There's life in the old girl yet!
A very special Portal interview today as one of the team who also runs a Spanish website full of awesome content came across this amazing game recently funded on Kickstarter.
It's one thing to make stuff that looks like it is old and another thing entirely to focus game development onto an actual retro gaming system as primary project lead.
So today you RGG sexy folk get to read up and experience everything that is a brand new title for Sega's short lived console from the gods, you may know it as the Dreamcast. Enjoy!
A tale of adventure, formats gone and wonders to come!
Yes you read that first part correctly, a brand new massive indie made game is coming out in 2015 for the now departed Sega console - The Dreamcast! Whoever said the console was dead and buried obviously has not been paying attention to the massive gamedev scene that is still growing a decade after the console was officially discontinued.
Most of the time these new games from this creation method fall into the shoot-em up category however this time we are about to see something extremely special indeed. A new entry into the RPG genre has broken it's Kickstarter goal and you all need to pay attention, this will be big... And not just in scale, depth and vision. It's gonna sell!
Recently RGG sat down with one of the team involved in the creation of this already mind blowing looking piece of loveliness, Colin Linning and picked his brains over it's original conception and where it's heading as well as all the interesting development stuff inbetween.
Step out of the shadows and light up our retro lives...
RGG: Tell us a little bit about the team working on Elysian Shadows, take your time to introduce yourselves.
Connor: Elysian Shadows started out a few years ago when Tyler Rogers and Falco Girgis (Lead Gameplay Designer and Lead Engine Architect, respectively) wanted to make a Dreamcast RPG. The team has gone through various members but the current group is by far the best; Patryk Kowalik and Leandro Tokarevski are our current artists, Daniel Tindall is our website developer and level designer, Eddie Ringle helps out with porting ES to various platforms and I (Connor Linning) am working on the Soundtrack and Sound Effects, as well as being a level designer.
Although it started out as a basic 2D Dreamcast RPG, We're releasing the game on Windows / Linux / OSX / iOS / Android / Ouya / Dreamcast, with other consoles and platforms planned for the future. The game now has physics, audio, and lighting engines that old school 2D games weren't able to do because of hardware constraints, and actually runs in full 3D as well so we can incorporate platforming elements, interesting camera angles and all kinds of cool stuff.
RGG: When did you guys decide to create a 2d RPG game?
Connor: Tyler Rogers and Falco Girgis decided to start the game a few years ago when they were in high school.
RGG: What games inspired Elysian Shadows?
Connor: Everyone on the team is inspired by a lot of games, and we love to put all our different influences into the title. Some of the common influences are Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and Final Fantasy, but for instance I bring in a lot of Resident Evil/Silent Hill themes due to my background making horror music and because we can do a lot of creepy stuff with our lighting engine.
Tyler and I are huge fans of the TV Show Elementary, so perhaps some of that will creep in somewhere. We love talking about our favourite games, recommending them to other team members and trying new things that will hopefully set Elysian Shadows apart from old school 2D RPGs while still paying tribute to them and keeping the parts about them that we absolutely love.
RGG: Judging by the screenshots I could see the game has a modern/classic look that is quite unique, since it mixes two things from totally different worlds. What can you tell us about the graphics aspect of the game?
Connor: Although the game has a classic 2D pixel art RPG feel to it the engine actually runs in full 3D so we can add all kinds of features like platforming elements, fixed camera angles (inspired by Resident Evil) and live combat as opposed to turn based style battling. We also have a really powerful engine so we can have real 3D lighting in the game as well as bump maps and normal maps.
RGG: If you were to comment on Elysian Shadows music how would you describe it? What type of sound does it have?
Connor: It will have old school elements as well as modern. I've compared it to OCRemix in some podcasts. I love sampling from my favourite SNES/Genesis soundtracks as well as using SPC emulators to single out individual synthesizers and drums from SNES games so I can use them in the soundtrack. I also love using modern choirs, guitar, bass, drums, even DJ/Turntable work. I've previously done heavy metal, electronic, noise, ambient, horror and industrial music and I hope that my different influences will make the Elysian Shadows soundtrack something special.
Instead of a fantasy musician making yet another fantasy soundtrack I have a totally different background which means I will try all kinds of interesting ways to make a song that will hopefully result in something unique. My goal in music and game making is to have the effect on someone that Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil 2 had on me. Those soundtracks/games literally changed the entire course of my life and I listen to them almost daily. I would love if I could be a part of making a game or a piece of music someone enjoys as much as I enjoy those.
RGG: When the player decides to start playing Elysian Shadows, is he/she in for a long run? How long will it take to complete the game?
Connor: The game will be quite long, we've been saying about 40 hours if you don't do any sidequests. But if you do choose to do lots of optional extra's we think it will be about 100 hours long. We want to make a world that you can completely immerse yourself in as opposed to something simple you just play for 15 minutes and then forget about. I love a lot of the Harry Potter video games (especially the Gameboy Color ones) because they really do make me feel like I'm at Hogwarts. We want to make something big, interesting and unique like our favourite games have done.
The tools to create a world...
RGG: Indie studios normally release their games for Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS and Ouya but you decided that the game was to support one extra (and awesome) device, the almighty Sega Dreamcast. Why?
Connor: Our Engine Architect Falco Girgis originally learned to program on the Dreamcast because he loved it so much and there is such a cool homebrew scene for it. Over time, the team decided to also release the game on other consoles and on PC. A ton of the pledges on our Kickstarter were for Dreamcast rewards, so it goes to show you how diehard and dedicated Dreamcast fans still are! :)
RGG: Is it hard to develop a game for the Dreamcast?
Connor: It might be a bit more challenging for programmers who are more familiar with higher level languages like Java/C#/C++ because there is a lot of low level C and Assembly. I personally have not done any of the Dreamcast programming, but I have made Gameboy Color ROMs that I've played on my Gameboy, and there are a lot of interesting challenges when you go back to old hardware that isn't as powerful as what we have now, but the tools to write Dreamcast software are on the internet so anyone can dive into it!
RGG: What tools did you use to create the game?
Connor: We have completely made our own Engine and Toolkit from the ground up so we have absolute control over every aspect of the game by using our own tools.
RGG: When is Elysian Shadows scheduled to be released?
Connor: We're planning to release the game around December 2015 with other possible ports later down the road (Xbox, Playstation, WiiU, 3DS, PSVita, etc...)
RGG: Is the game going to be released in a digital format only or we will be able to opt out for a physical copy with a booklet, box and other sexy goodies?
Connor: Our publisher for physical releases is Watermelon, who have published Pier Solar. We've seen their packaging and are amazed at the attention to detail. When they released Pier Solar on the Sega Genesis (Yes, you read that right! :D ) they even got that glossy wax paper feel on the genesis box and for our Dreamcast release they will make versions for all regions and the molds for the casing and everything is exactly like what you would've bought at a store back in the day. So we will release both digitally and physically and we will also be releasing a Strategy Guide, Soundtrack and a lot more!
RGG: What are your favourite RPG games of all time?
Connor: I think my favourite RPGs of all time might be the two Harry Potters on Gameboy Color. I always joke that 'there is something magical about them' which is the worst pun ever. But there's just something about the awesome music, unique art style and gameplay that I absolutely love. I also like Parasite Eve, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, Golden Sun, and Dragon Quest just to name a few. If Harvest Moon on the Super Nintendo would be considered an RPG, that would be at the top of the list as well. The other guys on the team are RPG fanatics!
RGG: Do you normally play indie games? Can you name 5 that you consider the best?
Connor: I do play a lot of indie games, I like games made by smaller teams and with smaller financial budgets because I think you can take more risks, try more innovative ideas and really push the limits of what you can/can't do in gaming. I recently supported the Aegis Defenders kickstarter, that game looks absolutely awesome! I also really enjoyed Super Meat Boy, Amnesia, Outlast and Lone Survivor. There's a lot of cool indie games and actually when I watch the E3 or Gamescom events I always find the indie titles to be the most exciting that they show.
RGG: We are of the opinion that indie studios and developers still uphold the values of the classic gaming era that we so much treasure, do you think that’s accurate? We would love to hear your input on the modern gaming scene.
Connor: I think that the area of indie games will be where we find the really cool, inspiring, innovative and challenging games. When a big company has to spend $10,000,000 on making the next big game they don't want to take any risks because of all that money they could lose, which is totally understandable. But I personally would rather play a game that might have really basic graphics but also a really cool story and interesting gameplay than a boring game with amazing graphics.
It's started with a dream but other formats will be seen...
RGG: Do you have plans for future games? If so, do you think they will be available for Dreamcast fans or other classic consoles?
Connor: Our team hasn't put too much thought into what we will do after Elysian Shadows because if one of us has a really good idea, we think "Is there a way we could incorporate this into Elysian Shadows?" instead of putting that idea off until later. I will certainly be making music and working on games in the future. It's too much fun, and too rewarding to not do it!
RGG: Elysian Shadows has launched a Kickstarter campaign and it is currently available to vote in Steam Greenlight. How are those campaigns going? What is your opinion about crowdfunding services in general?
Connor: Our Kickstarter was funded just last weekend ($150,000!) and right now it is currently at $175,000. We have about 65 hours left until it's finished. We're also a part of Ouya's Free The Games fund which means they will match out Kickstarter funding amount, and we just made the record of highest funded Free The Games game! The CEO of Ouya Julie Uhrman recently congratulated us which was really really cool for me since I love the idea and scene behind Ouya. We're still waiting to be Greenlighted (they haven't chosen a new batch yet) but we've gotten a lot of people to give us the thumbs and up and a ton of positive comments, so we're optimistic about it!
RGG: You are walking alone at night, there is a total power outage so you can’t even see your own hands. Suddenly, there is a light in the sky above you and you end up being abducted by aliens that respond only to Transbot himself. You are then given the chance to pick 5 games to take with you while you accompany them while soaring through space. Which 5 games would you choose?
Connor: Man, that actually sounds like an awesome scenario if I get to kick back and play my favourite video games all day :) I'd choose... Resident Evil 2, Silent Hill 2, Harvest Moon (Super Nintendo Version), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Gameboy Color version) and Battlezone 2. I might try and sneak Quake 3 Arena in one of my pockets as a sixth game as well!
RGG: What can sites like ours do to help spread the word of great projects like yours?
Connor: Writing about us, doing interviews with us and spreading the word about Elysian Shadows is a huge help! It's always extremely rewarding when it is late at night and you are really tired, to find out that someone sent you a positive e-mail or tweet, or a website has written about your game. It can really help reinspire you!
RGG: Where can our readers go to support the game and check all the updates?
Connor: We have an official website (elysianshadows.com) along with twitter, google+, facebook, and all kinds of other pages you can find if you google us! We're also on Kickstarter finishing up our campaign during the next 3 days. We also all have personal twitter and facebook accounts and we have a youtube page (youtube.com/gyrovorbis) that hosts our game development series Adventures in Game Development. This is where we show people what we're working on and all kinds of behind the scenes stuff about game development! In addition to that I also have a personal website where you can download all of my previous music for free.
RGG: Is there anything that you would like to add? This includes everything from ice bucket challenges to death threats, we won’t censor anything, believe me.
Connor: When I'm angry, I like to play the drums so I will pass on issuing any death threats ;). Last thing I'd like to add is a thank you Gabriel for interviewing for me, and writing about Elysian Shadows on RetroGameGeeks.co.uk and El Faro Magazine! We really appreciate it! And thank you to everyone who has made our Kickstarter a success.
It is amazing and we want nothing more than to get to work now and complete the absolute best game for you that we possibly can! And finally an extra shout out to a great friend and the guy who helps run my facebook and soundcloud music pages, Nicolas!
RetroGameGeeks Final Thoughts...
What a nice guy, what an open minded and open hearted chap Connor is eh folks? The thing is after speaking to another one of the development team for a short while as this article was being put together it was clear the entire team is as laid back and super cool as each other, that's great!
With luck before you read this the video to the left of this text has been watched and the game as it stands now is already doing the job that these final words are supposed too. How fantastic does this title look?
It's clear to see that this is something big in every sense of the word, not just from a Kickstarter campaign financial fundraising stance but in all areas. RPG's by definition are massive open worlds full of life and wonder and this already has the look of something vast in scope, you can already see it all taking shape, and what a great shape it will be.
The one thing that we here at RGG cannot stress enough is the respect we have for a group of sexy indie devs making a game for a console more than a decade departed that somehow through it's visual style manages to look like it belongs on every console. Take a quick glance at the market town areas and you could think you are looking at a screenshot from a Square Enix game from the Super Nintendo. Wait a few more seconds and look at a scene with dialogue from say inside the church and suddenly it could easily be from one of the glorious Sega Mega-CD Japanese RPG games, how are they doing this??? Mind... blown!
The dynamic lighting effects then manage to take two iconic systems and fuse modern elements over the top to blend it all into this glorious final product which then looks like a triple A indie game that you read about on the top websites. Seriously this could be a PS PLUS game or an XBOX LIVE GOLD title, it's visually that striking. We can easily see this being a game iOS lovers sit on trains & busses playing and PC lovers rush home from work or school to immerse themselves into.
The two standout formats here though have to be the Ouya which needs games of this genre and quality and the Sega Dreamcast which represents a love for a classic retrogaming system and respect paid to the consoles that were so very special. These two formats are where this game will, we believe, truly shine. If this ends up playing half as good as it looks then it may just be that title that defines the Ouya as a serious gaming platform, the RPG genre has a habbit of making this happen. Final Fantasy, Zelda, shining force etc all helped put certain machines like the NES, Genesis and PS1 on the global map.
Switching back to the Sega Dreamcast version however and this now sits as another reason to keep that beloved console connected into your TV (as if you needed a reason though eh? lol) because much like the mighty Sturmwind in 2013 it's the indie scene that keeps on making the quality of gaming in it's pure form thrive. When publishers move on and churn out yet more sequels there will always be people who can't let the good times end and work their fingers to the bone to keep giving the rest of us worlds to explore. For us this deserves respect, reward and praise.
So here's to Falco Girgis, Tyler Rogers, Patryk Kowalik, Connor Linning, Eddie Ringall, Daniel Tindall & Leandro tokarevski who as you read this are working away to take this from a dream they have to a reality we will all enjoy! The world is yours guys, go get it!
When writing these final thought's I'm always very aware that maybe my opinion is just that and others won't feel the same, then I look at 2,282 backers on the kickstarter campaign generating $185,322 and I know it's no longer just what I think. Others have seen something special here and with luck even more people will come December 2015.
RGG just set it's alarm clock, we hope to see you all at the release party!