Interview with NeoPong
Hello Charles, what do you have to do as the lead designer of Project DA?
Well, I’m responsible for designing the concept, the story, the characters… in essence I guess you could say the entire world and all events that will happen within it are in my purview. Because that would be a rather demanding job by itself, I consult with the rest of the team to receive their input and suggestions and I also intend to hire on a new level designer to handle a lot of the town and dungeon particulars.
Can you tell our visitors something more about Project DA’s storyline, about Tat, Valin and their friends?
I don’t intend to go too in depth at this time. I would like for the players to discover it for themselves, but I’ll say that aside from planning an engrossing story with a cast of complex characters, we’re also looking at ways of taking storytelling in a new direction. I’d like to clarify that we’re not trying to relate the story in a new method so much as trying a different tact in storytelling. Maybe I should just say that there are always two sides to the same coin.
So the player will need to make choices as he progresses through the game?
Yes, the player will have to make a myriad of choices as he progresses through the game, but that won’t so much influence the primary storyline as it will side stories.
Can you tell us something about the features of Project DA, most of all: How will it use the NDS’s features (touch-creen etc.)?
Again I’m afraid I can’t give away very specific or detailed information because we would like to keep them fresh and new for when Project DA actually comes out, but I’ll say that we’re finding the most use in the combat system. The touchpad will play an important role there, though the player will always be able to disable it for convenience. Outside of combat we plan to use the touchpad for some puzzles, the microphone will play… well, an interesting role. And we believe the wireless connectivity and possibilities that it allows will prove invaluable.
Will the second screen be used to create a new experience, or will it just be a map of the world?
We plan to use it to create a new experience, though we’ll probably also allow the option of using it as a map screen in the overworld.
You said something about wireless connectivity… Will the players be able to exchange weapons and items with their friends? Or even better: Can we expect a multiplayer mode?
We have plans for a multiplayer mode. The success of that will depend on the ease with which we can implement it in the end and the willingness of the publisher to allow us to put in the additional time to make it work. Of course exchanging items will be included as well.
Did you receive an ultimate releasedate from your publisher?
No, we’re still in negotiations with a few publishers and still haven’t signed with one. We’re planning on a release in mid 2006 though.
On your website, on the Project DA gamepage, there is a screenshot taken from the Game Boy Advance version of the game. For how long was that version in development and since when is it changed to a NDS-game?
Heh, funny thing, we actually completed that much of the game within a few weeks. Unfortunately almost all of that had to be scrapped because we’re working on the DS now instead and it’s a totally different console. Shortly after that we changed our target platform to the DS deciding that the size constraints on the GBA would work against us and we could realize the idea more fully on the DS.
So when can we see the first screenshots of the NDS-version?
We’re planning to put up some new screens in a couple of months. We need a little time to familiarize ourselves with the DS and we have to try out a few different art styles to see which will suit us best on the DS.
I think the main question of all the fans is: Will it be 2D or 3D, or a mix of both?
It’s a mix.
Can you tell what part will be 2D and what part will be 3D?
We’re experimenting with how much 3d will be used in the towns and battles, the overworld will be entirely 3d though.
Like in Final Fantasy VII?
Yeah, actually that’s exactly what we’ve been talking about when trying to figure out how we’re doing the overworld!
Is Project DA inspired by other games, or maybe even by books and movies?
Project DA is inspired by books, movies, games and life experiences. I suppose, though, you could say that all designers pull from such sources.
So everyone shared it’s ideas and experiences to create the storyline? It’s not that just one person was assigned as story writer and wrote the whole story?
I wrote the base story in the beginning, we’ve hired on a professional writer to handle the script and the entire team provides input into some of the particulars of the story and the characters.
Is it possible we know the writer from books?
Yes, it’s possible, though he has primarily written RPG books thus far. Things in the d20 line of products.
Can you tell us the name?
Certainly! Rodney Thompson. He’s a young, but talented writer. I’ve been very impressed by his work and style thus far, so I jumped at the chance to hire him for Project DA.
Can you tell us at what development stage Project DA is at the moment? What is done and what still has to be done?
We’re working on new protoypes since the switch to the DS. Content work is still underway and will be for probably at least a year. Our first two priorities in prototyping are the town/overworld and battle systems. I believe those are what the public most wish to see as well.
Can we expect some artwork in the near future?
We have concept artwork, but we’re waiting until we have produced the in-game artwork before we start putting up more on the website.
Will the player start with Tat and/or Valin?
Both, but I suppose Tat more immediately than Valin.
What’s the maximum amount of characters a player can have in it’s team?
Can’t really say right now, but the player won’t be limited to the characters immediately in his party.
And is it possible to accept and deny other characters in your team when the game progresses, or is it programmed that a character will enter your team?
There are both set and optional characters. The player can find more characters as he adventures and can go through the steps necessary to recruit him/her or pass.
So, the main storyline is written, does that mean you can tell us how long Project DA will be?
We anticipate 30 solid hours and if everything optional is done probably around 40 or 50 hours.
Will everyone be able to play the game? Will it be easy to pick up for the RPG-beginners and will it be challening enough for the diehard RPG-fans?
We actually have plans to accomodate both the hardcore and the newbies.
Will the player be able to choose a difficulty level? Or will the ennemies adapt wether it’s a beginner or a top-player?
Hmm… let’s just say we think there’s merit to both, we’ve considered both and we like both.
What’s your personal interest in the NDS? And why did you decide to develop for that system?
The DS has a lot of opportunities for designing games with different abilities. The touchpad, for example, opens up a host of new options in game design. The microphone has some benefit as well, though I fear the voice recognition may not be the best way to go with it. The wireless connectivity, two screens, larger cart size and 3d are all extremely useful as well. Basically on the whole it offers a lot more than any previous handheld and, being a handheld, it is still easier to develop for than the larger next-gen consoles.
And what do you think of Sony’s PSP?
I love the design, it’s kind of large though and while it offers a lot of power I worry about its battery life.
Is it possible you will develop a game for the PSP?
Very possible. It might be a little while though, we’ve got our hands full with Project DA at the moment.
Have you got any other NDS-projects in mind?
Yeah, we have other designs on the slate for development, but they’ll have to wait as well.
Can you tell is something about it?
It would be a bit premature at this time, I think we need to wait until we’ve got stuff more concrete. I’ll say, though, that we intend to continue to diversify our game genres. We’re taking the opportunity while we’re still new to expand our experience and skills.
What games do you like to play yourself at the moment?
Wow… what do we not like to play… I guess we all enjoy RPG’s, shooters, strategy games, RTS, Civilization-style games, platformers, adventure games, puzzle games…
And which games in specific
Presently I’ve been playing Tales of Symphonia, Temple of Elemental Evil, Neverwinter Nights (all three), Empires Dawn of the Modern Era, Fire Emblem, Yoshi’s Island and… I think that’s about it for now.