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Spells of Gold Interview with Jonquil Software
Interview - posted by Mistress on Sat 18 January 2003, 01:16:09Tags: Jonquil Software; Spells of Gold
1. Can you tell us a little about Jonquil Software and the team working on Spells of Gold? What previous experience have the team had? What are the backgrounds of the team members?
The team was formed in 1996 (there were 2 men in it at that time). Before full-scale work on the project Spells of Gold they all used to work at different places: one of them was a school teacher, another â€“ a programmer at a hospital and another studied at a college. Gathering together in their free time they developed several short games for children. Now there are five people in the team and Spells of Gold is the first large project for each of them.
2. How did the idea to make a CRPG come about? What were the attractons of making a game in this particular genre? What do you feel the team have brought to this type of game in terms of individual strengths and interests?
We just like this genre. CRPG implies creating a large game world, wide possibilities for Hero developing and a variety of ways to do this. These are just what we wanted to see in our game. At the same time Spells of Gold differs from classical CPRG. Weâ€™ll talk about that later.
3. Spells of Gold has been described as "a role-playing game with a strong trade influence. Can you explain how trade works in the game? What inspired the decision to focus on this perspective? How do you feel that the approach impacts the game as a whole?
It is true that trade is one of the key features of the game. Some old games such as Elite and Privateer inspired this idea. You know the gameplay of the major part of RPG games is based on fight, conversations with NPC and exploring new lands. We tried to broaden the limits and introduce one more element, that is trade. In the beginning of the game the Hero, a young man, gets a Magic Sack of Monroke from his foster father. The Sack is a magic thing, which allows him to carry great amounts of goods without getting tired. There is no strict storyline in the game and the Hero is able to do everything he desires. The trading process is rather simple. You see, there are towns and shops in them. Each store has a choice of goods which are in requisition and which are offered. And the only thing the Hero has to do is to buy some goods in one town and deliver them safe and sound to another town. But there is one thing to be taken into consideration and that is the goods deterioration factor (say, wine, for example, doesnâ€™t get spoilt with the time, but we canâ€™t say this about meat or fruit), then instability of prices (seasonal and cyclical variations) and at last difference in goods value in different towns, worlds and some other factors...
So as a result weâ€™ve got another quite interesting aspect of gameplay. Trade is not only a way to make money but is also a stimulus for exploring the game universe (which is not at all small) and for learning new skills meant for a merchant. And to finish up with this question, weâ€™d like to note that the Hero is not bound to carry on trade only. It is quite possible to complete the game even without selling goods.
4. There are three different paths described in the game; good, neutral and evil. How closely are these tied to character development and player choices? What is the scale of variation between the three pathways? How is the pathway defined in terms of choices and the player's interaction with the game world? Does the "evil" truly represent the consequences of evil choices made by the player?
Yes, there are three pathways in the game and three variants to complete it, consequently. But let us not reveal all the secrets. We hope it will be much more interesting for the players to learn everything themselves. Weâ€™ll just tell that while advancing in the game the players will come across some surprises. The choice of the way depends on the players actions. The determining factor is the heroâ€™s â€œkarmaâ€, which depends on his doings (completion of â€œgoodâ€ or â€œevilâ€ quests, fulfillment of the task at some points of the story). In some cases the choice may depend on the player himself. Before the player reaches some definite point of the storyline development he may switch from one way to another.
As to the â€œevilâ€ way the player canâ€™t but do several really â€œbadâ€ things to advance in the way. But then.... well, let it be a secret for some time.
5. Can you give us some details on character development in the game? What range of skills and abilities is there? How is advancement linked to these skills and abilities? What can the various attributes be used to achieve in the game? Can you tell us the extent of the possibilities to play the game from a non-violent perspective, and a little about the skills and abilities relating to this?
In the beginning of the game the player gets a â€œstandardâ€ hero with equally low statistics. And itâ€™s up to the player himself what he will develop his hero into. Three types of experience â€“ warrior, mage and merchant, are offered in the game. With advancing in a level of any of these three types the hero gets points to distribute. However, these points are not equal. This means that if it is possible to distribute warrior points to Constitution in Â½ proportion (2 warrior points increase constitution by 1), to Strength and Dexterity in 1/1, then mage points may be distributed to Constitution in 1/10 proportion. But it turns out to be the easiest thing for the mage to increase his Intellect (1/1). So the warrior will have developed â€œwarriorâ€ statistics (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity and the depending on them Attack, Defense and others). As for the mage the main statistics for him is Intellect and for the merchant â€“ Charisma.
There are 23 skills divided into three groups â€“ common, military, spiritual â€“ in the game. There are skills that may be used by any character (Geography, Literacy) and there are special, particular to a certain character ones (weapon mastery, for ex.). At the same time there are 17 passive skills (they are constant) and 6 active ones (they are to be activated and they take mana). Skills as well as spells and prayers have several levels of development (from 5 through 20). The higher level of a skill or a spell the more powerful it is. Skills and spells are learnt at schools. Each school offers its own variety of skills to learn. Thus to gain the highest level skill or spell youâ€™ll have to graduate from many schools. Besides, it may happen that a teacher will refuse to teach the hero, if he doesnâ€™t have enough experience or his attitude is unfavorable.
Coming back to the development of the Hero. Various way are possible here. The player may develop his hero into a true warrior or a mage-warrior, or even a merchantâ€“warrior. The player is not limited in his choice. As to playing the game â€œpeacefullyâ€... Well, it is possible to avoid some battles with robbers by ransoming. But nevertheless the hero will have to fight while accomplishing NPCâ€™s quests or advancing through the storyline.
6. Quests obviously play a part in the game. How much variety will there be in terms of their nature and goals? Are there many optional quests? How do these tie in with the main, plot focused elements of the game?
In the game the Hero will have to accomplish a definite number of storyline quests. Each plotline suggests performing its particular tasks different from those of another ones. So to fulfill a task the Hero will have to pay money, to fight, to look for certain items, to buy magic potions, to look for some people and do other things. There are optional quests in the game (we speak about storyline quests not random tasks (see further)) but they are not many.
Now letâ€™s talk about non-storyline quests or missions. They are great many in the game. It is possible to get a task almost in every building. After accomplishing it the Hero is sure to be awarded with something either money or experience and maybe some karma points (white or dark) and besides, he will improve the NPCâ€™s attitude towards him himself. So the Hero gains a favorable attitude of a god by performing missions in the temple of that god. The missions offered depend on the Heroâ€™s experience and the NPCâ€™s attitude to him.
Missions do not influence the plot directly. But throughout the game their influence is obvious (karma, experience or the sum of money may be affected).
7. What roles do NPCs play in the game? What degree of interaction is possible with NPCs and what is their importance in the plot?
First of all, all the NPCs perform their particular tasks (trade, armor repair, patent sale etc.). They also charge the Hero with missions and may serve target characters in some of them (for example, in delivery quests). Besides, NPCs in towns (in the street) may share some information to the Hero as well as give a good piece of advice. Then as the story unfolds the Hero may happen to need getting some information and it is possible to ask an NPC character using a key word. And more, at definite moments storyline characters that affect the plot appear in towns.
8. There are four cultural zones in the game. Can you tell us a little more about the locations and the variety of environments encountered? What are the effects on gameplay? How much do encounters vary from location to location? What freedom is there in travelling between locations - is this tied to the plot, or completely free? Do the enemies encountered vary from location to location? Are there native species of monster etc?
You are right. Several cultural zones are presented in the game. They do not imply any connotation, actually, but sometimes the type of culture may require a certain choice of goods.
The game abounds in locations. Just note that every town has a suburban location which the Hero must pass to get to the town. (There are 100 towns in the game.) Besides there are numerous quest locations. As to environment locations they vary from sandy deserts to cold snowy forests.
The player is free to travel to any place familiar to him. To travel from one world to another he must go to a special location with a portal on it. The Hero will meet different enemies in his travels â€“ bunches of brigands, beasts and undead ones. There are several representatives of each group and each enemy has a certain level. Remember with the growth of the Heroâ€™s development level the enemies will also advance in their level. There are no monsters particular to a separate world. Though one of the story-line ways suggests meeting unique NPCs to fight with.
9. What elements of Spells of Gold do you feel set it apart from the crowd? How greatly does the game deviate from current trends in the genre? What do you see as the main appeal to bothe CRPG veterans and the uninitiated?
Well, in the first place, it is the trade element that sets Spells of Gold apart from the crowd. Then goes free choice of actions and possibility to deviate from the storyline. However, regardless of this fact, the game bears lots of features particular to its genre. In our mind CRPG veterans will find interesting the combination of role and trade systems and the non-linear storyline. As to the uninitiated they are sure to appreciate the simple control system of the game. We hope that both the first and the latter will find the huge game world and free play as well as lots of possibilities for avatar developing to their liking.
10. Can you give us a brief outline of the background to the game? How is the background revealed to the player? How much of this background is incorporated into the ongoing storyline of the game?
The prehistory of the game is very simple: a boy who had lost his parents was brought up by a merchant. After his foster father died he got a Magic Sack of Monroke and became a merchant himself. This is the starting point of the game. As to the background to the story it is a main element of the game and is revealed as the story goes on. In fact, completion of the game is a logical development of the events that took place in the old times. All the rest the players will learn as they advance in the game. So letâ€™s not spoil the pleasure of playing.
11. Combat is an integral part of the game, although there are alternatives. Can you give us some details on the combat system? How large is the range of weapons and what weapons are available to the player? How does the armor system work? What types of damage are there and what are the resistances?
The combat system in Spells of Gold reminds that of Diablo â€“ hack & slash. A rather wide choice of weapons includes daggers, two- and one-handed swords, maces and axes, bows and crossbows. But to be able to use some types of weapons it is necessary that the Hero should have certain statistics (Strength, Constitution and others) enough developed.
There are four statistics which have a paramount importance in a battle (they depend both on the primary statistics of the Hero, his inventory and level of skills and prayers). They are:
- Attack â€“ ability of the Hero to strike a blow and hit the enemy in unprotected spots
- Defense â€“ ability to avoid a blow (either to parry or dodge from it)
- Damage â€“ amount of damage delivered by the Hero if he hits the mark
- Armor â€“ body protection of the Hero (ability to bear a blow when hit).
Now letâ€™s turn to armor. It is possible for the Hero to put on 8 different pieces of armor (a helmet, a hauberk/coat of mail/vest, left and right armlets, left and right gloves/boots/greaves, a shield). When the Hero is hit the damage taken is counted according to the degree of protection of the spot struck. Each part of the body has its own damage factor. For example, a strike on the head causes more damage than a strike on a hand.
Besides physical damage taken in a battle there are some other types that are usually inflicted by magic or are results of a prayer of one of the gods. These types of damage are Palsy (the enemy cannot move), Blinding (the enemy doesnâ€™t respond to distant attacks), Slowing (the enemyâ€™s speed slows down), Poisoning (the enemy loses health), Curse (combat skills of the enemy are worsen). Adequately, some characters possess resistance to separate types of damage. Besides, each monster has its own perception determining its subjection to various kinds of physical damage (blade weapons â€“ swords, axes, blunt weapons â€“ maces, arrows). There is a special skill (Monstrology) allowing to define enemyâ€™s characteristics and its resistances.
12. Can you tell us a little about the game engine? What features do you feel have been particularly suited to the game? Which features posed major challenges in the game development? Have there been any major difficulties to overcome during the game development?
Isometric engine is used in Spells of Gold which has been developed to meet low system requirements. Among the features of the game weâ€™d like to note the possibility of â€œdressing upâ€ the Hero. The model of the Hero consists of seven parts â€“ the head, the left arm, the left hand, the right arm, the right hand, the body and legs (each part is meant for a piece of armor which is shown on the figure of the Hero). Thus it is possible to see the Hero without a helm but wearing a leather vest, steel greaves, with a leather armlet on his left arm and an iron-clad one on the right one etc.
The great game world and the necessity to combine a great many of possibilities (trade, gods, prayers, magic, skills and some other things) presented the main difficulty. But we seem to have succeeded.
13. The game is due for release in the first quarter of 2003. How realistic is this target?
At present the game is being sold on the territory of Russia. So the date is quite realistic.