SKALD: Against the Black Priory Interview

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:TBA
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GB: SKALD is positioned as an old-school game and it certainly looks the part but what about its design sensibilities? In this day and age of ubiquitous tooltips and detailed tutorials, the idea of studying a manual prior to launching a game and then hoping you remember which button does what seems somewhat archaic. Now, I know that you plan to ship SKALD with a manual, but will it be required reading so to speak, or more of a respectful nod to a time long gone? What about saving our progress?

AL: I’m trying to include as many quality-of-life features in SKALD as possible. Gamers these days don’t always have a lot of time and the game should allow you to pick it up, play it for 15 minutes, save and then walk away from it for a couple of weeks.

So far, the game is easily playable without reading the manual since so much of the GUI is contextual and I take care to include descriptions of things like spells and feats. I think this is going to be a game you can easily play without reading the manual but where using the manual as a strategy guide will help a lot.

You can save wherever you like on the map.

GB: How long do you expect an average playthrough of SKALD to take and how difficult do you expect it to be?

AL: It’s very difficult to estimate game length but I really want for “SKALD: Against the Black Priory” to offer tens of hours of gameplay. I’m a big fan of games that can be completed quickly but where there is a lot of side content to dig into. I really don’t want to hide completing the game behind a wall of grinding.

It’s fairly easy to make a large dungeon stuffed with monsters where players can spend hundreds of hours if they feel like it. But I think it’s a good idea to give players the option of bypassing some of the dungeon-crawling and just focusing on the story instead.

GB: What about replayability? Can we expect to see everything the game has to offer in a single playthrough? Will there be any tough to find secrets?

AL: In general, I intend to offer branching narratives and quests with multiple solutions. This, combined with a reactive game world will (hopefully) make it interesting to replay the game. I also think any good RPG needs a lot of secrets.

GB: Are you aiming SKALD predominantly at those who feel nostalgic for the games that inspired it or do you hope for it to have a wider appeal?

AL: First and foremost, I’m making a game for the fans of the genre. That being said, broad appeal is never a bad thing and I try to design for it where I can. I would love for the game to be easy to pick up and get into but still have a lot of depth if you really want to dig into it.

I might consider adding an easier “story mode” for more casual players and like I've said: There should be as little mandatory grinding as possible in the main narrative.

Also, I have the option of porting to mobile (I’m working in Unity) so that might certainly attract a more casual audience as well.

GB: You currently plan to release SKALD in June 2020. Say the game launches on time and it's fairly successful. What's next for Scape-IT? Or is it too early to think about that sort of thing?

AL: First and foremost my plan is to make SKALD: Against the Black Priory the best game it can be for desktop devices. Beyond that, the next phase is to consider a port to handheld devices. SKALD is written in Unity and has been developed with this in mind so I think there’s a lot of potential there.

That being said, I place a big emphasis on making the engine reusable and establishing SKALD as a recognizable brand within the retro RPG scene. Depending on how the first game does, it’s certainly possible I’ll look into doing sequels for “SKALD: Against the Black Priory”.

I really love working in this genre and I suspect I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m having fun.

GB: Is there anything you would like to say to our readers who might be interested in your game?

AL: The SKALD community currently lives on Discord and feel free to join our server if you want to engage with the project. There is also an Alpha demo coming out in early September and it will be available to Kickstarter backers and Discord members.