Following my trip to London for the EGX Rezzed conference, I was given the opportunity to ask questions about yet another indie game for the blog; the subject of this particular session is a game called Forged of Blood. Set in a morally ambiguous fantasy world reminiscent of Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons series, Forged of Blood is a tactical RPG, similar to the likes of Tactics Ogre & XCOM, complete with a variety of different weapons and magic to do battle with and a morality system similar to Fable or Mass Effect. I managed to send across some further questions about the game I had to the creative director of Critical Forge Games, Igor Tanzil, and amidst the game’s ongoing Kickstarter campaign, these are the answers he gave;
What were the influences behind your game?
Forged of Blood is really the love child of the different personalities and gaming preferences of the studio’s founders. Mechanically, it’s heavily influenced by the tabletop RPGs we’ve played along with the old-school TRPGS and RPGs that a lot of us grew up playing. Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, X-Com (both old and new) and of course Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder, you name it, we’ve played it and loved it – and so we set out to make the game that took the best parts of all the games we’ve loved and merged it with modern graphics we can get with Unreal Engine 4. I’ll let Milo our Game Designer take the reigns on the mechanical side below while I cover the world at large.
For the setting of the game we really wanted to set it in a hard fantasy world that is really grounded in the reality of that world. That means coming up with a world and coming up with the rulesets that would govern that world. We asked ourselves, ok so how would small unit tactics make sense in our fantasy world? How did magic permeate society and perhaps more importantly what is possible and not possible with the magic in our world? My partners are huge Brandon Sanderson fans and I personally loved the old Stargate SG-1 worlds and Roman cultures and so I kind of took all that in when I started with the world-building. What we end up with is Attiras: A world that is heavily inspired by Roman culture and one where there we have an older ruling species giving way to a new species before getting supplanted.
Attiras is something very near and dear to my heart – it is basically the world upon which I’ve really imprinted my own personal thoughts and feelings of morality. Growing up I’ve always felt out of place, being a minority in my own country (Indonesia) and then growing up in two other countries wherein I was just as much an outcast there as I was in my own home. So I really wanted to explore the themes of race and the tensions that come with a ruling minority and how a smaller population might come to power. Of course, at the end of the day Forged of Blood is still a video game, and that means that a lot of these things might be relegated into the depths of our lore books, but my partners and I definitely felt that we needed to have a fully fleshed-out world for us to then create within. The challenge now falls to us to pick and highlight the stories within our world that are fun for a game and make for the compelling story to drive the narrative forward.
What has the developmental process been like?
The short answer? A thrill ride.
The more realistic and complicated answer is that it has been – and continues to be – a process that teaches, humbles, and excites us. As a brand new studio, the onus fell on us to remove as much doubt and risk from our future consumers as possible, and to that end, we’ve taken a very pragmatic approach to our development process. To us, that means making sure from the very beginning that we are able to make the things that we set out to make before committing to it, and that led us to initially launch the studio with a small team of six to prototype and world build the game we had in mind. During this time we split the team into two, with the programmers
testing and building upon a toolkit in Unreal Engine 4 and the rest of us testing out the base mechanics on the tabletop before implementing it in-engine to test.
From there we iterated repeatedly until we had something that we felt was fun to play before expanding the team to include the art side of the studio. We’ve since hit a few big milestones in just under a year, from our first fully rendered tactical map to implementing the strategic and tactical layers together, the progress we’ve made here at the studio has just been a wonder to behold.
What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
Oh boy, everyone will probably have a different answer to this question for I personally have two favorites. I think the first thing that really got me excited for Forged of Blood was the worldbuilding. It was and continues to be a creative process unlike any other that I’ve done. Being given the freedom to create an entire world, and then working with the team to bring that world to life and seeing how others interpreted the world and the rules I’ve created has been just an absolute treat for me. However, what I think the most exciting aspect of the development for all of us has been seeing it all come together right before PAX. Our pre-alpha PAX build was the first time we’ve seen it all start to come together, and being able to catch a glimpse of the game both on the Strategic Layer and Tactical Layer was a huge morale boost for everyone.
What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
The most challenging aspect of the development process so far is finding the balance between our own dreams and ambitions and the limitations we have as a small studio. When we started the studio we focused our efforts almost entirely on finding the right team and luckily for us we’ve all worked together on a larger project before and it just came down to picking the right person for each role. That said, ours is still a very small team and our budget basically dictated the production time we’d have to work on Forged of Blood, and that in turn dictates just how much we can actually do. It’s tough on all of us when we have to forego a good idea or limit the number of assets we can have, but finding compromise is ultimately the only way forward.
How well has the game been received so far?
This is really interesting to experience as a new indie studio. The hard truth is that for the most part we are ignored. We’re the “nobodies” from a third-world country that just isn’t known for video games, and we’re working on a very deep game with a rather small market segment – and that has seriously affected just how far word of our game has reached.
However, it has been extremely gratifying to experience the reaction of people who actually gave us a minute to hear our spiel and actually checked out the game. The people that stopped by our little booth at PAX East kept coming back, and they brought their friends time and time again. The more we engaged with people who found the idea of a Fantasy Tactical RPG interesting, the more they loved the project and we’ve even gotten some fans who are helping us spread the word out.
I think we’ve really hit the nail on the head in creating a game that appeals to our market – the fans we’ve made in the last few weeks is a testament to that – but we’re still hindered by a lot of the fatigue that comes from other failed Kickstarter projects and our studio’s relative anonymity. However, we knew that going in and we’ve taken the steps mentioned before in removing as much risk from the consumer as we can even though it is a great expense to ourselves.
What were the influences behind the combat system?
To quote Milo, our game designer:
Before we began designing the game, we discussed what type of game we wanted to make. We wanted a game based on meaningful choices, dark/hard fantasy, and set in a believable world. This leads to decisions about spell crafting and Magurite to create a more hard fantasy feel in which you draw the energy in from the environment before expelling it back out, combining with the Magurite to provide a power source for the spells. We also drew heavily from games we are all fans of, such as X-Com, Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and other turn-based tactical and RPG games. Our Standard Action, Move Action, and Quick Action structure is quite similar to something you would see in Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons. We also wanted to provide as much freedom for the players as we could, which lead us to have classless character builds that focus more on how the characters will play rather than what their role will be.
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
While the PC is our primary platform, we will be looking into releasing it on other platforms once the PC version has been released. We have also had a lot of people asking for Linux and Mac from our fanbase and that is certainly something that is feasible with Unreal Engine 4, but we’ll confirm everything once the game is further along.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
The biggest advice we can give to aspiring devs right now is just: make the game you can finish. It’s always great to shoot for the stars – in a way that’s what we’re doing – but it’s even more important that you end production with a game that ships. For us, that means approaching the mechanics and art in a very iterative way that allows us to learn, execute, iterate, and streamline the different production threads in the studio. It also means being able to acquiesce to the very real limitations of time, money, and ability when approaching some of our more grandiose ideas for the game. We are ultimately judged on the work we show, and if the game never ships we have nothing upon which to build on.
Where about on the Internet can people find you?
While we have a website and blog, we are also very active in a few gaming communities that I’ll include below. In fact the majority of our fanbase game from these gaming communities – mostly gamers who are really into the sort of game we are developing that they are willing to hear us out and check out the game.
Game Website: http://forgedofblood.com/
Studio Website: http://criticalforge.com/
Kickstarter Campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/criticalforge/forged-of-blood
RPGCodex Thread: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/forged-of-blood-turn-based-tactical-rpg-kickstarter-live.111536/
Do you have anything else to add?
I think we’d like to take this time to just express our gratitude for the amount of love we’ve gotten from our fans so far. We’d also like to take the time to plead our case to the many skeptics out there.
Forged of Blood is an ambitious project for us – for anyone really – but we’ve approached it every step of the way with the sort of pragmatism that we truly believe will result in a game many will enjoy. We’ve taken a huge risk in trying to alleviate the risks to the consumer and we hope that that you will judge us by the work we show. We’ve put everything we have into this game and we will see it through, though we are on Kickstarter for a reason. We need those funds to truly elevate the game to be what we know it can be, but no matter the outcome Forged of Blood will be completed.
Thank you so much for this interview, and please never hesitate to reach out to us!
I would also like to take the time to thank Igor for providing such an in-depth insight into the game and to wish him and the team the best of luck with the title, and the Kickstarter campaign. Forged of Blood looks very much on par, if not better than, many of the other RTS games I saw at EGX Rezzed, and I would recommend any readers check out their Kickstarter page.