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Default RPGWatch Feature: Meriwether - Interview with Joshua DeBonis

June 17th, 2013, 15:37
GhanBuriGhan had the opportunity to ask Sortasoft's founder and director Joshua DeBonis a few question on “Meriwether: An American Epic”. Like this question on the RPG gameplay elements:
RPGWatch: The historical setting as well as the financial support the project received by various public sources could lead gamers to the conclusion that Meriwether will be more Edutainment than game. What are the central gameplay elements that you think will make Meriwether attractive to RPG players?
Josh: It's been a constant struggle to separate Meriwether from edutainment. Yes, you will learn things playing this game. But we are approaching it first and foremost as a game, in the same way that we approach other games we design. I tend to favor elegant, distilled game mechanics that are easily approachable but have great depth to explore. This philosophy manifests itself in Meriwether in many ways; we wanted a game that won't feel too daunting to a history buff who doesn't play a lot of video games, but also will have lots of difficult choices to offer to hardcore gamers. We have shown and playtested the game at both PAX East and a Lewis and Clark convention, and had a very positive response at each. I think we are well on way to making that difficult balance a reality.
There's two parts that will be especially attractive to CRPG players. The first is our dialogue system. Our writer, Carlos Hernandez, is an incredible storyteller and he is giving a unique voice to all of the amazing characters. The conversations are a pleasure to play, but they also offer an interesting "facet" mechanic. We associate each dialogue choice with one facet of Lewis's personality-leader, soldier, diplomat, scientist, or melancholy. When you choose an option, it increases your level in that facet. Occasionally, you need to choose melancholy to keep balanced, which can often lead to an undesirable situation. The trick is to choose it at the right moment! So the facet system will couple a good story with good gameplay and provides players with a pretty unique dialogue system.
The other mechanic that I think will interest CRPG players is managing the party as a whole. You need to balance all of your resources very carefully. Will you spend your timing hunting or clearing a safe path for your boats? Will you trade your last spare rifle for horses to make your journey across the Rocky Mountains easier? The real Lewis and Clark Expedition had to think about balancing those choices every second of their voyage, and they import beautifully into our game.
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