Developer Interview: Jünger des Xardas

- 10:00 pm

Jünger des Xardas

Hello Jünger des Xardas, please introduce yourself briefly to the readers. Where are you from, what do you do for a living and which team of the CST are you a member of?
I’m Jünger des Xardas [disciple of Xardas] – or simply Jünger or Jüdex to keep it short. I’m studying philosophy and German philology in Berlin and it feels like I’m the only student there that actually comes from this backwater and isn’t an immigrated Swabian. In the CST I’m a member and the head of the story department, although content department could be more on point as we, even as the focus is on the story, oversee every decision with regards to content, so everything that isn’t related to the technical implementation, like e.g. the balancing.

How did you join the CST and since when are you a team member?
That was…. Let me think about it…. In January ‘09. So, for most of the team, I’m some kind of dinosaur concerning the project, but I myself can’t see me that way because I’m part of the “second generation” of CST-members. The CSP was founded in November ’08 by four people. They founded the pre-team anyone was invited to. In this phase, no new content was created or implemented. They only checked the technical possibilities and a rough draft of the story was drafted. I remember myself clicking around the Gothic discussion on WoG, kind of bored, that I visited daily at this point. Being bored stiff, I looked in a thread about a texture patch that was in the making, even though that didn’t interest me very much. (That wasn’t our texture patch, but a project by a single user being completely independent of the CSP.) In this thread, a different user wrote that not only the textures could be improved but that a team was forming that had the goal of improving the story and posted a link to the very first WoG thread of the CSP in the editing forum, I’d never visited before. I was instantly hooked and applied for the team. During this time I must have done something right because as the founders decided in May ’09 which members of the pre-team, in appreciation of their good and reliable work, would be accepted to be part of the actual team, I was not only invited but also they offered me the job as head writer. Today most of the pre-team members are gone and most of the active members today joined the team later on. Together with HerrFenrisWolf, who joined the pre-team on the exact same day as me, we are the senior story writers. – but also we are the only story writers at that point, as everyone else who joined, later on, left the team over the years for various reasons.

Which experiences did you gather in the modding area so far?
I’ve played the relevant Gothic 1 and 2 mods, but prior to the CSP, I didn’t have any modding experience, even less concerning Gothic 3. To be honest it still feels strange to call me a modder, as I couldn’t bring one new line of dialogue into the game if I wanted to.


Could you tell us what you are currently working on?
At the moment I work on the orc quests for the fourth chapter. I work on a bigger quest concerning the uncovering of the rebel’s snitch in Montera. (HerrFenrisWolf had some really nice ideas on which I build on; it will be far more extensive, exciting and twisted than in the original game). In addition to that, I also work on the finishing of the first three chapters.

What does the work in your “department” look like in general? How do we have to imagine its part of the development process?
A story writer assumes responsibility for a certain task, e.g. the bandit’s quest series, the city concept of Vengard, the rebel’s quests in the third chapter, or whatever. In the borders of the rough story concepts that we have, he writes the concerning dialogues, quests, etc. quite independently, although it can happen that two story writers work in the same area and the one is adding his new ideas to the work of the other. In the end, a word document develops that ideally is proofread regarding grammar, spelling and a gothic-like tone by a different story writer. As most of the story writers have left and only HerrFenrisWolf and myself remain this first level proofreading is skipped. What is left is the old second level proofreading, because all of the documents are also checked by myself. I also correct the texts and in addition to the aforementioned aspects I also take care that the document is in accordance with the other ones (so to avoid that during a pirate’s quest someone needs to be killed, while you need him alive later on during an orc’s quest, or one dialogue mentions that Montera was besieged for four years and a different one says it was two years), that all possible actions of the player are thought of (if NPC X is mortal and NPC Y refers to X in a dialogue the dialogue needs to be altered if the player kills X, however unlikely this might be) and that the document contains clear instructions for the technical department in addition to the text. After that, the document is released to the scripters for implementation. And because all of the proofreading in the world sometimes isn’t enough in some rare cases the scripters ask small comprehension questions in our internal forum concerning specific parts that we answer. Sometimes they also tell us that something can’t be implemented exactly the way we wanted it to be, but in the meantime, we story writers have a passable feeling for what is and isn’t possible. In such an event the concerning parts need to be rewritten. Along the way, we also discuss various content related topics in this forum.

What should someone bring along for contributing in your “department”?
Maybe that’s not so interesting as in the other departments, as the story department is the only one not accepting new members at the moment, so the answer is more a theoretical one, but what the hell: In addition to the motivation, which is equally important in all departments I guess, a feeling for a good quest and most of all the typical Gothic tone and Gothic dialogues is important. Of course, creativity is also an important talent in our field of work but I personally would rank it second as a well presented “bring me 10 wolf furs” quest is more interesting and more atmospheric in the end than an oh so creative but totally inappropriate and badly written quest. It also helps if you know the Gothic world and its background quite well. Finally, even if I’m sure that every story writer can work quite independently and has quite a huge free space for his creativity, you need a certain willingness to get involved with the work of others and join your work with that of others where needed.

How much time do you invest in the project at the moment and how much did you supply in total?
The time is more likely to be measured in weeks and months than in hours, but after eight years on the CSP without keeping records, I don’t even can take an educated guess. At the moment I invest round about ten to fifteen hours a week, but this is subject to fluctuation as I, of course, have additional commitments.

Which tools do help you with your tasks?
Well…. Microsoft Word? The story department is quite unspectacular in that part compared to the technical ones. Also, very helpful is the walkthrough on WoG if you need to know which quests with which rewards were a part of the original game. In addition, to that, we use the lists on Mondgesänge concerning weapons and items. And quite early our technicians created a very useful and well-arranged file which contains all of the original dialogues sorted by NPC and I use it very often to make sure that our dialogues blend in harmonically with the old ones.

What has been the biggest challenge during the development for you, yet?
I think for me the biggest problem working on this project was not the project itself or my duty as a story writer but my role as the head of the story department. In the beginning, there were some story writers who bailed out or delivered bad or even no results at all for months. And there were some pretty severe discussions about certain design decisions and the work of one story writer in particular, who left the team as a result of that. As head of the department, it was my job to manage and moderate these discussions – and I haven’t done everything perfectly, although I tend to believe that I learned my lesson over the time and would act better today. In the meantime, the team is left with a hard core of members who work together quite effectively. Also, most of the big design decisions are made. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t different opinions and discussions from time to time but I think the worst is over.


Considering the years of development, it’s obvious that the CSP could be called a mammoth project. Did the team overreach itself?
The team saddled oneself with FAR more than what was originally planned and most certainly many of us, including me, wouldn’t have joined the team if they’d known what was ahead of them and how long everything would take. Also, I think the former key players of the project didn’t realize in time that we drifted away from the original concept and so they didn’t go against it. I myself am quite happy about that. Yes, the work drags on, but the result will be extremely good – in my personal opinion far better than some “real” role-playing games of the last years like Skyrim or Dragon Age Inquisition, but that remains a matter of taste of course. As I joined the pre-team the basic concept was that the CSP would be some more extensive quest package. Today it becomes a brand new and completely overhauled Gothic 3 that doesn’t only mend some bad parts but creates something new all of a piece. And I’m happy about it. The team overreached itself only if the project failed at the end, and even if takes longer than planned I can’t see any signs for that.

What is the biggest strength of the CSP? What does it make special?
I think one big strength is that we are no “real” development studio and so we can work without any pressure of time or money and without a publisher who messes with our work. So, it might take longer but it allows us to develop exactly the game we want to play ourselves. And exactly that is, in my opinion, the answer to the often discussed question: “What constitutes Gothic?” A long time ago developing Gothic 1 this is exactly what PB did. In addition to that I personally think what makes the CSP so unique is the extremely dense and alive world that exceeds the first two Gothic parts and every other role-playing game I know, and that many small decisions of the player have effects and not only what outro is played in the end but some small things most players won’t even notice consciously but strengthen the liveliness of the game world. To illustrate what I mean with an original quest: If you bring Kliff as a blacksmith to Reddock the rebels will use better weapons in later chapters (so an orc mercenary that is planning to wipe out Reddock, later on, should think twice if he wants to free Kliff). Or let’s take the quest where you loot the alchemist Esiel’s chest. Until now there were no repercussions to that. In our mod, you have in a different unrelated quest the chance to bring a new alchemist to Cape Dun, who destroys Esiel’s business. If you didn’t loot the chest Esiel is quite unhappy but he can live with it. If you looted the chest he’s completely ruined – which generates new possibilities as you can buy his potions for knocked-down prices or you can search a new position for him.

What is in your opinion the biggest difference between the CSP and other Mod projects?
Disregarding the sheer size? I dare to say the quality of the dialogues and the quests set our project clearly apart from other ones. There are some wonderful mods and sadly there are quite many that are very obviously fan projects. The CSP isn’t perfect, too, but I would definitely put it in the first group. In addition to that the multitude of small details that we consider and that make the world look alive in the end.

Is there something in the alterations in the CSP that you like particularly, not considering if it was implemented by you or a different team member?
There is quite a lot. I could name some NPCs or quests that I consider extremely well done. And as you might have noticed, I’m quite fond of how the work of our different story writers (which is really nice on its own) fits together to a lively and dense game world. If I had to choose one detail, it would be the Nordmarians. It was quite a hard road to enhance them, but I think the result speaks for itself. Based on the existing material in Gothic 3 we created a whole civilization that differs from the rest of the humans, which makes Nordmar an interesting adventure that could fill a whole game by itself. And now if I e.g. visit the wolf’s clan in the CSP I can’t help it but I have to admire the fantastic atmosphere.

What is the motivation for the team to continue its work after so many years of development?
No idea. There may be common incentives, but I think everyone has his own reasons, and I don’t like to speak for the others.


What is your personal motivation? What goals do you have for yourself considering the CSP?
My personal motivation before anything else is that I like what I do, and I haven’t lost the fun till now. Also, I finish most of the things I start. In addition, I think I’m simply one of the biggest Gothic fans under Inno’s sun and maybe the one who knows the most about the game world with all of its details and backgrounds. Gothic has accompanied me constantly for as long as I know it. If you take a look at my signature in WoG you can see that I’ve published several stories based on the Gothic world in the story forum, amongst other things I published retellings of the first two Gothic games. So, I spend quite some time and energy, besides the work for the CSP, on this world and I certainly grew on it quite a bit. As you can imagine this world is dear to my heart and I would like to round things up and give the Gothic story a worthy ending. Maybe it’s surprising that I as a CSP member say that, but I kind of liked the original Gothic 3. The many bugs of the game are obvious and I neither can nor do I want to deny them, but I’m not one of those people who hate the game or deny it any value. On the contrary, I think the game has great potential and the world of Gothic 3 offers many nice details, but exactly those who might appreciate these details don’t know them because they threw the game in the corner because of its many bugs long before they could find those details. One part of my motivation is to use this potential and give those well-done aspects a nice environment in which they can flourish so that the players have finally fun discovering them. This is why it always has been very important to me that one key rule of the CSP is to enhance the existing instead of deleting stuff from the original game unless it’s inevitable. Just because of this principle I joined the CST back then, but never had any interest in joining the, by now cancelled, OpenMod, which wanted to create a whole new sequel to Gothic 2 based on the Gothic 2 engine.

Is there one of your contributions to the project you’re particularly fond of?
I’m not really the most creative story writer in this project, but I think I have the best overview of the whole project and the best knowledge of the Gothic world, so concerning my contributions to the project I’m most proud of how well I managed to harmonize the work of the others and sometimes pick the best ideas out of different approaches and combine them to something even better – e.g. the Nordmarians were such a case. Considering certain quests or dialogues my favourites are not my own but come from different story writers. Something I developed and like very much are the craftsmen and guilds of Geldern.

What is it that fascinates you concerning the Gothic games?
Difficult question. I think it’s a combination of different things. I always liked the freedom you have – you can knock down anyone you like, break into any house, learn different professions, enter dangerous areas right from the start, etc. I also like who lively and believable the world was because I could attack anyone and enter any house but also because all of the NPCs had individual daily routines etc. In many role-playing games, I had the feeling of walking through a scenery and all of the NPCs stood their whole life at one point and waited for me to give me a quest. I’m fond of the tone of the dialogues, too: down-to-earth, rough, not so overblown as in many other fantasy games. They never tried to be something they weren’t. Also, I liked that especially Gothic 1, but also the later games set themselves apart from many classic fantasy stereotypes. There are no elves or dwarves, and the Orcs are called that way but don’t have much in common with their namesakes in other creations. The story of Gothic 1 was something new. A big prison, protected by a magical barrier, There was the orc war, but the focus of the story was on surviving in this distinct world with its own laws and finally the outbreak. In the end, I find this world with the four realms, the three gods, the magical ore and everything else so wonderful and I think you can make so much out of it.


Your favourite character?
I’m called Jünger des Xardas [disciple of Xardas], right? To choose one of our new NPCs is more difficult, there are quite a few nice ones but none that stand out like that. But I guess our pirate captain is a cool customer.

Your favourite quest?
I always liked „The assassination” in Night of the raven. And if has to be one of our new quests, I choose “Lee’s revenge”.

Mage, fighter or archer?
Fighter. In a later run maybe one or two times as a mage. But I’ve never ever finished a game as an archer.

A huge Gothic fan gives you 500,000€ to implement one feature of your choosing. Which one do you choose?

Maybe the answer would‘ve been different a while back, but our technical team has made such big steps – and even now they create little new features now and then; just recently one more was added, but I don’t want to spoiler it right now -, that we can implement almost any feature we want to, and that isn’t just nice-to-have. So, the only thing remaining is the voice output. I personally can live without it, but if I had the means, of course, I would like to hire the original voice talents to speak our dialogues.

Will the CSP ever be finished?
Someone who would answer this question with no, wouldn’t spend so much time and energy on the project, would he? But haste makes waste. The Cologne Cathedral needed a few hundred years to get built but was finished in the end. So, keep calm.


Jünger’s workspace

Translated by HptmGrusel