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Poetic Studio on What Makes Sacred Fire Such an Exciting, Unique RPG

Christopher Coke Posted:
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The Sacred Fire has started to burn. This week Poetic Studio officially funded the titular RPG via Kickstarter. In anticipation of their accomplishment, they turned to the PS Blog to talk about just what makes their game special. As storied as roleplay gaming is, it’s rare to find truly fresh take on such well trodden ground. With Sacred Fire, Poetic Studio is accomplishing just that.

The PS Blog wasn’t enough for us, so we got in touch with Creative Directive and studio founder Andrej Vojtas to dig into the game’s amazing personality system and the nitty gritty of how the game actually plays.

MMORPG: Thank you for chatting with us today! Sacred Fire is certainly a unique take on the RPG genre. For those who may not be familiar with it, tell us a little bit about the game and what makes it so unique.

Andrej Vojtas: Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to look closer.

The simplest way to put it, Sacred Fire is a role-playing game where your success and solutions to conflicts lie in the psychology of the characters, not in weapons, attacks, and damage types.

To support this design focus we developed a numbers-based personality model and gameplay rules for the inner workings of a warrior inspired by the 2nd Century resistance wars in Caledonia (ancient Scotland).

Instead of a grizzled resistance war story reduced to a survivalist mindset, your character is an outsider from their honor-based culture. Relationship and psychological motives drive you to search for something more than survival or revenge. But can you escape the gravity of a world gone mad and the rage building up inside of you?

To us, this is the most interesting gameplay conflict and challenge of all – the conflict of your protagonist wrestling with their own emotions, beliefs and worldviews.

So you could say Sacred Fire is all about building a strong personality. You need both inner strength and social influence to guide the story into the direction you want.

Our character creation and writing supports multiple play styles, and lets you gain an edge with either force, intellect, skill, appearance or empathy in every situation. These represent the five archetype traits (Warrior, Leader, Genius, Icon, Friend) that you can mix and match, enabling different combat and conflict resolution tactics.

MMORPG:So these character choices, these intrinsic qualities we’ll be deciding (being a good friend, empathetic, angry, etc) extend beyond character creation? Coming from more traditional roleplaying games, we’re so used to seeing these elements, if they’re included at all, exist on the fringes to add a point or two to a dice roll. Just how different is Sacred Fire?

Andrej Vojtas: The RPG genre is one of the oldest game genres, so creating a unique take on it takes time and Sacred Fire is my life’s work. When games claim to be innovative you usually get all these comments – hey, it’s like this game or that game. We don’t get this kind of reactions. Fans write, they have never seen such take on combat, they thank us for searching for the spirit of the role-playing genre. They want to learn more and with each design update we share, people get more and more excited. We got people like Chris Avellone, or Swen Vincke saying they can’t wait to play it so that’s a such a confidence boost.

We are truly aiming for a new role-playing experience. Where combat and dialogues support each other, and the game story and NPCs reacts to your role-playing.

We are rethinking the fundamental RPG mechanic of how choices & consequences work: you have to earn the right to make a hard choice. You need to have the will to make it. And the consequences can create traumas you have to process and turn into strengths. So every choice has a probability of success based on your personality, skills and emotional state. Fear weakens impact, Anger weakens finesse. What’s important you can spend limited willpower points to boost your chances so you have to strategize.

You have to earn the right to lead and to change the story. Other NPCs rise and fall in influence and they have their own agendas and can overrule you. So you have this turn-based strategy aspect of competing with them, each story scene representing a turn.

MMORPG: Do your character traits develop as you play? How?

Andrej Vojtas: The game flows from one tactical encounter to another, and the numeric personality model fluidly reacts to the choices you do, so it feels like the character creation never really stops.

Overcoming pain in battle, showing courage, gaining a new prestigious outfit, this all affects how your renown and influence evolves. Making choices shapes your personality and beliefs. Winning and losing creates memories. It all contributes to your Character Level.

A new character level expands your willpower, so you can boost the chances of all the probability checks more often. It also unlocks new rare traits helping you spot danger, craft unique items and more. The last layer of how your character evolves are the Words of Power a level up unlocks. These are fundamental statements such as

You | Are / Are Not | on Your Own

There | Is / Is Not | Enough to Go Around

that you can choose to believe in. These are statements are already there in your psyche, and they are influencing your interactions with character and relationships on an unconscious level. What the level up does, is you unlock them or discover them so they become conscious and more powerful, and now you can deal with them, flip their value.

So a 'You Are on Your Own' acquired in early childhood can be embraced and make you more resistant to creating blocks like feeling Betrayed as you already take it as granted. Or it can now be turned into 'Your Are Not on Your Own' and make it easier for you to develop feelings of Friendship and Loyalty.

MMORPG:How does it play? In the videos we’ve seen so far, we’re not seeing the traditional third-person or isometric camera. Will you be exploring a world, building a party, gathering equipment? Walk us through Sacred Fire a little bit and what players should expect when they sit down to play.

Andrej Vojtas: The videos you see is how the encounters will look. It’s all meant to look cinematic and epic since the game is a choice-driven narrative, flowing from one tactical encounter to another. You select tactical options in dialogues and combat. All options have a chance of success that depends on your skills and on your current emotional state. You can also spend rare willpower points to boost your chances.

After each encounter, you strategize and manage your character, your resources and relationships. So you can turn traumas into experience, or go on a hunt, or you can remove states like Aversion or Prejudice blocking your relationships. You can craft items, to improve your feelings of comfort or safety. You can create new stories to spread your legend and raise in renown. Or you can organize a feast triggering some interesting moments with NPCs. All these actions have quick outcomes and are designed to not slow down the flow of the story.

Click through to the next page to dig into gameplay, character choice and consequence, and just what Poetic would say to those worried about the game making it to market.

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Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight