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Andhaira finds out about Knights of the Chalice
Interview - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 11 May 2009, 11:32:00Tags: Knights of the Chalice
1. First of all, tell us about Knights of the Chalice and why we all should be looking forward to it.
Knights of the Chalice is a traditional 2D RPG where you create a party of heroes and embark on a series of adventures in a fantasy world. The game features tactical turn-based combat, a good AI and user-friendly interface. It is based on the Open Game Content 3.5 from Wizards of the Coast.
2. Tell us something about yourself. What made you go into indie game development, and do you have a day job?
My name is Pierre Begue. I'm 33 and I live in the UK. I do have a day job which takes around half of my time. I decided to make my own game as I admire others who did their own (like the creators of ADOM, Avernum and Eschalon), I love turn-based games and I think it is a shame that the engine used in Dark Sun was not used in many other PC games.
3. How much time and money have you spent on developing the game so far? Have you had any problems getting that money or finding the time? Are there times when you've regretted any of it?
I have been working on it around three years and a half. First I worked on it during the week-ends then I switched to part time employment. In terms of money the cost was reasonably low thanks to the low resolution graphics. I don't regret any of it because first, there's no other way to learn all the aspects of game making, and second, I enjoy doing game design and programming.
4. How did the idea for Knights of the Chalice come about? What made you want to create this game specifically and not some other game?
The other game genres just aren't as interesting to me. I enjoy empire games like Civilization, but they have a fundamental flaw, in that as your empire expands, you spend more and more time on unimportant micromanagement. That is not the case with cRPGs since you do not control more and more characters as you progress in the game.
From the beginning I wanted to use the open content rules from Wizards of the Coast as they are well balanced and familiar to many gamers. I wanted the game to feature interesting combat and enemy spellcasters that can make good use of their powers. Too many modern cRPGs deal with combat as if it was a non-essential part of the game that should be over as quickly as possible.
The game's title is a reference to the legend of the Holy Grail. In my opinion, the Arthurian legends and the Knights Templar are a great source of inspiration for any cRPG. However, the game draws even more from some old D&D adventures: "Scourge of the Slave Lords" and "Against the Giants".
5. What games influenced Knights of the Chalice and how did they influence you?
Mostly two games: Dark Sun Shattered Lands and Temple of Elemental Evil. Dark Sun has a great interface and fast gameplay which I have tried to replicate, and TOEE has the D&D 3.5 ruleset and a superb help system that records the detail of all dice rolls and modifiers.
6. Now tell us about the game world. Are there things about your gameworld that are unique and interesting or are you sticking with fairly generic fantasy?
It is a fairly generic fantasy game world, similar to the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance D&D campaign settings. The game takes place in the Crimson Coast, where scattered humanoid settlements eke out a living under constant threat from slaver gangs, savage giant tribes and scheming dragons. Each of these groups would like nothing more than to take over the world. If they ever join forces, the world will surely descend into barbarism.
7. How many towns, villages, locations etc do characters visit during the course of the game? What will we get to do there?
There are around 14 unique areas, including caves, towers, enemy fortresses, three villages and two cities. Each area features several levels, for example there may be a single underground level below a city and a tower location may have three levels.
The game starts at the headquarters of the Knights of the Chalice, an organisation similar to the Knights Templar. Villages usually need your help to free them from a tyrant's yoke or other evil menace. As the party grows in power, it is assigned quests of increasing significance.
8. What kind of an experience are you looking to give: pure old-school turn-based combat, an in-depth story, exploration, or some combination of these?
It is firstly about good turn-based combat. This is achieved, hopefully, through the variety of combat situations (as the party may be ambushed, surprised, fighting with allies, etc) and the variety of opponents, magic spells and tactics. All enemies behave as a group and you will not be able to fight them one by one as in the Infinity Engine games. Dragons are my favourite enemy, from time to time they will reposition themselves in order to blast the party with their breath weapon.
This is also a game of exploration. There are no empty areas. You will discover treasure, decipher secret messages, find unexpected allies and trade with them, choose between factions, negotiate with enemies and expose traitors. It is through the actions of the player, and how he copes with combat encounters, that the storyline unfolds.
9. Is the game mostly standard RPG fare "Kill X monster and collect reward" or have you tried to add a bit of variety into it?
None of the quests are about killing an arbitrary number of monsters, or collecting an arbitrary number of items. The quests are just what you would expect from real people; if a village is invaded by lizardmen, you will be asked to push them back, and if slavers are thought to be hiding in an ancient stockade, you will be asked to investigate. In my opinion it is more important for a quest to be heroic than to be original. In Divine Divinity, there were some original quests like washing the castle's dishes or finding a white cat. While these are humorous, they are not what you would expect a hero to spend his time on.
10. While the character generation looks in-depth and fun, Knights of the Chalice provides only 3 classes to choose from (Fighter, Wizard or Cleric). Why is that?
First of all, let me point out that a game can still be good with just three character classes. For example, the first Diablo had only three. Now to answer your question, it is due to lack of time and the fact that I have been working more on other things, like the AI. In a sequel, I would like to add the following classes: barbarian, paladin, assassin and psionicist.
11. On combat, what made you go for turn-based combat as opposed to real-time or real-time with pause? Do you prefer turn-based combat systems to real-time?
Yes, I dislike the real time and real time with pause systems found in modern cRPGs. I like phase-based systems like the one in Wizardry 8, but I prefer a turn by turn system. It is much easier to target spells and control party members in a turn-based system.
12. Give us an example of how a typical encounter might go. What sort of things will we be doing in combat?
All right, say your party was exploring some caves. You find a passage back to the surface and as soon as you emerge into the light of day, you are set upon by gnolls. As the party is surprised, the gnolls get a free round which they use to rain arrows down on the party and get ready versus spellcasting. One of the arrows hits your fighter: a sleep arrow. The fighter fails his saving throw and falls asleep. The cleric uses his turn to wake the fighter up. The wizard tries to activate his fireball wand, but doing so triggers the ready versus spell action of two of the gnolls. The gnolls fire their crossbows at the wizard who then fails to cast his fireball. Another round begins, this time the gnolls launch a charge. Two of them position themselves in order to flank the party's fighter, gaining combat bonuses. The fighter attacks and kills a gnoll outright. He has cleave and gets a free attack on another.
These are typical actions you will take in combat. Your characters and their opponents have a lot of options to choose from, including five foot step, charge, bull rush, grapple, pin, casting a spell, ready versus approach, ready versus spell, delay, counterspell, using the inventory, whirlwind attack, breath weapon, etc. Ready versus spell is maybe the most interesting. An enemy wizard may use it against your wizard, while your wizard could use it against another opponent; and if that opponent casts a spell it will trigger a chain reaction.
13. You say this is an "RPG-orientated RPG, not an action-RPG". What do you mean by that? Isn't the game mostly combat?
By RPG-orientated RPG, I mean that the game tries to be as close as possible to what you would experience when playing a pen and paper RPG. Action RPGs usually feature a single player character and a real time combat engine. The player's speed and accuracy can affect the outcome of a fight. In Knights of the Chalice, you control a party of characters, combat is turn based and the player's speed and accuracy with the mouse do not matter.
14. Regarding the story, how much of an effect does the player have on it? Can they affect the way things turn out or is it a linear tale?
The player can affect the way things turn out through his choice of dialogue responses. In some situations, the party can choose between diplomacy, bluff, stealth and outright battle. Some other times you have to choose which group or person to trust. The overall plot is linear.
15. You say we can only play as the "good guys". What made you make this decision? Why can't the player be bad?
It would not fit with the game's theme and storyline. The game is about knightly characters doing heroic deeds, not about killing innocents and betraying your friends. The whole plot becomes moot if you assume that the player characters are evil. Instead of fighting the slavers, they would rather join them or trade with them.
16. How is development going? Are you nearly finished or are you a while off yet? What's still left to do?
I'm planning to add a journal of quests, a few more battles in the full game and two more encounters in the demo. I also need to review some areas of the full game to make them more difficult and more interesting tactically. I hope these things can be finished in a few months.
17. If all goes well and you complete the game, do you have any sequels planned? What about other games? Is this something you'll be doing again?
Yes, if this is financially viable I would like to make another game using the same engine with improvements such as the trip combat action, swallow whole monster ability, new terrain like deadly chasms, more character classes and races, etc
Thanks to Andhaira for the questions and to Pierre for taking the time to answer. You can find out more about the game at its website.