An interview with Leonard Boyarsky about Troika's new Post Apocalyptic game, that has yet to find a publishing deal. I'd like to thank Leonard for his time and detailed answers. Keep spreading the word about the game, as it's clear that people are taking notice. Did you know Leonard Boyarsky got a Bachelor's Degree in Illustration (at Cal State Fullerton). Cal State Fullerton also has one of the countries top business schools called The Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. Anyone can earn their degree today through one of the many online degree programs offered.
How far into developing the game are you? Is the 'game' (dialogue, characters, weaponry, game areas, etc) still in the concept stages, or have you started implementing it in the engine? How much time would you say the game needs to be completed?
We are still in the early planning stages. We've done enough brainstorming to decide on an overall direction for the game, but basically not much more than was needed to begin engine development. In other words, we have some real high level concepts about the overall gameplay, but not a lot of specific details yet.
This game needs roughly a two year development cycle, as we're building the engine along with the game. Once we finish the engine we could turn around another RPG in about 18 months. Since we're building everything you'd expect from a high end 3d engine into it (displacement mapping, bump mapping, specular mapping, real time shadows and lighting effects, etc) we'll be able to utilize this engine for several projects at least.
Can you go into any details about the proposed setting for your game: the timeframe the game is set in, the level of technology, and so on?
Not really. There's actually a few different ways we're considering going with these types of details, but no firm decision has been made yet. We're fairly early in the development cycle, and details have a way of changing radically at this stage in any game.
Does the concept art done by artist Chris Glenn listed under 'A Post-Apocalyptic Word?' here have anything to do with the game? The presence of verdant trees in a dustbowl in this picture suggests perhaps a touch of the supernatural and it was thought that the game might be some sort of fantasy hybrid, with the same general idea as Arcanum except post-apoc instead of steampunk. Is the concept art related to the new PA game and will it be a "pure" PA game or some sort of hybrid setting?
All the fantastic Chris Glenn artwork you're talking about was for a much different PA RPG than the one we're talking about now. It kind of meandered through a few different phases, starting off being much more of a hybrid and then morphing into something much more Science Fiction oriented. While I liked Chris' concepts (he's really a great artist), the whole direction the project ended up going wasn't really something we wanted to continue pursuing. I think it ended up being designed by committee a bit too much, if that makes sense.
Obviously, Troika fans, this community in particular, are going to be interested in how the game compares to Fallout, especially with Bethesda's Fallout 3 in development. I'm actually happier that you're looking to develop a new PA RPG, based on your own Intellectual Property, rather than a sequel. How is the game concept, at its current stage, similar and different to the Fallout series? For instance, a big theme of Fallout is the attitude and naivety of the 1950s merged with the ultra-violence of a plasma rifle melting someone's skin.
As far as overall feeling of the game, we'd really like to capture a distinctive mood and style like we were able to in Fallout. Whether this will be similar to Fallout's style and mood or something totally different is not something we want to discuss yet. From a gameplay/system perspective, this game is definitely a spiritual successor to Fallout.
On the subject of Fallout 3, how do you feel about Bethesda getting the license, and what direction do you see them taking the series?
To be perfectly honest, I was extremely disappointed that we did not get the chance to make the next Fallout game. This has nothing to do with Bethesda, it's just that we've always felt that Fallout was ours and it was just a technicality that Interplay happened to own it. It sort of felt as if our child had been sold to the highest bidder, and we had to just sit by and watch. As far as where they will take it, you'd have to ask them that. Since I have absolutely no idea what their plans are, I can't comment on whether I think they're going in the right direction with it or not.
You've mentioned that Troika is considering a variation on the 'real time with pause' combat. Is this decision more or less confirmed, or is there a chance you may decide to make the game turn based? Can you give any thoughts about how Troika could go about implementing a real time with pause system, compared to other products such as the infinity engine games? One immediate problem I see is in a PA RPG there is a lot of ranged combat, something real time combat systems are traditionally bad at.
This decision is in no way, shape or form confirmed. This will have a lot to do with the publisher we eventually team up with and whether they're willing to publish a turn based RPG or not. To some fans, the above statement is pretty much blasphemy.
There's been a lot of debate since I said that we were considering real time with pause over turn based so that we could get this game made. The fact of the matter is that we're not self funded, we rely solely on publishers to fund our projects. Most publishers have flat out told us that they will not be funding any turn based games, and are not even interested in discussing them. If we can't sell a Troika post apocalyptic RPG to a publisher, it will never get made, it's as simple as that.
As far as our plans for implementing paused real time, we're looking at how other games have handled it and what things have worked and what hasn't. We are acutely aware of the shortcomings these type of systems have had in the past, and we're doing our best to avoid some of the more common problems associated with them. I'd give you details, but I'd rather not divulge too much about it before we've even signed a deal.
Supposing a publisher asks you for real time combat but allows you to include a turn based option. What have you learned from Arcanum that would help them improve this new title's combat, in the case of a hybrid system? Or would you choose to go with one combat mode and design the game to work seamlessly with that?
I would kill myself right then and there, because we're actually stubborn enough to try to do it again. It's funny that you bring this up, actually, because I was just talking to Jason this morning about how I thought it was a bad idea to ever combine the two (though, contrary to what some have speculated, it was our bad idea and not the publishers) and he said he thinks he knows of a way to implement it successfully. He is insane, though.
A lot of people, myself included, feel if you combined the combat of Temple of Elemental Evil, and the detail and depth of Arcanum, you'd have a damn near perfect RPG. Is the depth of Arcanum and Fallout something you're aiming to retain in this new product?
Most definitely. Hearing the remark about Arcanum and ToEE is funny because we've said the same thing around here. I think that combining the strong points of both those games is definitely a goal we have here for future titles, including this one.
Would you be developing a new ruleset to use with the game? Can you give any details about this?
The ruleset is actually one of the things we have developed beyond the speculation stage at this point. Without giving too much away, we're basically interested in refining and developing a lot of the system stuff we've found worked well in previous games. Our goal is to present the player with a large variety of ways to develop your character, without overwhelming them with too many choices immediately. Our feeling is that you should be able to create the kind of character you want to play without a lot of difficulty and relatively quickly, and then as the game progresses you are given more and more options to define your character as you see fit.
Are you planning to make the game default to a top-down viewpoint, similar to the isometric view used in the Fallout games? Party based or single player (I would consider Fallout to be single player based) based? 'Mature' or 'Teen' rated?
The view that is shown in the screen shots is what we are considering the default view. You can zoom in and out and rotate the map, but the viewing angle stays the same. Originally we designed the engine to handle over the shoulder third person or even first person views (and it does so quite well), as our giant project with unlimited funds dream is to have a game where you explore first person (or maybe over the shoulder, haven't decided yet) and then go to "isometric" third person for combat. This would take a huge amount of resources, both programming and art and therefore a relatively high budget, so don't expect to see it anytime soon. But we're ready for it should the situation present itself!
The party based vs single player choice is a tough one. I've always been partial to the single player, but a lot of people (both internally and fans) have been very vocal about having control over your party members, at least in combat. I'm not sure which way we may end up going with this game, this will definitely be a subject for serious debate. And knife fights.
By default we seem to lean towards Mature oriented material without even really thinking about it. We're twisted and it comes through in our work, what can I say. Having said that, I think we could make just as good a game under a Teen rating, it would just force us to be more inventive and subversive. Kind of like how early rock and roll had to come up with different inventive ways of talking about sex, but once it became okay to just graphically talk about it some of the poetry and creativity went out of it. The only thing that would really suck about having to do a teen game is that we'd have to lose the gory deaths. I don't know if I can live with that.
You have also talked about how good the editor for your new engine is. Would this be something you'd consider including with the game when (I'm not going to say if...) it's released?
We'd definitely want to make it available to the fans, but I'm not sure it would ship with the game. One of the things we learned on Arcanum is that you generally can't just ship the tools in the state that you were working with them in, they need to have some extra polish and maybe even a user friendly front end put on them. So, unless our funding/scheduling takes the time needed to make sure the editors and tools are useful into account, we'd have to release them later once we've had time to refine them on our own.
How close are you to getting a publishing deal - do you think the outlook for release is hopeful for this game? Something that has plagued Troika in the past has been publisher imposed content guides and time constraints (in ToEE, I believe?). Are you optimistic that this won't be a problem should you find a publisher for this new game?
We're speaking with a few publishers who have shown a very distinct interest in this title, but we're still a little ways out from actually inking a deal. While we did have some content problems on ToEE, we were given relatively free reign on Arcanum, and Sierra actually gave us a lot of extra time on it as well. Not enough, as it turns out, but a big part of that was that we made such a huge, complex game with only ten people. Every publisher is going to have time constraints, the challenge a developer faces is how to deliver the game you want in the time and resources available to you. One of Troika's greatest failings is that we generally try to do too much with not enough time. We're working on this, though, and we'll be monitoring our design process a lot closer in future titles.
Were you surprised at the amount of media and community interest in this game, especially since it was only two screenshots (here and here) of a tech demo?
We've been blown away by the flurry of activity two simple screenshots have caused. We even got a call or two from interested publishers because of them.
Any chance of a few more screenshots or pieces of concept art? :)
Check back with me once we get a deal signed :P We're trying to keep our ideas and plans under wraps for now. Wouldn't want to give anyone else ideas...
There's one last question that a few people have requested I ask, that's unrelated to the PA game. Do you have the numbers for how ToEE sold? It's been a debate on a few forums recently and no one's actually been able to find out.
Though I'd like to, we're contractually not allowed to disclose those numbers, sorry.
Finally, do you have anything else you'd like to say to the readers of Duck and Cover, and the Fallout community?
We appreciate the support and enthusiasm of the community. I personally don't understand people disparaging the Fallout fans, I think they're great - of course, I'm biased. It's hard not to be fired up about a community that loves something you created so much that they'll flame anyone who says anything even the slightest bit negative about it. We've had our share of being thrashed by them as well, so it's not like we're immune to being attacked. The latest round of criticism accuses us of "bending over" to get a publishing deal and selling out because we'd consider making this game non turn based, but how can you get angry with these things when they're coming from a position of love for a game you're proud of as well? Of course, next time I get crap from any of you losers I'm going to get all pissy and sarcastic and write a page long forum entry about how you all suck. Just so you know.
Thanks for your time, Leonard, and good luck finding a publisher.