Original article: medium.com
Interview with German Wachnitz creator of the amazing indie game Rogue Empire.
Today the conversation will be with German Wachnitz, Co-founder and game producer at Portal Entertainment, creator of the amazing indie game Rogue Empire!
- Tell us a little bit about your game and where did the idea come from?
Rogue Empire Concept/Sketches
Rogue Empire is a classic fantasy turn based roguelike rpg/dungeon crawler.
It is about 5 kingdoms that get invaded by a mysterious race of beings known as the First Shadow. A huge conflict is staged where all races united against this foe. Then the first shadow disappears right after locking up all mayor cities in shadowy and impenetrable force fields. Adventures from all places are called to find out how to remove this shadow barriers and investigate the whereabouts of the First Shadow.
Its main features are:
- 7 races and 4 classes to choose from. (More classes to come)
- A leveling system where a subset of abilities are shuffled before you get to pick one.
- Unique boss fights.
- A unique world map where exploration is a thing and also has persistent effects on the world.
- You gather soul essence from your vanquished foes that persist from play through to play through and can be spend to enhance your gaming expirience.
- A unique timed gamed mode! Not for faint of heart!
I have always loved roguelikes among other thinks because of their replayability and amazing feeling of accomplishment during game play. This is my main motivation to do it :D. In my case I am pursuing this as a business for my self and invested my own money on it so there needs to be more than motivation. You need to find an excuse/reason to choose to make this particular type of game. At first glance you will notice there are hundreds of roguelikes out there so this prospect does not look good. But there are a few compelling reasons that if done right, roguelikes can be a great opportunity (by the way this is merely my opinion, I might be completely wrong :D):
- At its core roguelike fans are very fond of them and loyal. If they know about a good new roguelike they will probably try it out. They also give a lot of support and help during early access stages of the development processes which is amazing! What this means (I hope) is that there is a solid base of roguelike players craving for a new title. If you do some research on steamspy for example you willl notice good quality roguelikes have between 20k and 100k owners.
- Traditional roguelikes have some entry barriers that make them not appealing to a larger audience. These are actually getting care of by mayor roguelikes now a days which amazing! I truly believe the appeal of roguelikes is much wider than it appears. Main barriers to overcome in my opinion are:
- Controls: You need a system that acomodates new players and veteran players alike! Most hardcore roguelike fans use the keyboard for almost everything in a roguelike. This diminishes greatly the mentally nonactive time in turn based games increasing the likehood of a suspension of disbelief in the player. On the other side on new players keyboard controls have the exact opposite feeling. Players that are used to play with the mouse feel that you forcing them to use the keyboard is something totally unnatural.
- Context: Roguelikes are complex, they are really complex. It is fundamental to ease the journey of the player towards understanding this complexity as much as possible without ruining the joy of discovery that these games provide. This means contextual hints, menus and tutorials! Hinting not only at a game mechanic but also at alternatives. At the same time you need to avoid hinting the small things that provide that “Aha!” moment.
- Art/FX: The game needs to be visually attractive! There absolutely no motive ascii art can’t be a commercially successfully interface for roguelikes. Look at Cogmind for example, an amazingly successful roguelike. Its ascii art is custom made and of very high quality. Sadly most of potential gamers look at ascii games and don’t consider them worth it. You need to be extremely good and put a lot of effort in marketing to overcome that barrier. In my case I went for a hand made sprite/pixel based art in combination the powerful unity tools for doing effects.
- Game dynamics: In roguelikes your character usually dies and that’s it for him! This is called permadeath and can be incredibly frustrating, specially to new players. Permadeath is at the core of any roguelike and enables its replayability as well as defines the genre. Classical roguelikes mainly combat this with procedural location and encounter generation as well as multiple distinct starting combinations to make you dive in again for another try. Now I am a huge believer that the dying friction generated to the new players can be further eased with meta progression. Some die hard fans of roguelikes hate this idea and its ok. But I think most of us like this mechanics as long as they are properly balanced :D
- Compelling Story: I am not sure why but many roguelikes lack a compelling story! Some even forgo the story at all! This is a must in my opinion. It drives players to push harder and rewards them for their efforts. In the case of Rogue Empire the story is at its core as I have it outlined well beyond the first game release. The sketches and concept art showed here is directly related to it!
Roguelikes have an awesome potential for innovation and coolness :D Its not to hard to differentiate yourself as a designer/developer and provide uniqueness in mechanics.
2. In which platforms is your game accessible?
Rogue Empire Ilustration
3. In your opinion, what are the main characteristics of a good indie game?
I outlined some previously, but for me it comes to:
- Uniqueness and creative gamplay.
- Tight controls.
- Understand its user base and appeal to it.
- A good story!
4. What was your biggest challenge making the game, and how did you overcome it?
I think my (and for many others) the biggest challenge is and will be getting the mouth out that the game exists and is worth trying! Marketing with such a huge volume of indie games now a day is a daunting and very time consuming task! It takes a good 50% of the day I could be working on the game :(. But its something utterly necessary these days.
Apart from that I would say working with hired people for things I don’t know or don’t have the expertise to do properly can be an important challenge and should not be underestimated.
5. What indie games are your top inspirations?
Indie Game Dungeonmans one of inspirations.
6. What do you believe that needs to be improved in the Indie Games market?
That’s easy: Exposure. We need more exposure. Now, this is easier said than done.The media and gaming platforms are overwhelmed by the share number of games. So I am not sure what solution could be found.
7. Do you have any advice for beginners who wish to make games like you?
Rogue Empire Ilustration
I am not sure. I can tell you what I did, and that’s the Elon Musk approach.
For those who don’t recognize him he is called the Tony Stark of real life. He is the founder of spacex, tesla and other cool and future looking companies. He now manages this companies (with a fair amount of success) with the main goal of helping humanity in some grand way. But in order for him to fund these companies (no one would lend him money a the time as they thought he was crazy) he started out building less far stretched companies that gave him capital. And that’s the key word. Capital.
Now I am no Elon Musk and my objectives are far from things like saving global warming or establishing a permanent mars colony, but in my little world having capital at the start of the project meant a lot!
It let me hire independent people who handled things I am not good at like art, sound, intros and let me focus on things I do consider myself good at like design and development. This goes back to the polish argument: If any area of the game is lacking you will get bad reviews and eventually be dismissed for good reasons. Having a capital gives you leverage and a safety net.
Tools for making games are getting better and better. So if you save up for a couple of years and then do your game you will have better tools, more leverage and probably some time to build up contacts in the gaming and gamedev community.
- Contact other devs! Most are awesome people and will go beyond to give advice!
- Playtest what yo do early with friends!
- Give and you will get back!
- Above all love what you do and have fun!
- Be smart when you are showing/releasing stuff
8. Are there any final considerations you want to share?
Yes!! Thanks a lot for this interview! I hope people find it somewhat interesting and useful!
Try out Rogue Empire and let me know your thoughts! :P There is a fair amount of stuff that was made by the community, don’t be shy! :D