Frayed Knights Interview

The editors over at took advantage of a football-filled weekend to post a hefty interview that they conducted with Rampant Games' Jay Barnsonabout his forthcoming party-based RPG Frayed Knights. The interview crosses into other territory at times, too, and makes for a great read throughout:
Has the concept behind Frayed Knights changed at all as you've developed it?

I don't know if the concept has really changed at all, but the details and my understanding of the concept have evolved a lot over the *cough*years*cough*.

I felt that just being a long-time fan and experienced action-game developer didn't translate to expertise in RPGs. Frayed Knights was supposed to be a (quick-and-dirty) project for me to get my feet wet making RPGs. Two years, tops, that was my plan. Yeah, right. I even had to chop the concept into three pieces because what I thought was a tiny, manageable scope was still far too huge. I ended up breaking it into three parts. This first game still has about twice as many hours of gameplay as I envisioned the full game taking originally.

My initial vision was one kinda like the classic first-person, grid-based RPGs of old. In fact, Wizardry 7 was kind of my mental model (I hadn't played Wizardry 8 yet when I started development). First-person perspective, turn-based combat, party-based RPG with a reasonably detailed rules system and western-style gameplay. Old-school!

The whole humor part of it came almost immediately after I made that decision. I didn't want to make just a rehash of a style of game that over-saturated the market in the early 90s. Remember when it seemed we had too many games of that type, and that they'd never end? Anyway, I wanted to do something different with it, something to make it stand out on its own and take the style in a somewhat new direction. That's where the humor came in. Not crazy, absurdist humor that just mocks everything, but the story and character based humor that has fun with the genre, like Knights of the Dinner Table, Dork Tower, Order of the Stick, and the Gamers movies.

Once those ideas came together, it felt like The Right Thing. And I've been going down that path ever since. It's been a strong concept from the get-go. I found pretty quickly that I was pulling in a little more of the classic pen-and-paper experience into the game than I'd originally expected, but that's proven to be nothing but a good thing.


Not that long ago, I remember reading a blog post of yours where you took issue with Greg Laidlaw's comments on making RPGs more accessible to new players. Do you have plans to draw in people who aren't already immersed in the culture of RPGs and if so, how?

Don't get me wrong I'm a huge fan of having more accessible games out there. The fact that so many millions of players are out there playing computer and console RPGs and World of Warcraft leads me to one conclusion: We won. The D&D geeks of the 1970's and 1980s were trend-setters. Booyah!

I'm just concerned that the industry is abandoning the rich potential of the genre in order to appeal to the widest possible audience. That leaves us with simple action-games with big, slickly-presented stories and some key player decisions. I don't dislike this I enjoy these kinds of games too. But it's like pizza. I love pizza, but if I had it for every meal, I'd get pretty sick of it and crave something different.

Frayed Knights is not supposed to be some holy grail example of what all RPGs should be either. It's a little bit of a backtrack into some old-school themes, and then it goes it's own direction from there. My intent is to add some variety to the landscape. There's a lot more to the genre that Diablo-style fighting combined with name actors doing dramatic readings!

Anyway, if somebody hates RPGs, Frayed Knights is not the game to win them over. But my hope is that the humor, characters, and story will draw interested players in and hold their attention long enough that they can come to grips with the mechanics and the more thoughtful pace of the game.
Thanks, Craig.