Rory: First off, for those readers out there who don’t know ThreeGates Studios and Legends of Aethereus, could you give a brief description of you and your project?
Don: Three Gates is an Independent Game studio formed in 2010 by a group of people who all have years of experience in the game industry.
Our current project Legends of Aethereus was created because the team wanted to create a game for core gamers that included rich player controlled combat as well as intricate and interesting systems that allowed for customization and a varied set of strategies.
Rory: You say in your KickStarter page that the core PC gamer has been forgotten, what makes you think this way and how do you hope to remedy it?
Don: We mean that many great titles that built up their core audiences seemed to be getting more simplified and water-downed with each progressive sequel. For example Character Attributes and Skill Tress have become linear and oversimplified in many games. This limits the strategies and variations available.
There is also a tendency to focus on the console version of the game as this usually generates the larger portion of the developer’s income on a given title. We understand this but the we feel that PC has capabilities that become stifled if the game must also be playable using hand controllers.
We wanted to build a game with an open system that allowed for players to design and create their own strategies instead of making them choose one from a subset predefined strategies.
We want to facilitate the player’s creativity and innovation to explore different solutions and methods of developing their characters. Allow for more freedom and watch the players themselves come up with new cool ways to play.
Rory: Looking at the screenshots on your KickStarter I can see some very diverse environments, just how big is the world the player will land in?
Don: We are using a combination of two systems to create the quest levels. So we created our own level editor that allows us to handcraft very specific levels. Then we have also created a procedural level editor system that allows us to create purely generated levels. We also have the ability to create levels combing these systems.
The player starts in the Nexus City-State and can acquire expeditions and quests from a variety of quest givers. Some of these are very specific story drive quest lines while others are standalone adventures with one specific goal.
These expeditions are located in a variety of environments which are located in the area around the Nexus. Some of these include: Ancient Ruins, Deep Forest, Forbidding Swamps, High Planes, Beach Heads and Fern Chasm to name a few. There are also various points of interests located within the environments such as: camps, villages, temples, fortresses and pyramids to name a few.
So the environment is quite large and extensive. The idea is to always have unexplored areas for the players to explore. When the game evolves over time our system allows us to add DLC content to extend the playable universe into yet unexplored areas.
Rory: On that note, the world looks very diverse with a lot of open world roaming. How much dungeon crawling will we expect to see?
Don: There is a lot of variation and some of the levels will definitely have the typical dungeon crawling feel, moving down dark paths and encounter periodic monsters and loot areas. On the other hand there is a lot variation and often more strategic play such as: searching a temple, Holding out against a horde, attacking a fortress or retrieving and ancient artefact from a pyramid.
Rory: On your website I see you’ve added another player class to the game, can you give us some more information on the class system and how it’ll affect the game?
Don: The classes Officer, Inventor and Astrographer determine the skill trees of the player characters. The Officer has a variety of melee and defensive skills. The Astrographer is focused on chemical weapons such as a Flamethrower and Venom Molotov. The Inventor has powerful explosives like rockets, bombs and mines. So the class does have some effect on your strategy.
On the other hand there are no weapons or armour limitations. So if you wanted you could make a heavily armoured Astrographer and buff hiss strength and stamina attributes and use him/her as a tank.
All the character classes have powerful attacks and defensive abilities and can stand on their own. We have tried to build and open system that allows for a very wide range of character development. So our goal is that no two characters will be alike. In other words if you took five officers they would all be very different form each other and use different strategies.
Rory: Does the class you choose influence the direction of your character in terms of plot? Will one class have options others won’t?
Don: All the character classes will have the ability to explore all the quest lines. There are however quests that are more beneficial for some classes. The rewards for the inventor quest line tend to be more advantageous for the Inventor then the other classes.
Rory: Can you provide some info on the procedurally generated expedition system? This system has been implemented on other RPG titles but it tends to fail by repeating the same task over and over until the player quickly gets bored. How will you prevent this?
Don: Our system will work a bit differently than most others. When you go to a quest giver using our procedural system you will answer a series of questions. So you can customize your quest to a certain degree For example you may answer I want to go on a quest and I am looking for the material platinum and I want a real challenge and a quest that take about 45 minutes. So the system will offer a few questions to help zero in what kind of quest you are looking for.
Rory: Nowadays every RPG title seems to rely more on its setting instead of actual mechanics to provide a selling point. One thing I love about your project is that you do the opposite and emphasise key characteristics of your game. Something that caught my eye was the weapon/armour system; could you explain just how wide and varied it is?
Don: The Weapons and armour system is tied into the crafting system. For example a sword has three components. Each component has a variety of templates. So you craft a sword by choosing a template that as the characteristics you are looking for. Then you choose a material for that component template. Each material has unique characteristics. In addition there are gem slots and you can add gems in the components to boost or alter some of the weapons attributes.
As you progress new component templates and materials become available. So the variation continues to expand as you progress as a player.
Rory: Returning to the style of an almost Diablo-esque RPG, how do you want the game to move and play while factoring in story progression and grinding for items?
Don: There is a main storyline in Legends of Aethereus that revolves around finding seven ancient artefacts of great power. There are also sub-storylines that evolve. Some of these are tied to the main storyline and some are stand alone. We also have our procedural system that allows players to create their own custom quests. These will often be when a player is in want or need of certain items or experience.
The Arena is also a big part of LoA. In the Arena we have a Last Stand mode where you can play wave of enemies either single player or coop. There is also a variety of multiplayer game types so you can challenge your friends, and enemies (;-P) to some good times in the arena.
In the testing the PvP type player tend to do a lot of grinding so they can buff their characters up to be, shall we say, well prepared for PvP.
Rory: You’ve already stated that you hope to release Legends of Aethereus on Steam and Origin, but is there any chance you’ll release it DRM free?
Don: Yes! For those that prefer not to have Origin or Steam we will have a DRM free version of the game with single player, LAN and direct IP connect options.
Rory: Should your project be successfully backed in the coming weeks can you give us an estimate on when you think the game will be released?
Don: We plan on releasing the game when it is awesome. We estimate that to be this summer. Resources always help expedite things but we will have the game out in the near future.
Rory: To finish up, what can ThreeGates Studios promise gamers and what can Legends of Aethereus bring to the RPG genre?
Don: ThreeGates can promise that we will make a game with real core gamers in mind.
We are really trying to add a different level of combat immersion than most RPG’s have. So we have put a lot of emphasis on giving the player control over the combat. Most games today you more or less hit a button that plays an animation that never misses. We are looking to take a different approach.
We also have tried to create environments that allow for real coop teamwork. We really wanted to emphasis this area. So the skills and environment allow the players to work together and be creative. We want to allow players to think on their feet and come up with cool solutions to conquer what seem like impossible challenges. So there is a variety of traps, hindrances and weapons that allow the players to manipulate the world in a variety of ways. So we have built a system that allows for an assortment of different strategies to be successful.
Rory: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I wish you all the best with Legends of Aethereus and I hope to hear more from you and your team in the future.
Should you feel the urge to aid an indie developer hell bent on releasing a full RPG experience while placing immense value in the average PC player, then feel free to back Legends of Aethereus here.