Visit our sponsors! (or click here and disable ads)
RPG Codex Interview: Seven Dragon Saga - A Return To Golden Boxes
Codex Interview - posted by Zed on Fri 10 October 2014, 20:27:11Tags: Seven Dragon Saga; Tactical Simulations Interactive
Tactical Simulations Interactive, or TSI Games, were kind enough to answer some of our questions regarding their upcoming (spiritual) successor to the GoldBox RPGs of the late 80s and early 90s: Seven Dragon Saga. From this interview, we learn with certainty that TSI will indeed go the route of crowdfunding Seven Dragon Saga. We also learn a thing or two about party sizes, combat, the world map and more.
RPG CODEX: Tactical Simulations Interactive (TSI) has more in common with the defunct Strategic Simulations Interactive (SSI) than just the name. Could you give us a run-down of SSI-related personnel involved in this project, and perhaps tell us a little about how you all got together (again) and started this project?
You are adapting your own intellectual property, the Seven Dragon Saga pen and paper system, for your studio's first RPG. It seems a little less traditional than the D&D worlds explored in the GoldBox titles. What can you tell us about Seven Dragon Saga – how it originated and what it's about?
For a setting, we wanted a world with more color than a classic medieval/Tolkien setting, without tying ourselves down to a specific real world culture. The Empire of the Seven Dragons rules much of the world and recruits powerful characters from all its lands, providing us the chance to create a variety of races. The Firewind Coast, where the first game takes place, has a classic fantasy feel, with more exotic environments and enemies found through exploration in ancient ruins and wastes.
In terms of combat, we decided to create broader, more cinematic moves, while retaining tactical choice. In terms of increased mobility, the opportunity to eliminate multiple opponents, and spectacular spell effects, we create a more visually exciting battlefield, and avoid the static stand and shoot feel of some turn based games. So we have a hybrid of Eastern (wuxia: leaping onto spires, appearing behind the enemy) and Western (Arthurian/Tolkien heavily armored knights, agile Elvish archery) character types, with the ability to customize the exact mix of abilities, and party balance.
While a new world is exciting, there were those who were hoping for a more direct sequel to the old GoldBox classics. Something D&D licensed. Were you ever in talks with external license holders? Could you say if there is any hope for another game in the Pool of Radiance, Savage Frontier or Dragonlance series in the future?
Any time you're working with somebody else's IP you're adding another layer of expense and complexity. That means an additional approval process and determinations about what you CAN and CAN'T do. We have a lot of ideas and our whole team still appreciates D&D and the original Gold Box settings.
A beautiful GoldBox RPG collection. Photo courtesy of Codex master collector Luzur.
The early press release told us that Seven Dragon Saga will be turn-based. It also told us it would incorporate terrain advantages and destructible environments. Are you looking at something more dynamic like what Divinity: Original Sin did with its flammable oil patches, extinguishable fires and freezable water? Or will it be more passive, like in the vein of classic strategy games?
You mention the inclusion of 'modern design philosophies' on your website. What exactly are modern design philosophies to you, and how do they apply to this game?
In the press-release, one bullet-point touches on the importance of choices and consequences in the game. How will these choices be present, and how are you keeping track of the consequences? Will you be using something like a reputation system? Also, will there be any moral or ethical dispositions for characters – something like D&Ds alignment system?
We are currently balancing out a Goals system for individual characters. During character creation, the player will be able to select from a limited list of Goals. When the resolution of a quest aligns with that character's goals, they receive a benefit. Not all quest resolutions will have the full range of Goal alignment, so simply having a 'Greedy' party will not provide an optimum solution. Choosing a range of sometimes conflicting goals provides the party a potentially greater benefit, but may begin to clash with the player's personal goals, or lead to the alienation of useful factions.
How many characters will the player create in the start, and how many will the player be able to control in total (if there are hirelings/followers)? Will characters be exportable/importable – perhaps for a potential sequel?
Once you've taken the time to create a party of characters you care about, you certainly want to find ways to continue that experience rather than re-roll a fresh party. Exporting/importing of characters is something we're very excited about.
The Northern Fens, one of the locations in Seven Dragon Saga. "North, beyond the smoking Firewind Peaks, lies a vast, trackless swamp. Ruins, far older and darker than those of the high plateaus beckon, but none who journey there return."
You have made it clear that Seven Dragon Saga is not another tale of a simple farmer's rise to power and glory. What exactly does this entail for the gameplay? Will the game still have the progression relative to a beginner's campaign, but cosmetically scaled up in power? Or will it be more like a playing a high level campaign off-the-bat?
What would you say is more accurate for encounter design within the framework of Seven Dragon Saga – fighting armies, or fighting strong individuals? I imagine a turn-based system would favor the latter, but the idea of being more powerful could support the first.
An Overlord, screened by Soldiers and Grunts, and supported by Superiors presents players with more complex challenges. Add to this the mix of ranged vs. melee, slow vs. fast, magical vs. physical opponents, and each battle can take on a different texture. And the environment presents its own benefits to one style over another.
You have said you want to make Seven Dragon Saga a fully isometric game, instead of going for the trademark GoldBox combination of isometric combat with first person exploration. What are your reasons for this?
What about the world map, traveling and locations? For example, we have games like the original Fallout – with open world map exploration and areas that could be more or less void of combat. But we also have very combat-heavy games like the recent Blackguards where the map works more like a tool to get from one encounter to another. What games do you want Seven Dragon Saga to feel reminiscent of in its use of the world map, traveling and area design? How would you describe it?
A High Elf Wizard.
There were early speculations of Seven Dragon Saga becoming another crowdfunded title, but you recently confirmed that the game will be publisher/investor-backed. Could you provide any details about the financial workings? For instance, what kind of budget will you be working with – something like the average Kickstarter? Also, could this partnership exclude a DRM-free distribution option? (This question was written following a Kotaku article stating that the game wouldn't be crowdfunded. Lesson learned: don't read Kotaku. - Zed)
Birthed from the concept of “stretch-goals” in crowdfunding campaigns, many recent or upcoming RPGs feature guest writers, artists and musicians. With Unity in mind, there has also been some sharing of tech solutions (rendering, conversation systems, et cetera) and other collaborative efforts between studios. Are these types of guest appearances and collaborations anything you would be open to, even though you've decided on not crowdfunding? (Again, just do the world a favor and do not read Kotaku. - Zed)
Developers seem very optimistic when it comes to their development time and milestones. InXile said Wasteland 2 would be done in one-and-a-half years, but it took them an additional year to wrap up the release candidate. You've said that you want to see Seven Dragon Saga in the first quarter of 2016. Do you think that's enough time to create a complex RPG – one like Seven Dragon Saga?
Where do you see TSI heading after Seven Dragon Saga? Will you continue to feed the old-school nostalgiacs and deliver more GoldBox throwbacks? What are your hopes for the company, games, and market?
Big thanks to Tactical Simulations Interactive and Dead Good Media. They're cool people.