A recent addition to the Xbox Live Community Games caught my interest. Up until now many of the titles, bar a few, have simply been examples of fun little pieces of gaming that prove XNA actually works, and many people can use it; nothing really worthwhile.
For the first time on Community Games, and Xbox Live Arcade as a whole, one developer has created a fully realised RPG. Using pre-rendered 3D technology, similar to Mortal Kombat’s character animation, a fully dynamic skill and character development system, as well as about 8 to 10 hours of gameplay, the game is called TWP: Spine of the World.
Being an RPG fanatic I had to find out more about this game, and the team behind it, TNT Gaming. So I managed to get an interview with the game’s Producer, and studio C.E.O. Travon Santerre.
Q. Firstly thank you for taking the time to have this interview. Trinity Wars Prologue: Spine of the World, an Action Role-playing Game, is possibly the deepest of it’s genre we have seen on Community Games, and Xbox Live Arcade. What was your motivation for developing a game like this?
A. The core of our team is I and three of my lifelong friends. We have always been interested in RPGs since elementary school. We wanted to shoot for a game that would allow us to tell a story, but also have relatively simple game play. We really wanted to push the envelope of community games away from the puzzle heavy titles and into a game with an actual narrative and storyline.
Q. With regards to the narrative and lore of the game world, I can definitely point out some obvious high influences, but for the readers can you tell us what influences played a big part during the writing process?
A. I was not only the producer and lead programmer, but I wrote the script myself. I have always written short stories most of my life. The lore and narrative of this game are a part of a world that I first wrote about when I was in 4th grade. The world of Trinity is different from a normal fantasy world in the way it mixes not just European mythology into its roots, but Asian, African, and Middle Eastern mythology. Much of that depth is not seen in a game this small, but those areas will be explored in the series.
Q. Can you tell us a little about the gameplay? What can players expect when they sit down for a session of TWP: Spine of the World?
A. In its simplest form the game is a hack and slash platformer. You can expect to mow down waves of enemies as you explore the various levels. The real fun is in customizing and building your character. You can expect to level up, gain stat points and skill points to assign to the stats you like and the skills you use. Over the course of the game you will choose a class and develop down a path that is unique on every play through. You can buy weapons, armor, potions, and enchant your equipment using runes and gems you find. You can expect to beat the game in 6-10 hours with a character level 40+ depending on your character build.
Q. It is obvious that a lot of hard work and passion has gone into the development of this game. How long did it take from start to completion, and were you happy with the time frame?
A. From the first Conference Call to release was just over 6 months. We originally thought we could do it in 3 months but not knowing what we were getting into, it ended up taking twice that time.
Q. Right from the off, was TWP always going to have sequel? How many are you planning for the series?
A. It was always going to have a sequel, because we viewed the game from the start as a learning experience for us. The word “Prologue” in the title has always been there because the story we are telling is very large. We are planning at least 2 more games in the prologue series. The next installment, TWP Heart of the Wood, will be a more traditional console-style RPG.
Q. Being gamers yourselves, what games played a role in the development process?
A. Faxanadu for the NES was one of the first Action-RPG platformers. Being that we were children when games like that were out, we took great influence from older games with more depth and less flashy graphics. Diablo was also a huge influence for us. Our enchanting system allows similar enchantments where an item has both a prefix and suffix enchantment. The skill system, stat progression, and hack and slash mentality in that game also influenced us a lot.
Q. Have you or your team worked on any games previously?
A. We made our first game together in high school. Nothing we have done has ever been released or been of this magnitude.
Q. Here’s a question a lot of XNA developers must get asked, but how did you find the whole process Microsoft has in place for developing Community Games? Was there anything you think should be changed to make it more accessible?
A. Overall I love the concept of Community Games. Microsoft has opened the floodgates of a console to small developers like us. I once tried to get a dev kit for the other consoles. It is horribly expensive and without credibility or a big budget you have zero chance of getting one. I think the most important feature is a rating system within the XBOX Marketplace. This will weed out bad titles and allow good games to shine.
Q. Have your team done any PR work to promote the game?
A. We haven’t done much PR because small games often have small budgets. We broke our original budget and just didn’t have anything left.
Q. Where do you see your studio in the future? Are you planning any other projects outside of Trinity Wars Prologue?
A. We are already knee deep in our next project, TWP Heart of the Wood. The game will shift to a classic, console style RPG with lots of cool features. We are currently expanding the core team that makes up our studio and excited about making another RPG for XBOX Live Community Games.
Q. For our readers who are RPG fans, tell us why they should buy your game.
A. I will say that you should not buy our game if you are looking for next-gen graphics. Do buy it if you are looking for a fun Action-RPG with a great story, which gives you more actual control over how your character develops than most $59.99 RPGs out there.
This game is something special. It has a very old school feel to it, and a certain style that I feel very comfortable with. If you’re an RPG fan I’d recommend downloading the trial game and finding out for yourself.