Interview – Gabriel Dobrev and Bisser Dyankov Tell us About the Victor Vran Development
Haemimont Games’ highly acclaimed title Victor Vran will soon be bursting onto the console scene and bringing its hordes of demonic seed with it. In the race up to the early 2017 release of Victor Vran: Overkill Edition, I caught up with Haemimont’s CEO, Gabriel Dobrev, and Producer Bisser Dyankov, about the work that went into creating the game, the features of the game, and the delays of the expansions.
Both Gabriel and Bisser spoke during a presentation of the Victor Vran game, reiterating the sentimental attachment they have for the game and this was clear to see as I sat down with the two, both men looking content as they looked at the television emitting Victor Vran slaying demons – a culmination of everything the small team of 60 or so had worked to create.
I began the interview with the dreaded question: ‘Which games did you take inspiration from?’ A classic interview pitfall perhaps – but Gabriel simply hummed and considered the question; ‘wow – it’s a difficult one. I think you can see how we’ve’been influenced from contemporary RPGs like DOTA and League of Legends with the customisation aspects. And I think the narrator is partly influenced by The Stanley Parable.’ At this point, Bisser laughed a little and saying that ‘the narrator is definitely influenced from Bastion.’
You can see these influences partially in the game. However, as any good creative will do – Haemimont have not just appropriated these bits and pieces that they saw in other games, they’ve done the hard work – finding the things they like and reworking them into different entities to suit the world that they’ve built.
The conversation shifts here, I asked them about the team that they put together when creating the game, with Doug Cockle (best known for his role as Geralt in Witcher 3) providing the voice acting for Victor Vran, and George
“I felt like a kid in a chocolate factory. All the musicians were great, after twenty minutes all of them were able to play the song perfectly, it was crazy.”
Stranov provided the original score for the game. ‘So, you managed to put together something of a dream team, how did you find it?’ Gabriel seemed more comfortable with this question, nodding enthusiastically before saying ‘Well we knew we wanted our own music for the game and after some discussion, we got in contact with George. We didn’t really know if it would work or not but after some time we finally had our first track “A New Approach Seven” – there were iterations and iterations and we finally made it something that we like and fits with the game. It became a lot easier after we nailed the main theme as everything that followed grouped around that original theme.’
Gabriel went on to explain how ‘Once we were happy we got to record with the Sofia Session Orchestra. This was an amazing experience – I felt like a kid in a chocolate factory. All the musicians were great, after twenty minutes all of them were able to play the song perfectly, it was crazy. Forty people with different instruments playing together – it was crazy and I think that it makes the music more dynamic because of that.’
“The Fractured Worlds is well related to what we all face in our inner-fear and past.”
Bisser; smiling constantly throughout the interview as he watched Gabriel play bits of Victor Vran intermittently, was the Lead Designer for the Fractured Worlds DLC. The expansion sees Victor searching for a way to undo what mistakes he has made in his life, this sense of redemption was a seemingly important for Bisser who said that ‘I’ve always had a strong feeling towards the game. It takes Victor’s story in a different direction. While the other stories have been how Victor helps around and experiences the city and the monsters. The Fractured Worlds is well related to what we all face in our inner fear and past.’ Bisser laughed after this and said that he didn’t want to say anything else in case he spoiled the story.
Gabriel and Bisser went on to speak about some of the difficulties of the DLC, namely the randomly generated dungeons. Bisser commented that the main issue was ‘to find a story that fits endless content, that was a challenge but the whole theme of the story fits in well with this recreating worlds that Victor goes through.’ Gabriel also pointed out that something the team was steadfast on achieving was incorporating multiplayer into the DLC. ‘We also had a little bit of a challenge and of course, we want people to play multiplayer on these. So the problem was about making sure the levels were the same for everyone yet still being new and individual – so we decided on the daily creation of dungeons, it’s the same for everyone but it’s always offering something different.’ It was clear that both were happy about the final version of the DLC as the whole team have pulled off something incredibly difficult in creating a story arc that is able to implement randomly generated levels without it being a gimmick.
“They’re singing about so many themes that are explored in the game you know? Religion, politics, they’re talking about greed and this is representative of the game.”
The Overkill Edition also offers players the Motörhead: Through the Ages DLC – an expansion that both Gabriel and Bisser were keen to talk about. When I initially heard about the idea I assumed it was going to be a few new enemies, maybe a couple of songs, and probably a new outfit, as is the case with most hybrids of game and film or music concepts. However, Gabriel explained that the concept was one that the team took a great deal of care with and Gabriel explained that it ‘was possible to work because the music matched up with the game. So from there, we knew it was something we could do. The difficulty was listening to the lyrics and everything that they had and create the world specifically for Motörhead – if you change the song or the band it just doesn’t work. They’re singing about so many themes that are explored in the game you know? Religion, politics, they’re talking about greed and this is representative of the game.’
Bisser picked it up from here immediately, explaining how ‘playing the game and listening to the music was a lot of fun. But when you find ways to infuse the two together and explore the themes and metaphors you begin to see a lot of similarities – which is great because it allowed us to bridge the gap between the music and the game. So within all this stuff from Motorhead was a coherent story for the world we’ve created in the game’.
Whilst the two ideas do seem to pair up well, both Gabriel and Bisser were aware of the backlash the game could’ve suffered if the idea didn’t work well. Bisser noted that ‘from the beginning when we started on the main game, we knew it was a leap of faith, and we initially wanted Victor, in the main game, to discover a portal to other worlds and dimensions or whatever. We wanted to have the ability to introduce new platforms, new visuals and new experiences to the existing world and the Motorhead DLC gave us a legitimate reason to do this’.
Whilst Gabriel and Bisser were happy with the final iterations of both expansions, they acknowledged the difficulties that were present throughout the development period. Both Fractured Worlds and Motorhead: Through the Ages were initially announced back in 2015, I asked Bisser how the games had changed since their original announcement to which his eyes widened for a moment, a smile crept onto his face and he said ‘Right now I don’t have clear idea of what the DLCs were two years ago, all I know is that there was constant development going on – it’s been a journey’ he laughed. Gabriel expanded on the delays further; explaining that ‘we’ve been in constant development, whether it be tweaking things or introducing new ideas. We struggled in some aspects you know? I mean, it’s a randomly generated world! How do you come up with a story for that?’.
But come up with a story they did. The time that the delays afforded the team were necessary however, as Gabriel explained it was a case of doing the game right or nothing; saying ‘It was hard to go through the whole process, there were times that we had to make tough decisions on things that would take a lot of time to finish but we wanted to stay true to our principles and there’s no quick way of doing things when you’re linked to the game so heavily, meanwhile we were constantly updating the game as well which took a lot of time for the development team’.
Much like I began the interview with a difficult question, it seems that I finished with one as well, asking the pair if fans can expect another Victor Vran game in the future. Gabriel and Bisser shared a look, they’re happy with the monumental amount of content they’ve managed to create for the game and they’re understandably tired, Gabriel chuckled a little saying explaining ‘well we’ve just announced the two expansions, they’re taking the game in two very different directions and we want to see the reactions of players first before we plan anything else’.