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Few questions with Guido Henkel (mini-interview) in 15-04-2012

Saturday, 22 December 2012

This series of questions for Guido was originally intended to supplement an article about "Famous people in gaming industry", which included some information about mr. Henkel. You can read that article here. It also features Jon Van Caneghem (Might & Magic) and Peter Molyneux (Populous).

In addition I tried to ask Henkel more about his upcoming game Thorvalla with more planned out interview, once I knew it was in the making, but unfortunately kickstarter campaign didn't succeed, and thus the questions were left unanswered, too.

For those not familiar with Guido Henkel, he is German video game designer, programmer, and developer, as well as composer, musician, and writer. Henkel currently lives in America. He has worked with PC game titles such as Realms of Arkania trilogy, Fallout 2, Planescape Torment, and his own book series called Jason Dark franchise.

I'm going to publish these questions here now as such. I don't consider this as full interview or anything, as it isn't really planned series of questions, but rather, few separate questions I was interested to get answer myself.

The questions were asked in early 2012 based on information I found available of Henkel. More accurately I sent these in 15-04-2012. Whether you want to call this "mini-interview" or random questions for Guido Henkel, here we go:

Tane Norther: I recently read an article in your new blog where you said
that you are musician (which I knew), but also that you played
guitar (which I didn't) - the article also stated that you had
played in heavy metal bands in the 80's. Is this correct, and if
so, can you name any of the bands you played in? Did they ever
release any material, demo, EP? What type of heavy metal did you
play (thrash, heavy, speed, and so on)?

Guido Henkel: Ah yeah, those days. It is correct that I played in a handful
of metal bands during the 80s, but they were really just local
bands, nothing that ever broke out. We recorded a bunch of demo
tapes and had a song on one compilation album, but I don’t even
recall the name of the album. All I remember is that the song
was called “Duel of Wizards,” I believe. It’s all been so long
ago. It is funny, though, how hard it was to get stuff properly
recorded back then. It was an enormously costly process. Today,
anyone can really do it with a computer and $1000 worth of
equipment and software. Same goes for photos. I wish it would
have been easier then because a few pictures and a handful of
songs from one demo tape are all I have left of those days.

We gigged mostly, playing a lot of local venues and during the
time we had the chance to open for bands like Lee Aaron, Uriah
Heep, Talon, Tyran Pace, Grave Digger, Storm Witch and many,
many more.
It was a really fun time and although we were ambitious at the
time, it never really led to anything.

The music we played was very early Iron Maiden inspired at
first, a bit punky and fast with a lot of harmony guitar work.
Later on the bands I played in became more of the LA-style
hair metal bands, mostly riff-oriented with lots of groove. I
used to be a humongous George Lynch fan at the time and somehow
everything I played sounded like a Dokken song, hahaha!

TN: I know you're a writer, but did you write any of the Realms
of Arkania titles storyline or dialogue? I'm asking because I
could not find this in those games credits. If you did, how much
of it?

GH: These games were a large contributive effort and the team was so
varied that many people took on multiple roles. Pretty much all
of our programmers, for example, also designed parts of the game

and wrote tons of dialogue associated with those parts. The same
was true for me.

In the end, we needed to sort of press people into templates to
credit them, regardless of their actual functions or else we
would have wound up repeating everyone’s name about ten times in
the credits. That just seemed superficial to us and we talked to
the team members and decided how they were credited, based on
the field where they did the majority of their work in. You have
to remember that credits were not treated as delicately back
then as they are today, where they are even part of contract
negotiations. As long as your name was in a game you were happy.

TN:  I'm under impression that you composed most of the Realms of
Arkania franchises musical score, how much out of it did you
compose by yourself?

GH: The music for Blade of Destiny was actually composed by Rudi
Stember. Back then I simply had no time to do the music myself
because I was so heavily involved in the programming and design
of the game. After all, back then, Hans-Jürgen Brändle and I
were the only programmers on the project and we only added more
people to the team after the project was well underway.

When we made Star Trail I decided I’d like to give it a shot
and I wrote a few pieces, but it soon turned out that it was a
time-consuming process and that it detracted me from my other
responsibilities, especially because there was a steep learning
curve involved. I had never done these kinds of arrangement and
orchestration before, so I had to learn about the technique and
the technology. Therefore, Horst Weidle, another programmer on
the RoA team offered to contribute some music as well. In the
end it was a 50/50 split. He wrote one half of the music, I
wrote the other half.

I always felt there was a clash of style, though, and a lack of
consistency, so when we made Shadows over Riva, the decision was
made that I would write the entire score. By that time I had
more experience and was ready to go another step further, adding
live instruments to the mix, etc. I was also able to write the
entire score on the side while developing the game, so it took
not nearly as much time as Star Trail, though it still was a
very involving process that had me pull out my hair at times.
I still love the score for Riva, and listen to it occasionally.
Somehow I was able to capture much of the atmosphere I was
looking for, which is not an easy thing to do.

TN: What exactly was your role in Fallout 2?

GH: During the first months of development on Planescape: Torment,
Fallout 2 was in crunch mode. The team was just down the hall
from us, had a set deadline and they required additional
manpower to get done in time. A bunch of guys from the
Planescape team, myself included, jumped in to help with various
tasks. So, for a couple of weeks I was actually doing a lot of
story and NPC scripting on Fallout 2. Once that game was out the
door, we finally had time to go back and focus on Planescape:
Torment again. It was a fun little stint and I loved the game a

TN: You said that you're focusing now into music instead of
games (Note: this was prior to Thorvalla announcement), but how about composing, are you going to compose any
material for any official releases, or are you open for a
contract in case someone offers you a deal for example to
compose soundtrack for computer game?

GH: I think what you are referring to is that some time ago I
decided to go back and start making some music again—and I
posted that on my Facebook, I believe.

I had not touched anything music related in over 10 years, and
I really felt the urge to write some music. So I got back into
regularly practicing the guitar and piano, and I began upgrading
my equipment, which by that time had been horribly outdated.
That was more for my own enjoyment, however, and not something
I considered for professional purposes. I did a few bits and
pieces here and there, but nothing big, really.

TN:  Feel free to share anything about your current state of
career, what are you working with right now (15-04-2012).

GH: During the past three years or so I’ve been writing a lot. I
created and wrote a series of dime novels called the Jason
Dark: Ghost Hunter series. It is a pulpy series of supernatural
mysteries taking place in Victorian England—kind of like
Sherlock Holmes meets Van Helsing. I created elven stories in
the series until I felt that I really wanted to make another
game. So, I sat down and began working on the design of a new
computer RPG, called Thorvalla (Note: which kickstarter campaign unfortunately didn't reach the goal). It is in its early stages still

and I’ve been pulling in some people I worked with on previous
games. We will start a Kickstarter campaign for the game shortly
to raise the funds necessary to actually develop and produce
the game, so the past weeks have seen me very busy with the
preparation for this campaign. I hope it goes well and I hope
everyone who reads this will check out the project, because I’m
really itching to make this game.

-- Thanks for the answers mr.Henkel! I hope that maybe we get to make more planned out interview sometime in the future, in case you return to the gaming business one more time.. all the best.

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