In Indie Game HQ’s latest interview, we had the chance to speak with GrimGary, the man behind the upcoming retro-styled isometric 2D RPG Epica Rex. The project has been under development by GrimGary since August 2011. He, as are many indies, is trying to create the game he himself wants to play. GrimGary was nice enough to provide us with some insight as to what exactly he has planned for Epica Rex.
About Epica Rex:
“Project Epica Rex” (The working title, which very loosely means ‘The King of Stories”) is a multiplayer sandbox RPG system. It is not an MMO, but rather a multiplayer experience. Each person who has a copy of Epica Rex will be able to join existing worlds, or run their very own world. It is styled in retro-2D pixel sprites using an isometric perspective.
Indie Game HQ: Who is behind Epica Rex, and how have they been working on it?
GrimGary: I am the sole developer and artist on the project at the moment. I’ve been working on Epica Rex since August of last year (2012) specifically. Though it has evolved out of other projects I started and didn’t get too serious about. I have pulled in two musicians at this point. DJ Orician and a local good friend of mine Joe Gallagher Jr (Loque Music) are doing tracks for the game. Soon I’ll be reaching out for a web developer and perhaps a PR person. So, this is a small time garage type operation where everyone is working for the project rather than the promise of infinite booty. Hopefully, we reach the infinite booty level though!
Indie Game HQ: All the games you mention under influences all have some major commonalities, even though they are quite different. Freedom, sense of expression, exploration, as a whole, what are you trying to extract from these games as the essence for your game?
GrimGary: An excellent question. Ultima being probably the heaviest of the influences I have. I grew up with the Ultima Series. Was a part of the Ultima Online testing. I think it was at that point where I really wanted to make a game of some sort. But Ultima affects the retro style of the game, keeping it in its pixel sprite format (on top of being the easiest assets for me to create and manage). Though it wasn’t until Ultima 8 that isometric came in, I still attribute much of the art styling to Ultima 6 and 7. Fallout 1 and 2 have a pull on the game, as far as where a particular game world could end up. There is a possibility for worlds to advance into a high enough tech or magic stage that a player can obliterate a world (and subsequently try to rebuild it). I always liked the way Age of Wonders set up units and characters. Very minimal stats, and everything else is a skill or an ability. This game will have very few primary stats, and the rest will be skills and abilities that make your character more unique. And lastly we have Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress for the building and NPC management. I want people to be creative while playing the game, and I also want a little more depth on top of that creativity. Find some lost and lonely friendly NPCs in the wilderness and hire them as your shop keepers, item makers, farmers and guards.
Indie Game HQ: Epica Rex will feature four unique ages, but how do users advance to the next age?
GrimGary: The beginning age is the Archaic Age. Meaning, your character can only use skills and tools set for anything up to a renaissance tech level before the advent of gun powder. At this point you can only be an Archaic age character. When I develop and add in the ages to follow, players can betgin to choose skills that are more technologically advanced on top of their current skills. Secondly, when the new age is added in, players can choose to play a character that came from that age. So for instance, once the Modern Age is added in, your character could have been a cell phone using politician from Washington D.C. with any skills that may suit that, or even an electrical engineer. There is no overall ‘world’ advancement from one age to another; they’re actually all kind of mashed together – thrown into this world. This will become clear when the background story is released. If you’ve ever read Riverworld, you’ll get the gist of it. Also keep in mind, that an administrator can turn off an age, its skills, abilities or magic as they see fit. If someone wants a completely Future Age world, they can disable anything that doesn’t fit with that such as magic.
Indie Game HQ: With 64 players, server loads can get intense, how is Epica Rex planning on tackling this technical puzzle?
GrimGary: This is going to depend on the individual player and what kind of system they are running the server on. Lower end systems or players will low bandwidth issues may want to avoid jacking up the max players. I also want to state I am removing that limit hopefully with no upper-end limit on the number of players at all. If a user feels they can handle 1,000 players and has the hardware to do it, then hopefully Epica Rex‘s engine won’t be the bottleneck. This is something that will need to be tested of course.
As far as world crowding issues go, the worlds that Epica Rex generates should be large enough for people to settle in. The crowding issue wouldn’t be any worse than any busy Minecraft server.
Indie Game HQ: How does skill progression work? Does the player need to obtain and spend skill points, level up, found in a box? Are skills worked up based on usage and do they go down due to atrophy?
GrimGary: It’s a bit of a mix of two systems. You will level up and get skill points. You can spend those points on the few primary stats or on your skills and abilities. Skills themselves have a potential rating. If you use a skill, it is more likely that you can spend skill points on it. Let a skill sit, and you can’t raise it too much. Skill levels will be independent of level, as in no skill cap based on your level (except when creating a character). And as far as I know, there will be no atrophy. The idea is to make character growth upwards oriented and fun, rather than a chore if you’re not into doing something in your phase of play.
Indie Game HQ: You say that administrators can enable and disable skills, features, and abilities, but how much control will they have over the world?
GrimGary: Administrators aside from being able to control what their world offers for skills and the like will be able to do the following: edit the world map to their liking to the extents that they like it, add or remove creatures from the spawn lists, set the level of difficulty for the server (as you move away from the world spawn point, the world tends to get harder), set where the spawn point is located, add in monsters and monster groups directly to the world, add in NPC along with a simple dialog and flag set up (think of it as a tiny scripting system – Does player have X item? Then say “Blah” -Take Item, If not “Say Blah”), and of course all the administrator type commands that would be expected in a multi player environment (kick, ban, ip ban, restart, etc, etc). So I would say I will be giving admins quite a bit of power, this should ensure that they can give players a more enhanced sort of experience beyond the procedurally created content.
Indie Game HQ: How do you plan to tackle modding and player server management issues that are commonly found in multiplayer game design?
GrimGary: I haven’t really thought about modding at this point. I would like to think that I could provide something like that. But I suppose every game has some sort of shortcoming. I would say that modding (easily) is not in the books right now, but I will come back to it at a future date.
As far as player server management issues. Admins will have quite the number of commands at their fingertips to deal with miscreants. If referring to things like griefers as were found in Minecraft; in this game you cannot just run into someone’s property and start wrecking things. In order to change anything on someone’s property you must be given permission to do so, or the owner has to be involved in a pvp/war situation.
PvP/War situations are ultimately up to each administrator to handle. If they don’t want PvP, they can turn it all off or just allow certain types of player vs player battles. I would hope though, as a personal preference that they keep War-PvP on between groups. Those are going to be awesome.
Indie Game HQ: Upon release what platforms do you intend on supporting, and where do you plan on retailing the game?
GrimGary: Currently Windows, Mac and Linux are my current targets. I will look into tablets and other mobile devices at some other points when I have the main bulk of the work down. As far as retailing, I’m hoping to hit up Steam – maybe. But Project Greenlight has the problem of a huge backlog as stated by Gabe Newell (specifically that Valve themselves are the problem). There have been multiple Indie store sites that I’m looking into, as an example Indiegala.com. Other than that, selling the game right off the official website.
Indie Game HQ: What is your ultimate self-goal in creating Epica Rex?
GrimGary: Not to fumble at the last yard before the time runs out. Haha. This is probably the biggest project I’ve worked on by myself. But since I sat down and made the commitment months ago, I’m full steam ahead or bust. I am fully committed to this project (despite groans from my girlfiend and son). What I don’t want to do is get too big-headed or lie to my fan base. If I can’t manage something or get something done right away, I want to be honest and up front about it. There was one game (I will not name directly) that became pretty popular recently, but failed to deliver on its promises, lied about it, and didn’t even bother to issue a real apology. I don’t want to ever be that type of developer. So the biggest goal is to get the best gaming experience I can provide to people who play this game and remain humble and honest while doing it.
Indie Game HQ: Thanks for your time. Is there anything you would like to add for our readers?
GrimGary: I just hope that people will like the game. I’m not entirely sure the demographics on retro-styled pixel sprite isometric games. Whether I make only $5 on it ever, or twenty two bajillion dollars on it I just want to be able to provide something special and make some sort of mark in the gaming industry. In these last few months I have enjoyed getting to know my own community better as well as meeting all sorts of new people. So whether you like this style of game or not, don’t be shy and say hello to me! I don’t bite…at all really.