Earlier today Rob Lashley chatted over the phone with David Klein and David Shelley of TSI about the Kickstarter for their upcoming cRPG Seven Dragon Saga. Read on to see what the SSI vets had to say about their new game that has roots in the cRPG gold box golden days.
MMORPG: Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your team's background?
David Klein: I formed the company by rounding up the guys.
David Shelley: Producer and lead designer. Was in SSI straight out of college. Some of his group was working there so they lured me in. My first big design at work was on Pool of Radiance the first of the gold box games. Then I was one of two designers on Curse of the Azure bonds. Then after that I was running the gold box games up until we moved on to Dark Sun. After that I have moved around to variety of companies. Then David approached me a while ago and proposed bringing some of us back together to create that strong RPG again.
MMORPG: Is the name TSI an homage to SSI and TSR?
David K: We were trying to come up with something to evoke the roots and Give a nod to the old company while also trying to figure out what we wanted to say about what kind of games we were creating. We know that we wanted to give party control and tactical combat so we started playing around with the word tactical and by then we just decided that we wanted to be recognizable. So we really thought we could play into that. We approached the original found of SSI and told him what we wanted to do and he gave us his blessing and was really excited that we were working on RPGs again.
MMORPG: What are the rules of the world? Is it close to AD&D? Open Gaming License? Original System?
David S: It is an original system we put together in my group of SSI veterans that have been longtime table top player since the 80s white box D&D game. We put together our own system some time ago and have polished it on the table top. When we got together for TSI we decided that we would bring that one over as the base rule set for our first CRPG.
MMORPG: What is the inspiration for SDS?
David S: We have been veteran table top players forever. We play a wide variety of systems. A little over a decade ago we decided to that we would take what we like best and applied all of our engineering acumen ironing out all the algorithms needed and we put together seven dragon saga. It has inspirations from Dungeons and Dragons, Gurps, Champions, and if you look closely probably about a half dozen other games.
MMORPG: What is the story behind SDS?
David S: We wanted to create something that took from different roots. Some of its Western some of its Eastern. We wanted an international appear to the game. There is this empire of the seven dragons that is expanding to take over all the different cultures. The players are specialist from all the different lands, they come in with different backgrounds. The other aspect is that we wanted to have a fairly high fantasy level so characters can move around and jump up on things to take tactical advantage of the 3d in the game. There is a lot of different types of spells and maneuverability you can have.
David K: The setting is an east/west mix. It’s more of a western fantasy RPG that is accessible to people that loved the gold box and Pillars of Eternity. At the same time there is a lot of multicultural flavor, there is racial diversity there is other art styles and characters reflect those influences. The Empire is this vast sprawling government that is trying to bring everyone under one banner. People that are familiar with Dune would kind of understand, or Game of Thrones. The infighting between great houses and lesser houses joking for power. As far as the world setting your party is acting as the behest of the empire. They are kind of a mix between special medieval X-men or agents. You are an elite squad early in the campaign that has gone through the equivalent of a boot camp. You are trained.
David S: They are not farmers hunting rats with rusty swords. They are experienced people coming in and they will still have significant advancement for the game. We want to set the tone that these players were capable and represent an important political faction so players get a feel essential from the beginning for the use of power and how they want to shape the world. A big part of our world is giving players the option to affect the world on a strategic level so they can feel they are making a difference.
MMORPG: How long have you been in preproduction?
David S: The company founded a little over a year ago.
David K: We formed the company and started to recruit people for the team. Started making adjustments on the pen and paper to a cRPG and get our low lying systems in place and we are really excited to continue into full production.
MMORPG: Why did you decide to crowd-fund the game?
David K: We looked at what other companies were doing and realized in order to have the freedom to deal with mature themes, to have creative control, to own the IP, crowd funding seemed to be successful for other studios. When we talked to other peers in the industry they were really supportive. We have this great relationship and endorsement from other studios and we thought that we would have to have the interaction from the fans when creating a RPG. Back in the day you used to have to make a game in a vacuum and ship it. These days we see there is a lot of feedback so in creating Seven Dragon Saga we thought that we could make the best game possible by engaging the fans.
MMORPG: How did you come to the number $450k? What will the money be used for?
David S: Almost all of that is straight production development. If you look at creating an RPG with a good number of hours to it that budget is pretty realistic. Certain games have a lighter number of hours, whether that is an 8 to 12 hour campaign. I think Shadowrun initially had a lighter game and was able to launch on a good budget as well. It comes to production value and scope.
MMORPG: Most games that are successfully backed through Kickstarter generate about 50% of their goal in the first 24 hours. You aren’t there yet. Do you have an alternative production platform in place or publishing platform?
David S: We have some other opportunities. We are trying to establish ourselves in the space. We got off to a later start yesterday with launching around 12:30 or 1 o’clock which was a minor technical issue. What will happen if we are unsuccessful? We will certainly look at how we can deliver on our vision. TSI is committed to making great RPGs, one way or another.
MMORPG: What is the one thing about SDS that makes it stand out from the crowd of current RPGs?
David K: There are great RPGs on the market. People ask us if we think it is saturated or competitive. I don’t view it that way. I think that there is room for plenty. When I finish one RPG I want another great RPG that is meaningful. So again there isn’t another game that can give you 6 players that you completely control, turn based tactical combat in a fantasy setting that allows you to meaningfully impact the world. When I say meaning fully impact the world there are a lot of games that give you cool dialogue choices or alignment with factions. In our case we are really hoping that you make political rivals or impact the environment. We are really hoping to create something that is not more of the same, but delivers on the same type of experience that appeals to RPG gamers.
David S: Our big focus is that the player feels they have made an impact on the world. They can alter the political dynamics and physical elements of the world. We want them to feel notable powerful. That they feel the consequences of their choices. There is a function in the game called borderlands. Borderlands are pieces of territory between different factions. The player will be able to take control of these areas and assign them to various factions in order to change the balance of power in the game. They could also in their adventures find a powerful lich. They could choose to destroy the lich and weaken undead throughout the campaign or they could choose to parlay with it and come to some sort of agreement but then they will need to deal with undead becoming more common as encounters and being more powerful in general.
David K: I think a lot of games are kind of binary in their story line. You are taking the good path or you are taking the bad path. We want to have the players play to their own play style. From combat mechanics where you are not penalized if you want to go out there with five of one class and one of another. Your party composition should tailor to you rather than the game saying you need one of each of these roles as a specialist. Obviously you would be better off having a specialist for certain things but we really want you to adapt. You are either going to do it in combat or your personal interactions.
You can do everything to always support your main mission which is supporting the empire. Maybe that is being dutiful and solving things with less bloodshed. Or it may be more expedient and rewarding for your party to go with more bloodshed. I don’t mean this just through dialogue choices, though we do plan on having great dialogue choices, consequences and the choice of how you want to interact with things is really up to the player. Again we don’t to say there is the violent option or the nonviolent option we also have some interpersonal goals which may be about honor or greed or knowledge where you have your personal agenda for each individual character and in some cases your characters may have competing goals. You could have an honorable character that wants to return the ancient heirloom yet your wizard may have a real value for that item and have more utility and keeping it or studying it.