Resolution: For the uninitiated, give our readers a developer's view on what
The Age of Decadence is all about.
Vince D. Weller: It's a role-playing game where you are given a lot of meaningful options (as of opposite to being forced to do things a certain way) and your decisions will affect the gameplay and have consequences. We've posted quite a few dialogue screenshots illustrating choices & consequences, so jaded cynics are welcome to visit our forums and see for themselves.
Other notable features are turn-based, non-linear, multiple quest solutions, plenty of mutually exclusive quests, extensive dialogue trees, and faction dynamics.
R: There's a definite sense with The Age of Decadence that you're making the game
you want to play, rather than the type of game the masses are perhaps demanding. Would this be a fair suggestion?
VDW: Of course. I think that most developers want to make games they want to play, but mainstream studios simply can't afford it. They have to worry about publishers getting decent returns on their 10-40 million dollar investments, which gives these studios no choice but to make "safe" games aimed at the casual market. Even selling a million copies - once a trademark of financial success - no longer guarantees profitability (see
Spore for details).
Indie developers don't have this headache. So far the game has cost us around 10k. Let's say we spend another 10k on advertisement. Comparing to millions of dollars that mainstream studios must recover, it's nothing, which gives us the flexibility to make a game we want to play it and see if there is a market for such games. If there isn't, well, we've tried. If there is, we will make more games.
industry keeps producing games that are suitable for the
8-12 age group..."
Vince D. Weller
R: Last year, you published an article on the Iron Tower forum entitled "What's a role-playing game?" You seem to place an enormous emphasis on freedom of choice - not in a sandbox sense, but in terms of different ways of progressing within the set narrative. Is this what really defines a good RPG for you?
VDW: It is. Maybe it's the age thing. I'm 38. I've played RPGs for more than 20 years. I remember being excited about killing monsters and
leveling up. I remember reading "real time combat!" on a
Dungeon Master box in 1987 and wondering what the hell that was supposed to mean. I remember being immersed in first person, real time
Stonekeep, which had an insane five million dollar budget - back then it was so
insane it was mentioned in the game's ads - and greatly enjoying it, although the game revolved around clearing several dozen dungeon levels with extreme prejudice. Being an RPG junkie, I've experienced it all, loved it all at some point, but now I want something more than killing monsters and watching "awesome" cinematics. I want to be able to decide what to do, when to do, and why. I want to decide, not to be told, who my allies and enemies are.
I'd compare it to child's development. A child starts reading kids' books, then teens' books, and then finally progresses to a more serious literature, even if it's sci-fi or fantasy. Well, the problem with the gaming industry is that it keeps producing games that are suitable for the 8-12 age group.
Going back to your question, when the novelty of killing monsters in the most visually spectacular manner wears off, freedom of choice becomes the main attraction.
R: Your decision to go with a turn-based combat engine is likely to sit awkwardly with some newcomers to a genre that has largely merged with the real-time action crowd. Are you aiming this specifically at lovers
of a particular breed of RPGs? Or is it just a case, again, of you making the sort of game
you want to play? You certainly seem somewhat dismissive of real-time in the aforementioned article.
VDW: The game is turn-based because we like
turn-based combat and aren't overly crazy about its
real-time cousin, which - in my opinion - is inferior to
turn-based in nearly every aspect but cinematics, and thus is absolutely unnecessary in a role-playing game.
Turn-based gameplay is about thinking, considering your options, and using tactical advantages. Real-time gameplay is about clicking really, really fast. The fact that developers add pause to real-time combat when they want to add a bit more depth to
it should tell you everything you need to know.
As for the awkwardness, I beg to differ. Civilization, one of the most popular and venerable series, is and always was turn-based. I don't see newcomers being confused by its complicated mechanics. 2008's
King's Bounty, a tactical turn-based game with role-playing elements, was very well received and even got several Game of the Year awards. Troika's
Temple of Elemental Evil, a turn-based DnD game, was the best selling Atari RPG in 2004 and the second best selling PC game, losing only to
Unreal Tournament, which is quite an achievement for an isometric RPG.
The only problem with turn-based combat is that the casual market finds real time combat and pretty cinematics associated with it more appealing and easier to get into it, and since the publishers are willing to do whatever it takes to get a piece of the casual market. More room for indie developers.
is the only company that 'gets it' - making good games
Vince D. Weller
R: You certainly aren't worried about speaking your mind,
VDW: I guess people are so used to generic, carefully-worded-to-please-everyone gaming interviews that anyone who does have an opinion immediately comes off as arrogant and overly self-assured. In other words, no, I'm not worried about speaking my mind and explaining what I like, what I don't like and why. If some people find it offensive, I can only hope that scars left by my opinions would eventually heal without leaving a permanent damage.
R: The Age of Decadence obviously doesn't match up visually to high-budget, next-generation titles. But
we love the way it looks. It feels nostalgic, reminiscent of the games
we grew up playing. Was this a conscious artistic decision, a matter of financial constraints, or both?
VDW: The decision was mostly artistic. Obviously, our 10k "budget" can't be compared to multi-million dollar budgets of mainstream titles, but most decisions reflect our preferences not technological limitations. Features like the isometric angle, turn-based combat, interface style are artistic or design choices that don't have anything to do with budgets.
R: When can we expect to be playing The Age of
This year, hopefully. The game is playable, but playable and good are two different things. Putting everything together was relatively easy. Making sure that every feature is good is the hardest and very time-consuming part. A lot of ideas sound great in theory, but they often work differently in-game or have unexpected side effects.
Overall, in my humble opinion, Blizzard is the only company that "gets it". Making good games takes time. You rush a game a lot of people want, you'll end up delivering an inferior product and piss of the very same people who only yesterday demanded the game to be released "now!". We get one shot at breaking into the gaming industry and we aren't going to take unnecessary risks by releasing the game before it's ready.
A combat demo will be released soon. We hope you'd enjoy it.