Michał Mikołajczyk (StrefaRPG.pl): Could you introduce yourselves? Is Ashes your first project?
Andrea: Hi I am Andrea, I am 29 and I love daysleeping, prime numbers, weissbier and my bipolar disorder. Ashes is our first and only project together, yes. I am the so called "coder".
Olly: Hi I’m Olly, 25, recently married, run a small company with a friend from uni and make beautiful music on my guitar… and of course the graphics on Ashes.
How long have you been playing computer games? Which are your favorite titles?
Andrea: I've been playing games for too long. I had my first computer, a Commodore 64, when I was.. 8 years old or so probably. That makes it for 20 years of gaming. Naming my favourite titles would be too long so I'll just stick to the all time best in RPGs: Ultima 7.
Olly: I started on a Commodore C16 which was bought for my brother and me one Christmas, 2nd hand by our technophobe parents (“it’s got a keyboard! We can do so much more than just play games!”) – it broke the same day L. Next was a C64 – many happy times, then an Amiga which was awesome followed by a CD32 which wasn’t and later an N64. Then there was a void before I came to PC gaming a bit late missing out on most of the good rpg’s on their release but nevertheless, my favorite titles are Planescape: Torment, Fallout, Arcanum, Gothic, Space Rangers, Silent Storm.
How did the idea to create Ashes come about?
Andrea: I was cleaning my kitchen and a pot felt on my head. Upon inspection of the wound, I found that the stained blood formed the first lines of code of something... and that something was Ashes. No, seriously... I just dreamt of seeing an U7-like game come to life with modern technology (3d), and since the wait began to be too long, I decided to code it by myself.
Olly: Plus Ashes already existed as a pen and paper rpg…
Andrea: Yes, that's true. I've been playing D&D with several groups of friends during the years. 12 years! Eventually I expanded the world, and so did the players. More worlds were added. Rules were dramatically changed. 3 years after the first "season" we were playing something that wasn't D&D anymore, and it kept attracting people for a decade.
Which type of graphics do you prefer more - 2D or 3D? Which type are you using in the game?
Andrea: It would be anachronistic to say that I prefer 2d graphic. I must admit that I love 3d. And 3d is what we're using. What I don’t like, instead, is the pursuit for ever increasing realism – that’s why Ashes graphics are cartoonish, but nonethless pleasant to look at (we hope!)
Olly: 2D or 3D depends entirely on the game; I have no real preference but dislike 3D being used when 2D would do the job better – like point and click adventure games with annoying cameras.
How large will the whole game world be? How many NPCs will we meet during the game?
Andrea: The world is large, very large and seamless. So large that populating/building it will be probably the heaviest effort of all our creative process!
Olly: Or in other terms: 9 times bigger than Ultima 7 ;)
Andrea: As for NPCs, we don't know yet - but surely something around 100 unique characters. Plus virtually unlimited random-generated NPCs.
Can you say something about the two worlds in the game?
Andrea: The first, Pangea, is your classic fantasy world. Warriors, mages, creatures, late-medieval setup. The second, Damocles... well think of it like nowadays Earth. I won't reveal more for now…
I know that one world will be a fantasy land. So, will we see magic, spells, dragons and other typical fantasy things there?
Andrea: Of course as I said you can expect all of that. Warfare is pretty much normal, while Magic is split into “schools” plus a couple special classes (Mindflayers and Runicists). The Rune Magic is pretty amazing and will inspire memories of “loom”, a classic 2d adventure, to old-OLD-time gamers..
Can you tell me anything about the story? I think it will prove to be one of the best points of the game.
Andrea: I don’t want to spoil the story. Just know that you’ll be visiting all of Pangea, a little bit of the other World (Damocles)... and... some other out-of-the-world place of which I won't tell much for now :)
It is very popular to create two endings in games nowadays; one for good characters and the second for evil ones. Have you considered this for Ashes?
Andrea: We’ve considered this: my point is to have various “false endings” and only one true ending in case you manage to accomplish “100%” of the game. To elaborate on that, a "false ending" is a point of the game where you think you've done it, you've solved the main quest or defeated the head foe. But maybe he isn't really dead and if you keep playing a bit, maybe to solve some unifinished side quests or so, you will be introduced to a new chapter of the main plot. Something like that: for example, think of Demon's Winter. For half of the game you think you have to defeat this demon named Xeres. When you finally find and kill him - and it's a long way to do so - the game let you think you've saved the world but at the same time *hints* there may be more.. and infact, Xeres - in the end - was only a puppet of higher evil forces.
How many races will we be able to choose from? Will we meet elves or dwarves in the game?
Olly: Sorry, Ashes has no place for pointy ears and the vertically challenged!
Andrea: In fact there’s a specific reason for this that we won’t be spoiling for now!
Olly: You mean other than the fact that it would multiply the workload? ;)
Andrea: (hides under the table)
How does character development work in the game? Will the character have hit points, mana and gain experience points to level up?
Andrea: Hit points, mana and basic stats are increased in the most classic way: XP gaining, and levelling. But there are other things you will be able to master/increase only by visiting the relative “School”. For example a certain character could be able to use blades, but not blunt weapons. Wanna arm him with that fabulous magic mace you found? Find the Blunt Weapons school somewhere around the world and pay! J
How many classes will we be able to choose from? Any special classes?
Andrea: I can already unveil the classes, which are divided into four groups:
Warriors: warrior, paladin, barbarian
Thieves: thief, darkhole thief
Special: runicist, mindflayer, true faith cleric
I have read on your website that combat is going to be turn-based. How will combat work exactly? Is it the same as combat from another game? Will we be able to see it soon in a video?
Andrea: You’ll be able to see combat in a video very soon. It’s turn based and works a lot like the turn based combat of the SSI games from 1980-90. I can name a specific title: Demon’s Winter. But also the “champions of krynn” series is a good paragon stone. Have a look!
Olly: Or more specifically: When combat begins a combat area is defined. The world outside this area is paused, only those inside it partake in the fight. If someone “escapes” the combat zone they are removed from combat. On top of this we are going to add a few other features to make it a bit more interesting. You will not be able to access our inventory during combat. Instead each party member will have a “tool belt” from which they can access up to 10 items. You need to prepare your tool belt in advance; filling it with whatever you think will be most useful.
Andrea: Honestly I've never been too attracted by combat, so I made it very simple, eventually much TOO simple, and Olly gave me some interesting ideas to develop. Power attacks, defending, guarding, unarming - a set of "diversions" that make the combat tactically more interesting. By using those wisely you may be able to overcome foes that are a lot more powerful than your party. For example "defending" triggers a defensive stance that makes the character lose his attack, but makes him/her a lot more resistant to physical attacks. It's useful if he/she is dying and you want to save him. Power attacking, on the opposite side, doubles the damage you deal but also lowers substantially your chance to dodge enemy attacks. Some of those options (there are more than just those) will be available only to experienced fighters or will require a specific special skill, though.
I try to imagine how realistic the game will be. The character is only mortal. So, does the party need to sleep, to react to temperature change and do they get hungry? or something similar?
Andrea: All of that. Prepare to sleep, feed your characters, undress in the southern regions of the world and find some fur to protect them when traveling north!
I think that our heroes will have "grand powers" so they will be able to break windows, burn trees or something like that. Will we be able to "demolish" locations?
Andrea: No, the world is hardly demolishable. Indeed you can move most of the objects of the world except walls, trees and such. But nothing is really breakable.
Olly: Well, you can trample on some flowers! ;)
How many types of equipment will there be in a game? I mean, is the given character going to use only ordinary items (for example: swords, armors, shields etc) or will there be special or magic items too?
Andrea: Expect the standard kind of objects you meet in every RPG on the face of earth... with some interesting twist here and there since you’ll find some items coming from the other world. Again, I am not spoiling the fun, in this case ;)
Olly: Plus you’ll need to use certain non combat objects to perform some tasks.
I have read on your forum a very interesting question: "How is traveling going to be implemented in ASHES? Will it be like Ultima VII's continious travel, or some hybrid of different sorts?
Andrea: This has been our major effort and central focus of the engine. Continuous travel, totally seamless world. No transitions at all. My jaw dropped in front of the beauty of Oblivion... but it dropped back when I found out that upon entering a building, there was a black screen and some loading. Such a HUGE step back!
Have you thought about beta-testing before you release the game?
Andrea: I don’t want a bunch of people hating me for nothing: the engine is admittedly buggy (although there are no real crashes and showstopper bugs)... I can think of beta testing when the bugs won’t be so obvious anymore ;)
I have realized that Ashes will not have the best graphics. So, how are you going to attract players' attention to the game?
Andrea: My (personal) answer is simple: I don’t want to attract people that care about graphics. Now you can see people complaining about the graphics of Oblivion or Half Life 2... I mean, are we kidding? How is it possible then that we had fun 10 years ago with those silly 2d sprites? Were we all stupid back then, or maybe the FUN FACTOR of a game is more important than the eye candy? Also I don’t think that Ashes graphics are bad – Olly is doing a great job creating something different (and remember, he’s ONE single person who does that as a hobby, not a whole bunch of professional 3d artists).
Olly: For an indie rpg created by two people with zero budget I think the gfx are pretty good. We’ve tried to make up for the graphical limitations with a more stylistic approach. It’s mainly people that are less interested in gfx and more interested in playing a good rpg that Ashes will appeal to. With regard to attracting their attention we’ll release some more videos in the future showing different gameplay elements - otherwise, interviews like this and word of mouth. Besides the game will be completely free so it’s not like we’ll lose anything if no one plays it. ;)
Have you ever heard about the Polish cRPG productions like the Witcher or Afterfall? If yes, what do you think about them?
Olly: I’m sure Andrea hasn’t but I have. Witcher looks quite promising with more depth than your average action rpg. I’m looking forward to it. As for Afterfall… well all I’ve really seen is that they changed their name and engine a few times… the tech is looking good but I wish they’d get on and finish the bloody thing!
I have a small request. Can you give to us some brand new screen-shots, which we will show between questions?
We can try! J Give us some days, since we’re creating new content as I answer your questions..
One last question. When will Ashes be finished?
Andrea: Ashes? What’s that? I think I heard something about it but I am unsure..
Olly: It’s hard to say as we’ve never done this before but 2008 would be my brutally honest guess.
Andrea: But again, if I suddenly become unattractive to girls, Olly divorces and we both become jobless, we could have a lot of spare time and complete the game in time for this Summer. Cross your fingers!! :)
Thank you for your time spent for answering my questions. I wish you a success in your work over the game and please, remember that we will be watching how the work is going.