RPG Codex Interview: Antharion, Indie Turn- and Party-based RPG
Interview - posted by Crooked Bee
on Fri 26 October 2012, 21:40:44
; Orphic Software
Another promising RPG project currently on Kickstarter
is Orphic Software's Antharion
, "an old school turn-based party-based RPG set in a huge open fantasy world." According to the Kickstarter pitch, the intention behind Antharion is "to combine an immense open-ended living-breathing world where the player is free to go anywhere and do anything, with a deep tactical turn-based combat system, a rich skill set and character creation system, and the distinctive feel of old-school classic RPGs."
Antharion has grabbed the attention of some Codexers already, so we reached out to Ari Rae-Silver
of Orphic Software with some questions in the hope this interview would help shed more light on and bring more attention to the game. You can read Ari's answers below.
To begin with, what inspired Antharion's concept and why did you decide to make a turn-based RPG in this day and age? What makes Antharion unique and sets it apart from the multitude of other indie RPGs and Kickstarter projects?
Antharion was inspired by my experiences getting lost in games like Pool of Radiance and Morrowind for hours or days at a time. And I’ve always had a love of turn-based games, they just feel more cerebral which I really like. A lot of modern games hide behind obtuse interfaces and fancy graphics. Antharion doesn’t (it can’t afford to). Our goal from the start was to make Antharion’s core gameplay feel ultra-responsive and transparent in a WISIWIG sort of way. I could tell you that Antharion is unique because of its huge world, its rock-solid gameplay and its old-school aesthetic, but these things don’t in themselves make a game special. What really makes a game special is when all of its tiny little parts just click together perfectly into place. This is what’s happening with Antharion and we really believe that if we can just get the word out, gamers will take notice.
In your pitch video you mention that you wanted to bring in elements of Baldur's Gate, Elder Scrolls and Ultima into this project. What elements of each of those games would you like to emulate in Antharion, and what other video games influence its gameplay and design?
In each of these games there's something very essential about what makes them fun. The Elder Scrolls, for example, do a wonderful job of rewarding exploration. You can wander around endlessly in a huge interesting world and you'll never run out of stuff to do. In Ultima VII it's interactivity. Virtually nothing in your environment can’t be interacted with in some way. In Baldur’s Gate it’s the combat system’s depth along with a great story delivery and meaningful choices. Other games that influenced Antharion include Pool of Radiance, Diablo, Wizardry 8, KoTOR, Avernum 3, X-COM, Final Fantasy 7, Angbad, Fallout and way too many more to list here.
There's a gameplay video on your Kickstarter page, and the game looks quite functional already. Did you code the engine yourselves, or are you using a licensed one? Besides the game engine and the development tools, how far along are you in development?
The engine and development tools were coded entirely by myself in C using Xcode. For graphics we use Photoshop and that’s really about it. The engine and tools are done and we’re focusing mostly on building the world, creating assets to fill it, refining core gameplay, and adding a few outstanding subsystems (like alchemy for example).
Can you introduce our readers to the game's setting, backstory and plot? What are some of the themes you aim to explore with Antharion?
The game is set in the fantasy world of Antharion, a huge island continent. The beloved King and uniter of Antharion was recently murdered by his own son Zeverith. Zeverith paraded his father’s corpse through the streets of the capitol. Then he had the corpse rendered into a monument in the center of the capital city square so as to remind all the citizens of his ultimate power. Along with dissolving the Senate, Zeverith sold of huge swaths of land (along with the inhabitants) to wealthy powerful interests. Magic was long the domain of a small group of very powerful wizards known simply as, The Order. Zeverith saw the Order as a potential threat to his power and sentenced them all to death. Most were killed but some escaped off into lost labyrinths while others magically constructed their own labyrinths. Zeverith sent his men from town to town to hunt down every last wizard in what became known as The Purge. Caught up in The Purge, your quiet little village on the outskirts of the Kingdom was burned entirely to the ground and all of its townspeople massacred. Your party alone was spared and taken into a dungeon for torturings and executions. This is where the game begins. Antharion’s world has a whole history behind it and you’ll be able to read all about it inside of the game via books, if you’re so inclined.
The Kickstarter page doesn't have any information on races and classes. Could you describe them for us and explain how they relate to the game world? Will NPCs react differently to characters of different races?
There are 5 races: Human, Lynx (the cat-like creatures), Elves, Orcs, and Necrophils (the demonic beings). Each race has its own set of strengths and all are inextricably tied in with the game world and storyline. Humans are the most politically powerful race and the de facto rulers. Elves are a noble race and are widely admired for their beauty but have little influence beyond culture. Orcs, once a great race of warriors whose warlords ruled over Antharion for aeons, are now taken and sold as slaves by Humans. Lynx are subterranean and reside solitarily on the fringes of society. Necrophils, originally the magical creations of adept Wizards, gradually improved their own powers through magical self-replicating techniques, eventually becoming more magically proficient than their creators. Some NPCs will react to your party differently depending on its racial makeup. Sometime favorably, other times disfavorably.
How does Antharion's character creation work, and what options does it give the player?
Character creation is simple and straightforward. You choose a class, a race and traits. The player’s stats are divided into attributes and skills. In selecting a class there are two options: (1) choose from a set of predefined class templates where all skill and attribute points are allocated for you; or (2) choose custom class and allocate all skill and attribute points manually. Each race will have its own set of advantages/disadvantages. Same goes for traits. We’re also toying around with the idea of a perks system.
It's a little unclear how Antharion's turn-based combat works, even after watching the gameplay video. Is it one action per turn, and does that including movement? How are turns determined?
The turn-based combat system is fairly standard and works like this: whoever initiates combat (either your party or its enemies) goes first. At the beginning of each new round everyone is given a set amount of action points (AP) as determined by each of their stats. Moves cost one AP each, while attacks and spell casts cost all of it (except in the case that a character is hasted). So if the player initiates combat then he’d move his entire party (according to its order) one at a time until each member is out of AP. Once all of the player characters moved, the enemies move one by one until they’re all out of AP. Rinse, repeat.
Antharion seems to be very dungeon crawling-heavy and action-oriented. Are there any non-combat skills such as thievery skills, alchemy, speech skills, etc.? What sort of interactions are there with the gameworld aside from killing monsters?
There’s definitely tons of dungeon crawling, but it’s not all about that. One thing we’re really trying to do is to create the sense of a living world. NPCs don’t just wait around for you in their shops. They go home at night, go to lunch at the nearby tavern, that kind of thing. There’s also a big stealing component. Get caught stealing and you’ll either be attacked or the npc will flee to alert a guard. The guard will alert other guards and chase you down, throwing you in the nearest jail if you’re caught. As far as non-combat skills go, we’re definitely adding alchemy and are considering adding persuasion, pick-pocketing, crafting and a few others.
How diverse are Antharion's quests going to be? What other types of quests apart from kill and fetch quests are you going to put in the game? You also call the game world of Antharion "open-ended". Does this include alternative endings and multiple quest solutions?
There’s a lot of diversity. Of course you’ll have the standard Fed-Ex style quests, but you’ll also have some pretty unique stuff. For example: you meet a local slave trader in one of the sleazier taverns on the wrong side of town. He tells you that he’s just had a shipment of Orcs stolen by a rival slaver and asks you to go retrieve them. From this point there are a number of possible outcomes: (1) you could go and retrieve the Orc slaves and return them to the quest giver; (2) you could go and free the Orc slaves; (3) you might happen to run into the rival slaver who would then offer you money to kill the quest giver; or (4) you could just kill all of Orc slaves for the heck of it. Personally, I love these types of quests and will put as many of them in as possible. The decisions that you make in a quest like this will have a direct impact on your party’s alignment which in turn affects the world in all kinds of other ways.
Currently there is little to no character animations in the game. How is that going to change?
So definitely, Antharion has multiple endings and lots of multiple quest solutions.
While animation is visually appealing, it also obfuscates the underlying core gameplay mechanics. That said, I understand that a lot of people want it and at this point we’re seriously considering adding it as an option.
Antharion won't be limited to the PC, but will also be released on the iPad. How do you make sure you do not sacrifice design complexity and tactical options because of the limitations of a tablet platform, including interface limitations, and the apparently "casual" character of tablet gaming?
To be clear, Antharion’s design was not influenced in any way by the prospect of an iPad port. There’s a lot of room for serious games like Antharion on a casual platform like the iPad. And it just so happens that a game like Antharion would translate quite well to a platform like the iPad without any real functional sacrifice.
Why did you decide to take Antharion on Kickstarter and not develop the game the traditional indie way?
It just kind of happened that way. We recently hired a full-time pixel artist, and dramatically scaled up the number of assets we needed as the scope of the project grew, and next thing we knew, our savings accounts were low. At this point Kickstarter made perfect sense. It’s turned out to be a really great thing, we’re getting tons of helpful and positive feedback from our backers and they’re really helping us to make Antharion a better game.
What have you still got planned as far as Kickstarter updates are concerned? Do you plan on releasing further gameplay videos?
We definitely plan on releasing more gameplay videos, yes. Also we’d really like to share a lot of tangible stuff, like art (it’s kind of hard to share code in most cases). We also have a few additional features in the works that we’d like to share with our backers via updates.
Thank you for your time and good luck with the campaign.
Be sure to visit Antharion's Kickstarter page
to study the rewards and pledge if you'd like to support the game.
Thanks are also due to Trash, Zed and Jaesun for their contribution.
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