Saturday, March 23, 2013

Telepath Tactics #2

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to once again welcome Craig Stern of Telepath Tactics fame to talk to us.  Though this time we’re in these much nicer digs, welcome back Craig!  

Thanks for having me!

When last we spoke of Telepath Tactics it was a brief comment about how the Kickstarter had failed but that you would continue to work on the project.  It has only been 2 months or so since the last campaign, what have you been doing in the interim?

A lot! A lot. I've kept chugging away on improving the game; it now has support for attack animations, improved enemy AI, improved player interface, a "rally" function that moves everyone at once, support for dialog trees and branching campaigns, a dialog editor, you can now use Cold attacks to freeze water and create walkable ice bridges, and so on. Seriously, I have three posts full of details on everything I've added and improved since the Kickstarter.

Based on your last update to the previous Kickstarter campaign you’ve had some pretty strong feedback it sounds.  What did your previous backers want you to focus on?  

They wanted me to focus on single player, on mod support, and on improving the game's graphics.

How important is it to update your artwork?  That seems to be an expensive and time consuming addition to the program.

"Expensive and time-consuming" is a good way of putting it. Creating a new attack in Telepath Tactics takes 5 minutes; creating a new animation to go along with that attack takes a few days to a week.

That's just the nature of game art: the more impressive the art, the bigger a content bottleneck it creates. That was the secret of the old ASCII roguelikes (and their more recent descendants like Dwarf Fortress): when you strip away the bottleneck, you can do so much more to stuff your game full of content and awesome mechanics.

My own personal opinion is that good visuals are nice, but they should be secondary to having strong and engaging interactive systems. Of course, that's just my perspective. Most people don't think about the trade-offs inherent in development; they just want nice visuals. And hey, that's fine. I'm the developer, it's my job to make the magic happen. If playing Mary Poppins with the proverbial spoonful of sugar is what it will take to sell people a tactics game with deep mechanics and mod support, then that is exactly what I'll do.

Have you brought in anyone else to the project thanks to the Kickstarter?  I would hope the exposure gained you some connections to help you improve things this time along.  

Yes, as a matter of fact--I met my current composer, Ryan Richko, thanks to the first Kickstarter. He's already done some really good work for the game's soundtrack; I'm excited to see what he manages to produce with a proper budget behind him.

Are there any major changes to the direction of the game since last we spoke?  Is it still a non-random damage, turn based, strategy game that allows terrain modification and supports player made mods?  

That stuff is all still true; most major changes to the game's systems since December concern the interface, graphics, and further expanding the game's modding support.

There have also been changes on the narrative front--I realized that I was trying to cram too much complex sociopolitical stuff into a narrative that simply couldn't bear the weight. I'm still planning to get at those issues, but I'm approaching things from a more personal, emotional angle that introduces characters more slowly. I expect this to work much better.

What have you learned that you would like to pass on to other potential Kickstarter creators?

Keep your pitch video short and sweet, have a demo available from the start of the campaign, and for the love of all things holy, make your game pretty. (Don't ask how you're supposed to do that before you've raised the money to hire artists; just find a way somehow.)

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Yes--if you enjoy Fire Emblem or Disgaea, you owe it to yourself to back Telepath Tactics. This game is practically made for you!

Thanks again and congratulations on hitting the goal the second time around!

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