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Codex Interview RPG Codex Interview: Sérgio Gil on Project Haven

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Tags: Code Three Fifty One; Project Haven

Of the various indie turn-based RPGs that have appeared on the scene in recent years, Project Haven seems to be among the more anticipated. It's a cyberpunk/dystopian-themed tactical RPG where you command a mercenary crew fighting for survival in the last city on Earth, made by Portuguese couple Sérgio Gil and Joana Dimas under the banner of Code Three Fifty One. The game has actually been in development for quite some time, but it recently resurfaced with the release of a new demo build during Steam's Tacticon event back in May. It made such a good impression that our man udm, apparently on a roll after writing his excellent Ctrl Alt Ego review, decided to hit up Sérgio (who is known on the Codex as re.var) and ask a few questions.

Hey re.var, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. I think it's safe to say that Project Haven is one of the most anticipated games of this year (if it doesn't get pushed back again) for many Codexers. First of all, can you give us an introduction to Code Three Fifty One, as well as what got you guys into game development?

Hey! Thanks for having me. Truly appreciate the interest in Project Haven! We've always been avid gamers since childhood back in the early 90's, and like many always wanted to make our own games. I've personally started my professional game dev career in 2000 and have been making games since. Joana has a master's in Psychology and a PhD in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, she always loved games, particularly games with a good story. Back in 2015 we started creating a game together for fun, and it eventually turned into Project Haven when we saw its potential.

If you could describe Project Haven to an audience of grognards who love CRPGs and tactical games, how would you do so?

Project Haven is our attempt to recreate the same feeling you had in firefights in games like Jagged Alliance 2, Silent Storm and the original Xcoms. Essentially it's a turn based game where fights are very messy, uncertain, and you have to deal with a lot of variables in the field at the same time. You have very granular control of your characters (it's not a simplified experience) allowing you to engage each encounter exactly as you like. In Project Haven we've paired this gameplay with a cinematic storyline that will push the player forward through the streets of Haven city.

The implementation of a non-grid-based system to provide the player with more granular control is an interesting one not seen in too many tactics games. Furthermore, players are able to do things like sidestep, free aim, etc. In an era where tactics games have become increasingly streamlined to appeal to more gamers, why did you choose to go the other way?

From the start we wanted to have significant emphasis on the characters' mechanical control. Free Aim was actually one of the first features we tried, it started out as a test to see how it felt, but in the end, for us, it improves the experience and the immersion in the world. It does depart from the percentage based hit systems that are more common, though Free Aim arguably seems like a more "fair" system as you can visually assess how likely you are to hit. The gridless movement comes together with all the rest of the features we have in Project Haven like strafe, lean, direction of facing being important, etc.... It would be a disservice to the game to have gridded movement when we have all the other means of controlling the characters. I personally don't think steamlining increases the appeal in general, look at games like Path of Exile or Escape from Tarkov, they are very complex experiences and can't really be considered niche, they have massive audiences too. I think it's more risky to do a complex game, since there's more opportunities to shoot yourself in the foot as a developer, but if managed and tested properly it can definitely be a plus.

Let's talk about one of the most intriguing features of Project Haven: the implementation of true ballistics, where bullets have trajectories and can even penetrate soft surfaces like wood. How does it work, and how difficult was it to implement and balance across the different gun types?

We tried to model the ballistics in a fairly realistic way. We didn't implement bullet drop off as the ranges aren't that long in the game, but otherwise it behaves as you would expect a real bullet to behave. When a bullet hits something the material type and thickness affect how much energy the bullet loses. We also have different ammo types like regular FMJ, hollow point and armor piercing which all affect how a bullet performs. For balancing reasons we have to stray from reality on the damage, effective range and how much material a bullet can actually go through. For instance, say a normal 9mm may not deal any damage in reality when it hits an armor plate, but in Project Haven it will deal a certain amount of damage to the armor and potentially the character too. Iteration and playtesting is king here. Fun is the most important factor.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Interview: Sérgio Gil on Project Haven
 

Tyranicon

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Thanks udm :salute::salute:

I'll be the first to say that I really liked how the combat worked in the demo, probably more than any other recent tactics game (including Jagged Alliance 3).

But everything else is rough, especially the cutscenes, characters, voiceacting and writing.
 

udm

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Thanks! Was a fun interview. And thanks to re.var for being so spontaneous despite the busy schedule.
 
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udm

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Anyway here are the really important bits for those of you who don't want to go through the whole interview (but you should still go through the whole thing if JA3 didn't live up to your expectations):

Project Haven is our attempt to recreate the same feeling you had in firefights in games like Jagged Alliance 2, Silent Storm and the original Xcoms. Essentially it's a turn based game where fights are very messy, uncertain, and you have to deal with a lot of variables in the field at the same time. You have very granular control of your characters (it's not a simplified experience) allowing you to engage each encounter exactly as you like.
Free Aim arguably seems like a more "fair" system as you can visually assess how likely you are to hit.
The gridless movement comes together with all the rest of the features we have in Project Haven like strafe, lean, direction of facing being important, etc....
I personally don't think steamlining increases the appeal in general
We tried to model the ballistics in a fairly realistic way. We didn't implement bullet drop off as the ranges aren't that long in the game, but otherwise it behaves as you would expect a real bullet to behave.
(Weapon modifications) will add a level of customization that we feel is fun and still useful.
All characters start with some base amount of skills pre-selected and one or more unique skills [...] But outside of that you can level up any character as you wish.
Initially we thought about using procedural generation for the replayability, but later found that properly built maps were much more suited to this game, and having carefully handcrafted paths that allow for multiple strategies is much more engaging than what a procedural system could do.
We've actually reworked our AI multiple times at this point. After enough testing you have a better idea of what you need to change to improve it, and it's something we've been doing since the beginning of development.
We've put extreme care in making sure each mission feels different from all the others.
The most common complaints though were due to UI and difficulty navigating the gridless/cover system.

Edit: oh yeah Zombra your question made it in ;)
 
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Rean

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I'm sure the sodomites are to blame for your quality takes on every newspost bro.
 

luj1

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officially the most agreed with poster in news section

anyway just telling it like it is. it looks overdesigned to me because the screen is very hard to read unlike JA2. Same thing happened with Pheonix Point (UI bloat). And im a big fan of these games like Urban Strife
 

Abu Antar

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Demo was fun to me. They need to mess up really bad for me to lose interest in the game.

UI could be cleaner, but not a dealbreaker for me.
 

udm

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anyway just telling it like it is. it looks overdesigned to me because the screen is very hard to read unlike JA2. Same thing happened with Pheonix Point (UI bloat). And im a big fan of these games like Urban Strife
Even though you're an overreacting retard, I have to agree that IMO the game's UI has always been its weakest link. It's not immediately intuitive, but it's something that can be overlooked once you spend a few minutes familiarising yourself with the layout.

Basically all I'm saying is if you liked JA2 for its gameplay and are looking forward to Urban Strife, it'd be a shame to miss out because it looks like a "massive overdesigned turd".
 

luj1

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No shit. Also the game has 0 artistic qualities. But this is also true of Urban Strife

usually UI readability is linked to system bloat but not always

cutscenes and VO are another cancer
 

Üstad

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No shit. Also the game has 0 artistic qualities. But this is also true of Urban Strife

usually UI readability is linked to system bloat but not always

cutscenes and VO are another cancer
I think we're both looking forward into Colony Ship RPG than this game but do you think Colony Ship RPG excels at artistic qualities or UI? I love the game simply because of the gameplay.
 

luj1

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I dont like the Colony Ship UI because they dont use colors well. But I think the combat UI is more readable than this

and also they want to copy Disco Elysium layout which is objectively bad (dialogue at far right)
 

re.var

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Working on it, I truly cannot give you a date as we're very iterative in our development. We develop some stuff, run a Demo with those changes, then from the feedback we move forward.
Just for the current Demo we spent a few weeks reworking our whole cover system due to feedback. It's not something we had planned, but in the end the game is better off because of it.
As soon as we have an actual date we'll let everyone know.
 

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