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"Book of Heroes" interview with RandomPotion (pre release)
Here is our pre-release interview with RandomPotion (Homepage, Facebook), the makers of the upcoming TDE CRPG Book of Heroes.

Thanks to all who contributed questions and/or participated otherwise, and by all means to aeyol.
And our thanks of course to Arto Koistinen of RandomPotion who made time for answering our questions while working on the game.

(das Interview auf deutsch)

Hyvää päivää!

1.  How did you become a game developer? Which games (digital or tabletop) inspired you? Finland seems to have a vibrant community of role players. Is that correct?

For me it was not a very straightforward route. The first time I wanted to make a game was after playing the first Legend of Zelda. Then a couple of years later I found this made up programming language in one of the sourcebooks for the Cyberpunk 2020 roleplaying game and noticed it looked similar to the commands in BASIC. So I dug up my old Commodore 64 and started typing -- and it worked! I've programmed ever since but I didn't view myself as a very good programmer and there were very few game companies in Finland until the early 2000s, so I didn't really see game development as a viable option back then.

I ended up studying computer science at university and then working on some educational games. There were some books and websites about game development available and I realised game design was actually something you could do even with limited programming skills and ultimately managed to find a job as a game designer at a company called Universomo in 2007.

The roleplaying community in Finland is indeed vibrant. The biggest tabletop roleplaying and boardgame convention Ropecon has nearly 5000 visitors and there's a very active Facebook group for roleplayers with almost 4000 members. While the biggest games are probably D&D and Pathfinder, it's not as clear cut as in many countries. Being a small language area, not many games have been translated to Finnish and the few that did were quite equal and also left room for more Finnish games. Nowadays there are at least a couple of new games and a number of adventures or supplements coming out every year. The most notable ones are probably Praedor (based on a Finnish cult comic series of the same name), STALKER (based on the Roadside Picnic), Heroes of the Tempest and Astraterra (both fantasy games aimed at a younger audience). Perhaps unsuprisingly, many roleplaying game authors tend to also work in the game industry.

2.  Which parts of TDE do you like? What is difficult or challenging?

Unfortunately I haven't played enough TDE to develop a detailed grasp of how the game works (although I have loved it so far). The setting is of course quite unprecentended in its depth and attention to detail and the strong metaplot gives it consistency many other tabletop settings lack. Even in just the Aventuria Almanac there's a ton of information on customs, trade and even idioms used in the world. I think it creates a very vivid image of the world.

I also like the variety in all things like professions, spells, advantages and whatnot. It clearly speaks of a game that is not centered around combat, but of telling stories about the life in Aventuria. Professions like the Pastry Chef or a spell for finding lost things for an absent-minded mage paint a broader picture of the setting than just of adventuring and epic battles.

Although quite simple when you see it in action, I've found that explaining the skill check system is challenging, especially to a programmer who has to implement it.

3.  Have you thrown a test round of The Dark Eye in its pen & paper form yet, in order to get to know the game's world?

Yes, we have played it at the office a couple of times and I also participated in a run by Jeanette at Ratcon in Limburg. We're planning to play quite a bit more before the game is done.

4.  Did you ever play the classic Realms of Arkania (RoA) trilogy by Attic or part of it? If not, how do you plan to get away with that? ;)

I didn't, but I've understood that I should, so I'll probably give it a try when I have time.

5.  The RoA trilogy is notoriously scrupulous in its adaptation of the TDE rule set. In spite of this (or maybe for that very reason) it is still well beloved after more than 25 years. Will BoH also have micromanagement/survival elements such as hunger and thirst or wear and tear of equipment and weapons?

We don't have survival elements. The game is structured around relatively short adventure, so they would not make much sense in the context.

6.  Which aspects of the pen & paper RPG do you want to adapt for Book of Heroes? What exactly will you do better than or different from the earlier TDE computer games?

We're adapting the core tabletop rules as closely as possible. Of course some rules are outside the scope of the game and some don't work in the context. For example, we don't have mounts or riding in any form, so mounted combat rules wouldn't make any sense. Diseases on the other hand don't make much sense in a game centered around short adventures.

7.  RandomPotion is known for puzzles that can be solved in teamwork. To what extent do you intend to implement this principle in the game Book of Heroes?

We will have plenty of puzzles that require teamwork in the game. It's still one of our main pillars.

8.  Are the character's backgrounds and motivations in BoH completely pre-determined? For example: Will a certain character class (profession) always have the same personal goal, or will the players be able to influence these when creating the character?

No, you can select backgrounds and motivations individually for each character and the personal goals are not tied to professions. Of course your previous choices affect the options available (e.g. a human can't have dwarven backgrounds), but there are always multiple options for every character.

9.  Will typical RPG skills like sneaking, swimming and pick-pocketing be utilizable?

There will be sneaking, pick-pocketing and some others, but no swimming.

10. Will there be puzzles beyond defusing traps by operating levers and floor switches?

Yes, but I'm not going to spoil what exactly :)

11. Is Book of Heroes the game's final title or just a project name?  Is there more to it than just being the name of the game? It isn't a common item from TDE.

It's the final title and there will be more to it. It has a connection to a much more famous book in the game.

12. Modding: Will the game be moddable, e.g. to allow for additional character classes? If no, do you plan more classes as a DLC?

We're not planning modding at this point. There are plans for DLC, but they're not yet finalized.

13. The visuals of Project Scoundrel are terrific. What did your graphic artists do before? And have you considered TDE's icons like the late Uğurcan Yüce's winged-helmeted barbarians (known as Alrik Immerdar) or Ina Kramer's maps? (It would be awesome if players could meet Alrik in the tavern!)

Our lead artist Samuli Lautjärvi has worked on plenty of projects before for a variety of platforms, his previous games include a fire fighting simulator/strategy games Rescue 2013 and Rescue 2, top down shooter Action Legion and an RTS called Hive. Other artists don't have published games under their belts yet, but they're all very capable.

There will be all sorts of iconic TDE things, but I won't spoil which ones :)

14. Can players choose their character's portraits as in Baldur's Gate and other classic RPGs (ingame UI, stats sheet)? Will it be possible to import your own portraits in common formats (JPG, PNG, GIF)?

The portraits are generated from the 3D models in the game. You have options to alter the character's visuals in quite many ways. Importing portraits is not currently planned.

15. Will players be able to explore the tavern and interact with NPCs before heading off into their next adventure? Like gossiping with the bartender or other guests? Can the tavern be used as depository, e.g. in the wine cellars?

You can craft, sell and buy things in the tavern. We're still working on the NPC interactions so I can't go into that very deeply yet.

16. Is the development based on a third-party engine or are you developing your own system?

We're using Unity.

17. Random content generation has been tried before. The results were often pretty patchy. Project Scoundrel seems to have quite an elaborate strategy. What are you doing differently than your forerunners?

The reason we've not been talking about random content rather than procedural content is that we're approaching the generation a bit differently than other games. What we're doing is tailoring the content to the abilities and previous actions of the characters in the party. We're actually using the procedural generation to do something a static game couldn't (at least very feasibly do): react to the players better, like an actual game master would.

18. Steam's standing with traditionally minded TDE players is apparently even worse than elsewhere. Will there be a DRM-free version, e.g. at GOG or even a boxed deluxe edition?

We're currently working only on a Steam-version. Any other possible versions will be announced later.

19. Will there be a true offline mode for single players? If yes, will other companions also be recruitable for the own party during the adventure as in Baldur's Gate or TDE Drakensang, or just in the tavern?

There will be an offline single player mode with AI controlled henchmen who can be recruited from the tavern. The single player mode is not separate from the multiplayer, so you can play both with the same character, e.g. start by playing a few adventures solo, then join your friends for a couple adventures and go back to single player again.

We wish you (not quite unselfishly) best of luck for the completion of The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes.

Thank you for the interview!
Walisischer Käsetoast [Bild: kaesetoast.png]
Many thanks to aeyol and Rabenaas for their effort doing this interview with RandomPotion. :ok: And also many thanks to RP themselves for their cooperation!
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