Monday, July 21, 2014

Q&A: Jean Canellas, Alex Kubodera on Death's Gambit

I wrote about Death's Gambit a few days ago and now I was fortunate enough that developers Jean Canellas and Alex Kubodera were able to spare some time to answer a few questions about their promising action RPG
This is something I ask all the developers I interview, perhaps a cliched inquiry: What inspired you to become a game developer?
Jean: I knew for sure that I wanted to be a game designer after I made an indie game in highschool called Aftermath. It's very old and crappy, but some people actually said it had some of their favorite boss fights in a game maker game(I really don’t think so). Hearing people discuss the games I made between themselves really pushed me to study game design after high school. 
Alex: It was sort of a natural progression for me. I made RPG board games in elementary school for my classmates to play using Legos and paper cutouts. I incorporated elements of our class work into it by gating progress with quizzes. At home, my father and I would create murals of crazy characters battling it out on a huge piece of paper. Drawing inspired me to develop stories for these characters, but why stop there? I later discovered Fable: TLC, and player choice affecting the world was so intriguing to me, I simply had to create a world of my own.
If there was one thing that caught my eye while reading about your game, it was the art style and atmosphere. Could you talk more about this "alien medieval" world you're crafting and the kinds of environments we may encounter?
Setting our game on an alien planet gives us the creative freedom to do what feels best for the game, in terms of setting the mood for the story and gameplay. Each environment will have its own unique color palette and biome that breeds specific kinds of enemies. That being said, most of our locations have a very dark atmosphere, rich with hidden lore. 
Death's Gambit is described as an action RPG. What RPG elements will the game feature? 
The nature of RPG’s is inhabiting a character and crafting your own adventure. You will meet a motley group of characters, all with their own agenda, offering up advice or misinformation depending on their disposition. Every boss encounter tells part of the story as you develop relationships with them and to the world. Defeating them rewards you with epic loot and a core part of the gameplay is finding the best gear that works for you.
On your Tumblr page, you describe encounters as "complex hack-n-slash puzzles", two styles of gameplay that don't seem immediately compatible. How does combat work in Death's Gambit?
Oh but they are compatible! Most bosses in games could be considered timed puzzles. We want our bosses to focus more on strategic thought-out play as opposed to twitch reflexes and button mashing. For example, we have a prototype boss encounter on an unbalanced platform. It's all about making sure there is enough weight on either side while you fight the boss. On top of that, he has multiple phases that each play with the mechanic in different ways. They are brutal in the dark souls way(you dodge roll and jump out of attacks) and on top of that, each boss has at least one mechanic that forces the player to solve some sort of combat system puzzle. Sometimes bosses will feel very challenging to some players before they realize there are multiple ways of tackling their mechanics.
Another seemingly incongruous inspiration you mention is Spec Ops: The Line, a title lauded for its narrative and subversion of genre tropes. How has that game influenced the narrative and gameplay of Death's Gambit?
This one is a bit harder to explain without going in-depth into the story, so we can’t really say much. We did mention how the game is about collecting epic loot and empowering the player to surpass insurmountable obstacles. Overall I wouldn't expect a lot of genre satire or war themes out of Death's Gambit. 
We should probably exclude “inspired by spec ops” because it gives people the wrong expectation. Regardless, it has influenced us greatly.
Perhaps the most compelling and intriguing aspect of Death's Gambit is the Shadow of the Colossus vibe, as seen in the image and GIFs where your character ascends a towering beast. Why did that game in particular influence development? How central will these battles and enemies be to the overall experience?
So this is a fun anecdote. The giants (called Gaians), were not a part of the initial design “draft” for the game. Jean initially was inspired to add climbing sections after prototyping a grappling hook. It was then that he coincidentally was linked to an “Attack on Titan” video, which sparked an idea to prototype a giant's leg. He was so excited to find out if a giant would look/play well, that he ignored all schoolwork and worked until 6AM. 
The giant prototype turned out to be a huge success. So much so that it impacted the future of the game. We want to make sure it captures the same sensation as SoTC does, in sheer size and impact. The Gaian functions as it’s own level, so we want every climb to take you on a journey that tells a compelling story about the creature and world, while making the combat encounters increasingly more challenging. 
On TIGForum, you mention that Death's Gambit has been worked on full time for several months. What's the state of the game at this time?
Well it’s only been two months, but we have about 40 to 60 minutes of gameplay. You could technically say we have more, but a lot of content is still in the prototype stage. The game is somewhere between 5% to 10% complete.
You can learn more about Death's Gambit here, and follow its development on Tumblr and TIGForum. Keep an eye out for a Kickstarter in the future.

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