Daniel “Hellboy” Vávra was born in the North of Czech Republic in a small town in the mountains close to Poland. He was the mastermind behind the story of Mafia, before he came up with the idea to open his own Studio: Warhorse Studios. Someone would call him an angry cave troll, we just call him @Hellboy. Meet the creative director and the brain behind Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Do you have any additional questions to Daniel “Hellboy” Vávra? Just ask here.
You can find a Spanish translation of this interview here.
1) How did you get the idea of making Kingdom Come Deliverance?
I was always interested in history. When I was a little kid, I drew pictures of huuuuge medieval battles. My grandparents took me to all the castles and I wanted to make a medieval game even before we started working on Mafia. We even had a prototype of it in 1998. Hell, back in 1995 or so, we were working on something similar to Elder Scrolls Arena where you would be a scribe to a knight…
2) Describe your position. What is it about being a Creative Director?
I came up with the idea of the game, then started the company with Martin, wrote most of the design document with Victor, and then I prepared the outline of the story. I then lead the team and I’m basically that annoying guy who needs to have his fingers and last word in almost everything that gets into the game. I also wrote quite a few of the main quests, directed the actors, and hell, I even did some of the icons. Most of the directors do just the “management” and vision stuff, so I am doing it all wrong and everybody hates me for giving them advice on how to do stuff that they are better at then I am
3) The Region of Rataje and Sázava offers some very beautiful places with an interesting history. How did you find this piece of landscape?
When I chose the events that are in the background of the game, I was literally checking out the history of every castle, town, and village in the region (literally hundreds of places), in that particular year. Even if I couldn’t get some more info about what happened there (or interesting inspirations of some real-world events), I found Skalitz and Ratay, which played an important role in this little war, which is what the game is all about.
4) Which job would you not want to do? Why?
Programmer. I’m really bad at math.
5) Please describe Warhorse Studios:
Well, we have a very flat structure, so everybody can talk to anyone at any time. I guess that Americans especially would be a little shocked that it’s possible to just come to the CEO of the company and tell him that his idea (to do something) is really stupid and still have a job the next day, which is a daily routine over here at Warhorse Studios Currently, it’s also very busy and very tense right now. There’s a lot of very complex work with a very tight schedule and there’s lots of issues to solve. So, it’s definitely not just “shiny, happy people”.
6) Why is Kingdom Come Deliverance called Kingdom Come Deliverance?
People at the time really believed that the end of the world was coming, especially the Hussites (a few years after the events in our game). Deliverance is a story thing and it was also a very cool Amiga game and a very good Opeth album
7) Why did you choose the year 1403 and not the Hussite wars period?
I wanted to begin when it all started and eventually continue to the Hussite wars in the future. Furthermore, we are building the technology, the combat system and everything else, so we would not be able to create such epic events as those that happened during these wars. When we are ready, I want to make sure that everything is done properly.
8) You did a lot of research for Kingdom Come Deliverance, what turned out to be completely different from what you expected?
There were lots of myths about medieval times that turned out to be really stupid. Combat and sword fighting were totally different than in the movies. The times were not as dirty, brown, cruel and dangerous when there was no war. Actually, all was quite colorful: they had lower taxes then we have today and even the crime rate was quite lower than most big cities today What shocked me was, when I got into the intrigues of the nobility - it was much more complicated than the craziest plots of Game of Thrones. The ability of nobles to switch sides, ally with their worst enemies, and then switch again the next week is really unbelievable. I still don’t get how they could come along with each other.
9) Kingdom Come Deliverance is still a game and not a Simulation, can you give an example where game design is more important than realism, and why?
We let you do most of the stuff people could do in a real world, but we try to do it as simple and intuitive as possible. So, it may be complex, but you don’t have to learn everything and memorize some keyboard shortcuts. It’s a game, so even if it was a simulation, it would be much easier and much faster pacing than real life experiences. For example, many things in combat could not be made, even if we wanted to create a hardcore simulator. The way you control the game dramatically limits the complexity of the action on screen. Your body movement is not limited by two sticks and eight buttons.
10) How would you compare Mafia to Kingdom Come Deliverance?
Mafia gave you the experience of what it’s like to be a gangster. Kingdom Come gives you the experience of what it’s like to make you a knight. Both share a strong story, open world, and interesting characters. Kingdom Come has more freedom and non-linearity… and RPG stats.
11) Describe your usual day at the studio?
When I arrive in the morning, we usually have a scrum with the designers where we plan what each of us will do that day. Then I check emails and news, and then the “fun” begins. There are days where I am at meetings for the whole day, which is terrible. We have meetings about planning, features or management and those can be extremely long (like 5 hours in a row long) and painful. Then there are meetings where we solve development issues, features or quests. These are more interesting and most of the time much shorter. Lately, we’ve discussed what trailer we want, we’re designing covers for the game or we’re discussing how we will place all the items into the game and the database etc. During quieter days, I actually do some work! I write quests, review quests of others, play and test the game, or I even photoshop something for the GUI etc.
12) What are you currently working on?
Writing the script for a future trailer, working on the cover for the game with our lead artist, fixing bugs in the quests that I wrote, solving lots of small issues and features every day (for example today: objectives are sorting in a wrong way, fast travel is not intuitive…) and most importantly we are recording voiceovers so that during the days the actors are here. This leads me to being in the studio several days in a row.
13) What are some of your notable accomplishments?
Just recently, we completely scrapped our original idea for a trailer and I came up with a script that I really like - it has lots of cool ideas that define our game very well.
14) What do you like the most about Kingdom Come: Deliverance?
Well it’s supposed to be sort-of a time machine that will take you to medieval Europe and let you experience how it was back then. You could be a medieval knight in a world that is as accurate as possible. I am proud that while we are a rather small team with a very small budget compared to big AAA titles, we’ve achieved lots of things that teams with budgets 10 times bigger than ours didn’t even dare to try. We have a huge world with state-of-the-art graphics, a one-of-a-kind lighting system, hours of cinematics that so far, look very good, and our AI is incredibly complex. The nonlinear quests can get very complicated with very complex mechanics that try to count even with tiny details and options.
15) How, when and with what platform did you first get acquainted with videogames?
Our country was behind an iron curtain and the import of computers and consoles was almost non-existent. My first contact with computers was through German shopping mall catalogues like Quelle. I was fascinated with those small screens of computer games. We also had some form of arcades, with mostly old games. Golden Axe was one of my favorites. Later on, I bought a Czech clone of ZX Spectrum in the late 80s.
16) What was your best/saddest/happiest, most touching video game moment?
The ending of first fallout was great; I remember how I finished it late at night and I was blown away.
17) You lived under the communistic regime which was a huge obstacle when it comes to video games, how did you become a game designer?
I never ever even dreamt I would be making videogames, but I was “designing” them on paper. Back in the 1987 or so, I designed something that took place in a Nazi bunker and it was viewed from first person perspective. My friend told me that he could easily code it on his Atari 800XL
18) Which videogame character or figure is the best?
I think that most of the videogame characters are really cheesy. Commercial-calculated products are not actual characters. Even in games that I generally like, I don’t like the characters and I would have a problem wearing a T-Shirt with gaming themes, thanks to that. There are exceptions of course: The Witcher for example or Shenmue.
19) Are there any videogames you repeat playing over and over again?
Candy Crush Saga before I go to sleep. Somebody help me, I am addicted…
20) What would a perfect game according to your wishes look like?
It generally needs to be about the EXPERIENCE that puts me into the shoes of SOMEONE INTERESTING and I need to be able to experience his adventures in an interesting, functional world where I can meet cool characters (i.e. Fallout, Red Dead Redemption, Witcher.)
21) How do you relax after a hard day at work?
Reading the newspaper on a couch, listening to black metal and doing nothing, which is kinda hard with kids. I watch lots of movies. I am reading lots of stuff everyday - comics (Vinland Saga, JoJos Bizzare Adventure, Unwritten…) history, politics, but I should read more books. I also love to play paintball or train with real steel at the range with my friends.
22) So you like to go to the shooting range. What is your favorite firearm?
Most likely V-AR 15 which is Czech version of AR15 with piston. CZ 75 Shadow pistol and CZ Scorpion EVO.
23) Your favorite music band, album or song?
Bathory, Enslaved, Opeth, Masters Hammer…
24) Your favorite movie/book?
Sapkowski’s Hussite trilogy.
25) What species is your spirit animal?
Dog. White. Bullterrier.
26) What do you most like about living in the Czech Republic?
It’s a mixture of California, Texas and Germany. We are one of the most tolerant nations in the world, we work almost as hard as Germans, we are one of the safest countries, yet at the same time, we have the biggest beer consumption in the world. Everybody smokes weed and everybody has a gun, because we have one of the most liberal gun laws out there Plus, the country is beautiful with amazing history, nature and sights.
27) What is your weakest trait?
I am really lazy person. But when I start to do something…
28) You have to fight in medieval times… who are you?
I would be Skald as I am today
29) Knights or Samurai?
30) What was your favorite subject and your most hated one at school?
I was generally a good student. I had problems in chemistry and mechanics because I have a shitty memory. I also hated sculpting lessons; I hate dry-sculpting clay
31) If you could say something to the fans of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, what would it be?
Marry Christmas and have a great year, keep your fingers crossed for us, we are working hard to finish the game and make it as good as possible.
Do you have any additional questions to Daniel “Hellboy” Vávra? Just ask here.