Usually these days when someone makes a game that pays homage to the classic PC Dungeon Crawlers of yesteryear, they usually tend to make them using real 3D – as seen in iOS games such as The Quest – since that alleviates them of the various issues that surround having to invent your own wheel. Of course, I am glad that you shirked the easy path as it made the game that much more authentically nostalgic when compared to other modern Dungeon Crawlers that have released in recent times. That said, what were the challenges in recreating a purely sprite based 3D effect that – to my understanding – was originally done back in the day primarily through great deals of clever programming?
The Algorithms to create a sprite based 2.5d dungeon crawler have been around since the beginning of computer RPG, dating back as far if not further to Richard Garriott’s Akalabeth. Games like Wizardry, Akalabeth and Ultima inspired the current form of not only Western RPG, but JRPG. These are titles I grew up with as a very young kid so it was something I have tinkered with at the start of my programming career on the Atari ST as a teenager. So the challenges seemed more like second nature to me.
Speaking of which, how did you learn to make the amazingly detailed sprite work that covers every last varied inch of that Shattered Realm (or did someone else help with making those sprites)? The psuedo-3D effect used in the game wouldn’t have been nearly as nostalgic if it hadn’t been for the graphics that accurately recalled the often awkward feeling that came from the artificial zooming up towards objects/enemies, actually achieved just by redrawing the same image at various distances away. Furthermore, just how much time was spent on the sprites as QuestLord features a far greater amount of scenery variety than the games that it pays homage to (and those were often massive efforts for their own time)?
Thank you! When I started at age 9, I could only use 1 color and 8 pixels across for each sprite. By the time I was developing pixel graphics for arcade coin-op games (NBA Jam, Revolution X, and whatever else they threw at me) Pixel art at the QuestLord level was old hat. So I feel fortunate that I can take it back to that level with relative ease. But all in all it was an incredible amount of time to make all the graphics needed to make QuestLord play as long as it does.
One interesting thing to note, I had a contest where people that randomly signed up for my email list would be drawn to win buttons/pins and to have an in game NPC. One of the winners from sweden told me he was excited about my game because he is a pixel artist. I thought this was rather cool, so after looking over his portfolio I asked him if he would like to create his pixel character. I gave him examples of the styles and I think he did a fantastic job. He even came up with the back story. His background story was based on his NPC character he uses in his games and other stories!
One thing I like about the dialogue and texts you find throughout QuestLord is how – despite the fact they seem like schlocky random fantasy sounding fluff at first – they all come together during the course of the game to form a world with its own detailed history, and works no matter which order you tackle the various missions in the game. What was it like writing a meaningful plot where everything is about a single narrative that can be played out of sequence, where as most other open ended games these days – such as the more recent Morrowind titles – just have all the side stuff not be part of the main plot?
Making the plots come together during the course of the game, especially at various start locations was a challenge, but it was exciting to watch it unfold as I created these three distinct races that have to live apart from each other through bad politics, infrastructure, and social troubles. Each one had its own view of one another.
Creating the story for the Shattered Realm was icing on the cake for me. I love writing all of these characters into various situations which prop up the reason the player is doing what they are doing. The drama between King Huntlor and Lord Dramthorn helped explain why they couldn’t get the realm under control. Having the player interact with each of the Npcs in the larger story was a real treat for me.
Also, how did you come up with the hilarious side plot about the critics that arose around Throzdin’s magical auto-maps and the artifacts that ended up being built in response to it?
Some of the stories I used to actually explain elements of the game! I knew that people would have a time with the map, since I don’t make it very ‘high tech’ I figured it needed explanation as to why it is not super high tech. Therefore it was all Throzdin’s fault ! LOL.
With all the love and attention to detail that you have poured into QuestLord, it is exceedingly obvious just how much the once dominant genre meant to you when you were growing up. That said, which of the various classical PC Dungeon Crawlers – Dungeon Master, Akalabeth, Eye of the Beholder, Alternate Reality, etc. – would you say happens to be your favorite of the lot?
Dungeon Master by FTL was definitely the one that is my favorite. Although Alternate Reality had a huge impact on me, the loading time on a 5.2 floppy was out of hand.
None of them had what I wanted out of an RPG. I want to explore like crazy with crawlers, not get stuck behind a lever and a pit puzzle. So with QuestLord I sought out to create that. The reward you get often is in the new sites and locations.
Having just created the currently successful QuestLord, what is your largest piece of advice to any other up and coming hopeful game designers thinking about creating their own personal dream title on the iOS platform?
First thing I would tell anyone working on something as large as QuestLord is have a ton of patience and set your expectations low. I found a lot of surprises along the way that perhaps I would not have thought about in the planning phase.
Also, is there a chance that the Bah-Lorn might be toned down a bit in a future update as currently the game’s Random Number Generator favors them so heavily that you can easily use up an entire stack of health items in the process of melee fighting through just one of them. I am sheepish to admit, but – due to all of the resources and money I spent killing all of the Bah-Lorn to be found in the wastelands – I was eventually completely unable to finish QuestLord (I only barely managed to squeak by the four Bah-Lorn at the volcano’s main entrance after I placed the two skulls, and that was where my game ended).
If resources are 100% depleted they can always be slowly gained again by fighting respawns of Bandits or Mogorn who drop gold. Bah-Lorn are known to be a little too tough, that is one of the complaints I have received. However they do hold out the player at possibly levels 6-9. You really need to be level 10+ to engage them, but I am going back and reworking some of the intensity of the end with Bah-Lorn. The update is coming soon along with a Summer Sale where players can have a chance to buy the game for 50% off. But the sale will only be for a limited time.
Finally – with one impressive success behind your belt already – what is the next great title that everyone can expect to look forward to from Eric Kinkead, perhaps a sequel to QuestLord itself?
I can’t get into much detail about the future but more products are coming. I have forged an alliance with an artist on one project much different than QuestLord and that will also be released through Lava Level like QuestLord was. Also I have been working with other artists on well, lets just say the response from QuestLord was strong enough to keep the property going for quite a long time. But the first order of business is the mobile Gig Jam on the 4-5th of May. Should be interesting to see what I can make in 48 hours. 😉
A huge thank you to Eric for taking the time to answer our questions about Questlord. If you haven’t tried this fantastic game yet (tsk tsk), here’s the App Store link. Also, be sure to follow Eric’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to stay informed on what this uber-talented indie developer is up to next.