GB: What can we expect in variation and availability of weapons, armors and useful items, magical or non-magical?
Gareth: In a major break from tradition, Scars features a revolutionary "one weapon/one armor set system", where all you ever need is one weapon and one breastplate to complete the game. We give you those items at character creation and you never find any alternatives, ever.
I joke, of course. Scars, like most RPGs, will have a variety of interesting loot to acquire, both mundane and magical, as well as a crafting system for people who enjoy that type of thing. Perhaps the greatest difference in Scars is that I dislike the way magical items have become disposable goods since the advent of action-RPGs and MMOs. A magical item doesn't feel "special" anymore because you are constantly "trading up" for that marginal upgrade. I think a smaller selection of meaningful items and a slower pace of equipment upgrades makes each one feel rarer, more valuable in a gamer’s mind. What real difference is there in terms of "feel" between a sword that does +12 fire damage and one that does +14 anyway?
GB: Scars of War recently linked up with Iron Tower Studios. Give us a few details on what this cooperation entails.
Gareth: I mentioned in one of the previous questions how lack of resources is the bane of a small indie group. Well, nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to PR and marketing. As vilified as marketers are, the simple fact is that if people don’t know about your game they won’t buy it. And then you starve to death. You have to get awareness of your game out to your potential customers, and you have to do this despite the hundred other companies competing for their attention at the same time. The big companies can launch large ad campaigns to draw people to their products but small indie operations simply can’t afford that.
So, a while back Vince of ITS approached me. His idea was that indies of a similar focus, in this case hardcore RPGs, should pool resources. Since there is crossover in our potential customer bases, creating an “Indie RPG hub” where gamers who favor these kinds of games could come and be exposed to multiple titles would benefit all of us. Someone might hear about AoD and come to the ITS forums where they are exposed to information about Scars, or vice versa. The central hub idea also avoids scattering attention across multiple small sites.
Some people might have the impression that this setup is the traditional “publisher-developer” relationship. It isn’t really. The idea is to turn ITS into an RPG brand, not a parent company. When you see the ITS logo you know the type of experience you are getting. While our games may vary in style, at their core they are focused on hardcore roleplaying. You won’t find tower defense games on ITS, nor shooters. You won’t find games for people who “don’t like the numbers or reading and just want to hit things”.
There is the option for ITS to help publish a developer’s game, if desired. But the terms are far, far less restrictive than any publisher would offer a new developer. You keep all IP, all rights. ITS simply helps with the marketing, hosting and distribution and in turn takes a small cut of sales. The creator of the game doesn’t get left with a pittance, as with mainstream titles. And the publishing aid is completely optional. If you choose to go that option ITS will help you build an ad campaign, if not then you can simply share in the positive effects of the shared community. It’s more about a group of RPG enthusiasts supporting each other in developing the types of games we all enjoy than anything else.
I’ve also heard rumblings of concern that, should Age of Decadence flop, this would mean the end of all the titles being developed under the ITS banner. I’ll take a moment to address that. I can’t speak for any other developer but this isn’t the case for Scars, should this grand experiment fail then we will simply continue on under our own banner, as before. But I find that fairly unlikely in any case, Age of Decadence is shaping up to be a great game. Anyone who hasn’t seen the great stuff they’re cooking up yet should pop round the ITS forums, we’re all very excited now that it’s so close to release.
GB: What platforms will you be releasing on? Will there be a demo? Will the title see any DRM? Based on your current progress, what sort of release window might we expect?
Gareth: Scars will be coming to PC and Mac for certain, and we will be attempting to port it over to the Linux platform following those releases. And yes, there will most certainly be a demo, a sizeable one which will show you enough of the game to allow you to make an informed purchasing choice. I, as much as any other gamer, am loathe to buy a lemon, something that has become all too common in this era of demo-less releases.
The title will not have DRM, no. What it will have is extra downloadable content for people who register online with a legitimate key. Similar to the Stardock scheme, you don't have to bother with DRM just to play the game but registering online gets you free goodies. I plan to release the equivalent of NWN premium modules for such customers at fairly regular intervals, mini-expansions, bonus content and promotions to enhance their experience. Carrot, rather than stick.
There have been some delays this year so I've moved the estimated release date out a few months to the end of next year. But, as always, we adopt the Blizzard motto. It won't be released until it is done and polished.