Knights of the Chalice Interview
Knights of the Chalice, a turn-based RPG based on Wizards of the Coast's Open Game License, was released earlier this August to an enthusiastic reception by fans of the genre. Some of the features boasted on the website include party-based tactical combat, a comprehensive help/tooltip system, and intelligent and resourceful enemies.
Pierre Begue, lead developer of Heroic Fantasy Games, agreed to answer a few of my questions on his game and mysterious past.
screeg: Before beginning on Knights of the Chalice, did you have any previous games development experience? Did you bring any specific skills to the task?
Pierre: Yes, if you count non-professional game development. A long time ago, I designed a turn-based fantasy wargame on a programmable calculator. I made a few other small games and designed some good maps for Heroes of Might and Magic 2 and 3. For the rest, I learnt it while making KotC.
screeg: The response to Knights of the Chalice has so far been very positive. The only common complaint was the use of a hard-to-read font, already corrected in a recent update. Were you surprised by the community's reaction to KotC?
Pierre: Pleasantly surprised, yes. It shows that many are willing to look past the simple graphics to find out how good the gameplay is.
screeg: When you started work on KotC, did you believe there was enough interest in an old-fashioned, turn-based fantasy game to make it economically worthwhile?
Pierre: Yes, after all there wouldn't be a Spiderweb Software without a sufficient number of turn-based fantasy lovers to support it. However, it's too early for me to say whether making another game like KotC would be economically worthwhile.
screeg: KotC offers little (nothing) in the way of hand-holding, and immediately plunges the player head-first into the icy and turbulent waters of challenging, turn-based tactical combat. In my opinion, this is your single greatest departure from recent role-playing games. What led you to take this route?
Pierre: Combat is an essential part of KotC. The game doesn't beat around the bush; if you like a good dose of tactical combat within your RPGs then you will like the game. By hand-holding I suppose you mean battles that you cannot lose. If you can't lose, where's the fun? As a player, I enjoy a game more when I can see that my actions are influencing the outcome. Some of my favourite games are difficult from the very beginning. In Interplay's Bard's Tale, your level-1 party can be wiped out by a group of barbarians only a few steps away from the adventurer's guild. In Dark Sun Shattered Lands, you start the game facing monsters in a gladiatorial arena. Should you try to escape, a large group of enemy guards awaits you.
screeg: Has anyone from Wizards of the Coast offered any advice or comments regarding Knights of the Chalice?
Pierre: I haven't heard a word from them so far.
screeg: What was the one thing you would have most liked to implement from the Open Gaming License ruleset, but had to leave out for whatever reason?
Pierre: The prone condition. I love the way it's implemented in Temple of Elemental Evil. I'm aware that what most players would want is more player classes and races, though.
screeg: You indicate on your website that you spent three years, part time, working on KotC. From that experience, can you tell us something you've learned that would be of use to other indie (or wannabe) developers?
Pierre: I would suggest hiring several artists early on and giving a lot of attention to the interface and stability. Bugs and a poor interface can turn off a lot of players.
screeg: Did you create a total mock-up of the game's rules and design, or just a basic outline, before you started coding? Can you tell us a bit about the methodology behind your approach to development?
Pierre: The only design documents I used were for the list of spells, list of monster abilities, and storyline maps and sketches. I programmed the tools and the basic engine first. Then I improved the engine bit by bit, by adding combat actions and AI refinements. The last task was to draw the area maps, place the creatures and prepare the hundreds of scripts needed to make the storyline interesting.
screeg: In future projects, do you intend to move beyond combat simulation and include other RPG dynamics, such as branching dialogues and game-changing choices?
Pierre: There are already a lot of branching dialogues in KotC, and in future projects there will be more. Giving the player frequent choices between opposing factions is a great way of making the player's experience unique (as opposed to giving the player "cosmetic" dialogue choices like in the original campaign of Neverwinter Nights 2). That takes a lot of scripting. In order to reduce scripting, I think that most dialogue choices should affect what happens in a given encounter or a given area rather than what happens in the whole game.
screeg: Once all the kinks have been ironed out with KotC, you've indicated you are more likely to move on to creating a new game rather than expand on current content. Do you have any thoughts on what you might do next?
Pierre: Oh yes. I have plenty of ideas. In the next game, I'm thinking to do away with the world map. It would all happen in a single location like in Ultima Underworld. Of course, it's a magic world, so there can still be a lot of exotic places to visit. The number one priority will be to add new character classes. I mentioned in another interview that the new classes will most likely be Barbarian, Paladin, Assassin and Psionicist. Clerics will have domain powers. As for the races, Human, Half-Orc, Dwarf, High Elf, Grey Elf and Halfling are the most likely. Among the monsters, it would be cool to add Goblins, Oozes, Formians, Giant Bees and Hydras. Giant Frogs and Purple Worms could have the Swallow Whole ability. Creating adamantine and mithral items will probably require appropriate ingots. Depending on the budget, it would be great to have some unique artwork in each area.
screeg: Is there anything else you would like to throw out there for our readers?
Pierre: Readers, please try the free demo of Knights of the Chalice if you haven't done so already.
Information aboutKnights of the Chalice
Developer: Heroic Fantasy Games
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2009-08-09
· Publisher: Heroic Fantasy Games