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Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #37: Modern Lore, Multiplatform Release, Michael Cranford

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Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #37: Modern Lore, Multiplatform Release, Michael Cranford

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 17 June 2017, 00:18:40

Tags: Brian Fargo; inXile Entertainment; Michael Cranford; Nathan Long; Paul Marzagalli; Rebecca Heineman; The Bard's Tale; The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight; The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

The Bard's Tale IV was supposed to be at E3 this week, apparently represented by Techland, but other than this photo we didn't see or hear anything about it. I suspect something unusual may be going on here, but inXile aren't ready to talk about it yet in their new Kickstarter update. That's okay, because they have plenty of other things to say, starting with this curiously apologetic note from Brian Fargo about the style of the game's lore.

Hard to believe it's been nearly two years already since the game's Kickstarter campaign. I want you all to know that I'm very pleased with the way The Bard's Tale 4 is shaping up. The visuals are outstanding, the level design is strong, the puzzles are clever, and much of the personality and charm is starting to make it in. We've also worked out a deal to have someone very special provide input - you can find out about him at the end of the update. It's really coming together now and I can't wait to show you more.

Games today demand a deeper lore and sense of world than back in the day. My goal is to broaden the Bard's Tale world without losing the key people, places, spells, bard songs, etc. When we created Bard’s Tale back in 1985 we were young and excitable...more interested in mapping dungeons and torturing our players with teleporters, brutal combats, spinners, and darkness areas, than we were in telling a coherent story. We threw everything except the kitchen sink into those games - Nazis, ninjas, zen masters, robots, vampires, lizard men. We weren't exactly concerned with it making sense. Why did Mangar trap Skara Brae in ice? Does anybody ever say?

Well, we're for sure going to keep all the villains: Mangar, Lagoth Zanta, and the Mad God Tarjan. And we gotta keep Roscoe's and Garth's and the Adventurer’s Guild. Skara Brae's in there too, and the bard songs, the old spell names, along with all of the character classes including the ever popular Archmage. But knowing the lore is a bit thin and inconsistent (a lot of players made up better stories during their play-throughs than the games actually told) we needed to add some depth to the world. How do we stay true to the spirit and substance of the original games while adding the depth, history, and personality that today's players expect from a modern game?

Maybe we should start by figuring out how the events of the first three games fit together. How are Mangar, Lagoth Zanta, and Tarjan connected? What ambition drove them? Where did they come from? In what kind of world would beings of such power exist? What is the history behind it all? And can we give it all a unique flavor that will allow it to stand out from other fantasy games?

The Bard’s Tale was based loosely on Scottish and Orkney Island folklore so this seemed a good place to fill out the world and give it a unique look and feel. So let's deepen that - give it the mood, melancholy and menace of an old Celtic fairy tale. Let's make a world where elves keep humans as pets, where dwarves demand impossible payments for a broken deal, where the trow are a cursed and vagabond race, where Mangar and Lagoth Zanta and Tarjan were all corrupted by the whispers of evil entities from before the rise of man, where a ring of standing stones or an old stone arch or a tune whistled in a deep forest glade might open a door to worlds beyond the mortal realm.

Of course going in this direction required making some hard choices. Elves and dwarves are entirely in keeping with old Scottish lore. But orcs and hobbits are a bit played out and inventions of more modern authors, and aren't such a good fit. We dug deeper into the Orkney fairytales and found a race with a long and storied connection to Scottish legends, the Trow. So they will be our third non-human race, with unique combat abilities and useful songs they can teach your bard.

In the end it's a balancing act. Fighting to keep as many of the touch-points of the original Bard’s Tale series as we can, while at the same time filling out the story, giving the background some consistency, and updating the combat, graphics, and game-play to state of the art standards. And with every design decision, we are doing our best to make The Bard's Tale IV a game that new players will love and old fans will welcome as a true sequel to the original Bard's Tale trilogy.
Perhaps he's addressing the complaints about it that have been posted by oldschool Bard's Tale trilogy fans on the inXile forums from time to time. That may not be the only reason to strike an apologetic tone, though. The update also announces, as many people have been expecting for some time, that The Bard's Tale IV is now a multiplatform game. That's not really a big deal in this genre in my opinion, but inXile seem pretty contrite about it.

E3 is a time for announcements, and we do have a brief (but important) one of our own: inXile Entertainment is pleased to announce that The Bard’s Tale IV will be coming to consoles. We will have more to announce, including which consoles and who our publishing partner is, at a later date. We are also investigating ways for backers to opt for console versions of The Bard’s Tale IV, but please keep in mind that we do not currently know if the console version will ship at the same time as the PC one. Be on the lookout for more news across our social media channels and in these updates for further information. As soon as we can share details with you, we will.

For all our backers, it is important to note that The Bard’s Tale IV is a PC-centric release. As with our other Kickstarter projects, no crowdfunding money for the PC version was spent on console development. In addition, whether it is a partnership with Oculus that allows us to develop assets we can use for The Bard's Tale IV, hiring talented developers who bring a knowledge and passion for the series, or investing our own funds on top of the raised money, we are always looking for ways to make the best game possible for our fans. This is the next chapter in a classic franchise that goes back to mid-1980’s computer gaming, so that is the legacy which we are focused on (as you have seen throughout this update). We want to grow the fan base for this game and introduce the series to a new generation, but most of all, we want this to feel like a coming home party for those backers and fans who grew up with the games.​

And so to sweeten the pill, they announce the return of a name that we haven't seen since the Kickstarter was funded two years ago - original Bard's Tale creator Michael Cranford.

We've saved the best for last. In 1984, a very young Paul was playing Adventure Construction Set, a program which allowed users to build their own RPGs. Over the next couple of years, I learned the highs and lows of what it meant to make games. In 1986, I was wandering the aisles in Toys R' Us when I saw a box for the Commodore 64 version of The Bard's Tale, a game I had seen and loved, but was previously only available on Apple. I was finally able to play the game, and it was everything that I hoped it would be. As amazed as I was by the game, I was equally astounded by this picture on the inside cover of the game box:

The guy who made the game wasn't some grizzled, professional-looking white collar type. Instead, Michael Cranford looked like a version of every friends’ big brother - only a few years older, letting us young'uns know what high school and college would be like. The difference was that Michael wasn't making games just for fun; he was doing it as a job. When I interviewed for this position, I cited that memory from 1986 as the moment I realized that I could do more than just enjoy making games, I could possibly do so for a living. The Bard's Tale series was the inspiration for many developers who would go on to make role-playing classics over the next few decades. Any computer role-playing fan owes a debt to the young man in that picture!

This is why everyone at inXile Entertainment is proud to announce that Michael will be contributing to The Bard's Tale IV, providing feedback for us and even contributing a bit to the game itself. He may even have a cameo in the game somewhere. See if you can find him when the time comes! For new players to the series, this is just one more way we look forward to introducing you to the special magic of The Bard's Tale series. For returning veterans, it's that much more thrilling to know that we're not alone in our excitement to return to Skara Brae - Michael Cranford will be returning with us, too!
There's plenty more of that kind of thing in this update, including the news that lead writer Nathan Long is writing a series of Bard's Tale novellas to help tie together the lore more convincingly, and that an apparently pacified Rebecca Heineman has resumed work on the remastered Bard's Tale trilogy. I guess we're looking at the post-Torment inXile - humbled and desperate to appease their core audience. I'm not complaining!

There are 19 comments on Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #37: Modern Lore, Multiplatform Release, Michael Cranford

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