The Council Interview
Farflame interviewed Game Director Sylvain Sechi about The Council, for which the first episode is available today on Steam.
RPGWatch: I noticed that development studio Big Bad Wolf worked mainly on action games and ARPGs in the past. So why the idea to create a narrative adventure? How did it start?
Sylvain Sechi: We looked at our previous games (Of Orcs and Men and the Game of Thrones RPG, for example) and decided we wanted to focus entirely on our main strength: story. Regarding combat, we had the desire to translate the common combat RPG mechanisms that can be found in most CRPGs into a narrative experience. We did the same with every RPG feature with one core question motivating us: "how can we translate this feature into a narrative feature?"
For combat, as stated above, but also for character sheets, skills, talents, traits, leveling up, inventory, and so on. That was our first pillar regarding the vision when starting work on The Council, and while we were at it, we named the genre of the game "Narrative RPG". It was also important for us to create a game where the main form of interaction was not hitting/killing people or creatures.
Our second pillar was "consequences over choices". We absolutely wanted to craft a consequence-based game, and not simply a choice-based game.
RPGWatch: The only thing we know about the main hero Louis de Richet is that he is looking for his missing mother. What can you tell us about him? Did you try to make him somewhat sympathetic or hard-bitten for example? Or can players shape his character in the game (not only his skills)?
Sylvain: Louis is a French aristocrat who was born during the times of kings, survived the French revolution (which is still going on) and is currently living through a time known in French history as "the Terror". He and his mother are part of the most powerful secret society in the world which has lots of political power during these troubled times.
Regarding characterization, we made the choice pretty early on that we wanted players to shape the identity of Louis based on impactful choices over cosmetic answers. So choices you make in the game and the consequences that unfold are the main things that define Louis' identity.
RPGWatch: We know there are non-combat skills and classes like in RPGs. But I wonder how it works. Does skills just boost your chance of success? Or are you always successful if you have a certain skill at a certain level if you perform certain actions that have a predefined difficulty?
Sylvain: Unlocked skills can be used to take action. The level of the skill versus the difficulty of the action defines the cost of using the skill. Using a skill does not always result in success because every character possesses strengths and weaknesses to certain skills that you will have to discover. You do this by talking to them or to people who know them, but also through investigation, by reading their private mails for example.
RPGWatch: You said it is a political conspiracy game. Initially though, it looks like those VIPs are an order of bad guys who just want to gain power. Almost something like the council of Templar order from Assassins Creed. So is the story actually more complicated and intriguing than it may seem?
Sylvain: Regarding characters, in every story we have written, we have always tried to make characters non-Manichean. For The Council we wanted to have a complex, consequence-based storyline. What this means is that not every part of the story, character arc, and subplot will be revealed in a single playthrough. So depending on their choices, some players may only have superficial information about a character and believe he is a "bad guy" or a "good guy."
Regarding story, we tried to approach writing with the same vision in mind. Designing and writing the story was one the biggest challenges, as we wanted to ensure maximum consistency within the story, whatever branches the player was experiencing based on the consequences of his choices. It took us almost 3 years of work and we believe it was worth it.
RPGWatch: Could you briefly describe your design process regarding NPCs? What are your design principles or inspiration for them? For example, did you create the basic story first and then think about which characters would fit in, or do you start with some main characters and then create the story around them?
Sylvain: For this game, we decided to do things differently than in our previous games. Because we wanted to have this behind-closed-doors story of all these characters essentially stuck on the island together, with a lot of depth to each one, we chose very early in pre-production that we were going to have a minimal number of characters. For spoiler reasons it is really hard to get into the details of the question... So let's just say we created the story around the main characters.
RPGWatch: C&C became popular in many narrative games, some are good, some are average. Why do you think your game is better? What are the main strong points of The Council?
Sylvain: Most modern C&C games rely mostly on the illusion of consequences more than real consequences. Illusion of consequences really works well as long as you don't perceive it, just like magic tricks. And there is a good reason developers go into illusion of consequences so much: real consequences costs a LOT of time and effort to create, especially if you want things to be coherent whatever path the player is experiencing. For the Council, we choose the real consequences path. We took inspiration from games that dared deliver on real consequences, like the firsts Fallout Games, Vampire Bloodline and even Heavy Rain (not exactly an RPG, but strong on consequences)
The Council is more a consequence-based Narrative RPG than a choice-based game.
RPGWatch: Will future episodes take place on different locations than island in the first episode? Will they have some new gameplay mechanics? What could you tell us about these future episodes?
Sylvain: There are new locations in the next episodes, but we will stay on the island. We also have new gameplay mechanics. For spoiler reasons, I will not go too much into the details.
Information aboutThe Council
Developer: Big Bad Wolf Studios
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2018-03-13
· Publisher: Focus Home Interactive