"We want it to be fast and lethal": Dark Passenger's Jakub Ben on combat, inspiration, and more for their upcoming game
One of the biggest news stories in recent weeks was the reveal that several CD PROJEKT RED developers left to start their own studio, known as Dark Passenger. Dark Passenger is planning on creating a PVP-based game set in feudal Japan, which as of this moment does not have a name.
In a recent interaction with Sportskeeda’s Jason Parker, Jakub Ben, Dark Passenger's CEO and Game Director, spoke about their upcoming project, why they chose to start their own studio, and what players can expect from the studio moving forward.
Jakub Ben talks the inspiration behind the Dark Passenger name and why they struck out on their own
Q. First of all, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! When it comes to the Dark Passenger studio, what inspired the name and the decision to strike out on your own?
Ben: Thanks for having me! The concept of the Dark Passenger comes from art and literature. It represents the dark being that accompanies our lives and pushes us to do bad things. Creating dark worlds, scary characters, and horrifying stories is like reaching out to that little demon inside of us. Or is he reaching for us?
Dark Passenger is the inheritor of RealTime Warriors - a CGI outsource studio that we have been successfully running for over five years after departure from CD PROJEKT RED. We’ve been gathering experience by aiding dozens of Indie and AAA games, including the creation of three hours of cinematic content for in-game television in Cyberpunk 2077.
Switching from an outsourcing studio to game developer was a huge shift, probably the biggest in our professional lives, but something we knew we were going to, some day.
Q. While not much is known about the upcoming game from Dark Passenger, what led to the decision to make a feudal Japanese game?
Ben: Mostly the mythos of a ninja (Shinobi) itself, depicted numerous times by many different media, but also our pure love for the region, its history, culture, art and cinema. One of the games, that as a minor I wasn’t even entitled to possess, was “Tenchu 2: Silent Assassin” for the original Playstation.
That was probably the starting point of the fantasy of taking on the role of a ninja warrior and the very idea that stealth in games can be really exciting. When starting a project of this type as a European, it requires appropriate research and study, which is by itself a very exciting journey we all want to take part in.
Q. It is clear the game is going to be set in feudal Japan, but is there a specific time period you have in mind? The Warring States, the Meiji Restoration, or perhaps another time frame?
Ben: It’s definitely a subject of debate. We’re not making a historically accurate, feudal Japan simulator, but a stealth-action multiplayer game about Shinobi. For instance, we would like to cover many (if not all) exotic weapons, armor types, and fighting styles that could’ve been used in different periods and regions of Japan.
Another factor is verticality, which requires modification of terrain and architecture so it supports the gameplay but doesn’t represent any actual places. At the same time, we want our game to remain grounded in reality and feel as believable and authentic as possible, while being our creative interpretation guided by experts and historians of Japanese culture.
Q. Several of the weapon styles have already been revealed: Wakizashi, Katana, Kusarigama, et cetera. When considering how the weapons will play, are you looking for a more realistic style, or something more flashy and grounded in fantasy?
Ben: The answer lies somewhere in between. We’re not making a high-speed power fantasy game, nor are we going for a slow-paced fencing simulator. We believe that neither of these two extremes would allow us to create a true Shinobi experience. Both movement and fighting mechanics will be very dynamic but still mostly constrained by the laws of physics.
As for the fighting itself, we want it to be fast, lethal and require as many tactics as dexterity and reflexes. Accuracy won’t play a crucial role and it’ll be more important to know when to strike and when to withdraw. By going berserk, you might quickly end up dead but it’ll be possible to perform sudden attacks and effective combos.
Q. Would you say that there is more of a focus on PVP or PVE in your upcoming game?
Ben: Our project is fundamentally a PVP experience. In every match, a number of Shinobi groups will have the same primary goal, which will most likely result in frequent confrontations. Meanwhile, NPCs will play an important role in the stealth aspect of the game.
While staying unnoticed will be rewarded, occasionally players will have to face them in a fight or assassinate them.
Q. What are your plans for character growth when it comes to stats and skills?
Ben: All I can say at this point is that it’s going to be a very broad system. Player progression and customization are extremely important to us. We want you to be able to create a Shinobi of your dreams, and that is going to be reflected not only by how he looks but also by his fighting and locomotion abilities, special skills, and available weaponry and tools.
The goal is to make every character build play differently and remain balanced with other possible builds.
Q. When it comes to the narrative and aesthetic of the game, did you look to any particular films or books for inspiration?
Ben: Inspiration comes from many places, including games, movies, anime, manga, martial arts, myths and legends, history books, and the amazing art of feudal japan. It’s hard to pinpoint specific sources or titles since we really want to create an original IP that, while does feel familiar in some ways, is in fact a breath of fresh air and a brand new experience like nothing else on the market today.
I could mention plenty of titles or specific artists that inspire us, but that wouldn’t reflect what we’re preparing for you in the slightest.
Q. On that subject, are there any positives from your time at CD PROJEKT RED that are helping the development of this current game?
Ben: Working in CD PROJEKT RED was certainly a time of accelerated development. It helped us to dream big, believe in ourselves, and go forward. It’s like giving yourself a hard workout every day for a couple of years straight. After that, nothing seems to be impossible, so I would say that the biggest gain is the mental one.
Personally in my career, both in and after CDPR, I spent months working on fighting choreography with stuntmen, which allowed me to dive deep into martial arts that right now are one of the core features of our own project.
Q. We understand that there is no release date available, but is there an ideal time frame where you’d like to see the game come out?
Ben: We don’t have a release date, but we estimate our production to take approximately a similar amount of time as any other modern, multiplayer title. We’re all aware that way too many studios often fall into a trap of fixed release dates that they cannot keep. We simply don’t want to be one of these cases.
Dark Passenger is an up-and-coming studio manned by CD PROJEKT RED developers, known for their work on Witcher 3. Their upcoming PVP game has no title, but the studio is working hard to bring something special to life. To stay up to date with the Dark Passenger developers, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.