Interview with Team 21: Making Hardcore RPG with Unity Asset Store
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Interview with Team 21: Making Hardcore RPG with Unity Asset Store
4 February, 2015
Interview

Ladislav “Nefarit” Štojdl from Team 21 talked with 80.lv about game development in the Czech Republic and about the difficulties of creating hardcore RPGs.

Could you tell us a little bit about your studio?

Team 21 is based in Prague, in the Czech Republic. We are a new team, but all of our members are already professionals in their respective field with years of experience.

There are currently thirteen people working on the project: One game designer, two programmers, five graphic designers, one composer, two translators, a writer, a PR manager and a website manager.

Some of our team members are staff from the SPAFI organization, a professional group which has already worked on countless audio and video projects for movies, TV series, film effects (for example, on The Scorpion King), etc.

The “non-SPAFI” staff has also worked on several important projects. For example, one of our programmers created the PC versions of the Settlers of Catan and Agricola board games, including all AI, and our game designer has directly participated in the development of board games from the famous Czech designer Vláďa Chvaatil.

How would you describe the general game development situation in the Czech Republic?

There´s quite large and evolving community of game developers in our Country, most of which are also indie developers. It´s partially thanks to the local community ceske-hry.cz, which often organizes various events and meetings where developers exchange experiences and talk about their current projects.

If I were to mention all the projects from our colleagues, it would extend this interview well beyond a reasonable size, so I´m just going to mention a few that currently stand out from the crowd. The first is project DEX from Dreadlocks studio. It´s a Cyberpunk 2D RPG, and the project is in its final stage of creation. Then there´s Martin Mastný with his MMORPG Novus Inceptio that strongly focuses on survival and crafting. Another project worth mentioning is a very interesting platformer Blackhole from Fiolasoft in which you must alter the gravity in order to get to the next levels. And of Warhorse studio and their Kingdom Come: Deliverance project. Their Kickstarter campaign was a great success, and we’re definitely looking at everything they did to succeed.

There are, of course, many Czech mobile games as well. However we don´t focus on this kind of games, so we can´t evaluate them adequately. As far as I´ve heard, the currently most interesting Czech mobile game is a remake of the Galaxy Trucker board game from V. Chvaatil or the Perfect Paths from Hyperbolic Magnetism.

From the F2P-camp, it is definitely worth mentioning online card game Coraabia which immerses players into its universe with quite unique species. Apart from that, there are also a few sports managers, such as Powerplay Manager from Blackdevil_NZ.

And then there is your team with Dungeons of Aledorn (DoA). What kind of game is this?

We think of our game as a spiritual successor to the old-school masterpieces of the genre. Although the game is based on a distinctive old-school style and general atmosphere, we´ve tried to combine these features with modern technology and thus have created a whole new game concept. It brings together a classic first-person view with turn-based tactical battles on a hex-based field.

 

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The entire game is designed on several elementary pillars: realism, sophisticated RPG system, along with featuring complex quests.

Realism is accentuated in the combat. We want to give our players a wide variety of combat options and let them find their own tactics to win the fight with the least system restrictions as possible. It will be possible to jump over obstacles or to get behind cover. You will also be able to throw various objects, such as oil, at enemies, which may be subsequently ignited. There will also be several types of active defense and action-points-based inventory-use during fights, along with many other features, which should in the end present the most realistic turn-based combat experience you can think of right now.

On top of that, we are taking one step further towards realism in terms of a neat built-in battlefield feature – there are no preset battlefields. You are the one who decides where the fight takes place. The game will create the hex battleground right on the spot and will expand the battlefield if needed. Also, all objects from the environment (such as tables, chairs, fireplaces, etc.) will be an option for players to interact with them during the combat. The choice of a suitable battlefield is therefore very important and adds an interesting strategy element to Dungeons of Aledorn.

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The basics of our RPG system are derived from the classic AD&D model. Players create a character; choose its race and a profession. Then they continually gain experience in order to level up. At each level-up, he´s confronted with having to choose in which way his characters will evolve – selecting which skills should be improved/obtained and thereby ends up creating unique characters. At the same time, the characters are additionally defined by their perks and by other special abilities.

What do we mean by complex quests? Forget the old go-to-some-specific-location-and-kill-everything-nearby stuff. We make the quests way more interesting. We let our players find out the solution by exploring and gathering clues in order to successfully complete them. And there will be usually more than a single solution to them, each with a different outcome.

As icing on the cake comes DoA’s camping system. We will let the player use this time of the day to do some specific actions, which can further develop you character or help them survive – sleeping, meditation, hunting, guarding, exploring, gathering of herbs, doing maintenance and repair work on their equipment, etc. On the end of the camping phase you´ll get a report on the successes/failures of your heroes.

What technology are you using for this game?

We´ve decided to use UNITY 3D. Why? Well, it might sound funny, but the main reason was that two of my colleagues were already at the start of our project (before our cooperation with SPAFI) very experienced Unity users. In addition, it has allowed us to create the core of the game within a limited budget. It is a very versatile engine that allows us to quickly implement our ideas and vision for DoA.

How do you manage to work with such great quantities of content? Do you use any asset stores or other content delivery platforms? Do you buy content or do you produce everything yourself?

We use just a minimum of Unity´s prefab scripts to test things, because our programmer creates scripts on his own, specifically tailored to our project’s needs.

Considering our budget, we couldn’t have started to create everything we plan to include in DoA. We’re aiming at an experience like those from AAA RPG releases, and, therefore what we’re doing is using the best items available from Unity asset stores to get things started, and then we really get to work on the specific content for our game. Models are reworked, new HD textures and lighting is applied, shadows are implemented and so on. By the end, everything in DoA is a completely new asset!

As for animations, it’s a mix of things. Classic animations are bought from the assets store, since they greatly help us to streamline the whole process… but we also create special animations in our own motion capture studio! And then we have the music for DoA, which is being created by our composer in order to make everything come together into a cohesive universe.

Why did you apply to Kickstarter? What makes this platform so attractive for indie developers?

There are two valid answers to your question: advertisement and money.

Kickstarter has become a major phenomenon, especially for indie projects, and many people look up to it, and it draws the attention of many people around the world. A successful Kickstarter campaign will bring you much more than just money. It is a priceless advertisement tool as well. And that is exactly what our game needs. There´s still quite a big competition on PC (of course incomparable to mobile games industry) as there are always several new titles of the same genre on the market released throughout the whole year. It isn´t hard to fall through the unforgiving sieve of ignorance and be forgotten among many other games if you don´t know how to show your work to potential customer. Therefore, it is most important to have a good and interesting game but at the same time, when you present it on Kickstarter and let the world know about you, your chances to be acknowledged by the community rise significantly.

All staff that is working on DoA are currently either fully or partially employed. As indie developers, we each need to be doing something else to survive. If we didn’t have to deal with what we have to do to live, everything would be much easier. We would use the money from KS for the development (programs, developing assets, marketing) and then finance our expenses from other avenues, such as when the game is approved on Greenlight and once it is released and we start to sell it to the public.

How do you work with Kickstarter? Did you partner with an American representative to crowdfund your game?

As developers from the Czech Republic, we have our hands tied by several Kickstarter rules. We could have tried other options such as Indiegogo or other crowdfunding platforms, but we all know that Kickstarter is the leading force in this area, and we have therefore decided to do everything we can to get there. Luckily, we’re working hard to have a Kickstarter campaign under the strict guidelines.

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We´ve also hired a Boutique PR agency that will help us run the campaign. They specialize in Kickstarter campaigns and have already led several successful ones, helping project creators secure close to $700,000 in funds over the last year alone, so we’re very happy about having managed to secure a slot in their busy schedule. We believe that their experience will help us achieve our goals.

We have already received some offers from game publishers, but so far we had to politely decline their proposals. If we are successful on KS, we are fully confident that we´ll be able to provide gamers with a game that is true to our vision. We also plan to run a Greenlight during the Kickstarter campaign to greatly increase our odds.

What are the most expensive parts of the development process?

When we did a preliminary review of all cost associated with all the work we’d need to get done, we realized that these are the areas that will take a larger chunk of our budget:

  • Graphics / Animation
  • The program / engine / script

How do you feel about the future of indie developers?

The indie sector has a bright future, not only thanks to the mobile games industry boom and financially accessible programs such as Unity, but also because of their diversity.  Indie developers definitely can´t try to compete with the big AAA titles, but they have many advantages over said releases that, with the appropriate skills, time and a little bit of luck, can give indies great success.

The main advantage of indie developers is that they can experiment more. They don´t have to focus so much on mainstream players and can rather make the game as they really wish it to be.

If you are a beginner, then I would definitely advise you to start with several smaller and simpler games. No need to do a full-scale RPG right away! It must sound pretty funny from someone like me, since I´m exactly the example of such a developer, but that´s only because there was no one to pass this great life wisdom on to me. I am definitely convinced that if I hadn’t managed to gather so many capable people, I wouldn´t stand the slightest chance to finish this game.

I am convinced that it is possible to make the game just on your own, but in such case, it´s even more important to clearly definite your options and plans before you get down to the development itself. You´ll hardly create an MMORPG on your own, although there are some, like Martin Mastný, who currently works on his MMORPG, which might prove me wrong.

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