I interviewed Team21 about the development of their computer role playing game Dungeons of Aledorn which is undergoing a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter.
You mention how ‘Betrayal at Krondor’ was an inspiration which itself had a mixture of turn based combat and first person exploration, what kind of gameplay systems are needed to develop this type of game?
Well, there’s actually several quite different mechanics and we believe that this part of our game is absolutely paramount, that we decided to gradually mention all of them in our Kickstarter campaign updates. At the moment there are already two updates, that are live, that disclose with readers our various GUIs and the advantages of our exploration mode. I’d recommend to anyone interested in the game’s specifics to take a look at our campaign and the updates.
What is it about the blend of turn-based combat and first person exploration that you feel makes for such an immersive gameplay experience?
From the very beginning Dungeons of Aledorn was conceived with one main goal and that was to transition a classical pen and paper experience into a PC game. Most people I’ve played various games with were always trying to imagine being inside the game, seeing everything with their character´s eyes – and that´s basically why we implemented the first person exploration. The second view, during combats, is a kind of a compromise between realism and comfortable battlefield overview – of which you usually have during D&D and other similar gaming experiences. The immersion is additionally improved by the system which places everything from the exploration view to the battlefield, including the actual positions of your enemies and your party, which may differ after every reload.
How did you get started in the games industry?
To be honest, I’ve always wanted to be in the industry, but I’ve not actually decided to make my dream come; it was shortly after my university studies that I decided to make the move. Ive since undertaken numerous courses for game developers (Unity, game design, 3D Studio etc.) and at the beginning of 2012, I started to write my first GDD. After several consultations with professionals from Disney studio my GDD was ready at the end of the same year, and so, the team assembly for my project began soon after that. It is since that point that I considered myself being a part of game industry.
How did you meet your collaborators?
With GDD in hand and with some general game development knowledge, I knew that I needed at least two people – a graphic designer and a programmer. I asked around my circle of friends and other acquaintances and it didn’t take too long to find a very capable friend who used to play some MMOs with me, Arbiter. After some time I met another team member, Jarda Šlajch, at one party and the basic development team was formed. But our development advance was all but quick and there were many other team members, who contributed a little to our project and then left. However, everything took a more positive direction when I met Daniel Nezmar, in June 2013. He was leading a considerably big team of experienced members, especially graphic and sound designers and all he needed was a programmer and a designer. It was clear to everyone that we should combine our strengths to finish the project and at that is how we formed TEAM21.
Why did you pick Unity as an engine to develop on?
The beginning of our development process, and, also former Arb (our programmer) had Unity scripting experience. Our graphic designer, Jarda, also had some experience with Unity, so it was actually sensible to play to our strengths. Even though other engines have a few neat advantages compared to ours, we still find Unity as a powerful tool, if handled correctly.
You mention that if funded you can move the game from Unity 4 to Unity 5 what advantages will this bring?
Unity 5 has a new physical based shading system, upgraded light mapping a several performance optimisations, which will definitely improve the general quality of our game. Especially the visuals should reach a much higher level.
How did you come up with the game World of Nirma and what kinds of things can we expect to see there?
Nirma is actually the central and biggest island of a whole archipelago, where our game takes place. Aledorn is then a name of a human controlled county, that spreads over a significant part of Nirma. I’m not quite sure how I came to use such names – a bigger part came to me accidentally or they caught my eye during my experiments with name generators. The whole game is set in a familiar high fantasy setting that draws inspiration from a vast number of literal and game sources. Travelling our world, you can expect to encounter every thinkable classical terrain one usually finds in fantasy world setting – dark dungeons, forests, mountain passages, swamp, towns, castles and all with various climates and conditions. We’ll share more of relevant details in one of our forthcoming Kickstarter update, so be sure to check on it also.
How was the music composed for this game?
Nowadays, most game and movie music is created within a studio on a PC, with various music “boxes”, special keyboards and so on. Our project is no exception in this case. We’re using mainly the VST instruments (virtual instruments). Our composer is a very experienced professional. Even though this is his first game project, he found it to be his element as it gives him a great freedom in his creation and expanded his knowledge about the historical music at the same time. Don’t expect to hear a sax solo or bass guitar underlining the main theme as we’re aiming for a quality medieval-fantasy atmosphere.
What has using motion capture allowed you to do that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible?
The motion capture is a great time saver. MC animations are usually always a bit more natural, but every skilled animator can achieve the same results – the only difference is the time demand of such techniques, which is significantly higher in terms of time. We use MC especially for typical combat animations and NPC actions within the town and during conversations.
Can you tell us a little bit about what effect player actions can have on quest lines?
There are three types of quests in DoA. The main story quests which will concentrate on and further expand the game’s story about the human vs. Orc conflict. The order of these quests is actually fixed, but the player will often get a chance to fulfil the quest in more than one ways. No matter the manner he does that, the main story is, apart from some world changes, always same. Secondary quests, or side quests, will be quite complex and will have several different outcomes. As an example I’ll disclose a hypothetical quest about a farmer’s disappearing sheep. You might try to follow the suspicious tracks from the vicinity of the farm or wait for the night thief to expose himself during the act or you could simply ask around for more clues. Two of these options will take you further, but here’s where it all begins to get complicated. Have you really found the mastermind behind the stealing or just some of his goons? Will you kill them or will they escape before you can act? And if you really find their boss, then you have to figure out how to deal with him. We like to make our quests complicated and to evade the classical “go and kill” cliché. The third type is the so called minor quests. They are in fact smaller side quests without the complexity of the secondary quests and are closer to typical RPG quests. They should encourage the player to explore more or to travel between various locations. They fill the loose ends of our world, where the complex quests wouldn’t make much sense.
How does the party management work in the game, can you swap characters in and out of your party for different parts of the story for instance?
The group may be split at almost any time and some quests or puzzles will demand on this powerful feature. The only restriction’s that all of the characters must be all within a single game area. Character switching, as you may remember it from Betrayal at Krondor, is not possible and we don’t plan to implement it at this time either.
Is there a level cap in the game?
We are not really big fans of a level cap and the latest version has none. This mechanic will be decided probably in the beta testing phase – which obviously hasn’t happened yet.
What has been the biggest challenge during this project?
The biggest challenge is surprisingly the KS campaign. Tens of interviews and forums’ administration, KS updates, creations of new graphic content and even the very preparations are very demanding. But, it’s also a great opportunity to gain a solid fan base and to get in contact with the hardcore games community – so it really pays off in the end.
How has the communities feedback and reactions to ‘Dungeons of Aledorn’ been like so far?
The positive reactions significantly outweigh the negative, but to our surprise the total amount of reaction is lower than we’ve expected. We are sure that we’ve gained the attention of our target audience as we were Greenlit on Steam just in six days, which is a remarkable result and we can assume from it that our game is definitely attractive for many players out there.