When not disrespecting the likes of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy I-VI with terms like “dumbed down mechanics,” Paddy spent a lot of PAXAus 2015 walking through the massive indie pavilion. Among those he had a chance to speak to was Dave Haldeen, creator of HIVE: Not By Design, a game that seeks to bring back an older visual style of RPG with some modern influences. The SNES controllers alone meant that Dave had Paddy’s attention.
“I found that I could tell stories by having these characters talk to each other and act out scenes. So, once I realised I could tell these stories via this medium, it kind of went on from there.”
Kind of curious about the name, first of all.
That ties in really a lot of the story, and… depends on how far into spoiler territory you want to get.
Basically, something happens to everyone in the land and you’re the only person that’s not affected. That’s the “Not By Design,” and I can’t really say anymore than that.
Where did the idea for the game come from?
I wrote a story about three years ago, actually two stories – two branching stories – and I wanted to put it into a book, maybe a “choose your own adventure” type book. Then I read what I was writing and, uh, it wasn’t very good (laughing). I started playing around with some different ideas, and I love these old games, like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy, stuff from the Super Nintendo. I invented characters; I did a dummy game called “Nick’s Quest” – well, a concept game, not a dummy game – and I found that I could tell stories by having these characters talk to each other and act out scenes. So, once I realised I could tell these stories via this medium, it kind of went on from there.
So, you’re a writer first and foremost, not a game designer?
Nah, not at all. I’m a gamer, first of all, I work full time as an IT technician, I have four kids at home, and I run a review site, so this has been a hobby for the past… Well, six months I’ve been working on this game. I had to get a team together before hand because I was using RPG Maker VX and I didn’t like the way it looked out of the box. Like, I wanted stuff that happened when you were in proximity to things, and I wanted to branch the quests, and I wanted branching stories and all this other stuff. The program by itself just wouldn’t do it, so I had to reach a point where I could make that do things the way I wanted to do it.
I love it, I can’t think of anything I want to do more, it’s so much fun – and it’s interesting seeing how it’s all involved. I found the right artists and the right musician who get the game and get the humor; we talk well together, and they’d come up with ideas that end up changing the way I write a quest, which then changes the map, which then changes the art again, the whole thing changes.
So you’re still using RPG Maker at the moment?
How versatile as a tool is it do you think?
It’s very versatile; you can do a lot. You can make an RPG straight out of the box in five minutes. The more you get into it, the more you want to make it more detailed and the more complex it becomes, but it provides the framework, and there’s an amazing community around it as well. So, if someone hasn’t already written a script, there are loads of people who are free for advice that can help you out. It sounds like I’m doing an ad for RPG Maker, doesn’t it? I’m not, but the thing I like is that I tried to start doing it in unity, and it was taking me so long to build the base mechanics of the game. I just wanted to design the game, put the story in, make the experience for the player and let them see what I was making – RPG Maker let me jump straight in and get a result easily. It can do what I want; some restrictions but yeah, it’s good.
You said this was based on a story you’d already written, are there any other influences in particular for this game?
I think, uh… Influenced by everything, I think, to be honest with you. I first started getting the idea when I was playing 999, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, and that gave me a rough idea. I expanded on that and grew it, and then I came up with my own story. I guess I really had the concept first and then the story I wanted to introduce to the player. And a part of that was realising that I could tell that story with the character dialogue and gameplay, does that make sense?
For sure! You’ve got some SNES controllers here and the game itself is clearly retro-inspired, is that the kind of feel you’re aiming for with this game? Have you maybe “dumbed down” some of the mechanics and so on to bring them to the level of those old-school RPG’s?
Well, it’s not dumbed down in it’s mechanics. The dialogue and the questing complexity is modeled after stuff I liked in the Witcher games, I love the idea of having– like, in the Witcher 2, you’ve got chapters that are completely different based on decisions you’ve made. I modeled off a few games I like, such as… Have you played the Walking Dead and other TellTale games?
You know how there’s like “Clementine will remember this,” and stuff like that? I wanted that in the game, but I didn’t want it obvious. So, I’ve got all that in the game, and your dialogue will change, like if you’re a religious character then certain paths will be open to you that might not otherwise be there. I want players to make decisions that they don’t realise they’re making; I don’t want them thinking “Oh, if I pick X it’s going to go here, and if I pick Y it’s going to go there.”
Lastly, what’s your favorite game?
Bah, don’t ask me that! … Guacamelee. Definitely. I reviewed it awhile back, I gave it ten-out-of-ten, I’ve been playing the Championship Edition recently and they’ve made a perfect game even better. It’s beautiful.