Forbes Interviews Madoc
Hello again everyone,
It's getting late here, but the clock is ticking and Erik Kain from Forbes recently posted an interview with Madoc that is well worth a read. So here it is:
An Interview With 'Sui Generis' Developer Madoc Evans
The clock is ticking on the unique looking Sui Generis Kickstarter RPG. I talk with the game’s creator about his vision for the game.
I’ve written about the indie RPG Kickstarter Sui Generis twice now—once to give a brief preview of the game and its efforts on Kickstarter, and an update later on the evolution of the game’s combat. With just over 24 hours left to go on the Kickstarter drive, the game is still approximately £21,000 short of its £150,000 goal.
As enthusiastic as I’ve been about the potential Bare Mettle’s game and its remarkable looking engine, and as much as the philosophy behind the game resonates with my own personal tastes, many readers were hesitant. Where’s the story? they asked. Where’s the game?
Forbes: When I first wrote about Sui Generis, a lot of my readers said it looks more like a tech demo than an RPG. While I was enthusiastic about the nature of the game and the gameplay itself, many people worried that this was technology without a game.
So what is the story, and how will it figure into what we’ve seen already?
Evans: Well, we’re very keen on the concept of writing your own story. Our main focus is creating a world and sandbox elements that have lots of depth to them. Mostly it’s going to be about you discovering the world, learning abilities and growing into whatever it is you will become. The player character is special but what is special about them is that when they die they return to life. No saving and loading and no respawning as if it were normal, the fact that you come back is a big deal within the context of the world.
You don’t do quests and get rewarded for completing them, there’s stuff going and you can get involved. You might actually lose more than you gain by doing so.
Update #12 is intended as an example of a game experience from the player character’s perspective. The events there are dynamic, based on player actions. An apparently simple premise can escalate into almost anything and by doing things you always discover more things to do and get more deeply involved. No content is isolated, there’s an open world and a single vast interconnected underworld rather than a series of small dungeons. Similarly with events, we want everything to be connected and affected by whatever you do or happens.
The main plot is essentially just an extension of this. Theoretically it would be possible to avert the entire affair by accidentally rolling a boulder off a cliff and this landing on the main antagonist. The player would then play the game and perhaps never realise there was supposed to be some big problem to solve. Of course in practice this is quite unlikely!
It’s ambitious but we think this is what an RPG has to be. Who knows how much we can actually do but we have to try! We do have serious ideas about its implementation.
A lot of games promise character choice, dynamic outcomes, and so forth but this almost always turns out to be difficult to implement and few games do it well.
What sort of ideas do you have in regards to implementing this in the game? Do you think there’s a risk that an open-world game can be too open?
There’s no such thing as too open a world. This is not a game with a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s a world where you can do whatever you want and everything you do has permanent consequences. We won’t guide you, if you do something stupid like attack a castle or a group of thaumaturges on your own you’re just asking for it.
Basically what we’d do is take any “quest” or story element and break it down into its components, each component then has activating conditions that are as dynamic as possible. An NPC decision that is specific to a situation would still be subject to various weighted factors that support that decision, it would have to contend with other decisions, including general ones not specific to the situation, for priority. Each decision has associated risks and rewards that vary in degrees and the NPC’s personal characteristics or mood also weigh in.
We think this is something we can build on gradually, adding more variables, behaviours and ways for NPCs to achieve their goals, even intermediate goals that can improve their odds of reaching other goals. The biggest risk is that this will be limited in scope but we’re not fond of epics, we’d rather have a world that immerses you by being reactive than one that tells a grandiose story. To keep it interesting we want the world itself to be full of mystery and intrigue.
This is not a game where you rush through killing enemies and clicking on highlighted items, it’s a game where you can spend a significant time in every location, looking for keys hidden under objects, hidden switches, journals that may contain important clues, that sort of thing. Even a peasant’s home could hold some dark secrets.
I’ve seen your recent update on blood, fire, and shields. What is your philosophy behind the games combat, both offensive and defensive? What makes Sui Generis different in fighting terms?
We love character advancement but we also love action and a good challenging fight. What we want to achieve is character customisation that allows you to experiment with many different play styles. We want players to invent their own way of playing the game, whether it’s manual skills, tactical combat, stealth, strategy or a combination of things.
There is a lot to experiment with in terms of skills, thaumaturgy and just generally a world driven by massive interactivity and hugely dynamic systems rather than rigid, mechanical ones.
Your Kickstarter pitch makes a big deal out of the physics in the game. Some readers weren’t convinced. What makes the physics unique? Why is this important?
The physics are obviously crucial to the gameplay, even in close quarters combat you get a sense for the weight of your weapon, the forces acting on characters and it makes it deeply engaging. We want a realistic game and even a slight increase in your swing speed or the reach of your weapon can confer a huge advantage in combat. Much better than silly stats. Individual weapons feel different and you have to learn to wield them as a player.
Then there’s the environment, thaumaturgy and everything else. Even without thaumaturgy a table or a door can make the difference between life and death, even a chair. When you start playing around with thaumaturgy and all the ways you can manipulate things you’re opening up all sorts of gameplay possibilities.
And of course there’s realism, immersion. I think anyone who’s seen our video and doesn’t get caught up on the early state of animations or other obvious flaws, or isn’t expecting ninjas who defy the laws of physics, can appreciate this. It’s also just ridiculously fun, it’s easy to just repeat the same fight endlessly because it’s so engrossing, or even just watch someone else do it. Every moment is unique and just damn cool.
The combat looks like it could be quite fun, but a lot of the videos so far have shown a kind of repetitive swinging back-and-forth motion that doesn’t seem to capture the array of possible moves you would hope for. Will swords be limited to this sort of slashing, or will players be able to stab and thrust and do other types of moves as well?
We do plan to include additional combat manoeuvres.
For example, we plan to allow thrusting with a sword by clicking once and then holding the button down while aiming with the cursor. We plan to have other weapon specific attacks and also introducing WASD double tap behaviours that can be used for dodges or lunges. The current swinging however is more tactical and skilful than it might look. You execute your own manoeuvres by a combination of attacks, steps and turns.
The combat has a certain rhythm to it and the physics an implicit flow which you can predict because it’s natural, it’s about measuring the motions of your opponent and timing and executing attacks accordingly.
The goals you point to in your Kickstarter are ambitious. Multiplayer looks to be confined to LAN at this point but you write that your ultimate aim is to have some massively multiplayer elements. What do you mean by this? Many RPG fans have grown weary or a bit cautious about the MMO genre, and this sort of thing can be viewed as not only a possible detraction from single-player elements, but an awfully big and potentially risky investment.
We’re definitely not making an MMO and anyway I think it would be impossible with these physics.
When we say “massively multiplayer elements” we mean things like social interaction and perhaps trading within a larger player community and arena fights with spectators. Like a step up from battle.net but nothing more than that. The game is what it is, it’s not strictly a single player experience because it’s not really player centric.
It’s a world first design, the player is a pesky intruder who better watch their step! Things aren’t there to help the player or get killed by them, they’re there to protect their own interests.
As a “world first design” what sort of world should we expect? What types of environments, what scale of towns and cities? Will there be ships, mounts, or any other non-foot travel? Will the world be heavily populated?
It certainly won’t be a planet with continents. It will be relatively small in scale but hopefully densely packed with interesting locations. It won’t feature major climate changes, you can expect green pastures, more forested areas, wastelands and marshes but not much beyond that. We plan on having one major city and a number of towns, villages, castles, fortresses, farms etc. Horses are a pretty fundamental component of the society we want to create, we’re just hoping equestrian physics won’t be too much trouble!
The underworld is also a huge aspect of this world, it’s basically a gigantic non linear “dungeon” that changes and features new elements the deeper you go. It has many entrances and many ways of getting around it. In the underworld you can expect to find themes that are quite in contrast with those of the overworld, it has a very long history predating anything on the surface.
Do you have any plans to license out the engine you’ve created to other developers or publishers? Also, the ease with which you can apparently build terrain and add content to the world seems like it would make for incredibly simple and robust modding—will you provide support for mods?
Definitely. I’m already licensing the engine for non game applications though I have an understanding with the licensee. Obviously it’s going to take quite some work for the engine to be made ready for use by anyone. Modding tools seem like a logical intermediate step towards that licensing goal, but in terms of the game we’re focusing on the game without any concern for how modding might fit into it.
What will be the business model for the game once it’s finished? Are you looking at free-to-play or any other alternative revenue options?
Honestly we don’t have a business model, we’re just making the game we really want to play. We really badly want to play this game. Really.
The only thing we like is the old school way, you buy the game, you’ve got a game to play. We might charge for a significant expansion but never micro-transactions, we really hate that stuff. We hope to be able to continue doing work on the game and providing some new content and features free of charge to anyone who bought it. If we provide online services and need to cover costs then we’ll probably charge a very reasonable subscription fee.
The original article can be found here:
Shout to Erik for writing this.