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Devil Whiskey interview
Interview - posted by Saint_Proverbius on Wed 1 October 2003, 08:46:43Tags: Devil Whiskey; Shifting Suns Studios
1.) Tell us a little bit about Shifting Suns. What gathered you folks together? What made you want to make a game?
The original group came together in a fan forum for the Bard's Tale series of games (properties originally of Interplay). After tossing around concepts for a sequel to the popular series, and hearing from EA that they had no interest in producing one, a subset of that original group decided to try to build one on their own. We all tossed around some designs, started contracting some help, and eventually formed Shifting Suns Studios, LLC to house the intellectual property and to back the game.
2.) Bard's Tale is the inspiration for Devil Whiskey, can you tell us why you guys centered on this particular CRPG as opposed to Wasteland, Wizardy, Temple of Apshai, or one of the other oldies?
Bard's Tale is *one* inspiration, and obviously the most significant, mainly because it's the one we all remembered most from our childhoods. Many of us played other games of the time as well, different members of the team being more familiar with different titles, but the Bard's Tale titles are definitely the common thread. I want to reiterate that we were only inspired by the Bard's Tale games - Devil Whiskey is a completely original title, from the design and code, to the game world, to the artwork and music.
3.) Some of the mechanics of Devil Whiskey seems to limit the character creation of a party. For example, you have to roll up your attributes and only then can you select a class based on those attributes. Is there any reason why you stuck with this type of creation system over one that allowed a less restrictive manner of creation?
When we set out on this project, our goal was to create a game in homage to the great old RPG's of the late 80's. In keeping with that goal, we made design decisions that would lead to a similar experience. We believe that part of what made those old games so great *were* their limitations. If you're not worried about spending 20 hours creating a character, because the system is so thoroughly dynamic that you can tweak anything and there are 1000's of options, you can move on to play the rest of the game more quickly. Not only that, but many of us have a heritage in the old books-and-dice RPG's as well, and many of them (particularly the old favorites) work in the style described - you roll your stats, and based on those, you have certain options.
4.) Can you give us a little information about what the attributes, such as Strength and IQ, in the game do other than class selection? What mechanics of the game they affect? What some of the benefits and penalties of high and low attributes are?
Different attributes affect the game in different ways. Strength, for instance, has an effect on damage done in combat, ability to bash open chests, and can be used in a variety of plot situations for plot-specific tests. In fact, any of the attributes can be used in plot-specific situations, and most of them also have significant effect on capabilities within the game. Charisma, for instance, is used to modify the reactions of certain NPCs and as one basis for the ability to haggle in stores.
5.) Can you explain what the differences of the races are in terms of how they affect the character? What makes an Elf special? What's so good about being a big lizard?
There are a couple of different things that the races do. First, off, the maximum and minimum stats for each race are different - an Elf, for instance, has a naturally high intelligence and dexterity, but a lower strength. There are also various class restrictions - certain races are more suited to certain disciplines, so there are many classes which any particular race cannot participate in. The Saurian is a special case in many ways - the Red Claw class is a very powerful barbarian, but only Saurians can be Red Claws. And of course, the different pictures ;-)
6.) What skills are there in the game? Can you give an example of how they're used in the game? Any non-combat skills you particularly enjoy using?
There are quite a few skills, and they do a wide variety of things. In combat, of course, there are specialized attack and defensive skills. Monsters have skills (or special abilities), adding variety to to the game. And of course there are the Bard Songs, which are a sort of specialized skill for Bards. I like Bard Songs particularly because the music is beautifully composed, and really adds an element to the game.
7.) Same question, only with magic! How many fields of magic are there? What are some differences between them? How tricky were they to balance? Any favorite spells?
There are two main branches of magic (plus Paladins), and each branch has 5 'schools' or paths, as we call them. Each path has 7 levels of spells, with most having at least 2 spells per level. That makes for almost 200 spells. There are a lot of different effects - from basic light, healing, and damage spells to opening walls, pushing enemies back, summoning, illusions, preclusion (that is, prevention of specific types of magic); you name it, there's probably a spell that does it. A lot of the variation, though, isn't really in effect so much as in technique. To clarify; each branch (Arcanists and Elementalists) have spells that do essentially the same things. From a purely mechanics viewpoint, the differences between the branches are not all that great. Games like Devil Whiskey, however, aren't all about mechanics - the spells sound different, 'look' different (i.e., are described differently) and have minor differences that make all the difference, if you allow yourself to become a part of the story. And becoming a part of the story is what Role Playing is all about ;-)
8.) Devil Whiskey is primarily a combat oriented game. Is it possible to play just a single character? Or a smaller party? Is there any advantages to this? Any disadvantages other than only having one or two guys wacking critters?
I would like to start out by arguing that Devil Whiskey is *not* primarily a combat oriented game. Certainly combat is an integral component, but it's primarily an exploration and adventure game. The full release will contain at least 40 dungeon levels of content to explore, which is lots of maps, mazes, puzzles, quests - lots of things other than combat. As to the question - you could play with a smaller party, the game would take some steps to accommodate you (i.e., there is a system that tries to balance encounters such that random attacks don't completely mop the floor with the party, but that system only has a limited amount of control). But in general, it would make the game *much* more difficult. It's really up to the player, though - there may be plot points that are difficult to accomplish without a particular class or number of players represented (though we're working very hard to avoid making anything impossible in such circumstances).
9.) Can you tell us a little bit about the combat system? How is party management handled during this? What decides when who attacks? Any interesting combat options you'd like to talk about?
The combat system is a basic, turn-based combat system where each player decides what he or she wants to do, each monster decides what it/he/she wants to do, and then it all happens. The various actions selected are enqueued into a list in initiative order (where initiative is computed based in part on Dexterity, and is in part random), and actions are performed in that order. The system is fairly dynamic, allowing a fairly broad range of choices during combat. I particularly like the ability to move up and down in the party ranks, to change (for free) to a secondary weapon (as long as you already had it equipped for that purpose - excellent for bows), and the ability to equip random items, but only at the cost of any other action that round.
10.) How is death handled in Devil Whiskey? Is there any recourse for a fallen party member?
Fallen comrades can be resurrected in a number of ways - from the temples, which provide the service for a moderate fee (computed based on the level of the fallen character), to high-level Arcanist and Paladin spells that allow for resurrection directly. Death is not the end, but only the beginning!
11.) Towns are always a focal point of CRPGs. Can you tell us what special services there are in towns? What some of them do for the player? What rumors at taverns provide the player?
There's one major town in Devil Whiskey - the town of Rennibister. This is where you begin your quest, and where a large part of the plot takes place. There is also (in the final release) an elven enclave and a dwarven city. The part of the world where Rennibister is located is completely isolated from the rest of civilization, due to a recent cave-in in the dwarven tunnels that used to lead under the mountains (the road by which Rennibister was settled). The dwarves are working hard to clear the shaft, but no one knows when it might open up again (read: lots of room for expansion in the future ;-). In town, you'll find temples, shoppes of different kinds, guilds, the great Arcanium (a repository of knowledge), even a Casino. And of course, you'll find all your familiar ruffians, cutthroats, and 'bad guys'. To answer your question about rumors - they're very important, providing vital clues to the plot, storyline, and answers to some of the more difficult riddles. You can also tip the barkeep for a variety of information not available any other way...
12.) How receptive have people been to the demo? How has the feedback from the demo helped you to make Devil Whiskey more interesting or better?
So far, the demo has been available for just over three weeks, and we estimate well over 12,000 downloads. It's also being published on the cover-mounted CD's for three major European gaming magazines, and we're seeing more interest every day. Our fan list has grown to over 700 active members! We're very excited about it - aside from a few bugs, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The bugs that have been reported, and that are being reported, are being investigated and fixed. We're focusing right now on two major efforts - fixing the Linux version (which has some un-anticipated problems that cropped up at the last minute) and finishing the full release in time for our October 31 release date. The feedback from users has been incredibly helpful - we've changed some of our development priorities to emphasize features we previously thought were unimportant, and we're constantly revising our plans for future expansions to include new features and improvements suggested by our fans. After all, while we'll all enjoy playing this game we've written, we're really doing for all the other fans like ourselves who just want a good CRPG in the style of the games they played so many years ago.
13.) Can you tell us about how Devil Whiskey will be distributed? How can the average Joe out there score himself a copy of the game? What formats will there be?
Our plans for distribution have not been absolutely finalized, but I can tell you the following:
- We will be offering the game in two formats - for download (for $25 US) and via physical media (retail box, with professionally printed and bound manual, for $35)
- The physical media will not be available immediately upon release, as we don't have the capital to pre-purchase the initial production run. We plan to offer pre-sales to offset some of this capital cost (details are still being worked out).
- 3) We will be offering both a Linux and a Windows version. Both versions will be available to anybody who purchases the game - those who purchase it for download will be able to download either (or both), and those who purchase a boxed copy will find both editions on the CD in the box.
Keep an eye on our main website for details and updates.
Thanks to Justin Binns of Shifting Suns for taking the time to answer these pestering questions!