The folks at RPGWatch had the chance to quiz Rampant Games' Jay Barnson on his upcoming indie humorous dungeon crawler Frayed Knights, and during the course of their chat we discover why Jay decided to go for a humorous tone for his title, what he did before working on it, how his initial vision changed over its development and more. Here's a sampling:
RPGWatch: What has been the most challenging aspect of this experience?
JB: That would be pretty much everything that I'm not much good at. Which would be everything but coding. And the coding is marginal.
The art - 2D and 3D - has probably been the biggest challenge. Especially with the project running as long as it has; I've run through several different artists / modelers, who all have different styles. Add to that the off-the-shelf content I've licensed from different vendors, and the stuff I've had to do myself, and a less-than-perfect tool, and you've got an eclectic bunch of visuals. Starting out, I had a much more limited vision of what the visuals were supposed to represent, but the art needs just sorta kept. compounding.
Sticking with this thing through its long dev cycle has been a real trial, too. I got very frustrated with how long it takes to get this stuff done. What else. oh, right! I also have very thin skin and cry like a little girl when the game is criticized. It's been a challenge coming to grips with my inner wuss.
RPGWatch: You and I have discussed certain design decisions over the last few weeks. From tester feedback you've received, which decisions are you most happy with/pleased about and which ones might be causing you concern, if any?
JB: You assume the two are mutually exclusive!
In light of tester comments, I'd have to say the characters and dialogs have turned out to be the biggest success. It's no Planescape: Torment or anything, but the response has been really positive so far. We also added some really interesting changes to Dirk in a recent beta based on feedback from multiple testers, which I'm really excited about. I'm thrilled with how quickly those were put in place, and get more feedback on them.
The game system is pretty complex, and it's turned into a mixed bag. I'm thrilled that it works, and many testers have enjoyed the depth and amount of customization possible, but it's also a source of concern. It's not as easy-to-use as I would like, and has been a source of confusion for some. I'm still working to make it easier to use and to understand what numbers are getting crunched, but it's definitely something I'm both proud of and worried about.
As an interesting side-note, when I was first developing the rules system, I made a somewhat awkward decision that multiple enemies would be more dangerous than a single, powerful enemy. Sort of a realism thing that was probably more appropriate to another game, but it's pretty deeply embedded now. The game even awards an experience point bonus for defeating larger groups. so battling 4 goblins at a time is worth more than two sets of two. Anyway, as we went into beta and were really starting to focus on game balance, testers began noting that some of the boss battles were just too easy. Sure enough, those were the fights with a single opponent. So we've had to both beef up the main bad guys and, in many cases, give them a couple of henchmen.
The adventure-game elements are another part that worries me a bit. I love them, particularly as I hate quests where an NPC says, "Fetch me ten rat tails!" That's boring. I've tried to avoid that. In a handful of cases, the solution to a quest or obstacle is more of an adventure-game style puzzle - though generally pretty lightweight fare as far as that is concerned. But for some players, those have really blocked progress. I've tried to provide a few extra clues and hints in the game to make those less likely to make a player quit the game early, but I guess we won't know if it's enough until later.