KICKSTARTING AN OLD-SCHOOL ROLE-PLAYING GAME
There are a number of RPGs on kickstarter right now, pursuing the goal to bring back the old days of role-playing. We all remember them: 16-bit graphics that looks oh so horrible when we play these games again today, 8bit speaker-sound, isometric combat.
Amazing games we spent most of our free time with then, because, like role-playing is supposed to be, it was all in our heads anyway. There’s a bunch of developers out there, wishing to bring back this gaming experience with today’s graphics and sound.
One of them is the German Bumblebee-Studio, consisting of a number of experienced artists and developers with together more than 45 years of business experience, who have just kicked off their kickstarter campaign for “Days of Dawn” right now. Their introduction-text reads:
“Wondrous events are taking place – forces yet unseen haunt the people of Kalea – toddlers hovering in the air, a wife ignites her house in anger. Sent out to explore the origin of these forces, our young heroes unravel a sinister plan and learn about the secrets of a past thought to be long forgotten.”
They’re planning an open-world-RPG you can immerse in, with an emotion-based magic-system and a “fast and intuitive round-based combat-system” with hand-painted scenery and a fascinating story-line.
Well, that sounds beautiful! And very ambitious. But in every line of the campaign you can read the passion of the developers for their project – so we’re optimistic, that they will make it exactly like they dream and we hope, that it will live up to the high expectations they raise. We also took the liberty of asking them a few questions about their project which will hopefully shed some more light on some details.
XP4T: There seems to be a rising number of old-school role-playing games on kickstarter right now. Where do you think this comes from? Or in other words: What do you miss in today’s RPGs, that makes you want to create one like in the old days?
Tassilo Rau: Most modern RPGs are evolving towards photo-realism with their highly detailed, realistically shaded scenery and characters, beautiful to look at and an impressive demonstration of the power of modern GPUs. RPGs of the 16-bit era though have been running mostly on – let me quote Sheldon Lee Cooper here – the best GPU ever: the imagination. With our minds filling out the blanks, we‘ve been able to experience a world so much more deep and detailed than a computer can probably ever display. With Days of Dawn, we‘ll be replacing those pixels with beautifully hand painted assets to make the whole game look like a painting come to life – including room for imagination.
XP4T: Out of interest: You have assembled a pretty impressive team – how did you meet and how was the idea for this game born?
Tassilo Rau: The urge to create a role-playing game has been part of my life for decades and Days of Dawn‘s story has been evolving in my mind for many months. Early this year, after ten years in the games business, I decided it‘s time to go for it and started assembling a team of games professionals that share a passion for games, RPGs in particular.
Nadia and I have been working together on a German comic magazine for kids years ago. One day I stumbled upon her painting of the Hairmo, now one of Days of Dawns original creatures, almost by accident and immediately knew: That‘s the kind of beasts we need!
I’ve been roaming many artists‘ websites for a landscape and scenery artist for many weeks then – until I found the impressive art of Tyler and Daria, with both expressing their fandom to titles like ChronoTrigger and Guild Wars 2. As soon as I told them about my idea of Days of Dawn, they’ve been on fire.
XP4T: Can you tell us something more detailed about the underlying role-playing system? Is it based on a classic Pen&Paper dice-system or are you creating your own?
Tassilo Rau: We’ve been looking for existing systems to use, but did not find any that could suit our emotional magic system, so we have created an original set of rules and traits. Besides emotional intensity and control, characters will feature the emotional attributes courage and fear, compassion and hatred, joy and grief and last but not least love. These will heavily influence the gameplay, both the magical and non-magical and will become influenced by almost everything you do – dialogues, battle events, locations and much more.
XP4T: What power-level / fantasy-level are we talking about? Are there going to be, say, dragons, demons and high-fantasy-stuff like that or are you planning to keep the story more down to earth?
Tassilo Rau: Days of Dawn will take place in an all new world – including completely original creatures. And there will be lots of those; winged ones, scary ones, funny ones, sinister beings from another realm and, of course, human antagonists. I‘d call it high fantasy, but far away from the casual orcs, ogres and dragons.
XP4T: Are there going to be different character classes / races and can you tell us what they will be?
Tassilo Rau: I can‘t go into too much detail about this, as I‘d be spoiling much of the game’s storyline. Let me tell you that the seven available player characters will be of a different class or profession each and that there‘ll be no elves, dwarfs or hobbits on our world.
You will be starting with Caril, a young and adventurous shepherd. On his journeys, he will meet other people who might join him – a strange priest, a beautiful girl with magical powers, a tough fighter …
XP4T: Let’s talk about combat … round-based system sounds tactical. Can we expect tactical depth in combat?
Tassilo Rau: Tactical depth will be limited – to compare it with the classics, expect Final Fantasy, not Final Fantasy Tactics. The gameplay shall be focused on adventure, exploration and dialogue.
We put a lot of work into the combat system to make it very fast. No „tap tap tap, click“ for each round and character, but a very unique and intuitive interface that will work just perfectly on all platforms – by keyboard, mouse, touch interface and controller.
XP4T: The magic system sound incredibly interesting. Why choose this approach and how will it differ from the classical spell-weaving we know from other RPGs?
Tassilo Rau: Fantasy role-playing games usually feature well researched magic. In Days of Dawn, the player is experiencing magic as the flourishing of a yet unknown and thus unresearched power. Instead of having the ability to study dusty tomes, the characters will have to learn handling their emotions to evoke magical effects out of intense feelings. The magical effects produced by the heroes vary with their emotional attributes. Without any teaching, their powers start quite uncontrolled and will be automatically chosen based on situation and personality. As the heroes progress, they will be able to enhance their emotional control and so learn to get more and more control over the outcome of their magic usage.
We‘re sure that experiencing magic as something new and unknown will shed a whole new light onto it and will offer exciting new gameplay elements.
XP4T: Let’s get technical for a moment: What kind of graphics can we expect? The vids on your page look like 2.5D…?
Tassilo Rau: Exactly. We‘re working in Unity 3D, the scenes are set up in an orthogonally rendered 3D world. Landscape elements are mostly made up of flat planes with a supporting 3-d collider and using a custom shader to allow us displaying translucency with correctly cast shadows, while the characters and ground are made of actual 3D models. This will allow beautiful lightning being cast on the characters while we can preserve the painted overall look.
XP4T: I am excited to read, that you worked with Sound of Games … so we can expect another amazing soundtrack, can we?
Tassilo Rau: Oh you sure can. The games main theme is wonderful and I‘m so happy to have them in the team. We know each other for many years now and have been collaborating on many projects already. The game’s soundtrack, which we‘re giving away on kickstarter as both a download and a signed limited edition audio-CD, will be a true must have for every music lover and Days of Dawn-fan. As you may have seen, we‘re also offering our backers the attendance at the orchestral recording sessions as one of our rewards. A wonderful opportunity, which will also have the backer getting credited as a „musical producer“ in the game.
XP4T: Is there going to be a multiplayer online-version (because, well, it seems that you have to include this in every game today…) or are you planning to stick to the good-old single-player experience only?
Tassilo Rau: The computer version will be a single player game. We do not see multiple players sitting in front of a computer and we don‘t think it will work well remotely played. We’ve been playing around with concepts of a multiplayer version on potential console ports, but for now we are going to concentrate on the single-player game.
XP4T: Why did you decide to crowd-fund this game? (There’s something about this on the kickstarter page, but maybe you’d care to elaborate?)
Tassilo Rau: As there have already been some successful projects on kickstarter as we started the project, crowd-funding has always been an option. As we had a playable demo finished in time for this year’s GamesCom, we wanted to take the chance and present the game to publishers. While the feedback has been great and six publishers exclaimed interest in the project, our talks so far have not been very successful. We don‘t want our game to get in-app purchases or to become a browser game, nor have we been willing to sell the IP. As a successful kickstarter-campaign would allow us to create this game according to our original vision, that would be an outcome we prefer not only for ourselves but for the player as well.
XP4T: Assuming the kickstarter is successful – when will this game be released?
Tassilo Rau: We are aiming for a release in November 2013. And we so much want this game!
Do YOU Want more?
And if all that doesn’t sound awesome enough to make your RPG heart melt, there’s more. Or the possibility of more! Their kickstarter is still up and running win some pretty awesome goodies for helping out while you’re at it.
We will definitely keep an eye out for “Days of Dawn” – because if this is coming down as advertised, it’s going to great!