Ossian Studios Interview

Article Index

If you've been entrenched in the role-playing video game scene over the past decade, you're likely already familiar with Ossian Studios. Formed by former BioWare producer Alan Miranda in 2003, the small studio has worked on a number of projects including the Neverwinter Nights module Darkness over Daggerford, the Neverwinter Nights 2 expansion Mysteries of Westgate, and the recently released tablet-focused RPG The Shadow Sun.

Beyond these more prominent titles, however, the company also worked on an expansion pack for the original The Witcher for CD Projekt RED entitled Scars of Betrayal. Unfortunately for those of us who wanted nothing more than to take Geralt on some more monster-slaying adventures, the add-on was cancelled before it was ever officially announced.

And so, to learn more about the success of The Shadow Sun and the ill-fated Scars of Betrayal project, I sat down with Alan himself to get the facts straight from the source:

GB: How has the release of The Shadow Sun been for the team at Ossian Studios? Has the project been as successful as you had hoped it would be?

Alan: We were happy with the reception that The Shadow Sun received and it got some great reviews along with an 81% on Metacritic and iPhone Quality Index. Given Ossian's passion for making deep RPGs, we were pleased to see how many reviewers and players were satisfied to play a high-quality, story-driven RPG experience made specifically for mobile. And it was particularly gratifying to see reviewer comments like, (The Shadow Sun is pretty much what I imagine a '˜real' Dragon Age mobile game should be.) since that's what we were aiming to bring to the mobile platform.

The downside was that we took much longer than we anticipated to develop the game, which made it hard to keep pace with the increasingly more powerful mobile technology. So graphically, we were somewhat behind the curve compared to other mobile games by the time we released. But I still think our visuals stand up pretty well, and the bottom line is that it's a really fun game - if you have an iPad/iPhone/iPod touch, you still won't find a comparable action RPG on iOS. And we're bringing it to Android next!

GB: The overall reception to The Shadow Sun appears to be quite favorable, with a Metacritic score currently hovering at 81 and an iTunes profile page filled with 4- and 5-star reviews. Are you happy with these results, and has it helped pique any publisher interest in future Ossian-developed games?

Alan: We had many of the big mobile publishers contact us back in 2010/2011 about partnering up to do The Shadow Sun. Given our past experience with publishers cancelling our projects, I was rather unenthusiastic at the idea of working with a publisher for TSS. This was our chance to be in complete control of our game. Who knows what the future will bring, but we do enjoy our autonomy as a small indie developer.

GB: As an iOS title first and foremost, The Shadow Sun has clearly been optimized for touch-capable devices. Have you considered porting the game to the PC, and if so, would it require a lot of reworking to the control system to allow a keyboard and mouse to be utilized effectively?

Alan: We've had that discussion numerous times here. It's not so much the control issue to support keyboard, mouse, and gamepad, as those could be addressed. It's more the case that we designed TSS as a mobile game in 2010 and made certain decisions to suit that, such as a smaller world, shorter dialogue line lengths to fit on the iPhone screen, lower poly characters, and limited VO. So it would take significant work to upgrade the game for the PC, and in the end may not be worth it.

GB: Looking back at the development of The Shadow Sun, is there anything you would change in terms of content or scope? Is there any particular element that you wished you had spent more time on?

Alan: Getting the game done in two instead of four years would be the biggest change. ;) In terms of features and content though, we are quite happy with everything we created for the game, so there isn't much we'd want to change if we could turn back the clock. The only exception would be our camera, which had a couple of issues that weren't spotted during development and testing. I think everyone on the team got used to playing the game a certain way and found it just fine, but when some reviewers and players complained the camera acted unresponsively in certain cases, we saw the problem. The good news is that we've fixed those camera issues in our recent v1.02 update.

GB: What is your plan for the future of The Shadow Sun? Are you working on any add-on content or have you considered turning the game into a series of RPGs?

Alan: We just added some new content into v1.02 of The Shadow Sun with a new pet dog companion that the player can adopt. You can name, play with, as well as feed your dog, and just like your human companions, your dog will fight alongside you in combat. As for the future, we're looking at potentially branching The Shadow Sun into other styles of games, beyond the action RPG format, but all would have their roots in the RPG genre.