Gaming Cypher had the pleasure of interviewing 1-man team developer Kevin Giguère (Dragon Slumber) of Arelite Core.
1. How did the idea of Arelite Core come about?
I grew up on games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, so when I decided to settle down and make a game, a traditional JRPG felt like the right choice. Those always felt like great games for me because the designers never took anything for granted, they tried to push the envelope with every title and try to add new and interesting mechanics. Of course, those are 20 year old games and gamers expectations are very different nowadays, which brought me to design something that blended retro aesthetics with more modern conveniences.
I spent a lot of time questioning every RPG trope, trying to streamline what didn’t need to be complicated like character stats, providing conveniences like the ability to save anywhere and restoring full health just by entering a village. I also removed random monster encounters in dungeons and replaced them with shadows which can be avoided for a time. The battle system was especially refined as I added a combo system for increased damage, a blitz system to replace magic, and stances where the player can customize each party member’s actions. Rather than simply mashing “Attack,” these systems force the player to establish strategies and make each character work together otherwise battles rapidly devolve into failure.
When writing the script, I made a point of avoiding the expected cliches, like having an amnesiac sword wielding soldier filled with self doubt as my hero. Instead, you play as a master blacksmith who sets off in the world to perfect his craft and is forced to become a hero through circumstances. Karden isn’t a warrior, but he’s willing to stand against adversity because he knows that there’s just no one else. And from having a blacksmith as my hero, I added the ability to mine ore to forge weapons.
So really, I wanted to work on Arelite Core because I felt I could bring something different to a genre, the retro JRPG, which I often felt has stagnated over the years.
2. Programming your own engine from scratch is amazing. Why did you decide to do that instead of using RPG Maker?
When I started Arelite Core, I knew that I wanted to make a game that would stand out in all aspects, from the overall presentation to the battle system, along with additional features I might conceive. I felt that I could make a great game with RPG Maker, but that I would need to limit my scope. I was also concerned that it would still have the background feel of being an RPG Maker game.
By starting from nothing, I was forced to consider every aspect of the game I was making, like the way the character travels, the options available in battle and the design of the menus. I have a lot of highly complex scripted events in my game so by making the tools myself, I know that they could accomplish whatever job I intended for them and if not, I could simply add the feature within a few hours. I already have a coliseum mode independent from the main game for instance which acts like a challenge mode with set battles, and the ability to create personalized skirmishes. And, it also means that I could port the game later on to other platforms fairly easily, once I am done with the Windows version of the game.
3. Do you prefer being a one-man team?
Being a one-man team definitely has its ups and downs. On one hand, I have to manage everything so when problems start rolling in, I cannot rely on anyone else to take care of things. Some days I just do not have time to work on programming or design because there are just too many other tasks that need to be addressed and I am the only one who can attend to them, like managing the contracted artists who produce all the visuals. However, when it comes to the game itself, I can just do things without needing to consult, and by being the programmer and the designer, if there is a feature I want, I can just do it. I do not answer to anyone but the players, so I can just spend time working on any aspect of the game until I get it right.
That being said, for my next project, I definitely would prefer to work with a team to alleviate my workload and enable me to focus more on the game itself. Being on my own is definitely draining, especially for a project as big as Arelite Core which has been in production for three years already. But if I cannot assemble a team I would be satisfied with, I will continue to be a one-man team. Whatever it takes to get the job done.
4. Why not use Kickstarter to help fund the game?
Because Arelite Core is my passion project, I did not want to ask for money at first. I felt that it was my responsibility to bring it to fruition and it felt unfair to place the financial burden on the player’s shoulders. I was also concerned that yet another JRPG would get lost in the Kickstarter shuffle, especially since the game I envisioned was quite large, quite diverse and would cost a lot more than I felt people were willing to pay from an unproven developer. I am the kind of guy who would rather throw himself into something where I have enough confidence that I will succeed, so I decided to finance everything on my own, which cost about a decade of savings as well as money from my full time job. It has been rough, I did have to take out a loan, but I think the results look fantastic. I can only hope that the players will agree.
5. If you could be any video game hero or villain ever created, who would you be?
I had to think long and hard about this one, but I have got the perfect answer: Atrus from Myst. It is a bit of a cop out since he is not a hero per say, but he embodies a lot of what I would consider admirable qualities.
For those not in the know, Atrus has the ability to create new worlds simply by writing them, which is amazing in itself, but the novels also mention how there are rules to follow and physics to consider. So it is not just a matter of imagination, one also needs to be very knowledgeable in various fields to create these new worlds. Between that and the fact that he is also a respected leader of his people, I think Atrus is just a great, unlikely character.
We would like to thank Kevin for taking the time to interview with us.
Arelite Core is slated for a Q3 2016 Windows PC release. A demo for the game will be made available on January 20th, 2016.