RPG Italia presents the second part of the interview to the Lead Designer of Zaharia, new RPG from Inner Void. Nathan will reveal further details of this all-Italian project. You can read the first part of this interview here.
10 – RPG Italia: Tell us something about the ruleset: has it been created from scratch or were you inspired by some pre-existing system? What about character growth , horizontal or vertical? Will it be a class based system or more free? And how will it work the acquisition of new skills?
Nathan: It was created from scratch by myself, through a very complex job that is not finished yet, although there are already the bases. It is something quite different from the usual, as we wanted to incorporate mortality of the human being into the game: the combats will be extremely dangerous and anyone, even the veteran warrior in heavy armour, risks of being killed by a group of farmers, especially if he thinks he’s able to win by simply charging them.
I tried to create a system capable of simulating many dynamics of combat: the defensive capacity of a character based on parry and dodge, the influence of fatigue and injury of an individual, the importance of hitting to the sides or backstab, the danger of being outnumbered and the opportunity to interact with the environment having some advantages.
The PC growth system will be much less vertical than it’s seen in other RPGs. Basic attributes such as Strength or Intelligence can’t be increased by levelling up. Variables like health points will remain pretty much unchanged throughout the game, while will be the abilities to grow up.
An horizontal growth will be used regarding skills as well. Raising skill to high levels requires a considerable investment of experience, while the same amount of experience can be used to develop a lower lever competence in a larger number of abilities.
The game will not be class-based, growing system will be completely free, with the exception of magical abilities, which can only be acquired at the beginning of the game, or when you join a faction, for the sake of coherence. The common study of magic requires considerable application and it would be unrealistic that the character can acquire magical abilities all of a sudden.
Players can gain a new level buying (using experience points as a currency) skill points or talents (which represent specific knowledge subordinated to one or more skills). There will not be a true and classic level system because the experience points can be directly invested in PC growth system. You can then acquire unique skills, especially joining a faction.
11 – RPG Italia: Quest Design: how many kinds of interactions and approaches can we use in exploration, combat or quest resolution phases? Are there puzzles or investigations? Can you give us a few examples?
Nathan: There are many different approaches, which can be grouped into three main categories: combat, stealth and diplomacy. While the fight, usually simply include to fight someone or something, for stealth and diplomacy there will be plenty more shades. Especially for diplomacy, which will be linked to the reputation and prestige of the character.
There are of course also other approaches such as the resolution of enigmas, mysteries and so on, although our intention is to make optional this kind of approaches, because they aren’t based on the character’s skills, but on those of the player. To solve an enigma using only a check on the wisdom of the PC is something that make useless the enigma, at the same time making it mandatory would be frustrating for many players. For example, I’ve had to put an enigma into a quest a little time ago: the resolution of this enigma is not mandatory, but it allows you to speed up and to save money, an advantage that other approaches cannot provide.
This is the very important thing in my opinion: not to create a series of approaches all equal to each other in terms of advantages during the game. There are situations in which the use of diplomacy is better suited, and other situations in which the diplomatic approach would be of little use. For this reason the player should not rely solely on the skills at its disposal to best solve each problem, but will also have to think on the different situation and understand which one of all the approaches will be the best (between all the approaches at his disposal, even considering the help of his companions). This is very important because in many RPGs the various solutions offer practically the same advantages in every situation and this happens simply because the need of inserting multiple approaches is accompanied by the need of making them balanced with each other (in orider to avoid some character build to be less useful than others). This, perhaps, may be acceptable in a short and linear game, but it is our intention to create a very large and free title, in which the player may be disadvantaged in some situations, but also advantaged in others. Among other things, it is more or less the way it works in real life.
12 – RPG Italia: Level Design and Stealth: how does the stealth system wotks? Will it be possible to discover secondary paths or secrets to avoid an obstacle or to use alternative approaches?
Nathan: We want to give a lot of importance to stealth, which will be structured more or less as it happens in the “Commandos” series: real-time movements, interaction with different elements of the scenario (such as obstacles or hideout), simulation of the noise caused by the actions of characters and an artificial intelligence that reacts quickly to various stimulations (such as hearing footsteps or finding an open door). Thanks to a stealthy approach it will be possible to resolve many quests in an alternative way and, in many cases, it can also be used outside of a mission, simply to get rich or to find out more informations about a particular NPC.
13 – RPG Italia: Tell us about the Combat System: how does it work, what kind of camera, number of characters, or interactions can we use and how will the difficulty level be balanced?
Nathan: Combat system will be turn based, with an isometric view and a variable number of fighters (we are still considering whether to put a limit on the number of companions that the player can carry around). There will be a good interaction with the scenario. It can be used to take advantage both in terms of covering and in term of using spells or special abilities. Regarding the difficulty level it will be subject to the intention of creating a realistic and coherent experience: for this reason we will not see the crazy things that happen in other games, like to see that the same enemies that we dealt with at level one, later on have risen their level based on ours. In Zaharia inexperienced farmer remains the same. Nevertheless, we don’t want to create an experience that, in the long term, becomes unbalanced and excessively easy. We already have solutions in mind about this problem, but I would prefer not to talk about it now and wait for a more advanced stage of development.
14 – RPG Italia: Man does not live by fighting alone, so tell us more about the dialogue system: how does it work? Will there be the classic Stat/Skill Check? Are there also non-dialectical interactions but equally usable through dialog box?
Nathan: Our intentions are to create something new even for the dialogue system. First we are going to create two different interfaces the player can choose from: the first is very classic and provides a simple list of options, while the other one will be something different from the usual and can be comparable to what we’ve seen in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. For each line of dialogue there will be only one or two descriptive words, but in order to eliminate the risk of seeing your character saying unexpected things compared to what is written in the short description, it will be possible to examine the line of dialogue simply passing the mouse over the descriptive icon. This system is primarily designed to not scare and confuse players with an endless list of dialogue options to choose from, showing only the descriptive words, thanks to which the player will be immediately directed to his lines of dialogue of choice. This system is entirely optional and lovers of the classical system can choose to adopt it without any problem.
About the use of skill interactions within the dialogue, we will not limit ourselves inserting some check based on dialectical skill, but it will be possible to have check on almost every skill. For example, a very skilful alchemist can expose a charlatan through a check on alchemy skill.
15 – RPG Italia: Tell us some examples of “Newton’s Third Law” in Zaharia and explain how you intend to promote this very important aspect in your RPG.
Nathan: The system of choices and consequences is the base of the entire game: the goal we have set ourselves is to put the player in the centre of a whole serie of decisions of various importance, that will have every time an impact on the world. This impact will be showed in the short or long term and the player will have to live with his choices, for better or for worse. What we want to avoid is the typical triadic system of choices that appears in many RPGs, where only three options are presented: one evil, one good and one neutral. Given that we don’t want to enter any moral dualism, but it is our intention to transpose in a mature way the theme of moral relativism, the choices will always be contextual and never dictated by absolute points of reference such as the concepts of Good or Evil (because they are something very personal). For this reason, we want always to leave several options to the player depending on the situation and the separation between Good and Evil will never be clear and easy one to understand. Since the beginning, then, rather than focusing on the quantity of material, we decided to focus on quality. Our intent is to offer an extremely free experience, in which will be possible to experiment a wide range of interpretation and a constantly changing world, in which the player’s choices will have a global effect, not just limited to single quest.
16 – RPG Italia: What can you say about the AI? How do react enemies, companions and NPCs during stealth phases or other types of interactions? And increasing the difficulty level can influence AI in some way?
Nathan: artificial intelligence is something on which we want to work with extreme care, because we believe it is important to offer reactive and dynamic characters, able to really put the players in a fantasy world populated by real people and not simply dispensers of missions and money. AI will obviously be important during stealth phases, because they will be developed in a realistic way and plausible reactions will be needed from AI controlled NPCs. Regarding an IA change linked to the difficulty level , this will be at the discretion of the player, who at any time can change several parameters to adapt the experience to its capabilities. It will be possible to choose the complexity of artificial intelligence in a separate way from the general difficulty of the game, giving even the novice player, or simply a person less interested in a certain type of challenge, an adventure in a world populated by realistic characters.
17 – RPG Italia: About looting and the use of objects and equipment: How many types of weapons and armor will be available? Will it be possible to craft them? In which way will be possible to customize our characters, and our companions ? Will there be some survival aspect that will influence the use of objects?
Nathan: these are things we have not decided yet. There are several hypotheses that we still have to consider in relation to costs and development time, but also in relation to the structure of the title. What is certain is that the management of the equipment will have a key role not only in combat but also in the exploration and stealth phases. About the possibility of modifying the equipment of party members, we want to create a system that takes in mind the personality of the companions, in order to avoid incoherences of every kind, such as characters willing to throw away an important family amulet simple because the player has found another one that brings some slightly better benefit.
18 – RPG Italia: Did you already established a release date and platform of reference? Are you considering a playable demo? And do you think to use crowdfunding through Kickstarter or IndieGoGo?
Nathan: the release date is still uncertain, in the coming months there will be a playable demo that shows the combat system in work. To obtain the funds necessary for the development of the game we will confide on crowdfunding and probably will use IndieGoGo because of the territorial limits imposed by Kickstarter.
19 – RPG Italia: Finally, the question that many italians are waiting: will be only in english or also in italian?
Nathan: Of course it is an Italian product and the Italian version will be the reference one, but there will also be an english version.
Nathan thanks for letting us know of these first interesting details about Zaharia. RPG Italy wishes you a special good luck for this project.