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RPG Codex Interview: Serpent in the Staglands (Now on Kickstarter)
Codex Interview - posted by Zed on Mon 31 March 2014, 05:54:44Tags: Serpent in the Staglands; Whalenought Studios
Whalenought Studios, consisting of husband Joe (lead art) and wife Hannah (lead development), recently launched a Kickstarter for their pixelicious RTwP CRPG Serpent in the Staglands. "We ought to ask them some questions about their game", I thought, and they must have thought "RPG Codex is totally cool and Zed is awesome, wow", so here we are with an interview.
RPG CODEX: You are no strangers to indie games development, but Serpent in the Staglands marks your first foray into PC RPGs. What made you want to create this game, and at this time?
Graphically, I would have a hard time trying to imagine a game looking more like a cross between Darklands and Baldur's Gate than Serpent in the Staglands. However, you cite these games as influences for the game's innards rather than how it looks. Let's start with Darklands. What have you drawn from this game?
Similar to their classless skill system, our system involves building your character by selecting any combat, spell or aptitude skills you’d like. This allows for a vast amount of customization and personality — rewarding creativity with your own custom build types. The Darklands combat is frenetic and pretty ruthless and we’re trying to capture that as well. Nothing was more satisfyingly demoralizing than failing to best some bandits and getting told they stole all your equipment and money and left you for dead. Their story scenes were the original inspiration for our Aptitude creation and uses outside combat.
There are a couple of obvious similarities to Baldur's Gate: the party control (even the selection circles seem to be similarly color-coded) and the real-time with pause combat system. Is there anything else that Baldur's Gate, or any other Infinity Engine game for that matter, has given inspiration for in Serpents in the Staglands?
The RTS tactical control was one of the first things we set up to help get a feel of the game. Those circles are a WIP that just seemed like an obvious choice to put in during development, but they’ve worked so far!
On the Kickstarter page, you mention a few locations such as Emerald Mines and the forest domain of the Wandering Lady. Will the player travel seamlessly between these areas or do you use a world map system like the one found in the Infinity Engine games? Is the progression linear or can the player choose which areas to visit and in what order?
Similar to other crpgs, maps are individual scenes that you can exit near the edges that will bring you to an overworld map with markers that you manually traverse. You can have random events and ambushes take place while traveling, along with uncovering secret locations.
What are your primary inspirations for the world design and the lore behind the Staglands peninsula?
Serpent in the Staglands has the player control the mortal avatar of a moon lord (a god, as I understand it) called Necholai. What does this entail for the main character? Are you bound to any limitations such as only playing as a male character?
How will the player's party be established? The player obviously starts with the main character. Are followers later recruited as predefined characters at certain points in the story (as in Baldur's Gate), or can they be created at the start of the game as well (as in Darklands)? Also, what party size are you aiming for?
We know that players will choose up to three skills to be equipped by each party member, and those are changeable at any time during battle. Does this mean that the player will have no direct control over when and where abilities and spells are used?
According to the Kickstarter description, combat in Serpent in the Staglands is frenetic and dice roll-based, so that "the range of dice roll outcomes grows larger and more unpredictable" as you progress in skills and power. Could you elaborate on or provide some examples of how that is going to work? Further, apart from the swift pace and unpredictability, where will the challenge in combat come from?
The challenge comes from the chaotic nature of combat and the variation in enemies strengths and abilities, and how you choose to use your skills. Every humanoid can have the same spells and skills as you do, and no two groups of enemies can necessarily be defeated with the same battle strategy. We want to keep the player on their toes and reward creative strategy and their skill usage.
Also to keep combat challenging, we’ve set up the monsters in the game to act like mini-boss battles, requiring unique ways to dispatch them. Spirits must have special dispatching spells cast upon them or they will return, and some have large area affecting spells or minions.
You mention Aptitudes, a system to branch your main character's knowledge and persona, affecting conversations and interactions with the environment. Does this mean there will be alternate paths and solutions in the game, such as talking your way out of a situation rather than fighting? Perhaps through Darklands-style “choose-your-own-adventure” events?
Where do you see Whalenought heading with Serpent in the Staglands? It's a certainly a departure from your earlier, perhaps more accessible, mobile games. Are you looking to become the next Spiderweb Software or Basilisk Games, focusing on throwback CRPGs?
A few recent CRPGs such as Wasteland 2, Dead State and UnderRail (and a gazillion other games) have Early Access versions for sale on Steam. In the Kickstarter, you mention your goal to release the game in Winter 2014, while also adding that you have no intentions of releasing anything but a finished and polished product. It sounds like you could be among the developers who are skeptical towards Early Access? What are your thoughts on this trend?
We’re aiming firstly to get on GoG, both because we love their site and to support the DRM-free distribution of games. We’ll be using Greenlight thereafter to also try to get on Steam! We think early access can certainly be beneficial for some developers, but believe our narrative-driven game is best experienced in its finished form for players to engross themselves in, so we will be sticking with closed beta testing. We’ll definitely be sharing updates throughout the rest of the development process though!
Many thanks to Whalenought Studios for answering our questions. The Kickstarter for Serpent in the Staglands is at the time of publishing this interview still ongoing.