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ShadowVault interview

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ShadowVault interview

Codex Interview - posted by Saint_Proverbius on Thu 7 August 2003, 05:21:39

Tags: Mayhem Studios; Shadow Vault

1.) Can you tell us who you guys are? What Mayhem's done? What Mayhem would like to do? Just fill in the gaps for those who don't know.

Mayhem Studios s.r.o. is a Slovak company specialized in computer games development, based in Bratislava.

The first title released by Mayhem Studios was an "old-school" 2D adventure LOST ISLAND.. It was distributed in the Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and USA.

The second title is a strategy game EMPIRE OF MAGIC that is currently being sold in Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, USA, Canada, Mexico, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and soon also in Poland, Hungary, Italy, Russia, China, Germany, Great Britain, San Marino, Switzerland and Austria.

Our actual titles:

Shadow Vault - Strategy RPG from the nuclear war surroundings.
Term of finishing: October 2003.
Actual state: final testing process.

Neverend - Epical RPG game in the style of Final Fantasy.
Term of finishing: January 2004.
Actual state: Graphics and code almost finished, the game is being scripted and some dialogues are being changed.

Fast Cars - Racing game spiced by jumping bridges, loopings and other obstacles.
Term of finishing: May 2004.
Actual state - implementation of the physical module, engine tuning.

2.) Can you give us a little background on Shadow Vault? How long it's been in the works? What influenced the title? What made you decide to make the game?

Only a small team started working on Shadow Vault two years ago, and it spread over time. Above all we liked the concept. There are plenty of games showing nice over-technicized future but only a handful of those showing sad, devastated land after a nuclear war. And only a small step was missing during the times of the Cold War for this vision to become reality. Shadow Vault was not designed for hard-core strategy players. It's aim is to provide enjoyable relaxing experience without the need of studying heavy manuals. In contrary to other games, we simplified the rules but on the other hand, we added a lot of actions and strategic possibilities.

3.) Shadow Vault is being referred to, by Mayhem, as a Turn Based Strategy RPG. Can you tell us what you mean by this? Is it basically a non-fantasy setting "dungeon crawler"?

Shadow Vault stands in between RPG and strategy games genre. It is a strategy game that allows the player to use RPG elements like character development, buying resources or a catching story that moves the action forward without forcing the player to read long texts. He's got the possibility of taking on optional quests that yield bonuses. Quests can also tell the player a bit more about the game-world of Shadow Vault.

4.) Can you explain a little bit about the time travel plot going on here? What attracted you to the blend of post apocalyptic and time travel?

We just liked the idea of a dark, devastated world. In Shadow Vault, every scenario is a story of itself. Campaign is a collection of stories that intersect and cross each other to be unfolded at last in a shocking ending. I shall not unveil more to not spoil the surprise. Though the story is quite linear, I think it could otherwise not be so catching. There are however some moments in the game where player influences the course of the game.

5.) Can you tell us a little bit about the character system in Shadow Vault?

The player mostly plays for the alliance (people from the past) that tries to tear the Earth out of the invader's hands. In some phases of the game though, the player will have the opportunity to check out the game from the opposite point of view. Responsibility lies upon 6 to 15 units, depending on the scenario. It is up to the player to choose which units he will use and thereby influencing what special abilities he will have at disposal. For example - a medic able to heal wounds, a sniper working on long distances, or a technician able to operate mechanical units.

Except for standard units there are also heroes in the game. My most favorite is the powerful and mysterious Doctor Black, 9-year old boy with a cynic point of view and paranormal abilities. Major Zuzka is also worth mentioning because he can be trained to become the most powerful unit in the game.

6.) Can you offer up a little insight on the skills system of the title? What are some of the skills? How are they used? Are they all combat based?

Actions are of various kinds - from basic healing to targeting enemy units for the artillery, from installing and repairing mechanical weapons to using radar for enemy position locking, etc. Units gain skills either from the merchants (by training or buying things - objects also count as skills) or by completing a quest or advancing to a higher level. Buying is similar to that in Panzer General. Player is gradually awarded with prestige points that he uses for buying skills. Skills are for example: technical endurance, special first aid training etc., skills - objects can be for example: spy-glass, bullet-proof vest etc.

7.) How is progression handled in Shadow Vault? Is it the standard level up system based on experience points? How is it that a character will get better at a given area of expertise?

The progression system is standard. Character gets experience points according to the number and power of killed enemies, the usage of his skills and the fulfillment of his quests. When the unit reaches a certain amount of experiences, it levels-up.

8.) How is the combat handled? It's turn based, but what governs what actions are presented in any given turn?

Combat is divided into two parts. First and most important one is the usage of unit's ability (for example shooting, grenade throwing, spy-glassing, launching combat gas, etc.)

Second part is close combat. The physical endurance of the unit is important here but even more important are auxiliary units. A unit can have two auxiliary units in its group, for example dogs or mutant rats.

9.) Can you tell us a little bit about why you guys decided to make a turn based game? Can you tell us why you decided that turn based would make the best system for this time? Are there any features in the game that you guys definitely wanted that turn based allows?

Some of us remember the times when we met in a flat from time to time to play a mad table game. We drew maps, conquered countries, moved little figures across coordinate paper, shot in each one's back and finally ended up arguing about unclear rules. Strategies grew on our hearts. Unlike action games, they allow the player to think things over from a bigger distance, see the whole battlefield without hurry.

Later, the strategies started to fall into stereotypes so we simplified our rules, increased the variety of actions and added RPG elements to make the game more attractive.

10.) What types of weapons are there in the game? Will there be melee? Guns? Bows? Grenades? Kitchen sinks? Rabid monkeys on 10 foot poles? Any particular favorites on the weapons?

Generally, weapons can be divided into two types: weapons from the '50s of the last century (guns, rifles, grenades, etc.) and invader weapons (futuristic devices such as a beamlauncher). In close combat it is mostly knifes, axes or war hammers that find usage.

11.) Will there be any environmental interaction in the title? Blowing up buildings in addition to people? The typical oil drum thing? Vehicles?

The game-world of Shadow Vault consists of both the planet surface and open-air surroundings. Since it is a strategy game and the player controls a lot of units we did not focus on the indoor elements. Exceptions to this are the shops and special buildings with units fortified in them where close combat takes place. Player can use the surroundings for his own strategic purposes. For example you can hide a unit behind ruins and slip over to waiting enemies without being noticed.

Blowing up buildings is possible, it is used when completing some missions. For example the demolition of terrorist ammunition warehouse in the fourteenth level. The player does not control vehicles by himself but the contingent (people from the future) have mechanical weapons and tanks at disposal.

12.) Finally, one of the features is 20 different levels. Does this mean a linear plot from one mission to the next? Or 20 different towns you can travel to and from? Or did I totally miss what you mean by "levels"?

The game consists of 20 missions and you will soon have the opportunity to convince yourself about their miscellaneousness. Variation was one of the main focuses when designing Shadow Vault. Mostly the game flows from one mission to the next.

A typical mission in Shadow Vault can not be exactly defined. Mission scenarios are different and they even change dynamically during the game. For example a group of soldiers gets a mission of occupying an enemy factory. The enemy sends support to the region immediately, so the player's next mission will be to stop the enemy's counterattack. In case the player's situation is not looking good he gets a mission from the command to retreat from the location with as much units alive as possible.

Thanks to Tomáš Benčík of Mayhem Studios for taking the time to get back with us about Shadow Vault!

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