A month ago Ceres Games launched a Kickstarter campaign for Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen and almost immediately won hearts and wallets of fans of traditional, isometric RPGs. But what the game is really abuut? We talked about details with Peter Ohlmann, Managing Director of Ceres Games.
EnklawaNetwork.pl: Let's start with the basics. How would you describe Realms Beyond to players who aren't familiar with it?
Peter Ohlmann: Realms Beyond is a classically inspired fantasy role-playing computer game with turn-based combat and party system that allows you to control up to six characters at one time. The combat and character system based on rules described in the (3.5e) Revised System Reference Document (SRD) covered by the Open Game License v1.0a (by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.)
Beside combat, dungeon crawling and interactions with NPCs, traveling and exploring the game world is a key ingredient of Realms Beyond and players will spend much time traversing the overland map.
Adapting and responding to the player's interactions with the world, you will find a depth and richness for your adventures that combines the very best of traditional gameplay with modern-day technologies.
EN: It's quite obvious that Realms Beyond is heavily inspired by isometric classics of '90 era. Which one of them played the major role while you were designing your game?
PO: That’s difficult to answer because almost every game of that era influenced us somehow - not only isometric ones. So, foremost I would include games such as Phantasie, Pool of Radiance, Ultima 7, Realms of Arkania and Wizardry 7.
EN: As you said, the combat and character systems are based on Revised System Reference Document of 3.5e. Is it any different from the rules we know from D&D core books or other computer RPGs?
PO: The most relevant difference to traditional D&D based games is the combat grid – we replaced the squares with hexagons. Besides that, we try to stick to the 3.5e rules as faithful as possible with some exceptions.
EN: Can you share some numbers regarding character creation for those, who aren't familiar with aforementioned rules? How many races/classes/subclasses/skills can we expect? Is there a possibility to build a multiclass character?
PO: At the initial release of the game, we will have at least seven different playable races and eight character classes. The number of available classes can still grow depending on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. Our game has already over 100 different character feats and about 200 spells implemented.
We haven't finally decided about multi-classing yet, because, at the moment, we aim to design our own variant of the prestige classes.
EN: Translating pen-n-paper rules into video game must be a real challenge with such a big numbers?
PO: Indeed, especially with 3.5e that comes with a lot of very unique and special mechanisms. It took quite a while until we found a suitable technical framework to handle all those spells and feats. Finally, we have a hybrid system that uses hard-coded C++ part as well as script code that allows other people to add new spells/feats/actions.
EN: Since the game is party-based, is there an option to create the whole party from the scratch? On the other hand, can you play solo?
PO: You can create up to six characters from the scratch or just one or two. There will be always NPC companions to recruit as well. If you want, you can play solo but I am not sure if you can beat every encounter with a single character.
EN: No level-scaling at all?
PO: No, there is no level-scaling. All encounters will be hand-placed, encounters on the world map will be based on nearby creature lairs and on the general area (close to civilization you will find easier encounters than in a dangerous wilderness area). In a believable hand-crafted world, level-scaling would be completely out of place.
EN: Is it beneficial to hire pre-made companions? Do they have their own side-stories, banter between each other? Can they form a relationship with main hero or other party members?
PO: Our pre-made companions will mostly be at the level of Baldur's Gate 1 rather than Baldur's Gate 2: characters with a certain class and skillset that you recruit for their abilities, not personality. There will be a few companions with companion quests, but it's not as big of a focus as in, say, Bioware games. The companions will sometimes comment on things and have some minor banter. There are no romances planned for them, however, and they won't bother you with personal problems! You're an adventurer, after all, not a psychologist.
EN: What about itemization? Is all loot hand-placed as well? Can we get our hands on great artifacts with long history like Crom Faeyr or Carsomir from the Baldur's Gate series?
PO: Yes, all loot is hand-placed and there are legendary artifacts in the game. Magic items are never randomized but have their roots in the history of the world. Some artifacts can even be broken into several pieces, and you have to re-forge them after finding all the pieces. We've written a pretty detailed Kickstarter Update on this, you can check it out here.
EN: You have several strategy games under your belt, but now you’re developing your first true RPG at its heart. What are the major differences between working on these genres?
PO: Developing strategy games often follows a system based data-driven approach while the content isn't actually that important for programmers.
But RPGs on the other side comes with many different sub systems and many small gameplay elements that need to be adjusted and connected with content such as spells, items, traps, puzzles etc.
Beside RPGs, I don’t think there is any other genre that requires such a massive amount of single parts considered.
For me personally, developing RPGs mean creating a world with rich content while developing RTS primarily means creating a battle sandbox.
EN: Then what's your approach to enemies' respawns? Do we have to fight the same monsters all over again after visiting location x after y days?
PO: No, if you clear a location of all enemies, the location will stay cleared unless there is a good reason for other types of enemies to move in (for example, clear out a spider cave and a month later bandits have taken the cave as their new hideout). But there is no respawning, your actions will have permanent consequences. Destroy all bandit camps in an area, and there won't be a problem with bandits anymore.
Have a look at second part of our interview with Peter Ohlmann, where we talk more about characters and world of Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen!
And remember, that you can still back Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen on Kickstarter.