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RPG Codex Interview: Chaos Chronicles

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RPG Codex Interview: Chaos Chronicles

Interview - posted by Grunker on Fri 7 September 2012, 14:36:23

Tags: Chaos Chronicles; Coreplay

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VentilatorOfDoom and Grunker have interviewed Peter Ohlmann, Technical Director at Coreplay, on their upcoming turn-based cRPG, Chaos Chronicles.

The game's website describes Chaos Chronicles as a game that

"combines the traditional turn-based roleplaying games with a state-of-the-art graphic engine and a dense atmosphere."
The website also states that Coreplay wants to

"revive the classical western party-based fantasy RPGs of the eighties. Games like Phantasie, Pool of Radiance, Ultima, Wizardry, Bard’s Tale were part of our childhood and now it’s time to create a new game offering the gaming experience that those excellent games already delivered back in those good ol’ days!"
Naturally, this instantly piqued the Codex' interest, and so the staff set out to do an extensive interview with the devs. The interview focuses mainly on the gameplay and unveils some of the core aspects of the game which Coreplay has not yet talked about.

Read on to find out what Ohlmann replied to our questions!

RPG Codex: You've just announced Chaos Chronicles, a fantasy cRPG featuring a turn-based fighting system that will “put a smile on the face of every fan of traditional RPGs”. How far into development are you, i.e. when did development on this game start, and how much work is completed?

Peter Ohlmann: The development started in 2010 already, but after a couple of months money ran out and we had to switch to a commercial production. In early 2012 we were able to resume the work on Chaos Chronicles. Today, the game is in Alpha Stage – you can play all main components of the game but none of them are really finished yet.​

RPG Codex: With your previous game, Jagged Alliance: Back in Action (JA:BIA), you decided to ditch turn-based combat mid-development in an attempt to make the game... more dynamic. This begs the question: how can fans of turn-based combat be assured you will not decide to suddenly ditch turn-based combat with Chaos Chronicles?

PO: This statement isn’t 100% correct, because JA:BIA wasn’t planned as a turn-based game. And as a contractor we weren’t involved in those kind of decisions anyway. Our company was hired for this production and there have been serious discussions about this topic on both sides. For further details, please ask the publisher of JA:BIA. We are pleased with the introduced Plan&Go combat system, although we can fully understand those angry fans who expected the original turn-based mode of Jagged Alliance 2.

But ‘Chaos Chronicles’ is a different story. It’s our concept, our game and we planned to use turn-based combat from the beginning of the concept phase. In contrast to our previous production, we have full control about any creative decision in CC. By the way, we wrote about this particular topic on our development blog lately.​

RPG Codex Staff: Indeed they did. There's a developer blog entry on www.chaos-chronicles.com called Combat System #1: Turn-based vs. Realtime+Pause.

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RPG Codex: JA:BIA was a game aimed at the “casual crowd”, and with your new title, you claim you are aiming directly at the “hardcore”, turn-based crowd. What made you change target audience like this?

PO: Honestly, JA:BIA is definitely not a game for casual players. Sure, it’s not turn-based and it’s not as complex as ‘Jagged Alliance 2’ was but it’s still tactically challenging. And we never designed this game towards the “casual crowd” at all.

Chaos Chronicles intentionally aims for players who are into classical role-playing games and tactical turn-based combat. I am not sure how hardcore you need to be to enjoy our game, but you should be familiar with terms like ‘Armor Class’ , ‘Attack of Opportunity’ and ‘Saving Throws’.​

RPG Codex: Going by the classes and stats you have already revealed to us, the game's character and combat systems seem heavily inspired by D&D. Knowing the licensing issues, we assume you will not be using D&D. What is the reason you are not using the 3.5 OGL or Pathfinder? Pathfinder is widely considered the most improved and efficient version of D&D 3.5, and since it is open, what made you choose not to use it?

PO: We are using the 3.5e Open Game Content and our guides regarding the combat implementation are Temple of Elemental Evil and Knights of the Chalice. If you like the combat system of those games, you will like ours as well. We didn’t choose ‘Pathfinder’ because nobody in our team had any relation to it – we didn’t even evaluate it because of that reason. And, as far as we know, Pathfinder still has some copyright regarding the characters, scenarios and campaigns.​

RPG Codex: Since you are not using D&D or Pathfinder, In what ways does your system differ from D&D and what are the similarities?

PO: We will use the 3.5e OGL in many aspects of the game, but in some details we will choose our own solutions. Especially when it comes to the skill system and spell memorizing. We will talk about those details in future blog entries after we fully tested those changes in the game.​

RPG Codex: You cite P&P gameplay and earlier D&D cRPGs like the Gold Box games as well as Temple of Elemental Evil (ToEE) as major inspirations for your combat gameplay. Can you elaborate on the differences and similarities between your game and those games? What improvements do you intend to make?

PO: Since we are using the 3.5e OGL, our combat will not be so different from ToEE's. The main difference will be our hexagon grid. All 3.5e OGL combat rules are designed for squares and ToEE has no grid at all. That’s why we are investing much time to adapt 3.5 actions and spells to our grid. I think introducing this hex-grid to 3.5e will be the main improvement of our game.​

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RPG Codex: Tell us more about how combat plays out. Do you intend to include combat actions like Ready actions, Grapple, Bull-rush, Trip, 5-foot-steps etc.?

PO: At the moment we are experimenting with all 3.5e combat features and soon we will be able to talk about our final feature set. At this moment, I can only say that we want to implement as many 3.5e combat features as possible. But we honestly don’t like the fact that all classes can perform all combat actions to the same degree. Actions like ‘Charge’, ‘Bull Rush’ or ‘Grapple’ should be Fighter-only in our opinion. And compared to melee classes, spellcasters are already very powerful and it wouldn’t hurt to disallow those (obvious melee-like) actions for them.​

RPG Codex: Do you plan to include prestige classes and multi-classing? If not, why not?

PO: We are planning to add prestige classes, but we currently don’t know when exactly. Before we can do that, we have to balance and polish the core classes first. We will not use multi-classing because this element is technically very expensive to implement. We decided to spend this time to add a proper system for prestige classes.​

RPG Codex: What non-combat skills do you intend to implement? Will there be crafting?

PO: During your journey through the wilderness, you will use skills like Hunting, Cooking, Healing, Pathfinding etc. And in cities/villages you can use skills/feats like Bluff (when gambling), Diplomacy or Lockpicking. We don't plan on implementing crafting yet.​

RPG Codex: What are you planning for the spell system? Will there be psionics? Are you using the vancian spell system known from D&D, a mana-system, or something else entirely?

PO: The spell system will be very similar to the 3.5e open game content but with some minor improvements. For example, in Chaos Chronicles the Wizard doesn’t need to memorize one particular spell to use it later – he can choose from any spell in his book as long as he has free daily ‘slots’ for this spell level remaining. In this way, the player will also use very exotic spells that are usually never been taken since nobody wants to waste a slot for them. We definitely have tons of arcane and divine spells in our game, but we didn’t decide on psionic powers yet.​

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RPG Codex: What kind of utility spells will be there be - spells that do not directly affect combat, like fly, teleport, contingencies and so on?

PO: There will be spells that make your time in the wilderness more comfortable like ‘Create Food’, ‘Teleport’, ‘Cure Wounds’, ‘Pass Without Trace’ to name a few. During the exploration of a dungeon, you can use spells like ‘Detect Secrets (Doors)’ or ‘Find Traps’.​

RPG Codex: How do characters progress? Will we choose the usual D&D feats on level-up, and/or will there be choices between special abilities for different classes?

PO: Yes, we will use the standard 3.5e character enhancements on level-up; some classes can pick their bonus feats while other classes have their predefined feats.​

RPG Codex: In that vein, how do your fighting classes differ from each other? How is your Warlord different from your Paladin or Fighter, for instance?

PO: We will limit the combat actions like ‘Bull Rush’ or ‘Charge’ to certain classes. In our opinion, the fighter should get some advantages over other classes. Beside weapon and armor proficiencies, a class like the Paladin comes with its own spells and class features.​

RPG Codex: In usual iterations of D&D, the Fighter is a static "auto-attacker" with unexciting gameplay, while the Wizard gets to throw spells and is generally a lot more active and fun. Will this be different in Chaos Chronicles?

PO: Yes, we definitely want to make the Fighter class more enjoyable to play. Beside exclusive combat actions (see above) the Fighter will get some more interesting features during the combat in Chaos Chronicles. But nevertheless, his gameplay will never reach the complexity of a Wizard’s spellbook.​

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RPG Codex: We have looked at the screenshots and have seen some true isometric beauty there. Most 3D games tend to have a problem with the camera though, making you spend half your time to readjust it to a workable perspective, as opposed to ToEE for instance, which had a fixed camera perspective and all areas were designed with that camera in mind, resulting in a hassle-free play. How are you tackling this problem?

PO: There is a default (isometric) camera view, but you are free to fully rotate the camera to see dungeons or battlefields from all perspectives. In contrast to ToEE, our game is fully 3D and sometimes it’s necessary to rotate the camera to spot single objects or secrets.​

RPG Codex: Tell us a bit about the premise of the game. Are you aiming for a linear dungeon crawler? Or are you planning for a more free-form approach like in, for example, Realms of Arkania? Are there many available locations on the world map for the player to travel to, or does the player unlock one after the other?

PO: We are offering an open world gameplay. You can walk wherever you want as long as you survive the encounters. Our world map is very similar to games like Ultima or Phantasie. While walking through the wilderness you will discover more and more locations . The main plot will lead you to some specific locations, but you decide when to go there.​

RPG Codex: In this vein, will there be side-quests and non-essential areas where the player can go looking for treasure, but doesn't have to? How much optional stuff can we expect in Chaos Chronicles?

PO: Yes, many locations are not relevant for the main plot of the story, but provide secrets and hidden treasure. Most of those secrets/treasures are linked with some side-quest. I think about 30% of the content in Chaos Chronicles is more or less optional.​

RPG Codex: What is your approach to designing quests? Will there be multiple solutions to quests, based on the skills of your party?

PO: Some skills enable optional dialog or quest options, but you will always be able to solve a puzzle/quest without a special skill. The majority of quests have more than one solution and in many cases the alignment system will be involved (lawful/chaotic, good/evil, etc.).​

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RPG Codex: Many party-based RPGs with non-combat skills have the problem that the protagonist, or whoever initiated dialogue, is the only one who can use his or her skills. In these games you tend to make a "party face" with all the relevant non-combat skills. Storm of Zehir, Obisidan Entertainment's Neverwinter Nights 2 expansion, solved this by allowing you to use the skills of all characters in dialogue and in the environment. Will there be a similar solution in Chaos Chronicles?

PO: Yes, the skills/feats used during traveling on the world map and with non-combat actions like talking, bargaining, gambling, etc. are automatically determined by the best value of all members in your party.​

RPG Codex: Do you employ level-scaling in monsters? In other words, do the monsters in the world level up along with the player?

PO: Automatic level-scaling? Kill it with fire! No, seriously, it already ruined ‘Oblivion’ and we will not repeat that mistake in our game. There are different monster types of different levels in different areas of the world. Therefore, as the player you should be very careful where you are roaming.​

RPG Codex: You've stated that NPCs you pick up will have their own secrets, but how much party interaction do plan on having in the game? How interaction in general? You state your inspirations as ToEE, for example, a game with almost no character interaction. Is this what you are aiming for?

PO: You will have interactions with NPCs but not with your own characters. Your own characters have no agenda since you can create them by yourself. And we just don’t have the manpower and time to create complex character decisions like in, for example, Baldur’s Gate. But NPCs can join your party and those characters can tell their very own story.​

RPG Codex: How do you plan on implementing loot? What inventory slots do we have (armor, weapons, boots, rings and so forth), and how quickly do you find interesting loot?

PO: We don’t have item spamming like in Torchlight or Diablo. Our item system is a bit more low-magic, even a +1 weapon is already very powerful and expensive. The player will find magical artifacts, but in the beginning of the game even some simple rusty melee weapons will be a big help to survive.​

RPG Codex: Do you have an encumbrance-system based on strength like D&D, or are you simply going with a maximum number of inventory slots?

PO: Encumbrance is close to OGL 3.5e with real weights of any equipment item, on character and party level as well. If your party carries too much stuff, it will slow down when traveling – and this could be very dangerous. If your character’s equipment is too heavy, you’ll receive penalties in combat (reduced movement speed for example).​

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RPG Codex: It is a staple of isometric RPGs that you can customize character portraits, sometimes their look or their features, and that equipment you put on is visible in the game on the character's avatar. How detailed is your system in this regard?

PO: The 3D display of your characters reflects any change in your inventory except rings and necklace. But even changing boots will change your character appearance in the world. You will also see a detailed close-up of your character in the party screen. In this particular regard, Chaos Chronicles is as extensive as modern RPGs like Skyrim or Dragon Age.​

RPG Codex: Can you go into more detail on how the multi-player will work?

PO: Unfortunately, regarding the multi-player I can’t deliver details in the current phase of development. You can play cooperative and every player is responsible for one or more characters. That’s all I can say right now.​

RPG Codex: DLC and "post-launch support" is a very modern phenomenon. Can we expect these kinds of things with Chaos Chronicles?

PO: I don’t think there will be DLCs like in modern commercial games, but I personally would love to create a trilogy with Chaos Chronicles like Phantasie I-III. But that’s my personal wish and first of all we have to deliver a good first part of this game. But if we do a sequel, you will be definitely able to continue the game with your previous party like in the Wizardry series (I really loved that feature).​

RPG Codex: Finally, do you plan on implementing modding support or development tools?

PO: Our game intensively uses LUA scripting and we try to put as much game content into human-readable files as possible. Our engine and tools are developed in-house, but some of them are pretty complex, e.g. the world editor. I can’t promise anything right now, but if we manage to reach enough players we will think about supporting player made campaigns and modifications after the release.​

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