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Interview with TSI's David Shelley at Digitally Downloaded

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Interview with TSI's David Shelley at Digitally Downloaded

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 18 September 2014, 16:12:40

Tags: David Shelley; Seven Dragon Saga; Tactical Simulations Interactive

The trickle of publicity for Tactical Simulation Interactive's new Seven Dragon Saga project continues, with a new interview with David Shelley over at Digitally Downloaded. Here's an excerpt:

Digitally Downloaded (DD): One of the things that immediately caught my attention with your press release was with your background at SSI. As one of the most hardcore of SSI fans as a kid, the formation of TSI has immediately caught my attention for that nostalgia value. How heavily are you looking to tap into SSI nostalgia for your own games?

David Shelley (DS): We are looking at pulling in many of the elements we liked from the old SSI games: turn-based combat, player created party, strategic map for long distance travel and exploration. Our games will retain the more open world of most of those games, where exploration provides a lot of fun, as opposed to a linear story on rails.

DD: Can you describe for me the kind of game you're looking to build with Seven Dragon Saga?

DS: Tactical control, exploration, and strategic impact are our three main goals.

We had a lot of discussion about which classic elements work well and are underrepresented in today's games. Creating the whole party, and using it turn-based tactical combat was an obvious element, and one we all have enjoyed.

The storyline needs to be open, so players feel free to head off to explore the world and still find a worthwhile and somewhat guided experience. 'What do I do next?' is not a question we want players to be asking. While we enjoy worlds like Skyrim, we chose to use a strategic map for long distance travel. Players can find new map locations through exploration and story. Special encounters may pull the player down into a new area and enemy encounter.

Seven Dragon Saga is designed for starting the game with a reasonable amount of power, precluding the reluctant hero with rusty sword story. The players are already effective fighters and have the backing of the Empire. Using a faction system, in a land verging on civil war, how will players choose to use their powers? I expect many will default to “bull in a china shop”, some will take responsibility, and others reject the great power and support one independent group or another. Making player choices matter, and causing a strong impact on the world are key.

DD: How important is open storytelling to your game design? Are you looking to emulate the Bioware approach to game design in which player decisions really do impact on how the story plays out?

DS: Open storytelling is an important element of Seven Dragon Saga. The players need to be able to alter the outcomes in a meaningful manner. Since the player creates a group of heroes, we will not be emulating Bioware's robust romance and NPC conflict elements.

DD: We've seen in recent years the idea that even genres such as the RPG and strategy game need to be more visceral in order to be commercially successful, with action combat systems replacing more traditional turn based pacing. How do you see your game fitting in to the market from a commercial perspective?

DS: We discussed the choices between a real-time paused system (Bioware) and full turn-based in 3D (X-Com). With the success of crowd funded games like Wasteland 2, Torment, Divinity: Original Sin, and so on, we see there is a viable market for turn-based combat. Since turn-based provides the player the more complex and cerebral experience, we chose that option. Using a 3D based world, we will also have the option to use the camera to add visual excitement, setting the scene and so on.

DD: Do you have plans for Seven Dragon Saga to become a franchise, or what will you be looking to do after this game has been released?

DS: We are looking at Seven Dragon Saga being a franchise. Although, we have a lot of ideas and have had some early discussions with various RPG and strategy IP holders to see if we might leverage our expertise. We'd like to strike a balance between the two and continue to make great tactical experiences for our target audience.

Our goal with the first Seven Dragon Saga product is to make a firm commitment to publish on PC/Linux/Mac platforms. I want to see a polished product on one system, then consider how to expand its reach. We are interested in mobile and console, but we feel any port would require a full revision of the UI. Player inputs into each system are significantly different and to saddle the players of one with the interface of another is a disservice we don't wish to commit.​

David also has a bit to say about his career and what he's been up to since the glory days of SSI, so be sure to check out the full interview if you're interested in that. Did you know that the classic 4X Master of Orion could have been published by SSI, and that a lot of their suggestions made it into the final game?

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