Interview With Thomas From Basilisk Games

Posted: 22nd September 2009 by Maxim Bardin in Uncategorized
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Thomas the founder of Basilisk Games and the creator of the Eschalon series has agreed for an interview about Book2 which I wrote about before.

1. Hello Thomas , can you tell us about yourself and your company Basilisk Games ?
How many people are working on Book 2 ?

Basilisk Games was founded in 2005 and we released our first game in 2007. I am the founder of the company and the lead developer on the Eschalon series.

It is very hard to give an exact number of people working on Book 2. I work on it full-time of course, but we have had at least six other contracted artists help with graphics and music. We have three dedicated internal testers that also contribute to the design process. We’ve had some contributions to writing as well. So while I am the sole full-time developer, Book 2 is far from a single-person project.

2. Basilisk Games developing “Old-School cRPG’s” , can you explain what is “Old-School”, are they just old cRPG games or is there something deeper that defines them ? how they are different from other cRPG games such as Fallout 1-2 for example ?

The term “old-school cRPG” is admittedly vague, but generally it refers to RPGs made prior to Diablo. Diablo was the first mainstream RPG that gave birth to the “Action RPG” genre, and showed the average gamer how fun it could be to play over a network with other people. We are creating the kind of RPG that came before Diablo, when RPGs were exclusively single-player, generally turn or phased-based, and more focused on stats and character management.

Old-school can also imply the open-ended game worlds found in Ultima and Might & Magic, which is something we strive to achieve as well. While some exceptions do exist, many contemporary RPGs have very liner designs and do not allow the player to freely explore the game world at will.

3. I wonder about the sales of Book1…
Where they above your expectations ? did they cover the cost of development ?
Can you give us insight about the sales per platform percentage wise ? how is GNU/Linux doing ?

Sales have been generally good, about 25% higher so far than we projected. We fully repaid development costs on Book I about a year after its release, so all sales since then have been profit. We roll as much profit over into Book II as we can while still keeping the bills paid.

Our sales, per platform, are about 48% Windows, 42% Macintosh, and 10% Linux. Although Linux is a small percentage of our overall sales, we will support it as long as we are financially able to.

4. Please tell us about Book 2, what should be expected from it ?

What you should expect from Book II is: “the same philosophy that we built Book I upon, but with a lot of suggestions from fans.” We are keeping the general feel of the game, the same type of turn-based game world, but have added a number of new features that have been frequently requested.

5. In Book 1 the quests were very liner and often had only one solution, will it change with Book 2 ?
Are you going to make several solutions to each quest with consequences to your choices ?

Good question. It’s hard to answer because the number of solutions to each quest depends on how you define those solutions. For example, one of the first side-quests you come across has you retrieving an item for someone as part of a debt settlement. Now then, you can go directly to that person and threaten them. You can can offer to buy this object from them, knowing you’ll make a bit of profit when you get your reward. You can steal it from them, either through stealth or murder. Or, if you explore a bit more, you can find something to blackmail them with. By my count that is four separate ways of achieving the final goal. Others might say “well there is still only one way to successfully finish the quest and that is by retrieving the item and delivering it.” Perhaps, but that’s not being very creative- you could just keep the item and murder the person who gave you the quest.

Often, we try to find several ways for a player to get from point A to point B within the game, whether a quest is part of that journey or not. Like in Book 1, there were 3 unique ways into Crakamir, and players found the best way for themselves through their own individual play style. Book II will have a lot of this type of “multi-path” gameplay.

As for consequences to quests- yes, we are definitely going to put more examples of this into Book II than we had in Book I. But in keeping with old-school game mechanics, Book II will still have plenty of quests that are simply “do this and get a reward”. Some RPGs are built entirely around the concept of choice and consequence. That is the gimmick the developers are going for, and it’s great to have this kind of gameplay option for RPG enthusiast. Our gimmick is that we are old-school: Lots of exploration. Tons of character development options. Stat micromanagement. Crazy monsters and powerful spells. Traps and puzzles. And in the end, we have a huge gameworld that you can make your own adventure out of: follow the main quest or don’t. That’s your choice and consequence.

6. Will Book2 feature several endings depending on paths you choose along the game ?

The Eschalon trilogy was originally written as one story, with one ending. Like all stories, Eschalon has grown and changed since its conception. Obviously we began by breaking the original big story into three “books”, by which we could more easily focus on for the games.

As we did for Book I, we want Book II to have a couple different outcomes based on player choices. The biggest issue we have now is that Book II, being in the middle of the story arc, can only have “so much” flexibility while still making sense within the trilogy. So to answer your question, yes, there will be a couple different outcomes to Book II, but expect the biggest number of endings with Book III.

7. Playing as a fighter in “Book 1” was very boring as you only had one attack.
On the other hand playing as offensive mage was very easy with all the powerful spells you had.
What things have you changed and added in Book 2 regarding combat, spells and balance ?

Game balancing is one part mathematics, one part talent, and one part luck. It turns out that Book I was very easy for seasoned RPG veterans, especially those who took advantage of a few minor exploits that made it through beta. The first step in balancing Book 2 was to patch up as many exploits as possible, so that everyone plays on the same level. Second, we are employing a more diverse group of beta-testers this time to get feedback not only from the casual RPGer but also the hardcore, so hopefully we can tune it to that sweet spot that both kinds of players find challenging but not impossible.

Spells are getting revamped for more variation- we’ll have new spells that aid or assist the player, and a wider selection of combative spells for different battle scenarios. Combat itself takes on a new level of strategy, if for no other reason than it will be more challenging. Enemies have been given new AI functions and abilities, and players will find themselves in situations dealing with multiple foes in varied environments. Rare is it that players can rely solely on toe-to-toe brawling to win big fights in Book II- strategy will involve how best to utilize skills, environmental advantages, spells and aids to win battles.

8. In Book1 most buildings had only one floor (and sometimes a basement), What kind of new buildings we will see in Book 2 ? will there be a multi-floor buildings ?

There are several examples of maps with multi-floored buildings in Book 2, with Port Kudaad being one of the best. This is a large city in Mistfell which exists in 3 full levels: sub (sewer), ground, and second story. The gameplay often transverses all three levels, so for example a puzzle may have you thinking in this additional dimension.

9. What kind of new enemies will there be at Book2 ? will there be some kind of Bosses or Dragons ?

We are are putting mostly new creatures in Book 2, with only a few returning enemies to support the story. Some will be similar, such as Black Mold- a slightly tougher version of Fungal Slimes from Book 1. There will be a few boss types creatures (no Dragons in Book 2…) and they will be larger and more diabolical than any boss we had in Book 1. We are giving enemies in Book 2 more intelligence and additional special abilities.

10. In Basilisk Games forums some people made many good suggestions regarding Book2 , you listen to them and try to implant those ideas in Book2, you also made several threads in which you asked people how they prefer things to be implanted – I really love the openness of the indies …
What ideas have you borrowed from the community in favor of Book2 ?

We got 95% of all our Book 2 ideas from the fans. They are our life blood and we will always try to give them what they ask for but we must balance this with a focus on our overall philosophy, and that is to design old-school RPGs. Some fans have requested support for online or MMO-style play, other people want us to gut the combat system and move to a strict action-point system. While these are all good suggestions, we must adhere to the fundamentals that made Eschalon popular in the first place. We will be moving on to new ideas after we wrap up the Eschalon trilogy, and that is when we can experiment with other modes of game play. Eschalon will always represent classic, old-school role-playing.

Some of the best ideas from our fans that have been included in Book 2 are the flexible rules system, the in-game challenges, the increase in game detail and resolution, new spells and skills, just to name a few.

Thank you Thomas for a great interview, can’t wait for book2 to be released !