Whether or not you’re already a fan of their Sage Fusion series, this in-depth interview with Kidalang’s Ivan Haryadi, Yusdi Saliman and Yohan Alexander is an absolute must read!
First of all, congratulations on recently completing the Visual Novel / RPG / Graphic Adventure hybrid: Sage Fusion – Chapter 2: Children of Deceit. No such project, whether great or small, can ever come to pass unless the people responsible for it all meet up at some point in time. So, to start off with, how did the three core members of team Kidalang come together and join forces to become the epic story-telling triumvirate that they now are?
Ivan: Thank you very much. Well, I met Yusdi when we were working together in Singapore, while I’ve known Yohan since we were in junior high school. But the idea of starting up our own company came during lunch one day in Singapore. We didn’t know yet then what kind of business we were going to do.
Time flew and for certain reason I went back to Indonesia and started to work for another company. But the discussion between me and Yusdi were still going. And at some point, we finally decided that we want to make what we love to play, game! Since both Yusdi and I are programmers, we started to find artists that could help us to build a game. That’s when I contacted Yohan and introduced him to Yusdi. Yusdi also had a friend who joined us at the beginning but eventually left for personal reason. The rest is history: we started to develop Sage Fusion.
Everyone builds upon the works that came before them, so – to that end – what previous bits of Literature / Movies / TV series / Games went into inspiring the development of the Sage Fusion series? Furthermore, beyond those things which helped shape Sage Fusion, what are some of the staff’s favorite creations in general?
Yohan: There are so many references and ideas behind Sage Fusion story. But basically I was inspired by old school classic space opera. It is my favorite genre. I grew up with Star Wars, Star Trek, and many science fiction anime. I actually started as a comic artist, so in my spare time I spent a lot of time thinking about a space opera story, but in the world filled with Star Wars or Star Trek reference, I felt I had to dig other space opera stories. I tried to search classic space opera stories. The ones that started it all. The ones that inspired them. That brought me to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. For me, it has the classic space opera feel with sophistication in plots and ideas.
Frank Herbert’s Dune is also a huge influence for me. I am always fascinated about the world building in Dune, which is set in the far future but still laden with old values even more ancient than our world now. After reading Dune, I felt confident to include the religion plot elements in Sage Fusion. There are many sci-fi novels and stories that inspired Sage Fusion but not as profound as Dune and Foundation I guess. There are no aliens in them, so are in Sage Fusion.
I feel so lame to just search ideas from science fiction stories for my already-science fiction story. So I include ideas from films. For example, the villain Amon Violler name is derived from Amon Goeth, the Schindler’s List’s villain. When I conceived Sage fusion in 2009, I was watching films by Spanish director Luis Buñuel. They are old films, not sci-fis, not even action films! But they are unique and also talk about religion issues, so more or less I was influenced by them too. I even deliberately put names and references in Sage Fusion story for the sake of homage. I had a silly thought that if somebody were to make a wikipedia page of Sage Fusion it would be long and filled with references and allusions from other works like what Quentin Tarantino always does in his films. Even both Sage Fusion’s sub titles are homage to Luis Buñuel’s films. NPC names like Jaibo is a reference to a character in his 1950 movie, Los Olvidados for example.
Yusdi: As for the gameplay, it should be pretty obvious that Sage Fusion is inspired by classic JRPGs like the Final Fantasy series. But I’m actually surprised nobody ever mentions Chrono Trigger when talking about Sage Fusion. In Sage Fusion, battles take place in the same scene as the adventure and the story sequences, whereas in most RPGs with turn-based battle system, there is usually screen transition before and after battles. The only other turn-based RPG I know where players go into battle right where they encounter the enemies without transitioning to a special battle screen is Chrono Trigger, a game that came out 18 years ago (my apology if there are actually others; as much as a fan of RPGs that I am, I can’t possibly play the whole lot of them!). I liked this feature so much that I decided that turn-based battles in my own RPG had to work that way.
Your reviews also liken Sage Fusion‘s battle mechanic to Super Mario RPG‘s. I did play Super Mario RPG a long time ago, so I might have been unconsciously influenced by it, but to be honest I didn’t remember at all about its battle system until the similarity was pointed out in the review :-). Rather, the idea of tapping the shield icon the moment the attack hits came to me when I was playing Ar Tonelico 2, which, incidentally, is also an RPG that features quite lengthy visual novel sequences like Sage Fusion.
Last but not least, let me mention another video game series that inspired Sage Fusion. This is perhaps rather surprising, because it’s not even an RPG: the Uncharted series. The Uncharted games are amazing for a lot of reasons, and many people have talked about them. The games have great stories, and the gameplay is fun. But more than just fun, what I find really brilliant about Uncharted is that the game uses its gameplay as a story element. It’s not just something the players do between story sequences, but is actually an integral part of the story itself. I don’t really know how to explain what I mean by this. I once told this to my friend, himself a game designer, and he was confused. So rather than trying to explain, I just turned on my PS3, popped in Uncharted 3 disc, and handed him the controller. Within five minutes he said, “Okay, I understand what you were saying.” Likewise, in making Sage Fusion, I also tried to turn each battle into a story element. This is also one reason why it is important that there mustn’t be a screen transition from a story sequence to a battle.
(Whoa, this is getting really long; I hope our readers are still with us. I’ll keep the answer to the latter half of the question short.) Chrono Trigger is my favorite RPG of all time, followed by Final Fantasy VII. Other than gaming, I also like watching movies and anime, and I spend a lot of my spare time reading manga. Sometimes I read novels and play visual novels too. In fact, I use my iPad more for reading than playing games, which might be another reason why I designed Sage Fusion to be what it is. After all, I’m not the kind of gamer who would play for five minutes at a time. When I play a game, I’d sit in front of the TV or the computer, perhaps after dinner, and then the next thing I know it’s 3 AM.
Ivan: I’ve always been a gamer since I was a kid, though I won’t consider myself a hardcore gamer. My first console game was Mario Bros, and I liked it a lot. The next game would be Contra. But when I was in high school, I played my first RPG, Final Fantasy VIII. That’s when I found a new genre of game that is so addictive.
Besides gaming, I also like reading novels and manga as well. Most of the books I read are usually related to detectives, case solving, and such. While for movies, I like CSI series, Inception. I always love to see how people solve a case (or puzzle). Oh, and one of my favorite TV series when I was a kid is MacGyver. I guess those kinds of thing inspire me the most.
I noticed that on Yohan Alexander’s Deviantart page that there exists artwork of characters such as Vientiane and Populux dating back to presumably well before development on Sage Fusion first commenced. So, exactly how long have elements of the concept for Sage Fusion been bouncing about in Yohan Alexander’s head before Kidalang joined forces to turn them into reality?
Yohan: As I have mentioned it a bit, I always dreamt to make a space opera story, inspired by the classic space opera magazines like in Amazing Stories and such. The ideas came slowly until 2009 when I with four of my friends (Yusdi and Ivan not among them) tried to make a comic magazine with science fiction theme. This is the period when Sage Fusion story started to take shape. The magazine didn’t work, but the idea still lingers, so when Yusdi and Ivan wanted to make an RPG game, I proposed the story.
Vientiane is the first character I conceived, hence the one in the Deviantart page. Populux is actually another character made just for fun. When Yusdi and I worked in Episode 1 I showed it to him and he decided to include it in Sage Fusion.