lunes, 29 de junio de 2020

Q&A with Darrel Wijaya, creator of The Revenant Prince


Amongst the many indie RPGs that got a spotlight in the past few weeks, in sparse events covering the cancellation of E3 2020, The Revenant Prince particularly caught our attention, a title that boasts an enduringly classic aesthetic pairing it with an extremely serious subject matter and overall story in which our main character can manipulate the flow of time and make several crucial choices in his path. 

And so, we are glad to have the opportunity to ask its creator, Darrel Wijaya (from Nomina Games, in Jakarta, Indonesia) a handful of questions about it. Thanks to Plan of Attack bridging us together, we get a snapshot of this project that started development back in 2015, and is being worked on by freelancers all over the globe. It's a rare window at the issues an indie developer might face in a country with a scene still going through the stages of asserting itself, showcasing once more that talent and will render moot the perceived limits of established blocks of development in Japan, North America, and Europe.

This is what he explained us about his game:


Destino RPG: Greetings and thanks for answering our questions. First of all, for those who do not know much about the game: how would you describe The Revenant Prince?

Darrel Wijaya: To put it simply, it’s perhaps a game of pure irreversible consequence! A story of a man guided by a mysterious voice to fulfill some strange destiny. The player will find out more as the game progresses, primarily the interesting out-of-the-blue twists that lie ahead.But other than that, it’s a pretty quirky game where exploration is highly encouraged. (Tons of easter eggs)

Where did the core idea for the game come from? Why did you choose this particular setting?

Core idea was initially just an idea I’ve developed over time, but it was something that stemmed from old fantasy games from the PlayStation 2 era. I chose this particular setting as a means to also encourage the player to explore and try a lot out. The game primarily instills wonder and it beckons players to do a lot of ‘what if’s’.

I believe the subtleties and the small nuances make all the differences in a game like this, but that’s just my opinion. I feel that a lot of RPGs are clean cut and linear, I wanted to do something a little more different that offers more to do in various small ways.

Final Fantasy VI, Secret of Mana, Undertale, To the Moon... there are a lot of titles that often come up as references or inspiration for games like these. What elements would you say would be familiar to people coming from those titles in The Revenant Prince? Do you think it will benefit or impair the perception of the game to be measured against some of the best titles of the industry?

I feel that some familiar elements would stem from its NPCs. A lot of the older RPGs we see have NPCs that say some really interesting things, but the NPCs i’ve designed are also littered with cryptic messages and hidden lore, this encourages players to map out what is really going on in the game. That element of curiosity I believe would create a more intriguing atmosphere for players overall. But also, the talking monsters and the spare system is something I had envisioned because I feel that players can do a lot of what if’s if need be.

I think features and narrative all play a role in ensuring whether or not this game would stand in the industry, but the best way I can put it, it’s that all I can say is it depends on how the public sees it, and what players can make of it. I can’t say for certain whether or not it will impair or benefit the game, but I hope it will offer something unique for players to experience.

Immortality seems like a key plot factor in The Revenant Prince. Will we face choices in the game that lead to different paths, or it will follow a linear one?

There are TONS of endings. If you look at NieR: Automata, I would say the game features endings that are rather unexpected. This game too has a variety of endings that are simply surprising, leaving players potentially baffled and dumbfounded. I insist all players diligently save their game. However, I don’t think ‘saving’ your file would protect you from these… irreversible outcomes. Choices presented can either be made through decisions, or even the very actions we take in battle.

Another aspect that really picked our interest was the option to "Spare" our enemies in the middle of combat. Will it be possible to finish the game without taking any life? What consequences, if any, can we expect from that playstyle in story or gameplay? Will we have different combat options depending on whether our mindset is killing everything or sparing everyone?

Yes, there is a way to finish the game without taking a single life. However there are enemies that are required to be killed. If you didn’t kill anyone, you will unlock the true ending, which, I can’t really spoil as the twist on that one is astonishing.

Yes there are plenty of combat changes if you decide to kill enemies. Battles will disable certain UI functions, the victory screen will talk down on you from killing to many enemies, and even the save screen, if you’re brave enough, will change. Which I shall leave for the players to discover on their own. Don’t worry it isn’t that bad. I do also believe there’s a prompt whenever you’re about to kill an enemy, however that might also change if you decide to ignore it.

Will we only play as Troy, the main character of the game, or will we be able to control other partners? So far the demo only had assist options.

We only have guests in the game so far, but I do believe you can only play as Troy, the main character.

Let's talk now about game development. RPGs are generally considered to be "deeper" than other genres, both in themes and complexity of gameplay options. Do you think that this element makes it a less accessible genre for an indie developer? Would it be easier to just tell a story without the combat element, or is that interaction crucial to what you want to say?

I do believe these days RPGs need stimulation. Current consumers need something that involves their direct touch. Games which takes away the element of touch or freedom make it seem too linear, and thus, making it boring altogether.

Of course, creating that element of ‘touch’ costs an arm and leg, and yes, this genre as we progress will be increasingly difficult to access for the indie devs in general. Hence why most developers these days make short games with addicting mechanics. It’s just how the industry is.

It would be easier to tell a story without a combat element, however combat and interactivity make it all the more memorable for consumers. I try to blend a bit of both, a bit of storytelling and a bit of curious freedom. Hopefully it would result in something memorable.

Do you think that JRPGs players are too used to a fixed set of rules? How risky is innovation in the genre, considering how players might react based on their expectations for the genre?

I believe JRPGs are really starting to innovate. If you notice the recent Trials of Mana remake, it seems rather laid back and lackluster in terms of story, but that’s a game in the early 2000’s, now a couple decades later we see drastic changes in how narratives are portrayed. I believe with games becoming increasingly complex, this opens more paths for genres to create subsets of genres that can either be rewarding or simply off putting.

What particular challenge in developing The Revenant Prince would you share with us?

Teamwork. I never met any of the people I hired, it was constant teamwork online which is a challenge in it of itself. I do recommend making a core team with people you can meet face to face. Communication is key, and being firm and fair is also VERY important. A lot of indie devs struggle to get this done, and hence, why most games are stuck in developer hell.

The choice of pixel art for the visual style really makes the game vibrant in keeping that "old school" vibe. Would you say that is more of a pure stylistic choice, or is pixel art just easier to work with? What drove you to it?

I basically thought that pixel art and painted art is a timeless media. It’s pretty in its own right, but also is flexible and sensible to be translated to any media.

I decided to keep it old school hoping it would bring a little bit of interest for nostalgic purposes. But other than that, it’s because pixel art and a touch of painted art is easily manipulated and used as assets. 3D art has too many variables which I will leave for a more professional team to handle at a later time.

It was also a bit surprising to find so many jokes and classic old-school RPG references in a game so focused on heavy topics, where death is always present. How do you intend to balance the heavier and more relaxed situations? How did you decide when to change gears so the mood doesn't shift too drastically?

This is where it gets tricky. I do believe undertale has some really heavy topics hidden away easily alongside some funny jokes. I just feel that if you look at one of waikiki’s film’s, Jojo Rabbit, in a way where comedy and lightheartedness leaves people more vulnerable to heavier topics which thus, makes the story more memorable. I intend to somewhat fulfill that balance in the game, as I believe balancing comedy and tragedy does wonders for conveying a narrative.

The game is scheduled to come soon for PC. Are we getting an Early Access version before the full release? Anything you can say about it being available this summer, maybe...?

There won’t be an Early Access version because the game is rather small and has been tested. However if there are reported issues before then we shall consider doing an Early Access.

Do you plan to have some kind of post-release content, like content patches or DLC? Would those be tied to the reception of the game itself, or are you juggling ideas already?

I’m juggling ideas as of now, but a DLC featuring the aftermath of the true ending, which I cannot disclose, may be in the works!


And that's about it. Thanks again to Darrel for answering our questions, and to Plan of Attack for making this possible. We hope you find his answers as interesting as we did and remember, The Revenant Prince already has a demo up in Steam. The game is listed for a "Coming Soon" release on PC, so if it tickles your fancy please do add it to your wishlists.

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