Exclusive Interview with Masterminds Jose Luis Vaello Bertol, Angel Cuañdo, Jose Raluy Behind Blade of Darkness

Jose Luis Vaello Bertol, art director and chief designer on Blade of Darkness

Jose Luis Vaello Bertol, was born in Spain. He originally studied Graphic Design and worked in Advertising before dedicating himself professionally to video game development.

  • 1998-2001 he began his professional career as Art Director and Chief Designer of the videogame “BLADE” / “SEVERANCE: BLADE OF DARKNESS” from Rebel Act Studios / Codemasters.
  • 2001-2005. Art Director and Head of Design of “ONE”. Nokia (N-Gage) Digital Legends Entertainment.
  • 2007-2011. Art Director of “CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW” by MercurySteam / KONAMI.
  • 2011-2014. Art director and creator of the original idea for “RIME” by Tequila Works.
  • 2014-2016. He started a new stage as a Freelance where he worked on various projects, both personal and for different international companies. (Thatgamecompany, MercurySteam, Tequila Works, Piccolo Studio, etc …), doing works of artistic direction, conceptual art, mechanical design, etc …
  • 2016-2019. Art Director of “ARISE: a Simple Story” by Piccolo Studio / Techland.
  • He is currently working as an art director at Piccolo Studio on a project as yet unannounced.

What kind of body parts can be used as weapons? Just checking – we played the game a lot but we recently came across a feature(bug?) where you cut off your head and keep playing as such, so worth double checking 🙂

I think I remember that you can use your arms, legs, and head as a weapon. Like many other objects that the player can find in the environment, the original idea was to simulate realistic and interactive combat where anything you pick up can potentially become a weapon. If the player character has his head cut off and can continue playing — as this is only produced as “Fatality” when the character has lost all health — it’s probably a bug.

How new/innovative was this dismemberment tech at the time when the game was made?

In general, many of the game’s mechanics and ideas were innovative and surprising at the time: Dismemberment, such as physics, real-time lighting, fluid systems (blood ran down walls and stairs), etc …

Is there any fun/crazy story from the times when you were developing the game as to why you’ve created this dismemberment/weapon system?

There are many funny anecdotes that occurred during the development and testing of the game, such as a very funny bug that every time you saved and took out an object from the inventory it multiplied its size. Imagine enemies throwing arrows at you the size of telephone poles. But in reference to the dismemberment, I don’t remember any unless you saved and removed an arm from the inventory several times 🙂

How does combat itself differ for the different playable races?

It is a game with a certain role-playing component, so the characters have some differences between them, for example:
The Barbarian has a more offensive approach, thanks to his constitution and strength he can use large heavy weapons. The knight is the most balanced class, and he uses shields and short swords. The Amazon is agile and dexterous with the bow and with 2-handed light weapons. The dwarf is strong and tough, he can wield blunt 1-handed weapons and shields.

What are your thoughts on the game’s comparisons to modern titles like Dark Souls?

I’m a big fan of From Software’s work, but honestly, I don’t think they were inspired by Blade, in fact, I don’t think they are even aware of it. I just think that sometimes different people with the intention of transmitting a certain feeling can come to similar ideas and conclusions.

Angel Cuañdo, lead programmer on Blade of Darkness

What kind of body parts can be used as weapons? I know, a rather silly question but this is just to double-check that we haven’t missed anything ourselves as we played the game a lot.

This was data-driven. Our character artists would place grasp dummies and damage dummies to add places where a body part could be grabbed, or conversely, areas that could inflict damage — e.g. the horns in the head of some enemies doing stabbing damage.

How new/innovative was this dismemberment tech at the time when the game was made?

The dismembering was not technologically challenging as was pre-done manually by the 3d artist. The hard part was the physics to allow the part to bounce and roll against the level geometry. As far as I know, Blade was one of the first games to support general rigid solid simulation and it was done in part to handle the dismembering.

Is there any fun/crazy story from the times of when you were developing the game as to why you’ve created this dismemberment/weapon system?

I think we started by allowing beheadings only, as it felt like a logical consequence of being hit in the head by a spinning attack.

Also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbarian:_The_Ultimate_Warrior was an inspiration and I remember the beheadings were by far the most satisfying part of that game. The full dismembering system I think was a logical evolution and I believe using body parts as weapons was an idea of our publisher at the time, Gremlin Interactive.

Jose Luis Vaello Bertol, art director and chief designer on Blade of Darkness

Again this was mostly data-driven so from the point of view of the programmer it was handled by the same code.

What are your thoughts on the game’s comparisons to modern titles like Dark Souls?

When I first saw Dark Souls I thought the combat system and some other elements did look very similar and I wonder if the developer had seen and taken inspiration from Blade. But Blade itself took some inspiration for the combat system from N64 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time so it is most likely that they share a common source.

Jose Raluy, programmer on Blade of Darkness

What kind of body parts can be used as weapons?

Not 100% sure on this one, but I believe most body parts can be used as weapons. Definitely the arms and most likely be the head

How new/innovative was this dismemberment tech at the time when the game was made?

As far as I know, there was nothing like it before Blade was released. Of course, I might be wrong since a lot of time has passed, but I clearly recall a lot of players saying “This game is so cool that you can cut an enemy’s arm and then pick it up and use it as a weapon”. It is true that the amount of damage was quite low, but the “wow effect” was there.

Also, another note is that this was implemented during 1998 (as far I believe, but I am quite positive on this one), so this feature was one of the longest features within the game. Remember that the game was released in February 2001, so this was almost 3 years before that. ….

Is there any fun/crazy story from the times when you were developing the game as to why you’ve created this dismemberment/weapon system?

Again, my memory might be off, but from what I recall, this came from some early tests we were doing in the programming department. I think the first time we implemented it we suddenly had all the other developers crowding around the PC when were trying it for the first time. We realized at that moment it had to go into the final game.

Another thing is when we implemented the particle system of the blood coming from the neck after chopping an enemy’s head, some of us were like “Oh my god, they are going to say it’s brutal but this is so damn cool!”

How does combat itself differ for the different playable races?

Each character has different combat movements, style, and speed. Also, all characters can use all the weapons, but there are some that are best for each character. Even the height is important: the Dwarf, for example. ome tall enemies will have a tough time hitting him depending on the attack. Also, the combat style had to be adapted. The amazon was quite fast but normally required more time to kill enemies. With the slow characters, it is best to use a backward dodge instead of the left/right ones, as they are more effective. I think the knight was the most balanced of the four of them.

What are your thoughts on the game’s comparisons to modern titles like Dark Souls?

Oh my good, this is THE question, isn’t it? I have heard it so much over the last few years… I am not sure if From Software played Blade or at least knew about it… I mean, all games are influenced by other games (or even movies). For example, Conan the movie was a heavy influence (the barbarian in the “throne” chair is quite an obvious reference), and Zelda Ocarina of Time and its locking mechanism on enemies was another one during the development of Blade…

Still, I would like to know (someone may try to ask him in an interview) if Blade was or not an influence to Miyazaki when designing Dark Soul…It would be a huge honor for the team if that is the case. And if not, it is also a huge honor that people may believe it (as it is a terrific game)…don´t you agree?

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