Zaharia, a fantasy RPG inspired by Middle Eastern world
Zaharia is a fantasy RPG, inspired by Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, full of reactive choices and exciting adventures.
Zaharia, a fantasy RPG inspired by Middle Eastern world
Zaharia is a fantasy RPG, inspired by Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, full of reactive choices and exciting adventures.
At its core, Zaharia is a game about humanity: its glories, its follies, and its darkest secrets.
Kickstarter page in Italian
On the occasion of the Kickstarter campaign we developed and released a 30 minutes stand alone prototype, showing some of the features of Zaharia.
Zaharia is a RPG with an original setting inspired by Middle Eastern and Oriental cultures. It captures the charm and flavor of those settings, while maintaining a plausible and convincing game world for you to explore. The players will be able to create their own characters and use them freely, defining their own story in the world of Zaharia without compromise or constraint.
While exploring the world, the player will discover its centuries-old history, and will come in contact with a world radically different from the ones inspired by traditional, European-themed fantasy settings.
Despite the freedom given to the player, the game will have a strong narrative focus. Every single character and quest will be made with care, and settled into a complex, evolving, living world. This freedom, combined with a terrific story, will always have one aim in mind: to give your choices an impact on the world, whether in combat, dialogue, or exploration.
- Isometric 3D graphics
- Turn-based battles based on an original rule set
- Fully realized NPCs that will join your party and influence the way you interact with the world
- Narrative and Interpretative non-linearity that allows the player to choose which quests to follow, and solve problems in a variety of ways
- A free-roaming world, Fallout style
- A large number of skills and stats to manage, in order to customize your own virtual alter-ego down to the smallest detail
- An original setting created from scratch, inspired by late medieval Persia and Arabia, and completely different from familiar, classic fantasy settings
- Development of mature themes: slavery, sexuality, racism, theology, philosophy, morality, politics and so on
- Five main factions to choose from, each of them deeply characterized and different from the others
- An innovative magic system, that makes mages something more than portable siege weapons
We are working hard to make the setting unique and plausible at the same time. We already have more than 1,000 pages of background and script, and the work has only just begun!
Our main purpose is to create a fantasy setting that is unique, but also one that feels realistic. To realize our vision, we’ve approached and studied a variety of subjects: history, philosophy, theology, anthropology, sociology and biology. This makes all the different aspects of Zaharia fit together, and is essential for creating a believable world that won’t have the player scratching their head, or smirking in disbelief. Zaharia feels real because it could be real.
The setting is far from the classic fantasy you may be used to. Zaharia is a huge country, one that exists in a period of economic, social and cultural growth. Science is quickly establishing itself as a viable power, and its adherents find knowledge and fulfillment in the march of progress, and not through the studying the old histories.
At first glance, Zaharia seems like quite a utopia: an acceptance of diversity, no trace of aristocracy, and dignity for every man. But underneath it all, humans are still humans. Intolerance, cruelty, and selfishness are as real in Zaharia as they are in our world, and both the story and the setting of the game explore these themes, and more.
In Zaharia, you can approach every situation from multiple gameplay angles, without unnatural constraints. Use your weapons, use stealth, or use dialog; these avenues are always open to you, including contextual actions that are appropriate to the situation. Each approach will lead to a different path with its own characteristics, which will further change the game world, its citizens, and your standing. Your choices will make a difference.
The consequences of any action will influence the game’s world and the characters living inside it, and they will have short or long term effects during the game.
Social relationships play a key role in Zaharia. Dialogue will be rich in choices, so you can role-play as you prefer, not only choosing your ethics but your personality. As in every good RPG, there are a host of elements that can influence your dialogue choices:
Skills and stat check: Practically all of your character attributes and skills will have the potential to impact dialogue.But this doesn’t mean stat checks will be “click-to-win” – on the contrary, you will have to pay very close attention to context, the person speaking, what their loyalties may be, and other variables.
Relationship simulation: There are two main variables to consider when forming relationships with NPCs, and those are “Respect” and “Friendship.”As in real life, NPCs may not like you, but they will respect you.Think of a cold, calculating leader who isn’t liked by his or her followers, but commands their obedience because he gets the job done.Similarly, a high level of friendship but a low level of respect could play out to your advantage as a roguish character, the kind of person everyone likes but nobody really trusts.The choice is yours.
Reputation System: Reputation in the world of Zaharia is extremely important.Characters who choose to specialize in the diplomatic approach to problem solving will find that their political weight may be more important than their sword. The reputation system considers the player’s relationships with NPCs and factions, and also accounts for your fame in the world.This fame is broken down into three types: Prestige, Diplomacy, and Menace.This kind of system allows us to create different reactions in NPCs that will reference your past actions. This is much more realistic than a simple “Fame” rating that doesn’t take into account whether or not you’ve been a huge bastard in your travels.
These three systems create the depth necessary for realistic relationships and their evolution throughout the game. This makes a dialogue-dependent approach totally viable, and not just a skill you use on rare occasions to get a better quest reward.
In our opinion, combat has been an under-developed element in many role-playing games. A combat system should be intuitive but at the same time, deep and complex in its dynamics. Battles should never get boring or repetitive; they should constantly present new, refreshing challenges and different tactical scenarios.
One of the main obstacles that kills both fun and game longevity is the vertical growth of the characters that is typical of most RPGs: the player levels up the party, but the system allows the characters to increase their power in an exponential way. This means that enemies who once were a serious threat are now harmless to the party as the game goes on.
In Zaharia, our approach is radically different. Combat is turn-based and tactical in nature. Characters will never become nearly-immortal super warriors. Even the strongest and most skilled fighter will find himself in a tight spot when facing a large group of unskilled opponents. In Zaharia, even the most powerful characters are still just human beings, people who can die from a stray arrow or a mistimed spell the same as anyone else.
This creates a combat system makes the classic tactics of RPGs or MMOs a bad idea. In Zaharia, there is no typical “tank” that can just soak up damage, because even the heaviest-armored soldier can be tired by his enemies, knocked down, and eventually killed. In Zaharia, healing magic is a slow, calculated affair which makes mid-combat healing a risky proposition, and forces you to really care about the health of your characters. And you can forget about fighting every battle with the same rinse-and-repeat tactics. Each combat encounter will be different.
The environment is interactive, which allows the player to perform contextual actions that, combined with proper positioning, will spell the difference between life and death. This makes a tactical approach to combat critical for success: find the best cover, locate the sneakiest passages from which to stage an ambush, or pick the best path to flank your enemies – or avoid being flanked!
Your party will follow you across Zaharia, and is a fundamental feature of the game. Classic games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment are still remembered for their outstanding NPC characterizations and deep, reactive party relationships. Zaharia seeks to recreate those mechanics, and then take them one step further.
Party members will have their own ethics and personalities, and will interpret the surrounding world and the player’s actions in a way that makes sense to them. They have their own needs, their own likes and dislikes, and will have their own opinions on the choices you make. They will evolve according to your actions, but also according to their own personalities.
This means that party members could refuse to do your bidding, especially if it goes against their beliefs. Sometimes they will leave the party to attend to their own affairs, both personal and professional. The PC will not have direct control over their growth, but instead will have the opportunity to change their paths through dialogue choices or special events that happen during the game. NPCs will constantly express their personalities, letting you know how they feel about what you’re doing... or you’re asking them to do.
In Zaharia, the stealth system is carefully crafted to make it realistic and useful. It is managed in real-time, in a system similar to that found in the popular Commandos. NPCs will have dedicated stealth AI, and there is a possibility to control the party as a whole. A stealthy character will not only be able to steal valuables or sneak into buildings, but will be useful in many situations. Sneaking is integrated into combat, giving you a tactical advantage before a battle, or possibly letting you solve the problem outright by avoiding a lengthy talk or a difficult fight.
Like combat, stealth will be heavily dependent upon your interaction with the environment. This means avoiding light sources, finding cover and hiding places, and dealing with enemies who might spot you. In Zaharia, stealth isn’t achieved merely by pressing a button, but will require careful planning. This system is fun and fulfilling, and adds variety to the game world.
There are five major factions for you to engage in the world of Zaharia. Which faction you eventually choose is important, because being a member doesn’t just change your outfit. It leads to radical changes in both gameplay and narrative. Your character will have to undergo a lengthy (in game years, don’t worry it is not boring!) training and initiation process that slowly integrates you into your organization. Only after this will you be recognized as an integral part of the group. To be part of a faction means access to resources, but will also impart important duties. In Zaharia, you will not be able to jump from faction to faction, so your decision here will be very important.
Factions feature dedicated storylines, all of them non-linear and full of choices. They offer the player five different perspectives of the world of Zaharia, and each faction has a different take on things.
The five main factions are:
Astronomers: a group of mage-scientists who work towards exploration and research, and care a great deal about progress. They have great political clout, and are the ideal faction to join if you want to avoid fighting and instead take advantage of prestige and political power in order to solve problems.
Wandering Warlocks: the Wandering Warlocks are a mages’ cult, an inheritance of an ancient nomad civilization that still survives under its own tradition. The Wandering Warlocks travel across Zaharia offering their help to those who need it, and asking in return only what they need to survive.
Warrior Monks of the Azure Mantle: the Warrior Monks are an ancient order of sacred warriors, born to protect the lands of Zaharia. Warrior Monks train through discipline and exercise to reach physical and mental perfection. Their life is dedicated to Azhan, and the safeguarding of Azhanism - wherever and whenever it is necessary.
Zain: the Zain are a secret group of mercenary assassins and spies. Nobody knows much about them, and the mastery with which they work helps them to keep their air of mystery. The Zain strengthen their bodies with several alchemical substances and they can use the latest technologies of the time, such as bombs or crossbows.
Disciples of Unity: the Disciples of Unity are a secret mages’ cult that believes in the union of mind and body, and derives magical powers from that understanding. The way they reach magic is new, imperfect, and sometimes dangerous. Their powers are vastly different from those of other mages.
In addition to these five factions, there will be a host of other secondary factions with less binding requirements and fewer duties. Your faction will choose the way to you play the game, but the secondary factions offer a way to differentiate every player’s experience.
Too often in fantasy games, mages are characterized in a superficial way. If they gain powers through study, it makes sense that they cannot merely wade into battle next to warriors. Playing as a mage of any kind will promise a different gameplay experience, no matter which path you choose. Mages can support their party in battle, use their skills to influence dialogue, or interact with the terrain to gain an advantage in battle. The player will be able to use magic in interesting ways that go just beyond wounding enemies. While mages can cast fireballs, this is not the only way he or she can use fire. Interacting with the environment is equally important, e.g. setting a building on fire to create a distraction.
The player will be able to choose between three different magic systems:
Scientific magic – championed by the Astronomers – offers the most classical approach to magic. The mage will be able to choose from a pool of spells with precise effects. The player need not join any faction to practice this kind of magic, but joining the Astronomers will allow you to take full advantage of this school. This type of magic is the most versatile.
The Wandering Warlocks work a bit different. The player will be able to choose between different disciplines, and improving his or her knowledge of a certain discipline will both unlock new spells and change the effects of previously known spells.
The magic of the Disciples of Unity is composed of two main elements: the Essence and the Channel. The first defines the magical effect of the spell, and the second will determine the space and area of effect. For example, a Disciple of Unity might use a heat essence to set something or fire, or use a different channel to burn an enemy (or group of enemies!).
Kickstarter is an impressively powerful medium that allows the existence and the growth of indie realities. We strongly believe in a system that places users’ choices in the foreground.
In addition, thanks to this platform we could be much closer to the community that follows us. With constant updates, dev. diaries and much else, it will be possible to have a much more direct contact with who decided to support us, and we’ll be personally open to dialogue in our forum. This won’t be a game for ourselves, but it will be the game of the community that will support us, so we think communication will be of the utmost importance for us.
A lot of people like to spend time killing monsters without a real reason, and they want an easy game that safely guides them toward an underserved victory, and dialogues or feature that could accidentally turn on their brain can be considered a loss of time.
Our project is not meant for those people, but for the ones that love to spend time with dialogs full of choices, for the ones that prefer to live an all-around experience instead of fighting senseless waves of enemies, for the ones that allowed a certain kind of RPG to return in the limelight the last year. And it is those people that we would like to address with this Kickstarter campaign.
Zaharia is an ambitious project and we’ll have to incur a lot of expenses and pay various professionals who’ll take care of some fundamental parts of its development. Zaharia will never be developed without your help and that’s why we decided to start a campaign on Kickstarter. We believe in Zaharia, we think that its original features could catch the interest of many RPG fans looking for a different experience.
A little more than a year ago, Nathan was starting to write the design document of a RPG. Then Fabio, an old friend of his, showed up and what was initially just an idea on a text file soon became a real project, born from a great passion for RPGs. Slowly, more people became part of the team working on Zaharia, believing in the quality of the project, because most of them are also gamers that love RPGs.
Fabio Distefano: his job is to observe and coordinate all the development steps to grant the maximum quality. He works on the writing and the setting, and he manages administrative and economic aspects of Inner Void.
Ian Clarke: he takes care of most administrative and bureaucratic aspects of Inner Void, helping the team with his legal knowledges and his constant support.
Luigi Di Guida: He’s the main composer of the game. He’ll create the soundtrack and a large part of ambient noises, sounds, voices and humans’ sounds of Zaharia.
Mirko Failoni: he’s the Lead Artist of Zaharia: He’s our master of 2D Graphic and he works on artworks and concept that define our game’s artistic and graphic style. In addition, he works on the writing.
Nathan Piperno: he takes care of the design of the whole game and writing, and he’s the leading figure behind the creation of Zaharia’s setting, one of the strong points of the title.
Oliver Basi: he’s the translator who’ll take care of the English game localization. He’ll not only translate all the text parts of the game, but he’ll also give them a conceptual and stylistic coherence, in order to preserve some details of the writing from being lost during the translation process. That’s why Oliver will work in close contact with the writers’ team.
Tommaso Lintrami: he’s the main programmer of Zaharia. He takes care of the programming of various aspects of the game, and at the same time he coordinates the work of other professionals who’re in charge of some secondary aspects.
Vikas Jain: Vikas deals with the 3D section of Zaharia, working in close contact with the artists to get 3D models with proper identity, able to completely reflect the particular feeling of the setting that we want to communicate even through our graphic section.
Vincenzo Cuzzola: He’s the artist who handles the making of the game’s interface, and the 2D graphic for the visual, architectonical and artistic definition of the game’s style.
In addition to these essential figures, the development will be made also thanks to the collaboration with several freelancers.
Here's a link to a detailed explanation of all the rewards.
Consciousness of a Thousand Worlds.
On the top of the highest mountain in the Zaharian Empire the player will be able to meet a mysterious entity, the Consciousness of a Thousand Worlds, a magical being that will let the player enter in different dreamlike experiences, each experience will be related to a certain theme or to the player's choices during the game.
The more you guys will back Zaharia and follow us on social networks, the more dreams you will be able to enjoy in Zaharia.
2 dreams unlocked!
Kickstarter: new dream at 750 backers.
Zaharia Facebook page: new dream at 750 likes.
Inner Void Facebook page: new dream at 250 likes.
Inner Void Twitter: new dream at 250 followers.
Risks and challenges
Working on a videogame is always risky, because it's hard to evaluate the amount of work that is necessary to do. We already learned that lesson during the development of the first features of Zaharia and the estimated date of release we put on Kickstarter takes that into account.
On the technical side, the most delicate task to do will be the combat system, because we'll need a lot of work to create new features, deeply improve the AI and balance everything. Programming what we have in mind won't be difficult, but merging everything together may be time consuming.
On the content side, we'll have tons of dialogues to write and the big challenge will be to maintain a good quality without losing time. We also need to translate everything in English and this process will be improved thanks to Kickstarter, that will let us hire additional people to check the writing.
Our team is composed by professional people that are accustomed to deadlines, that's why we are convinced that we'll deliver the game in time. We carefully worked on a modular design, that will allow us to create at first the foundations of the game, then it will let us improve every feature without incurring in problems or delays.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)