, so to speak, when it comes to bringing this game over here. We are definitely developing it for a new audience, and keeping some of the things that we think work and changing some of the things that we think don’t. We’ve worked with the music to kind of get the Western view, so to speak. We flew the developers out of Korea to be a part of that, and get their reaction to seeing how people in the West reacted after playing the game for the first time. We work with our developer, devCAT, in Korea every single day. It’s actually a neat relationship because with them being in Korea and us being in Los Angeles, the way the time difference is makes it seems that somebody is always working on this game 24 hours a day. Their day basically starts at 4pm of our day, so at the end of the day, we’re able to share notes with them and maybe we do a video conference. Then they can get working on whatever we’re working on at that time, and when we come in the morning, we have their progress waiting for us. It’s a really cool symbiotic relationship going on. In terms of our cash shop, we don’t know exactly what we’re going to be using, but there will be a look at what makes sense here in the USA and what doesn’t.

TTH: What one thing do you want people to take away or experience when they first play Vindictus?

Chris Gyselinck: I want them to have the same reaction that I had when I first saw it, which was, “Holy crap, this is awesome!” It’s addictively fun. What I love is talking to people in the press after they’ve had a chance to play it because they get to play just about everything. I haven’t had a negative comment yet from somebody in the press. In fact, it’s always this positive, almost giddy young kid kind of reaction once they get their hands on it because it’s fun. At the end of the day, that’s what games are about.

Listen to Ten Ton Hammer's interview with Nexon's Chris Gyselinck.

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