So, how do you go from programming games in university to starting up a fully-fledged indie game company, bordering on your first release? TCGames are a young group of designers and programmers caught up in the middle of their own indie story, and are on the brink of releasing their first game Velisia: A Traitor’s Legacy. Stephen Rhodes took the time to interview Director, Producer and Lead Designer Chris Wilson, on how their dream journey has panned out so far.
Hi Chris, thanks for taking the time out to talk to me in what must be a very busy time for you..
Chris: Not a problem, somewhat of a calm before the storm at the moment, as our single programmer is putting the finishing touches to what will be the final main build of the game prior to release testing.
Tell me a little bit about your team and how it came into being. Where did you guys start off?
Chris: The team was formed at Salford University during our final semester of the undergraduate Computer and Video Game Design degree. The main submission for the semester was a game prototype that must be designed and created in just over half a year which doesn’t sound too bad, until you throw in all the work for the other modules of the course and a dissertation on top…
So this is how we came together, Velisia the game we are currently working on is indeed a revamped and much polished version of the game prototype that we created for the University project.
It’s good to see a group coming straight out of university and forming their own indie studio. Can you tell me a little about the game?
Chris: Velisia is, at its core, a Turn Based Strategy/RPG which draws its roots from gameplay along the lines of those found in the Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem series. Unlike these games, the story and gameplay focuses around just four main heroes that are directly controlled by the player.
Action takes place over four levels of gameplay that see the heroes travel on a story across the land of Velisia, as they attempt to defend their homeland against an ancient enemy. The story and gameplay in the first chapter of Velisia, titled “A Traitors Legacy” is first of three episodes of content that we hope to deliver if the game is successful.
Each further piece of content will continue the story, allow further advancement of your characters, with all your stats and choices from the previous game carrying straight on into the next.
Quite a large and ambitious project, but it sounds incredibly exciting! So, from that I assume, you do have plans to expand on Velisia and release new content for players?
Chris: Plans and/or dreams, yes. As with everything, we need to be successful in order to see them through to completion. When we wrote the narrative for the Velisia story it soon became clear that it was too long to be delivered within the deadline and budget that we currently have as a fledgling start-up studio.
So instead we will release the first section of the game’s narrative which is a complete story experience, but with your standard plot holes left open for expansion. This game model will allow us to keep the unit costs to a bare minimum and hopefully make people more willing to take a punt on a brand new game from a brand new company.
If this works and enough people make that choice we will quickly be able to put out the second and third installments of the game. Within a few months of the game’s release – we won’t be expecting fans to wait years for the next section of the story…
The turn-based RPG has been a genre that has suffered in popularity in recent times. Do you think this is due to a lack of choice or the quality of the titles that are produced for the genre?
Chris: I think turn-based strategy suffers because it’s not a genre that delivers the big spectacle which seems to be what all the AAA titles are about these days. In a market that is constantly pushed for the newest, shiniest graphics and amazing set pieces, a game that makes you wait your turn and watch units move one after the other will always appear second rate to the more modern RTS game.
Lack of titles is definitely a major issue for the genre, and even when titles are released in Japan/Asia, it is not uncommon for them never to see the transition to the Western market – or, if they do, several years go by before they finally get released.
Speaking of Asia, one thing that really makes your game stand out is the manga art style. What were the key motivations behind picking such a unique style for your game and how has it been received by the fans?
Chris: We started off with perhaps a little too much Manga tunnel vision, attempting to make the game look and feel like a comic book, this has been toned down quite a bit recently to be more in line with a traditional JRPG.
All in however the art has been probably the easiest section of the project, very little has needed to be redone and the only major issue we hit was making our special effects for the heroes abilities match up to the style and quality of the artwork for the characters and backgrounds themselves.
Quite a few people have left feedback on our moddb.com page saying the game reminds them of Valkyria Chronicles. We at TCGames take that as a mission accomplished.
During the last few weeks you have done a lot of development diary videos covering certain characters or classes which have all been really informative. Do you intend to keep this momentum in the weeks prior to launch?
Chris: The character introduction videos sadly only really showed off the game’s combat engine, this was due to the core game still being in major development and not really at a good place for viewing. Once Matt Sanders (our programmer) finishes the final game build I spoke of earlier, we will be releasing a series of gameplay videos that show exactly how the game looks and feels to play.
How important do you feel it is for a start up indie studio like yourselves to keep in touch with its community, and have you found this an easy thing to do given today’s obsession with social media?
Chris: It’s definitely a key element to getting your name out there. Unfortunately it also takes a lot of time to really push it forward, and when you only have six guys in your team, time isn’t something you have in large amounts to throw around.
Once we have a finished product I’m hoping to convince some of the more established YouTube community members that review and give commentaries on indie games that we deserve a little of their precious time. This would do us the world of good in getting our title noticed as some of these guys have hundreds and thousands of viewers on every video they release.
Is there a date set for when Velisia will be available to purchase?
Chris: Release dates are not something I can confirm yet as they are handled between our Publishers Merge Games and the number of online digital portals that we are approaching to put Velisia on their shelves. At a guess, sometime around February, but don’t hold me to that!
Velisia is however available for pre-order from our website, www.teamcraftgames.com and there is an option there to get hold of the game’s Beta build if you really cannot wait for release day!
Seems like you’re all geared up and ready for a great launch! The game is looking great and I know we here at NAGF are following you guys with great interest. Thanks for your time Chris, and good luck with finishing Velisia!