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The Kickstarter pitch for Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness, Grape Ocean Technologies' Infinity Engine-inspired CRPG, describes some unusual and unique features, like for example the far-reaching consequences of greed and a deep alchemy system. And in order to try and understand these features a bit better, and learn a few things about the game and the developers behind it in the process, the folks over at RPG Watch have put together a detailed interview with the studio's founder David Zakal. Here are a few sample questions:
RPGWatch: Could you briefly describe how you organise your work? For example, do you have problems to keep schedules? Do you review together all work regularly? BTW some devs said tools are very powerful nowadays and this is the best time for small indies to create their games. Do you agree?
David: As a modern development studio, we employ state-of-the-art methodologies. Our team members come from different backgrounds and industries (business software, game industry etc.), all bringing their own approaches. Therefore, in our early period, it was a challenge to build a team that combined the virtues of different approaches. Another problem was funding. Since we are a new studio, it was difficult to find investors.
Keeping schedules was never a problem thanks to our expertise with business projects. If you do not deliver enterprise software on time, customers do not pay, and sometimes you have to pay them for your delay. While this expertise helps us a lot, the game industry requires a unique approach and philosophy in several aspects of the development process (which we lacked back in 2014). Since then, we have learned a lot and extended our team with experienced game industry professionals.
Current tools are indeed powerful - in the right hands. They do not substitute for rigorous financial planning and disciplined development, however. It is a great time for indies to create games, but you still need a strong team with strong skills.
RPGWatch: You revealed a story about evil forces that repeatedly tried to destroy the world until they came up with a scheme based on greed and destruction from within. Some people would probably say it is a common fantasy story while others would see some parallel to our world in it. So how would you describe it? Is it mostly based on common fantasy tropes or is it mostly allegory? Or is it more complex than it seems?
David: In the Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness backstory, spreading greed is indeed a new plot by dark gods to infiltrate, turn, and eventually wipe the world of mortals. Mortals have learned to cope with fear and evil, but have not learned to face their own weaknesses such as envy or greed. While fear from an external force makes people stick together, envy and greed silently divide and turn them against each other. As you said, it is destruction from inside. Another interesting point in the backstory is that one of the dark gods requires this scheme because she would cease to exist otherwise. She fights to keep a long-time status quo: her eternal life. The status quo and establishments have changed throughout our real history, and those who were interested in keeping the status quo did not hesitate to use the most subtle and ruthless methods to stay in power. Therefore, this is another point where people may find an allegory to the real world, but I would like to state that our game is purely fantasy and any similarities to real-life events are coincidental. We want to make a game our players love and enjoy.
RPGWatch: Could you compare races and classes in Black Geyser with AD&D or other fantasy CRPGs? You have humans, dwarves, different elves (not sure how different) and the unknown Rillow (???). I see typical classes, different fighters, Templar that are basically paladins, 2 types of thieves, common clerics, druids, shamans, 3 types of mages...
David: Due to the enormous amount of original lore we are talking about, I think the easiest way to give you an idea about our races and classes are similar games. We were inspired by games like Baldur's Gate a lot. Our lore is original, but the philosophy and mechanics behind many things is similar to the abovementioned school of classic CRPGs. Our classes are a good example of how we are similar, yet different from those games - like how our spellcaster classes have a more specialized and conspicuous relationship to their corresponding favored spell classes. For example, if you choose a Shaman (known to favor spells in Unnatural, Spiritual and Ritual spell classes) instead of a Wintermage, you will experience the pros and cons of your choice much more than in other classic-style CRPGs (think of exclusive spells). This does not mean your characters will not be customizable or that they will have no common spells and skills available.
Regarding your question about elves, white elves in Black Geyser (the Feldegug) have a harsh history, which made them significantly different from wood/high elves (known as deroni elves). Therefore, in this respect, we can see an analogy to the Drow in D&D. A difficult past is not uncommon in the creation myth of races in Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness. Dwarves and Rillows also have it. Rillows are masters of herbs and illusion, and are available as a stretch goal race in the Kickstarter campaign.
RPGWatch: How does the skill system and character progression work? I noticed that classes have unique skills but are there also common skill trees for everybody? Some perks? Pets?
David: Your characters gain experience points during gameplay and combat. When they collect enough experience for a level-up, the game indicates this, and you can finalize the level-up by allocating various things (e.g. skill points). There are three general skills that are available to all classes: Bargain & Persuasion, Learning & Research and Brewing & Drying. Of course, the maximum points you can allocate may be different for each class (a Fighter will never brew as well as a Druid or research as well as a Spellweaver). Additionally, there are a few weapon skills as well (such as Throwing) that are available to all classes.
The closest equivalent to perks I can think of are special abilities that characters may receive at level-up or after special, rare events. In terms of activation, these work like spell-like abilities and behave in the same way as spells in terms of re-memorization. For example, Thunderclap Berserk and Prolonged Berserk are such abilities for the Fighter class.
Pets and familiars are planned to be a Kickstarter stretch goal.