Putting the 'role' back in role-playing games since 2002.
Donate to Codex
Good Old Games
  • Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.

Codex Interview RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Al Escudero on Deathlord and Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace

Crooked Bee

(no longer) a wide-wandering bee
Patron
Joined
Jan 27, 2010
Messages
15,048
Location
In quarantine
Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire MCA Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
Tags: Al Escudero; Deathlord; Electronic Arts; Retrospective Interview; Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace; Strategic Simulations, Inc.

In this retrospective interview, we talk to Al Escudero, the designer behind two notable and unique if relatively obscure CRPGs, Electronic Arts' Deathlord (1987) and SSI's Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace (1992). The interview's main focus is Deathlord, but it also touches on Spelljammer's development and Al Escudero's career as a whole. As you can see from the interview, both Deathlord and Spelljammer had it really rough during development, to the point where the publisher would change the entire theme/concept of the game on the fly - something you would expect from Electronic Arts, I guess.

Have a snippet:

What motivated you to choose the quasi-Japanese setting for Deathlord? Were the Japanese names for classes, weapons, spells, etc., there just for flavor, or did the whole thing grow out of your fascination with Japanese culture?

Honestly, no. Though I had a budding interest in Japanese culture at the time, the game was originally created with a Norse/Teutonic theme, and I had the game finished that way. It was the marketing dept at EA that insisted we change it (at the last minute) to an Oriental/Japanese theme. I was given 5 weeks to change all the art, story, spell names, equipment names, location names, etc. I was quite upset about it. I had a game I had crafted over a year and a half I needed to convert to an entirely different style at the 11th hour and wasn't given sufficient time to do the new style justice. It felt like a hack to me, and I hated doing it. If I'd had a few months, time to do reading on Japanese culture and myths, time to craft a tale that tapped into their rich Mythology, I feel I could have done a far better job, as it was I felt very dissatisfied.

What were your goals and intentions with Deathlord? What kind of game did you set out to make, and in what ways did you intend Deathlord to be different from other games of the era?

There were a number of goals, but primarily I wanted to make it BIG. I loved playing rpg's, but they seemed to be over so quickly, and the content often felt very thin. The RPGS of the time were ones like Bard's Tale and Wizardry that were a single dungeon, or Ultima 3, which had a small world with a lot of generic dungeons that were all more or less the same. I wanted to make Deathlord feel like a real world, with big oceans, climate zones, and different lands with different customs and styles. To accomplish this we created a huge streaming world with dozens of dungeons that had unique themes. In the course of creating the ones integral to the main story line, we also created numerous 'just for fun' dungeons that were explorations of various concepts - mazes, elements, illusions, etc. I ultimately added those into the game anyway as 'filler'. Akin to the Oblivion's and Skyrim's of later years so that there were new things to explore even if you had finished the game.

What were the challenges involved in Spelljammer's development, and were you pleased with the state that the game was released in? In hindsight, to what extent would you say you succeeded in your goals and how do you feel about the game today?

Similar to Deathlord, another mid-project change in direction happened. Initially Spelljammer was going to be an rpg. You would fly through space, and explore abandoned Dwarven citadels, floating castles and dungeons on alien worlds - but a few months into development, the game was cut back to a strategy game. I had to take my ambitious space-rpg and pare it down to something more like interceptor with magic. The game I got isn't really the one I set out to make.

You call Spelljammer's schedule "aggressive." Why did SSI rush Spelljammer's development? What were their reasons for that, as well as for the mid-project change in the game's concept?

I was never told explicitly why it was rushed. If I had to speculate, Dark Sun was over schedule and presumably over budget. It was probably the single most important title the company was producing at the time and had a huge development team and a lot riding on its success. I got the impression that anything that took resources away from Dark Sun was being reigned in.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Al Escudero on Deathlord and Spelljammer CRPG
 

getter77

Augur
Joined
Oct 12, 2008
Messages
863
Location
GA, USA
Really rough break on the forced setting change at the last minute----shame there isn't an earlier version kicking around. Certainly hope the man comes around to one day taking a crack at a sequel or remake on his own terms.
 

Deuce Traveler

2012 Newfag
Patron
Joined
May 11, 2012
Messages
2,906
Location
Okinawa, Japan
Grab the Codex by the pussy Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pathfinder: Kingmaker Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture
He can always try again via Kickstarter as a lot of programmers are doing so in order to keep creative control over their dream projects. Then again it sounds as he was burnt two times too many and has moved on.
 

Fens

Ford of the Llies
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
1,899
Location
pitcairn
My experiences working with EA were somewhat mixed
EA has been a lot of things over the years, but they've not been inconsistent... they've always been dicks (especially the suits)

I felt that the real-time combat would be more fun than a computer-based version of moving chits around on a hex map.
meh... i always felt the real-time combat was the weakest part of the game (apart from missing the planet i was going to)... shooting arrows through space only to watch them vanish in the dark because of some twitchy move the enemy ship did didn't make me go "shoot, i'd better practice aiming more", it made me go "ugh... i hoped this crap would be over now and i could do the interesting stuff again"

it would've been a lot better game with a hex-based, top-down and turn-based combat system


still a fan of the game and its setting... so thanks for the interview, bee
 

octavius

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Aug 4, 2007
Messages
19,266
Location
Bjørgvin
the game was originally created with a Norse/Teutonic theme, and I had the game finished that way. It was the marketing dept at EA that insisted we change it (at the last minute) to an Oriental/Japanese theme.

This is just sad. :(
Oh well, Death Lord was C64 only (I think?) so for me personally it wouldn't have mattered anyway.
 

Dorateen

Arcane
Joined
Aug 30, 2012
Messages
4,388
Location
The Crystal Mist Mountains
Exploring abandoned Dwarven citadels is nice and all, but Dark Sun was an important title in the SSI franchise. If they had to rush development of Spelljammer to direct resources to Dark Sun, then so be it.

Harumph!
 

Metro

Arcane
Beg Auditor
Joined
Aug 27, 2009
Messages
27,792
Never played Spelljammer... from the sound of things it looks like I'm better off.
 

Anthony Davis

Blizzard Entertainment
Developer
Joined
Sep 7, 2007
Messages
2,100
Location
California
I have Deathlord package framed and hanging up in my office. I loved that game as a teenager, but it was incredibly hard (for me as a teenager) and I don't think I ever beat it.
 

rikkles

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 22, 2017
Messages
138
To anyone reaching this great interview and wanting to try Deathlord, I released Deathlord Relorded on itch.io for free.
It fixes all the problems outlined on the interview, adds many more features and modernizes the UI.
Windows 10+ only (for now).
 

Saint_Proverbius

Administrator
Staff Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2002
Messages
12,194
Location
Behind you.
EA has been a lot of things over the years, but they've not been inconsistent... they've always been dicks (especially the suits)

EA was awesome back in the C64 days. It wasn't until they started developing for consoles and the like that they turned in to complete dicks. It was also about this time that they became not just developers, but publishers as well. I don't understand why companies have continued to sell themselves to EA, either. You would think after seeing what happened to Bullfrog, Origin, and Westwood, companies that wanted a future would steer clear of that EA buy out.
 

Nazrim Eldrak

Scholar
Joined
Oct 2, 2015
Messages
270
Location
My heart
I have Deathlord package framed and hanging up in my office. I loved that game as a teenager, but it was incredibly hard (for me as a teenager) and I don't think I ever beat it.
You should try it again with the modern version :) https://rikkles.itch.io/deathlord-relorded
I'd love any feedback from professional game developers...

The character sheet left and right looks good.
Especially the portraits.
Still, I'm not sure what makes the game attractive.
Cool random encounters?
Cool monsters?
Cool loot?
Cool plot?
 

rikkles

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 22, 2017
Messages
138
The game has some of the greatest dungeons ever designed.
Any dungeon crawl fans should at least try it out.
 

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.
Back
Top Bottom