Night Watch Interview

Night Watch Interview

Written by Charles Husemann on 5/24/2006 for
More On: Night Watch

One of the more interesting movies to hit US screens last year was the Russian fantasy/thriller movie Night Watch.  The movie follows the path of Anton Gorodetsky, a Russian man who discovers an age old war between two groups of Others, the light and the dark.  The Others are a group of humans who can perform powerful magic, change their shape, and harness the power of the Gloom, a mystical force that exists just outside of reality.    A truce was forged between the two that neither group could force a newly discovered Other into the light or the dark.  The movie was heavy on style, imagery, and even had a few decent plot twists thrown in for good measure.   The folks at Nival Interactive are currently working on a game based on the movie and we had the chance to ask a few questions about the game.

GamingNexus: Can you introduce yourself and describe your role on the project?  How long have you been in the gaming industry and how did you get started in the industry?

Hi, my name is Dmitri “Zak” Zakharov, I am the Head of the PC Development Department in Nival Interactive. Our department helped CDV with the release of the English version of Night Watch and with localization it to the other languages. I’ve been in the game development industry for over 15 years now, and the last 8 of them I have been at Nival Interactive.

GamingNexus: Will the game follow the plot of the movie or will it just occur in the same world as the movie?  Will you be running into the characters from the movie? 

Dmitri Zakharov: The game features its own story and it overlaps with components of the film. One of the features of the Night Watch game is the new and exciting story that allows players to interact with the characters that they know from the film. We felt that if we made a game based on the story shown in the movie, it not be that interesting and especially not surprising as everything is already known in advance. So we created our own story in cooperation with Sergey Lukyanenko, author of the book and creator of the Watches universe. The game delves into the the Night Watch universe where you will meet Gesser, the head of Night Watch, Olga, his lover and a powerful Light mage, Tigra who will be joining your team for certain missions, Zavulon, the head of Day Watch, and  the evil Alice, one of the witches of Day Watch and Zavulon’s lover. You will also meet new characters, one of them, Stas, will be the Main hero of the game.   

GamingNexus: Night Watch is the first in a trilogy of movies.  Where in the timeline will the game take place?

Dmitri Zakharov: The events of the game take place in the same universe as the events of the movie, but it’s another story. So to consider the movie’s timeline, the game story falls after the movie, probably, before the second movie, and some references to the movie’s plot show that.

GamingNexus: One of the great things about Night Watch was the unique art style and the strong visual imagery.  Are you going to try and bring that same style to the game or are you going to do something different?  What kind of issues are you running into trying to adapt that look to the game?

Dmitri Zakharov: The movie definitely featured its own visual style which we feel was one of the main reasons for its success. However, in our visualization of the Watches universes Nival Interactive focused on the magic attributes of the Others’ lives and surroundings. For example, the Gloom – that Other layer of reality filled with magic where Others fight using their special abilities. In the movie, the Gloom was the dark combat area filled with mosquitoes and the audience was exposed to deep emotions of the actors. In the game the Gloom is represented more in Lukyanenko’s style – a powerful substance that exists parallel to our world. The Gloom strengthens the power of the Others while draining the player’s magic energy (or if none left, the vital energy). The more time you spend in the Gloom, the more energy you lose. So in the game we tried to present the Gloom as powerful and meaningful as it is in the universe of Others, basing our visualization on the descriptions in the books. The Gloom transforms the appearance of our world, making it all colorless and sluggish.

We also paid close attention to the spells. The movie characters did not use them very much, despite magic power being the main difference between Others and common people. And while the director of the movie tried to show his characters in real life, we are trying to let the player feel the power of an Other. J The game features over 70 spells and special abilities and we made them vivid and colorful with amazing magical effects!

Other than that the style of the game is close to the visual style of the movie – for instance, the action takes place in winter so the landscapes would have the some general coloring as the movie. The locations are done in the realistic style, also referencing to the movie.

GamingNexus: One of the central themes of the movie is that the Others get to choose between the Light and the Dark, will gamers get to make that choice in the game? 

Dmitri Zakharov: No, as the game called Night Watch, the player is on Night Watch duty and he protects the case of Light. However, this choice is important for Others and we paid attention to it in our story. But we suggest you find out the details by yourself when you play the game. No spoilers here.

GamingNexus: Can you talk about the three different “classes” for your character?  Can you talk about some of the powers that will be available in the game?  How will the powers evolve throughout the game?  Do you have a favorite power?

Dmitri Zakharov: We define the genre of the game as a “tactical RPG” so just like in any classic RPG the player chooses a class for the character and earns new abilities through experience.

In the first mission, the player chooses his class. The Shapeshifter can turn into a strong combat animal, like a tiger or a wolf. He is the strongest of the three, meaning that he has the biggest amount of Action Points that he can use during one turn. He’s the best to use in close combat, where he can fight both by regular attack and by using his special abilities, such as a hit with the paw or a running vault attack. However, despite this class having the greatest physical power, his ability to use Magic Power is the lowest. Most of his abilities cause the player’s APs to drain quickly and offer few EPs (Energy Points).

The Mage is the class that takes advantage of all of the Energy Points, casting powerful spells on his enemies. He has a rich arsenal of spells, acquires new ones with experience, and he can both harm enemies and support teammates with spells.

The Enchanter is good in using magic to turn everyday objects into powerful artifacts, like turning sunglasses into a magic protection item – or turn a common chocolate into an item that restores your Energy Points.

Other than the main hero, the player can utilize other members of the team, and in most cases you’ll be able to select their class as well. So you will be able to try out various tactics.

No matter what class you choose you will be able to acquire new skills through experience. With each new level you will receive a chance to learn a new skill or an ability which you’ll be able to choose. Some are multi-class, like an ability to pass some of your Energy to another member of the team, and some are class specific. Also each skill and ability gets upgraded through usage. The more often you use the skill, the better you become with it.

All in all there are about 70 various spells and abilities. My favorite is the good old-fashioned fireball. I’m sure you’ll find something according to your personal preferences as well.

GamingNexus: Are you alone in this game or will you be working with a team of Others?  Will you get to choose who you work with or will it be dictated by the game?

Dmitri Zakharov: The game is squad-based tactical RPG, as serving in Night Watch one can surely count on support of his colleagues. You will have a partner, Vera, who will be helping you most of the time, plus you will have other Light Others (and in some rare cases even Dark ones) joining your team in various situations. One of them is Tigra, a Shapeshifter girl, who you might know if you’ve seen the movie or have read the book – you will have her in your team for several missions. For almost every member joining your team you will be able to choose his or her class as well, so you will be able to carry out various tactical combinations and play all three classes in action. Since the game is story-driven, all the members joining your team will be determined by the plot, but as I’ve said most of the times you will have freedom to determine their characteristics.

GamingNexus: The game is described as a tactical RPG, does this mean the game is turn based?

Dmitri Zakharov: Yes, combat in the game is turn-based. When there are no enemies around, the game runs in real-time, but when any conflict arises the game switches into the turn-based mode. Every action you take will use a certain amount of Action Points and sometimes some Energy Points, if this action requires some magic. The Gloom increases the power of your characters, raising their APs but also draining some part of your Magic Energy during every turn.

We also described the game as “tactical” since there are varieties of tactics you can implement and use during combat. Different classes in your team allow you to execute a wide variety of tactics. All of your characters learn new spells and abilities with experience. Also, the more you use each spell the more powerful it is, and the speed of mastering it depends on the particular spell. We hope that each player will find his own tactics and style of combat in Night Watch.

GamingNexus: Will the game be comprised of one main linear plot or will there be side quests for gamers to explore?  Do you have any estimates yet on how long the game will take to complete?

Dmitri Zakharov: The game is story-driven and we developed the story to be just as interesting as the film,  and with unexpected turns of the plot – just like the original books and movie. A breathtaking roller-coaster ride of a story was one of the features of the book (and thus the movie), and so we wanted to continue this tradition in the game. But there are also many side quests for gamers to explore. For instance, in one part of the game, you’ve found a Gloom accumulator, but you don’t know what to do with it. Figuring it out and applying it is a side quest for the player – it will give him a bonus upon completion but it doesn’t interfere with the gameplay if you don’t use it.

The game will take about 15-20 gameplay hours to complete, all depending on your familiarity with the genre and the tactics you use. 

GamingNexus: Where will the game take place?  Will it be only in Moscow or will there be other Russian locations?  Will we see any real world locations in the game?

Dmitri Zakharov: The game takes place in Moscow, just like the book and the movie. We tried really hard to depict real Moscow locations in the game, and Russian players enjoyed the level of the authenticity of the surroundings. So after playing Night Watch you can say that you have visited Moscow -- presenting screenshots as postcards J  

We’d like to thank Dmitri for taking the time to answer our questions and our main man Ted for hooking us up with the interview.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom. I was a Microsoft Xbox MVP from 2009 to 2014
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