Between the time when players battled with the power glove and the rise of the Super Nintendo, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this was Squaresoft, destined to wear the jeweled crown of JRPGs upon a troubled genre. It is I, the chronicler, who alone can tell thee of this saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!…Or at least the tale of Gentleman Studios and their quest to revive the 32-Bit Acton RPG genre with their upcoming game, RAiN.
I recently sat down with Gentleman Studio’s lead programmer and Designer, Joseph Nix, to talk about what they’re hoping to accomplish with RAiN as well his thoughts on the recent Kickstarter trend.
Piki Geek: Let’s hit the ground running, what made you want to create this game in the first place and do you have any previous experience in the industry?
Joseph Nix: RAiN is a game that seeks to blend old-school 32-Bit storytelling elements and modern gameplay mechanics. This game was originally intended to be a series of novels but, after some experimenting, it became very clear that RAiN’s proper medium was gaming. There are not that many games these days that weave a storyline around your own personality, we wanted to change that.
Formally, my programming experience comes from coding and programming Ultima Online and Ragnarok Online servers, as well as self-teaching. I have also been developing my writing ability for most of my life through short-stories, poetry and a novel project.
PG: After watching the alpha footage and looking at screenshots, I was reminded of old SNES games like Secret of Mana and Secret of Evermore. What sort of games were the major influences on RAiN?
JN: Our favorite question! Though the games that marginally influenced RAiN would be far too many to list, some of our main inspirations came from games like Zelda: A Link to the Past, Demon/Dark Souls, Alundra, Diablo, Silver, Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy 6 and Secret of Mana/Evermore.
PG: Out of the many game genres out there, why did you pick a retro genre like the 32-Bit Action RPG? Do you think these types of games still have a place in today’s market?
JN: We decided on a 32-Bit Action RPG quite simply because it was the greatest way for us to express the gameplay and storyline ideas we had imagined. Far too often these days, story-driven games tend to be more cinematic and involve the player less than their 32-Bit ancestors. We want the player to experience the story, instead of watch it take place… similar to that feeling you get when you get absorbed in a really amazing book. Throwing in cut-scenes every few minutes tends to break immersion and that is something we constantly try to avoid.
As we have seen with games like Cave Story, the ability to create a great game is distinct from its graphical presentation. By using stylized and non-realistic graphics we feel like people engage their imagination more, a process which makes the game a lot more fun and engaging. I think that the market will always have a place for these games, even more so as modern gaming companies become increasingly out of touch with their foundations.
PG: Going with the previous question, did nostalgia play any factors into the game’s creation and potential fanbase?
JN: On a personal level, I feel like a lot of modern RPGs only fully develop either their storyline or their gameplay. Games from years before tended to tell a story both through the environment and gameplay, and I know a lot of people (myself included) miss that kind of storytelling. This game is for them and the people who never got the opportunity to experience such great games.
When developing the game, we made sure to look back at our influences with a critical eye. There are a lot of gameplay mechanics in retro games that have been outdated due to their inefficiency, and we chose to update those mechanics.
PG: Story seems to be a huge emphasis in the game with all of the different endings available based on character development. How did you go about developing the stories and overall writing?
JN: The world of Ara has existed inside my own head for over 10 years now, constantly developing deeper layers of complexity. Over the last few years, this world has been shared with the development team and every member played an equal role in improving and adding to the game’s world, lore and back story. One huge advantage of this is that ideas became extremely refined and consistent as we all developed the story together and with consensus.
All of us here at Gentlemen Studios have been inspired and influenced by many different sources. This blend of imaginations makes it possible to tell a story with a lot of depth and emotional variety.
PG: You’ve mentioned on Kickstarter that each character will be represented by a different instrument/theme. Will this difference also be evident in the character’s overall personality and dialogue?
JN: Absolutely! We are building the game from the ground up with your choices in mind, choices that impact not only the storyline and the dialog, but the immersion as well. All of the characters have a personality that is reflected in the feel of their associated instrument. For example, if you make Leo more aggressive, his musical accompaniments may change from acoustic to heavier electric guitar.
PG: Do you have any plans to release RAiN on XBLA and/or PSN following its Windows release?
JN: A huge goal for us is to expand to additional platforms after release. The amount of platforms expanded to really depends on our sales. We plan on putting close to 100% of our sales into the games platform expansion until we feel we have expanded enough to meet the needs of our fans.
PG: You mention in one of the promo videos that you won’t have DLC. Was this specifically about paid DLC? Or will you be adding additional content for free?
JN: This refers specifically to priced downloadable content. We will be patching the game after release for however long is necessary to ensure that it is free of bugs and fully balanced. We do plan on adding additional content to the game after its release, but we have yet to explore to scope and depth of this additional content.
PG: Do you think Kickstarter has any negative impact on the game industry at all? It’s a great model that brings games to the market that wouldn’t have the opportunity, but is that always a good thing?
JN: I think that Kickstarter is amazing funding tool that could be made even more amazing by further emphasizing backer safety. Discovering Kickstarter as a backer myself, it is a little disappointing that developers have no formal obligation to finish their product. In general though, I feel like it is a great thing for the gaming industry. Because the economic climate is so volatile, many companies are producing sequel after sequel of the same franchises. This narrow approach to production limits the overall creativity present in the games that are available to us gamers. Kickstarter helps alleviate that a bit.
For those wishing to support this project, the Kickstarter campaign will be open until May 31st.