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Interview Bard's Tale IV Systems Designer David Rogers talks design and mechanics at RPGWatch

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Tags: Bard's Tale IV; Brian Fargo; David Rogers; InXile Entertainment

RPGWatch's Fluent has interviewed Bard's Tale IV system designer David Rogers, the gentleman who was responsible for the game's well-received combat mechanics-focused Kickstarter update earlier this month. I don't think there's any groundbreaking new information here, but there are a few interesting design and mechanics tidbits. Here's an excerpt:

RPGWatch: What sort of character attributes, stats and rule-set are you hoping to implement in The Bard's Tale IV? Will the game have a heavy pen-and-paper feel to it, or are you going for something different?

David: A question like this could easily have me writing a four-page answer. I get really jazzed when it comes to talking about rulesets and systems. Rather than getting really deep into the details that may ultimately change as we continue to iterate, I'll talk about or philosophy when approaching the game mechanics of The Bard's Tale IV.

We strive for game systems that feels thought provoking and strategic. We want players to be able to look at their party's capabilities, form a plan, and then execute that plan with some reliability. If the plan fails or succeeds, we'd like that to be a reflection of the plans' validity, rather than the product of a random number generator.

We take a lot of inspiration from pen-and-paper RPGs. They do such a good job of allowing you to express yourself in the game, giving you a lot of ownership over your experience. Much of that expression comes out of building synergies inside your characters, or building synergies with your fellow adventurers. Those combos are something that really defines your character's personality and play style. I really like those moments where I find a special strategy or skill combo so creative and powerful that I feel like I'm cheating. That's what makes me feel like a legendary hero.

That sense of creative expression also emerges from the solutions you are able to can enact while exploring a dungeon in a pen-and-paper RPG. Simple moments such as disarming a trap or climbing a ledge can be rife with opportunities to make you feel like MacGyver, particularly when you have to improvise. That kind of creative problem solving is something we strive to incorporate into our dungeon crawling. Free form problem solving is something that PnP RPGs excel at, and can be very hard for video games to replicate, but they act as a holy grail we can strive for. We want players to walk out of dungeons with a story to tell, where they feel like the star and not just a spectator.

RPGWatch: Party management is great fun in a dungeon-crawl RPG, especially when status-altering effects and other factors come into play. What sort of "game within a game" mechanics can we expect while we're diving into these dungeons? What factors will we have to manage along the way?

David: There are some tried and true mechanics you'll be playing as you crawl through a dungeon. We'll ask players to manage a finite number of consumables to ensure they're in peak fighting condition when a combat occurs. This could be health potions, anti-venoms, or even things relating to trap avoidance and secret discovery, such as lock pick sets. We're also asking players to decide if and where to make camp after a hard day of adventuring. We're all RPG fans here, so we don't necessarily try to re-invent the wheel at every turn.

With that said, there are also elements about our game that should feel really unique to The Bard's Tale. We want to incorporate music into our gameplay in a major way. We have some major talent, both on the writing and musical front. We want to bring those big guns to bear by having the player gleam insight about the various cultures of Caith through its music, and then be able to sing the magically attuned songs of Caith that they've learned in order to interact with the world.

RPGWatch: Loot is always an important factor in RPGs. Will the game feature rare drops, randomized loot drops, unidentified items and more? Can you talk more about how the loot will work in general?

David: We for sure will have an item rarity system and some level of randomized loot drops for our core enemies. Not all of our items will be randomly acquired, however. For example, a pivotal boss battle might have set drops. We also like the suspense of having to identify a mysterious magic item, or the gamble you take when you wield an unidentified magic item that may have a curse on it. We also mentioned, in our Kickstarter, the concept of weapons that have hidden potential that you unlock by interacting with them.

To speak about the loot system in general, we like it when the party shares a common inventory space, rather than having to hunt down which of your six party members backpacks you put a given item in.

We also want a character's gear to play a role in what abilities they have access to, and therefore what strategic options they have in battle. An example of this is a magic trinket that has a bound spell on it. If a party has several of these trinkets they may see an enemy off in the distance and swap out their equipped trinkets in order to counter an enemy group with a specific ability found on that item, without having to totally re-spec their character.

RPGWatch: How will summoning work? Will any creature in the game be able to be summoned, and will they come complete with their own equipment, stats and special abilities?

David: The majority of our summons come from our Sorcerer and Wizard classes. The Sorcerer can conjure illusions. These illusions are able to harm the enemy, but only for as long as the enemy believes in them. The wizard can rip minions from the demon plane into the plane of man to do their bidding. Demons function similarly to any other character on your party, with their own abilities and stats, but tend to be less complex than a core member of your party. Their mere presence on the battlefield also has some really cool implications given the highly spacial nature of our combat system.
Mr. Rogers continues to demonstrate good taste. What the heck is a "dungeon-crawl RPG", though? Use correct terminology, RPGWatch. :cool:
 
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Ohh! The jealousy of the Watch that we got Feargus and MCA interviews! I CAN feel it! I CAN smell it! Feels so good!
 

Crescent Hawk

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You know what, I would have preferred for Torment to be a first person adventure game. Maybe using what they learned with bards tale.
 

ArchAngel

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You know for two sites where members take stabs at each other all the time (yea I visit both) and that "hate" each other there is an awful lot of posting and reporting on each other news and reviews and interviews...
 
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Sacred82

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You know for two sites where members take stabs at each other all the time (yea I visit both) and that "hate" each other there is an awful lot of posting and reporting on each other news and reviews and interviews...

The friendly rivalry makes it feel like there actually was a scene of hardcore RPG development and fandom, rather than a grumpy little subset of gamers.
 

Dorateen

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These are some good responses, with sound underlying design philosophy. Drawing inspiration from pen and paper, giving the player ownership of their experience. Walking out of a dungeon with their own story, not some hack writer's forced narrative.

I imagine the heads of passive biodrones exploding, to hear a designer talk boldly about a real computer role-playing game.
 
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Excidium II

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Too bad the gameplay will be banal videogamey shit with cooldowns.
 

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