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Default RPGWatch Feature: Frayed Knights Interview

March 26th, 2008, 12:41
If you read our news regularly you've probably come across something linked from Tales of the Rampant Coyote - you may have even come across said Coyote on our forums. In addition to his blog, Jay Barnson has an off-beat indie RPG in development and it's time to catch up on it:

RPGWatch: So, your current indie project is Frayed Knights – what is it and what is it all about?

Jay Barnson: Frayed Knights is Rampant Games’ upcoming comedy-based fantasy RPG. It’s a blend of old-school style (first-person, turn-based, party-based adventures like Wizardry, The Bard’s Tale, Dungeon Master, and Might & Magic) with “real” 3D graphics, a healthy dose of character-based humor, and some quirky gameplay innovations. It’s part parody, part homage to both CRPGs and pen-and-paper RPGs.

It’s primarily a story about four misfit adventurers in a world that tries to justify all the weird things that happens in RPGs. The world of Frayed Knights is one with a subset of the population that were “adventurers” and acted like Player Characters tend to act. Which is to say, often amoral, ruthless, and greedy. Most of the time.

However, the adventurers are starting to die off. That in itself is not too surprising – the life of an adventurer is often short but exciting. But something is changing, and the rate of “morts” (deaths) is becoming alarmingly high. Plus, there are rumors of an “Ancient Evil™” rising out in the boonies. Things are going bad for the “adventurer community.”

But the Frayed Knights – themselves pretty much the laughingstock of adventurers everywhere – may be the only ones who can save them.
Read the whole interview here
More information.

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March 26th, 2008, 12:41
Some brave choices with this one, so thanks for answering our questions and best of luck, Jay. I always had mixed feelings about the "blob with legs" setup - but I loved game like Wiz8 (and EoB etc), anyway. I like some of your observances (such as adventurers feeling like contract labourers), so I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

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March 26th, 2008, 12:56
If he pulls it off, this could end up a mini-classic. I'm looking forward to it, as I like the concept!!

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March 26th, 2008, 14:43
Really like some of the ideas presented here—especially the Drama Stars approach to the save/reload dilemma. Creative and interesting stuff, and while I'm not a fan of cartoony artwork in games, it seems to fit his concept here seamlessly.

Also great to hear that this is a party-based game—the game screen reminds me of Wiz8—look forward to the pilot.

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March 26th, 2008, 16:52
I read his blog almost daily, we'll be in forefront of getting this gem of a indy game.
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March 26th, 2008, 18:26
I really appreciated Dhruin asking me about the conversation system in Frayed Knights for one reason - it helps illustrate that while one might have a lot of cool ideas for what might make a "better" RPG, they don't always work together.

Some parts of Frayed Knights are going to be (hopefully not too painfully) traditional, even though I know those areas should evolve or see more attention.

Other things are going to be kinda different, and will meet with some resistance. Like the drama star idea. I know a lot of people complained already when I explained it, unhappy that they wouldn't be stored with a saved game. And there's some legitimate concerns, like us old fart gamers who can't put hours and hours into a single session, and have to quit and reload out of necessity of real life demands.

While I have a lot of non-RPG game titles to my credit, this IS my first RPG. So I'm expecting to make a lot of mistakes on it, and I'm picking my battles carefully for where I want to do something different vs. where I'm clinging to tradition for safety.
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March 26th, 2008, 18:59
This definitely sounds like a potential classic! Good luck with it, Jay. I'll buy this game!

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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March 26th, 2008, 20:50
Currently the Alpha is much better than most other products I've tested.

In my opinion it's a Must Buy Product when it's released. It's refreshing to get an RPG with a sense of Humor.

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March 26th, 2008, 21:15
Thank you so much for this interview, Dhruin I really liked it

The game Frayed Knights does indeed look like a must buy when it is released, especially for those us (who like me) likes a game from the good old days; a game in which you can't do anything all at once and there are some choice & consequence in it.

I sort of like his drama points idea; however I, too, don't have nearly as much time to play games now that I did 10 years ago…

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March 27th, 2008, 00:38
One question that wasn't asked/answered:- How is exp gained for leveling? Is it combat based, quest based, etc? Will solving an issue in a non-combat way cost me exp, or will I get some for finding an alternative solution to killing everything and everyone? Oh, and how many levels are you planning for the characters? Also, are there joinable NPC's?

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March 27th, 2008, 01:16
I'm not so sure I dig the drama points…

Deep-down, they look like they're the same thing as Arcanum's faith-points, if applied differently, but if I turn it around and look at it mechanically, what I see is basically an attempt to bribe players not to save/reload. Why? Because that bugs you.

I'm not sure that's the right way to go about it. I'm sure it works fine as a mechanic, but the moment you try to bribe someone you're basically offering him two options, either go with the flow and enjoy the free candy or ignore that it exists anyway. For someone like me, the choice would obviously be the latter - which is what I usually do when seeing someone is trying to bribe me into making a different choice than I'd normally do.

So basically you're adding a kind of meta-gaming choice to solve the problem of save games, which is fine, but I think you're taking the wrong angle. The problem for RPG designer is that, unlike in pen and paper, there are no situations where the player will have to just deal with the wrong choice he made. Instead of asking a person to reload here, you're asking him to take the free candy and solve the problem that way. How does that improve…anything?
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March 27th, 2008, 01:23
Excellent interview. You don't find such a combination of long lasting experience, enthusiasm and the willingness to try new ideas (and to scrap them if they don't fit) very often. I love the idea of the Drama Stars and I hope they will cure me of my save/reload addiction.

Originally Posted by Jay Barnson
Yeah, it’s hard having no budget but your own pocket-change, and having to fight tooth and nail for even the tiniest bit of attention or awareness, and then having people say, “Oh, man, that game might have looked good fifteen years ago!”
Well, those people wouldn't play an indie RPG anyway, so why bother? And not to forget that some games back then (like Monkey Island or Lands of Lore) had a fantastic artwork, only limited by the technical possibilities. A one man dev just can't compete with a (small but very talented) team of artists some game companys at that time already had. That said I really like the screens of Frayed Knights. Simple but quite expressive.

Humor in RPGs is hard to get right, but after reading about those "Frayed Knights flavoured spells" I'm optimistic.

Originally Posted by magerette
I'm so tired of marketing hype, marketing slang, marketing priorities and general marketing BS that it tends to have the opposite effect on me. (Jaded is the word I'm looking for here.) I can't even read through a whole press release from any AAA title company without wanting to turn off my computer and learn to cross-stitch.
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March 27th, 2008, 01:55
Looks pretty awesome. I'm not sure I dig the "comedy-based" bit, but everything else is spot on.
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March 27th, 2008, 02:50
I also enjoy the blog, and am hopeful that you will succeed with this!

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March 27th, 2008, 03:01
A better way of dealing with the save/load issue is either not allow the person to load a save game that he made within the last x amount of time or have a detriment to doing so like lowered stats for a time.
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March 27th, 2008, 04:03
Okay, first of all - let me say that everything that is in the plans now or that will appear in the pilot may not be representative of the final game. The pilot is a chance for me to discover as many flaws as possible before it's too expensive to change 'em. So you aren't allowed to hold me to any of these answers…

(Yeah, I know. Developers ALWAYS offer that caveat, and it never does 'em any good).

Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
One question that wasn't asked/answered:- How is exp gained for leveling? Is it combat based, quest based, etc?
Yup and yup. And for committing to decisions, rescuing damsels who may or may not stab you in the back, taking risks, drinking from possibly polluted water… Now, BALANCING all that XP is going to be another story, and I'm expecting weekly migraines as a result.

Will solving an issue in a non-combat way cost me exp
Sometimes. Sometimes it will gain you more. Not all choices will be created equal. See above re: migraines.

As for the pilot, with only one quest - the question is more of how and when you apply the violence, not if.

Oh, and how many levels are you planning for the characters?
A zillion! Or twelve! Or somewhere in-between. Originally, we were planning on the game taking you up from 3rd to 12th, with possibly some wiggle-room beyond for the extra-DUMPIE (Dungeon Upwardly Mobile Professional) or extra bloodthirsty. But that can change, because I'm a powergaming twit, and I like to really abuse all the customization options myself, and I don't know if that will really be enough.

But from a story perspective, you won't end the game as the unquestioned masters of the universe (cue He-Man music). You'll have proceeded from somewhere near the bottom of the food chain to somewhere less near the bottom of the food chain.

Because THAT'S OLD SKOOL.

Also, are there joinable NPC's?
I fought with my GUI designer to keep the portrait scrolls small enough and tight enough to fit an extra row down below our heroes. He wasn't happy about it. Hopefully this was not without reason.

A better way of dealing with the save/load issue is either not allow the person to load a save game that he made within the last x amount of time or have a detriment to doing so like lowered stats for a time.
Believe me, I considered it. Stupid insta-releading twerps! However, I do have friends who have told me they want to play this game. And they have also threatened me with bodily violence should I restrict their ability to load and save at will. Since there are more of them than there are of me, and they know where I live, I decided to take their opinions under advisement.
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March 27th, 2008, 04:17
The problem for RPG designer is that, unlike in pen and paper, there are no situations where the player will have to just deal with the wrong choice he made. Instead of asking a person to reload here, you're asking him to take the free candy and solve the problem that way. How does that improve… anything?
Tough question. My answer:

Because the first way cuts off exploration of alternative paths, and the second gives the player the some ability to limit the repercussions of choosing the non-optimal path.

Except, it may not. This may go down in history (well, a history remembered by only a handful) as something akin to Ken Williams' brilliant idea of making your computer crash when you crash your plane in Sierra's flight simulator. "Won't this be cool and add more REALISM to the game?" he said.

I can go on and on about this (in fact, I'm sure I have, on my blog), but here's my general thinking on this:

#1 - Theory: Story in game is dependent upon the player as a shared storyteller. That, or the author cuts the player's interactivity off at the knees, and forces the issue. (And make no mistake - I'll be doing that sometimes in FK, too, due to time / budget / stupidity / laziness).

#2 - The player is a TERRIBLE storyteller, because the elements that make a good story run contrary to that of optimal gameplay. A good story has the hero taking his lumps, getting beaten down, and triumphing right in the face of defeat. However, a good player will not allow himself (unless forced into it by the designer) to GET into those situations.

I have a few little stories to back up those beliefs.

So the idea behind this metagaming device is to encourage the player to put on the shoes of the storyteller. He doesn't have to - the traditional reload-the-saved-game safety net is always there. But if he's willing to allow his characters to go into greater peril - make a mistake, accept the results of a less-than-flawless victory, or play with the "kiss the hobgoblin on the lips" option (not that I'll necessarily have one, but it'd be cool, wouldn't it…?) and let the results stand a little bit… then there's a chance that the game might be more exciting as a result. And lo - we put the power in the player's hands to give the heroes a little bit of a "leg up" in the upcoming battle in spite of fighting at worse odds.

Or the player gets his butt handed to him, and he has to reload anyway.

Worst-case, I think, is that people ignore the drama stars and just play it like any other game. I've wasted a lot of effort for nothing.

But hey, I'm an indie - the game may suck anyway, nobody will buy it, and the drama-star thing may have been the least of my wasted efforts. Them's the breaks in indie-town.
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March 27th, 2008, 07:30
Thanks for your replies RC. This is now on my purchase list.

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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March 27th, 2008, 17:25
I did have one other question if you're still in the vicinity, RC—does the title by any remote possibility derive from the punchline of a certain joke about a piece of string going into a bar?Or is it just a coincidental pun?

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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March 27th, 2008, 19:32
Sold. A RPG with good characters, story (hopefully), cool looking arts and a sense of humor? If the combat and the npc interaction are equally good I'm sold.

PS: Finally a new RPG with humor, good how I loved that Bard's Tale remake (ow, don't hit me, the game was glorious…*starts running*)
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