In the Indie Game HQ’s latest interview we had the chance to speak with Johnathan Dixon of Modest Arcade. Johnathan spoke about the many complexities throughout the game that you don’t find in many RPGs these days. These complexities are ultimately what will likely separate Alcarys Complex from the rest of the industry.
About Alcarys Complex:
The continent of Elcaea’s most notable feature – more notable than its beautiful mountains, rivers, and gulfs – is the corruption that stains every cobblestone, runs down every wall, and leaks from every faucet. This is thanks in no small part to national leaders who sweat bile at the thought of doing something venerable.
The citizens of Elcaea detest this corruption, and they’d sooner approach a cloaked, hooded figure wearing a necklace of bones than someone in a business suit. Six of these citizens try to make a difference in a world where the wordcitizen is a pejorative.
Unfortunately for them, there’s no turning point. There’s no magic spell that’ll make it all better. There isn’t even a villain to murder in the name of justice. These individuals came too late to save a world brought to a slow boil by the blunders of the privileged.
But they’re resourceful. They’ll make up for lost time.
Indie Game HQ: Can you tell us a little bit about Modest Arcade?
Johnathan: I informally created Modest Arcade in January 2007 after I had a (barely) working prototype of Alcarys Complex, the “dream RPG” I had wanted to make since I was a teenager. Over the course of its development, it transformed from a standard JRPG into something else – it came to emphasize story and gameplay coming together in many varied ways, and it became a comment on every one of its influences and predecessors that came before it. It also stresses characterization to a great degree: Each of the main characters are very well-defined and have their own sets of strengths and flaws that go way deeper than “this character gets angry all the time,” or, “this character is aloof.” I’ve been writing this game since 2009, so I’ve had plenty of time to define the characters to my liking.
I do the writing and programming (at least for this game) and I contract out what I can’t do. I brought on Cesar Rendon to handle the environment and sprite art in 2007, and he’s been with us ever since. I also brought on Chris Apple, our composer, earlier this year in order to handle the soundtrack. We also have a few people that come and go as needed. We’re sort of decentralized, but I don’t think it’s really hindered us.
As a company, we want to prove that you can explore new themes and scenarios and still find an audience. We want to question genre, industry, and medium convention, and by doing so, we’ve opened far more doors than we’ve closed as far as what our games can do or be.
Indie Game HQ: What made you decide to use Kickstarter as opposed to other project funding sites?
Johnathan: It wasn’t really something that I’d looked into before I started planning the campaign. I’d heard of Double Fine Adventure and other Kickstarter-funded games, and I became pretty convinced after I started looking into it that Kickstarter was going to be a viable funding model. So I guess you could say that Kickstarter had more successful examples in the genre than other funding sites, and that’s what ultimately drew me in.
Indie Game HQ: Roughly how long does it take to complete this game, and how large is the world?
Johnathan: For someone who’s never played before, the game can run from six to twelve hours, depending on how much they do. The player is going to be exploring a world that’s a pretty decent size (it’s big enough that I’m feeling the hurt during bug testing), and a world that has depth to it, as well.
Almost every NPC you run into changes their dialogue based upon how much of the story you’ve passed, and there are a few different NPC types: there’s your standard NPC type, there’s an NPC type where you can select which party member starts the conversation, and there’s an NPC type that will ‘befriend’ certain playable characters.
The game will also account for your wanderings and if you find something interesting, you may get a special item or a point bonus later on. Characters in this game remember things, and they’re not stupid (for the most part), so if a character should know something, they will generally know it, regardless of whether that something occurred in the main plot sequence. (I’m obviously waltzing pretty hard around some major spoilers, so keep that in mind.)
Indie Game HQ: What made you want to allow the characters to move during combat; unlike most turn-based RPGs where they have your characters stationary?
Johnathan: I’m a big fan of Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, and other games like that, and so I added stuff to that model that I liked and took away stuff that I didn’t like. I also wanted my AI system to be a little more substantial than a conditional tree, so I guess from a programming standpoint it was more interesting to me.
Indie Game HQ: Do you have a set release date and price for the game?
Johnathan: We were actually supposed to release back in July, but some personal issues set me back. I guess this is where industry companies have the advantage, because if you go to the hospital or a family member gets into a car accident, the progress can continue while that person takes their convalescence. If you’re the only designer, progress grinds to a halt, unfortunately.
Fortunately, I can tell you that we’re almost done and we’re going to release no later than October 31st at a $20 price point from modestarcade.com. Keep your eyes out for bundles, discounts or other avenues to buy the game, too – these will come fast and frequent.
Indie Game HQ: Where else will Alcarys Complex be sold upon release?
Johnathan: You can get AC direct from modestarcade.com for now. Steam/Desura support is not planned as of this time, but we’ll see what happens. The game will also be ported to OS X by the end of the year.
Indie Game HQ: What made you decide that Alcarys Complex, as well as all future Modest Arcade titles, will be DRM-free?
Johnathan: We don’t use a digital rights management solution because we don’t believe in it. So long as I’m pulling infinite copies of our game from some magic well somewhere, I can’t really say that software piracy is theft. Something doesn’t seem right about that. But if you like what we did, we’d really appreciate it if you’d throw some scratch our way. It’d help us recoup our expenses and fund future projects.
I’d like to make a note, though: if (for example) we’re on a portal like Steam, we’re beholden to that platform holder’s policy and protection mechanisms (if they exist), and I would suppose that includes DRM in some cases. Rest assured, though, that on our distribution channels, you won’t see time-locked demos, always-on solutions, none of that. There’s actually a drawback to this policy, though: it’s hard to give out free serials for a game if serials are considered DRM (a basic variant, but still). I don’t think people have a problem with serials, though, if they’re reasonable.
Indie Game HQ: Thanks for your time. Is there anything you would like to add for our readers?
Johnathan: Sure! If you were thinking about making a game but haven’t, DO IT. Even if you can’t program, draw, or make music, even if you don’t think people will like it, even if you’re not a “gamer”, and even if you’re one of those who are convinced that games have become stagnant and stale. You have literally nothing to lose, and we have everything to gain as a medium with the presence of your voice.