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Interview with Team21 Developers of Dungeons of Aledorn

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We have a little chat to Team21 Developers behind the Indie Kickstarter game Dungeons of Aledorn.

Firstly, welcome to Invision Game Community. Let’s start with, you introducing yourself to our readers. We want to know who you are, where you’re from and what makes you tick inside?

We are TEAM21, an independent indie-developer studio, founded by several game developers, who gathered around the idea for a Dungeons of Aledorn project. Our headquarters are in Prague, Czech Republic. Some of us are actually experienced professionals and some of our members are pure indie enthusiasts, but each of us lives and breathes RPG games. Our motivation is mainly fuelled by the chance to do what we all always dreamed of – making games.

And now we know a little more about you, why not give us a brief history of Team 21. We want to know everything from how it all began, where the studio’s name came from and how far you’ve come from when you first started?

As a whole, Team 21, has very limited history to talk about. However several members´ sources of experience go far back in time. We have film making professionals (King Scorpion, the Prophecy, and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy…) and a very capable graphics and programmer.

The name of our group was originally a name of a company founded around 10 years ago by our producer, Daniel Nezmar and, because he didn´t really use it, all of the necessary paperwork for its establishment were already done and so, we chose to use the name.
The very first idea of the game came to me three years ago, during my university studies. A single innocent idea has developed during the last three years into a huge and daring project, which is but still in undergoing changes in the process. We´ve got still a lot to do, but all the main functions and prototypes are fully operational and are incredibly promising.

Is there anything that you’d say sets Team21 apart from other indie game studios out there?

I don´t know much about the whole indie scene, but if I had to pick one main difference, it would be definitely be our motion capture facility, that we have at our disposal – thanks to our co-operation with the SPAFI organization (many employees are actually our members). So, we hope to deliver high quality animations in our final product, which is often a weaker side of various indie-games.

Gamers feel that games need to feel more lifelike, have more soul to them, better animations, how will you improve on your current stat (Alpha Game Footage) to bring them to life?

We have actually many options and plans to achieve a lifelike state. We plan on complete voiceovers for all our dialogs and what more, also with facial animations. Another boost to the realism of the game should come with switching to the UNITY 5 engine that should greatly improve the visuals aspect of the game, especially the way of lights and shadows visualization. Considering the game play, we focus heavily on the authenticity of the combat system which we try to make very open and rich on action options – this is the strongest point of our game play.

Story drives any games and we feel games should bring the player deep into any game, make them feel, that’s what they are doing is worthwhile and finally make them feel like they are part of the game?

Even though you control five characters at once in DoA, there´s one which is to be considered as your personal ‘avatar’ (something like a main story character in Baldur´s Gate). This “main character” is a centre piece of the main story plot and it´s virtually him, through whom you make your decisions and influence the world around you. That should give our players enough immersion, even though, frankly said, it was never really one of our main development goals, but more likely just an inevitable part of developing a good, immersive game.

How will you make sure that before your game is released, that you are releasing a well polished game, not dribble?

Apart from intensive intern testing, which is already being done for quite some time, there are already several zealous fans out there, which play our prototypes and giving us good feedback on the changes and improvements.

Then there will be also the alpha testing phase, which should include the best of the community that we hope to gain during Kickstarter campaign and on eventually also on Steam. Beta testing will be probably free-for all and, again, will help us to balance the game for various hardware combinations and will hopefully help us to improve overlooked weak areas or bugs.

With not many games coming from Kickstarter have been a huge success, example GODUS, success models, though, include Divinity: Original Sin and Wasteland 2, where will you take influence from to achieve a successful launch of your game?

We have been preparing for the last whole six months. It took a great deal of time to read through all un/successful campaigns, manuals for success on KS, rules of PR-world etc. Then we´ve worked hard on preparing all of the necessary materials for the campaign and in the meantime, we´ve also built-up our own community by maintaining our website, FB, Twitter and many internet forums worldwide. As the last step was the hiring of a capable PR-agency, PR Hound, that helps us co-ordinate the whole campaign. They have a fabulous track record with helping campaigns succeed and have been incredibly beneficial for us from the moment we started working together.

There are no “big names” on our account, which would assure our backers of our qualities. That´s why we had to put extra effort into our preparations and presentations and we launched the campaign with a resolve.

Before creating your game, what game influenced you and why did they?

In a bad sense, it was mainly the Gods Lands of Infinity. The fact is that I always loved dungeon crawlers, but there were only a few new ones published in 2000-2012. As I was playing the Lands of Infinity, I had to ask myself constantly, how it´s even possible to create such flawed mechanics. Then it dawned on me, that there is a terrible lack of good dungeon crawlers on the market, which was at that time confirmed by the success of Legends of Grimmrock. That was the last impulse I needed to set me onto the trail to create a dungeon crawler of my own.

The game itself draws a lot from Betrayal at Krondor and Shadows Over Riva. Some mechanics were remotely inspired by Fallout, Might & Magic, King’s Bounty series and our Czech D&D equivalent, Dragon´s lair.

Your games current spell animation is rather basic and don’t seem to show much flare, will you be working on this to make them look and feel more impressive, as we feel no point having a great 3D world that’s looks amazing, then creating basic and lame sprits and graphic animations?

You have to realise, that our game is still a work in progress and, until now, we had to invest a lot from our own limited budgets to make it to this point. Our goal to this day was to create a functioning prototype with at least bearable graphics and we believe that the hardcore community will recognize the potential of our game already at its current state. With an upcoming change of engine and more resources in general, we´ll finally give our game the looks that it (and our players) deserve – especially the particle system and many of the textures are going to undergo a massive improvement. We haven´t even used much of our motion capture yet (and we have hundreds of hours of movement captured), which will give our game the much needed smoothness.

Why did you choose to create a game with both 3D first person perspective with hex based combat top down?

I wanted to create a dungeon crawler and that means, of course, a first person view. We believe that it gives the player a deeper sense of immersion and it gives us also more tools to hide many objects and secrets within the world for the players to explore and to find.
The hex based top down view bears definitely a hint of classical pen & paper games and that was something we wanted do, to bring the atmosphere of the fights from a frantic session of AD&D or GURPS, to our game, because it offers a better overview of the battlefield and many more options to test one´s strategic skills. We believe, that it´s the best option for our game. If you´d compare it with Wizardry VIII or Might and Magic X, then there are actually many similarities on hand. Turn based combat, opposing sides take their turns – we´ve just added the third dimension to it and, we believe, improved upon it.

Why have you chosen to use Unity as your preferred engine with the likes of Unreal, Cryengine and much more?

Everything was at the very beginning strongly influenced by our budget, where Unity was definitely the best, viable option for us. Also, the first two members of our team (programmer Arbiter and graphic designer Jarda) were already experienced Unity users, so we didn´t even consider any other engine. For me, as a designer, it was their shared fondness of Unity that was a welcome sight and that made it an easy decision to stick with what they knew.

What do platforms like Steam Greenlight mean to small developers like you who are trying to forge their way in the gaming world? Is it fundamental in helping bring your game to life?

Undoubtedly. There´s probably no other way, for anyone smaller than the biggest development studios, to succeed with their first product (especially on the PC platform) than getting recognised through Steam and its Greenlight programme. We are determined to get onto the Steam platform to give our fans the choice they deserve.

Still, getting Greenlit is only a small stepping stone on your journey and before it does get released you still need to reach your target on Kick Starter, How can people contribute and what kind of rewards do you offer?

There are classic lower reward tiers with the probably most tempting digital download of the final version of the game included. For those, who are ready to give us more support, await many physical rewards as well as few real-life experience rewards for the highest tiers´ backers. There are for example: collectible statues, an A1 canvas map, a physical copy of an in-game coin, an oil painting, a visit to our studios and a chance to try out our motion capture studio.

Next is a very important question; WHY should anyone who reads this back your game? What would it mean to you personally and how much will it help?

We are bringing back the game genre, that was left to die by commercial developers, because it didn´t include the 3D features of “modern games”. Our game combines both and we believe, that we´re improving both sides either as they complement each other better than we expected. And, last but not least, DoA is a game for and from hardcore gamers and we feel a desperate need from the players community and that’s to be challenged once more, because without real challenge to overcome, is the game just an empty shell.

Every backer is not just a financial boost for the improvement of the game. More importantly, we are looking for a community of like thinking fans who could give us the valuable feedback. Also every cent and word of praise is an indescribable motivation to keep us continually improving. Where there’s motivation, there are better results. That´s why people should back us! Because through a successful KS, we´ll know that we´re doing it right and we´ll make it then even better just for the players in return.

If, and I hope it this doesn’t happen, but the Kick Starter target isn’t met, what would this mean for Dungeons of Aledorn and Team21?

It wouldn´t be the end of us for sure. There´s a plan B and, even a plan C for such situation.

Plan B is finding a third group, an investor, to support us financially. We´ve received several offers during the pre-launch phase of KS, but we had to turn them down, because, even it might make the things more complicated, we value the community over the financial backing for our project.

Plan C is to carry on the same way as we did up till now. We´ll finance the development from our own sources and slowly build-up the community via the internet. We´ll still finish the game, but probably at a much later stage and with several compromises to the visual quality and general size of the game.

Checkout the kickstarter campaign here

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