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Q & A With TSI Games

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TSI Games recently announced the “Gateway” initiative, which creates an API allowing consumers to transfer their characters from various digital role-playing games from on game to another.

Along with the recent announcement of Gateway, TSI has also launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the final phase of development for their RPG – Seven Dragon Saga, which is set for a 2016 release on PC, Mac and Linux.

Key members of TSI’s team are veterans of Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI), and have worked on what many consider classic examples of the best desktop videogames in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) universe.

  • David Shelley, Producer, with nearly thirty years of experience in the games industry.
  • Paul Murray, Systems Designer, was one of the first engineers at SSI, working on numerous titles including Wizard’s Crown, Eternal Dagger, The Gold Box Series, and the Panzer General series.
  • David Klein – President & Founder of TSI. He has worked in a variety of senior positions to help companies reach their goals including project work with: Alcon Entertainment, Aldamisa Entertainment, EA, Harmony Gold USA, Incomm, Origo Games, and Space.com.

Q: How did TSI come to be? What are your goals for the company?

A: David Klein approached David Shelley and Paul Murray about the idea of returning to their roots and creating the type of experience the “Gold Box” games were known for. The goals for the company include: providing the player with full control over their party, meaningful choices in a fantastic setting, and engaging, tactical combat.

Q: David Shelley and Paul Murray both have experience in what you refer to as “Gold Box” games, what games are these specifically?

A: Gold Box is the name for a series of role-playing video games produced by SSI many of which used the AD&D license. These games shared a common engine that came to be known as the “Gold Box Engine” after the gold-colored boxes in which most games of the series were sold. Titles include:

Additionally, Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace

Q: Can you summarize the story for Seven Dragon Saga for those unfamiliar with it?

A:The party represents an elite force under the direction of the Emperor of the Seven Dragons. They have been sent to the fringe of the Empire to secure a supply of a valuable resource. These Drakelands are rife with competing factions, and creature filled wilds, while various Imperial Houses attempt to manipulate the situation to their advantage. How the player chooses to deal with the situation determines the final fate of the Drakelands.

Q: What will players be doing in the game?

A:Tactical turn based combat, exploration, interacting with NPCs diplomatically, and potentially romantically. Traveling the large scale strategic map allows the players to uncover hidden locations, track enemies, and deal with surprise encounters. The players move their party in real time on tactical maps, until they engage in combat or conversation. Skill use includes social interaction, traps, spotting, tracking and other activities.

Q: Is Seven Dragon Saga a single-player only game, or will players be able to find friends online and form adventuring parties?

A: Seven Dragon Saga is being developed as a single player experience.

Q: With all your team’s experience in the AD&D universe, was there ever thought given to Seven Dragon Saga being based on an AD&D setting?

A: We have a great deal of experience and fondness for AD&D. However, Seven Dragon Saga is an original creation and allows us more freedom as our first title. In the future, the team would also relish a return to making great games in the D&D universe.

Q: Are there any learnings (or favorite gameplay elements) from your work on Gold Box games that you are bringing to Seven Dragon Saga?

A:We always enjoyed the variety of game play provided in the gold box games, allowing the player to shift gears whenever he wanted a change of pace: exploring the strat map, taking out monsters in the dungeons, or conversing with NPCs. Also, the Gold Box games strove to avoid a linear, chapter style experience, allowing players to proceed through the mid-game in any order they wished.

Q: Can you quickly describe some of the races and classes in the game, and how they’ll work?

A:The races are representatives of the various lands the Empire has conquered. The Shade Elves come from jungle lands, and have better movement and stealth, while the High Elves have a connection to the Dreamlands, so can slip past doors and need no sleep. Dwarves, who travel the harsh, rocky deserts, take reduced damage from attacks. The Imperials are one of the human races, representative of the empire’s homeland, and they have a good balance between toughness and mobility.

The Scout class is skilled with spotting and stealth, and favors the bow, so very useful to send out in front of the party. Paired with the Rogue Specialty, the Scout makes an excellent thief. The Wizard class is a master of spells, providing excellent damage against weak hordes, and good support to the party. Pair a Wizard with one of the Elemental Specialties to have access to a larger pool of spells, or choose the Deadly Specialty to increase damage.

Knights favor heavy armor and two-handed weapons, giving them reach and extra targets in melee combat. Paired with the Tough Specialty and they can survive massive damage.

Q: How long has the game been in development? Are you using your own engine, or something off-the-shelf?

A: The core rules and system designs for Seven Dragon Saga has been development for some time, and we have much of the low level architecture in place. We’re using the Unity3D engine.

Q: Why Kickstarter?

A: We’ve been extremely encouraged and supported by the community so far, and Kickstarter is the right fit for us. The game is already months into production but we’re far from finished. As veterans of SSI, we remember the freedom of being our own publisher. Taking our vision and creating the best game possible is the primary concern. We’re looking forward to community feedback as we move through development.

Q: You have accolades already from several other developers, and as part of Gateway, you’ll be working with Harebrained Schemes and inXile Entertainment, how did those relationships form? Did anyone from other RPG development teams offer input on Seven Dragon Saga ?

A: After we announced the formation of TSI, several developers shared how excited they were about our return and that SSI/Gold Box games had been an influence. Kevin Saunders, Project Director, Torment: Tides of Numenera was one of the the first. When he heard about our idea to bring back the retro feature of transferring your characters he immediately got it… In the case of Harebrained Schemes, we reached out to them as part of our plan to have a range of games (not just fantasy titles) take part in Gateway. Both inXile and HBS achieved early success on Kickstarter and have been supportive of other developers efforts as well.

Universally, everybody we’ve talked to about input has encouraged our use of turn based combat as part of Seven Dragon Saga.    



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