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Codex Interview RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Guido Henkel on Realms of Arkania

VentilatorOfDoom

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Tags: Attic Entertainment; Guido Henkel; Realms of Arkania; Retrospective Interview

Today we bring you the next entry to our retrospective interview series, this time featuring Attic co-founder Guido Henkel. Main topic are, of course, the Realms of Arkania games. Here's a snippet:

2. Blade of Destiny and Star Trail were fairly unique RPGs that stood out even in the Golden Age of games. How did they come to be? What were the goals? What influenced the design decisions?

The genesis of these games was quite intriguing, actually. We had just completed Spirit of Adventure at the time, the first role-playing game that attic did, and it was published by Starbyte, a German publisher. As it turned out, Starbyte told us that they had the rights to the Pen&Paper game that the Realms of Arkania series is based on [editors note: Das Schwarze Auge, The Dark Eye in english] and asked us if we would like to do a product for them using the license.

The kicker was that we were dying to do that, but we had serious issues with Starbyte. It was a horribly crooked company that cheated us and all of its other developers out of their money. So naturally, we were reluctant to work with them. However, when we talked to the actual rights owners of the Realms of Arkania Pen&Paper games, it turned out that Starbyte had been bluffing. They did not actually have the rights… yet. They were in negotiations, but when the licensor learned about their dirty business practices they decided to sign with us instead, and off we went to make the games. For us it was a great way to obtain the license, and for them it was a great way to do some work in the computer games field, because some of the original designers of the Pen&Paper games were itching to do some cRPG work.

The general consensus was at the time to create a computer RPG that was as close to the Pen&Paper game as possible, so there were no shortcuts at all. We implemented the entire set of game rules, the entire set of attributes and talents from the Pen&Paper original and worked them into the game as best as we could.

Thanks to Guido for his answers and to Vault Dweller for his contribution to the questions and the nice intro paragraph.

Read the full article: RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Guido Henkel on Realms of Arkania
 

Crooked Bee

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Great interview! Thanks Guido, VD and VoD! :)
 

Deuce Traveler

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The kicker was that we were dying to do that, but we had serious issues with Starbyte. It was a horribly crooked company that cheated us and all of its other developers out of their money. So naturally, we were reluctant to work with them. However, when we talked to the actual rights owners of the Realms of Arkania Pen&Paper games, it turned out that Starbyte had been bluffing. They did not actually have the rights… yet. They were in negotiations, but when the licensor learned about their dirty business practices they decided to sign with us instead, and off we went to make the games. For us it was a great way to obtain the license, and for them it was a great way to do some work in the computer games field, because some of the original designers of the Pen&Paper games were itching to do some cRPG work.

The general consensus was at the time to create a computer RPG that was as close to the Pen&Paper game as possible, so there were no shortcuts at all. We implemented the entire set of game rules, the entire set of attributes and talents from the Pen&Paper original and worked them into the game as best as we could.

I like it when the good guys win IRL. Great article.
 
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Great interview! One small thing: "Satinav’s Ketten" English release is called "Chains of Satinav". Having a German title in the middle of English text is kind of strange. So VentilatorOfDoom, get fixing!
 
Unwanted

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ITT dying = quality gameplay in an RPG
 

getter77

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Good interview----one wonders what his take on Death as a potential for interesting times would be in terms of the Roguelike scene. This is also the first time in recent memory I can recall somebody mentioning "adaptive difficulty" while seeming to actually get it as opposed to a silent nod to Oblivion'ish level scaling nonsense.
 

kaizoku

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Cool interview.

I liked how VoD took every chance to ridicule the kwans :kwanzania:
:lol:


Guido said:
The area where these games truly excelled, in my opinion, was the micromanagement of characters. I know, it sounds bad, but for many players this is what they were looking forward to. We wanted to make the most hard core RPG out there, and I think we succeeded, all the way down to making sure players were feeding their characters on a regular schedule. Naturally, this kind of level of detail did not sit well with everyone. Many players and reviewers criticized the games for having too many minutiae in them to keep track of.
I think a good approach to this would be to give the option for auto-management, which would not be as good as if done by the player.
So when this type of micro-management starts to drag on too much, the player can set it to auto. (example: set auto-buy supplies for 2 weeks)


Therefore I’ve always been a huge proponent of adaptive gameplay, where games analyze what a player does and then adjusts the difficulty and content accordingly. It is something you may find very well in my upcoming game, “Thorvalla.”
:hmmm:

how exactly would this work?
 

Jasede

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You know, RoA 1 and 2 are one of the few games were it's really easy not to reload when someone dies because it'd completely break the P&P feel and because especially in 1 nobody wants to lose a lot of progress (and you would, 'cause you have to pay XP to save anywhere but in towns). Worked great for me.

Bring on the XP penalties for saving!
 

Notorious

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You know, RoA 1 and 2 are one of the few games were it's really easy not to reload when someone dies because it'd completely break the P&P feel and because especially in 1 nobody wants to lose a lot of progress (and you would, 'cause you have to pay XP to save anywhere but in towns). Worked great for me.

Bring on the XP penalties for saving!

I remember in Star Trail, my whole party died but my single awesome dwarf. I couldn't bring myself to reload and walked back to town to pick up a whole new group.

Never have I been immersed more into a game and things like the need for food and water and fears helped a great bit to feel for your characters.

I really hope he gets a chance to develop another game.
 

Dorateen

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Heh, I remember Spirit of Adventure. Didn't know that was Attic's first RPG. The Realms of Arkania series was of course a vast improvement to say the least.

The micro-management of the party and gameplay are what I'm holding out for. I recall the manuals made it very clear that there was an option for simple, automated method for lazy players, and then the super advanced level for players that want to control every aspect from character generation to combat.

Micro-management = Advanced Gameplay!
 

HiddenX

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Interesting interview - well done

Good luck for Guido's upcoming project! It would be real cool to play a modern Realms of Arkania-like game.
 

Mackerel

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Foraging for food and water was one thing, but things like treating wounds to prevent tetanus, wearing warm clothing and using sleeping bags in cold conditions to avoid contracting colds/frostbite, or actually being able to use the rope ladders and pitons in the mountains really blew me away at the time. One of my favorite RPGs for sure.

XP penalty for saving was negligible, it was like 50 xp for an outside save (temple saving was free) which was the minimum xp awarded for a fight.
 

Johannes

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You know, RoA 1 and 2 are one of the few games were it's really easy not to reload when someone dies because it'd completely break the P&P feel and because especially in 1 nobody wants to lose a lot of progress (and you would, 'cause you have to pay XP to save anywhere but in towns). Worked great for me.

Bring on the XP penalties for saving!
Well fuck me, I just started RoA and now I know where my XP has disappeared. I've been casually making constant saves just in case, even when there's no imminent reason to reload, and of course never in temples.
 
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9. If you had to guess, what would be the main reason why we aren't seeing games like Star Trail anymore?

These were niche products. It is easy to glorify these games in retrospect with nostalgic glasses on, but the fact of the matter is that compared to many other games and genres, games like Star Trail simply did not nearly make as much money. As a result publishers turned their backs on these kinds of hard core games and instead went down the path of streamlined mainstream products, especially since Baldur’s Gate proved very clearly at the time that there is a market for light role-playing games.

And retarded illiterates ridicule me when I say IE games were light casual games that dumbed down RPGs for years to come, with nothing hardcore or oldschool about them. Fucking spoiled kids of the yesteryear whose entire experience of CRPGs derive from a few shitty games that started life as RTS-derivatives.
 

getter77

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Looks like he just sent the KS page to approval review for the lot of it----so we'll perhaps indeed see very soon what form his latest project will assume.
 

Jasede

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Foraging for food and water was one thing, but things like treating wounds to prevent tetanus, wearing warm clothing and using sleeping bags in cold conditions to avoid contracting colds/frostbite, or actually being able to use the rope ladders and pitons in the mountains really blew me away at the time. One of my favorite RPGs for sure.

XP penalty for saving was negligible, it was like 50 xp for an outside save (temple saving was free) which was the minimum xp awarded for a fight.
Yes, in the English version.
In the German version all XP rewards were divided by 50 compared to the English ones.
So the minimum XP for a fight was 1.

Saving cost 50. It was a big deal. A huge deal.
 

NecrosD

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BoD isn't really all that tough - I played the English version and I made sure only to save in Temples only saved twice outside (once in the Ghost Ship, and another time in the Temple of the Nameless God) - just make sure you're well prepared when you decide to venture into a dungeon and you'll be fine. Also managed to find all the pieces on my first play through, and clean out Daspota - that was fun.
 

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So The Nameless One is planning to kickstart a game. If he intends to make a game in the spirit of the Realms of Arkania series, which I think he should do since that is what his reputation is mostly based on, I think I would back the project, at least at one of the lower tiers. I only played Shadows over Riva, but I remember quite liking it at the time, mostly for the turn based combat. Hopefully he'd go third person and smooth scrolling though. I never liked that one square at a time movement. I'll pay close attention to the other members of his team though. Hopefully he won't go all vague about his plans like some of the other semi-famous guys who worked on old favorites.
 

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It's good to see someone who isn't afraid to speak his mind and does it so eloquently. I'm sure that if the interview was more lenghty, he'd be willing to bitch about some issues that plagues the genre and video games in general.
 
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I admire that despite being one of the old dogs, he sounds completely in touch and up to date with times and grounded in reality, regarding both past and the present.

And I bet the majority of the hipster faggots who donated to PE won't spend a dime for this. And it's one of the leads behind Realms of fucking Arkania we are talking about. Fuck you, Codex.
 

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