Castlevania’s producer talks about morality and Dracula’s rebirth

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 concludes the story of Gabriel Belmont, the one time champion of light whose story has now spanned three games. If you haven’t played 2010’s Lords of Shadow game (or the 3DS follow-up Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate) , bail out now because there are spoilers a’plenty coming regarding the fate of Gabriel and where he begins when the sequel starts.

You’ve been warned.

Technically, Gabriel Belmont’s story ended with the finale of the first Lords of Shadow game. Gabriel faced off against Satan and paid a heavy price for his victory. In what is probably the biggest twist in the franchise’s storied history, Gabriel became Dracula, the enemy of nearly every previous Castlevania game.

We spoke with the game’s producer Dave Cox about the twist, including how far back the developers planned the story. We also discussed the possibility of a film version, the decision to stick with current gen, and the question of morality.

What makes Dracula so enduring?

I think because he is a dangerous, predatory character. I think people like those kinds of characters and because he is a supernatural creature there is a mystery that spikes people curiosity. Our depiction of Dracula is very much playing on those elements but we also present a human side to the character.

We show he is still able to love and to show forgiveness, we show he is full of sadness and rage too. I think this will make our depiction of the character interesting I hope and present Dracula unlike any we have really seen before.

Gorgon Dental CareWhat was the thought process in making Gabriel into Dracula rather than a new vampire? Was it partly name recognition, or was there more to it?

“We wanted to show the players what was in our mind about the end of Dracula’s story.”

We wanted to focus on the main boss character in all Castlevania games since its inception. This character only ever popped up at the end of each game and you as the player would try to defeat him. No one had ever really developed the character beyond that. We decided to tell his story, who is he, how did he come to be, why does he have this blood feud with the Belmont’s etc. This was the starting point in developing the Lords of Shadow series.

Castlevania is a very global series, with origins around the world and in multiple cultures. Does that factor into the design process?

Yes because the series has many different types of iteration over the years different people appreciate different things about the series. We have used the original concept as a guide and we always refer to those 8 bit games as our core inspiration but we do take elements of all the games that have appeared in the series where necessary. We are always conscious that we don’t stray too far from the path but we like to try new stuff and you’ll certainly see new things in this game.

Harryhausen ForeverThe game builds directly on the story of the first game. When you first started planning out the original Lords of Shadow, how far ahead were you thinking in terms of story?

We knew the main arc of the story but much of the detail was still to be determined. As we got into the main development of Lords of Shadow, we started to ask the questions about where this would go. We added the epilogue to the first game for that very reason.

We wanted to show the players what was in our mind about the end of Dracula’s story. Of course, this got a lot of people excited and the first game went onto become the most successful Castlevania game ever released in the series history and so we are in the fortunate position of being able to finally finish our story.

How does this game tie into the larger Castlevania series?

It doesn’t. This series is an alternate universe. You might compare it to Marvels Ultimate’s series where they did new origins for established characters set in an alternate universe. Of course, we do feature characters, monsters and lots of homage’s to the old series but you need to think of the Lords of Shadow series as separate.

Hiding from CarmillaWhat was Robert Carlyle’s involvement? How much input did he have?

Robert got on board at the very beginning of the development process. On Castlevania: Lords of Shadow he recorded his voice before anyone else and even before we had visuals for him to look at. It must have been very difficult for him to imagine the character and the world he was in but he did an amazing job nevertheless. He was very specific about certain things he wanted to try and often he would do as we asked and then give us alternative takes based on his own feelings on the character. Suffice to say we almost always used his interpretation.

Robert also has been very supportive of the project and made himself available to us whenever he could and has always gone out of his way to help us. We are all very grateful for his amazing contribution to the game. Robert Carlyle IS Dracula! I should also point out he is an absolute gentleman to work with, friendly approachable and always has idea’s to offer.

What about Patrick Stewart?

Patrick also was involved in the project from the beginning. Similar to Robert he has delivered his work with utmost professionalism and his years of experience gave the role of Zobek the authority and command it needed. Patrick’s involvement hasn’t been as deep as Robert’s but he has given us some fantastic advice and insights on ways we could improve the performance and depiction of the character.

Castle ShopWith this level of Hollywood talent involved, it begs the question: any plans to adapt Castlevania for the big screen?

I’d definitely be up for it. I think Mexican film director Guillermo Del Toro would be the only man who could do it justice on the big screen though!

Why not revamp this game for next-gen?

“Our Dracula is a morally questionable character who is capable of great good and great evil”

We did consider it but as we were so far down the line in terms of development, we didn’t want to take two steps back and delay the game and stretch the team in order to deliver a next gen version. We also felt that it was fitting that the game and series would begin and end on PS3 and Xbox360.

There’s already been a bit of controversy regarding a first-person blood sucking scene involving Dracula attacking a defenseless woman that made some people uncomfortable. What is the intention of that scene?

The intention of the scene is to remind the player that they are controlling an evil blood sucking creature. It’s placement in the game is meant to solicit feelings of being uncomfortable. Up to this point, you’ve been playing a very powerful character who destroys a whole army laying siege to his Castle. You wake up hundreds of years later weakened and withered and you need to feed. It’s this scene that really reinforces the vampiric aspect of the character.

Our Dracula is a morally questionable character who is capable of great good and great evil and this scene demonstrates the evil side very powerfully. When you play the whole game you will see a character that is very nuanced and interesting. It is not a sexually motivated scene at all and I think the journalist in question misinterpreted and misrepresented our intention in regard to that scene. I think most people who see and play the scene will see that too.

Belmonts RevengeIn the game Dracula battles Satan, making the vampire the lesser of two evils, and almost the “good guy.” Was that always the plan, or did you consider making the player control an unredeemable character?

Satan is there because he intends to take over the world and for payback on his defeat by Gabriel’s hands at the end of the first Lords of Shadow game. It’s was always our intention that he would return. Dracula isn’t looking for redemption. He is looking for the true death that only Zobek can deliver and so he makes a pact with him to save the World again but it’s for purely selfish reasons.

What happens to the series after this game? Are you thinking that far ahead?

We always saw the series as a torch being passed to us and we always knew that one day, we would pass that torch on. What happens now is for others to decide. We have told our story and now we want to move onto other things. I do know that Castlevania will never die because the fans won’t let it. So whoever comes next certainly has our blessing and support in whatever direction they choose to take the series.

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