Aurum Dust has been hard at work with a story of Angels reigning chaos on Earth as told with a Rouge-like narration within a turn-based RPG setting. Any character can die, even major ones in an unforgiving manner. Ash of Gods: Redemption was conceived with ideas presented by Fantasy Author Sergery Malitsky, and blends elements from such games as The Banner Saga, Darkest Dungeon, and Dark Eye Blackguards for a story-driven game concerning moral choices and ambiguity of their effects. Today we get to sit down with Nikolay Bondarenko (CEO of Aurum Dust) and talk about Ash of Gods: Redemption and what the future holds for them.
SGR – What was the thought process behind Ash of Gods: Redemption? What sparked the idea to make it based around moral choices and their effects?
Nikolay – For the last 9 years, I was very interested in matters of moral-ethic choices. Why do people make one or another complex decision? Why do people divide everything around them on “good” and “evil”? Why do they save children, while neglecting the old men? In 2008 when I worked on the project Cradle of Magic (the game for social networks which gained millions of players all over the world), I was captured by the idea of the conflict based on the rejection of the consequences. I have seen it as the presence of special zones in the game, the zones where you can pray and receive a huge free bonus for that. Each of such actions enhanced the boss of the zone, who, sooner or later, will break out and destroy everyone. At that moment this concept has turned into the beautiful idea (I still think that this idea is beautiful) of a turn-based strategy mixed with a card game RPG. By that moment I was a professional game developer for 8 years, and already overgrown the idea of “do my own MMORPG”. We already finished working on the design document and began to create concept arts when the world financial crisis had buried that project. At the same time I’ve discovered the books by Sergey Malitsky and plunged with astonishment into the worlds, where characters faced both of the questions which were on my mind: the complexity of moral choices and ambiguity of subsequences.
SGR – With many games moving from a turn-based strategy to a completely different battling system, such as the Final Fantasy VII remake for instance, what is going to draw the attention of RPG fanatics to your game? How is your battling system going to work?
Nikolay – We’re making the turn-based combat system in attempt to combine and organically use two different types of game mechanics: the classic turn-based combat and card RPG. The strategic part of the battle will be defined by cards while the tactical part will be defined by units’ behavior on the field. We want to create the battling system that would look attractive as in single player campaign as well as in multiplayer. For instance: you can rely on the cards and attack the superior forces with a small team, or ignore the cards totally and fight using only units. Or you can successfully combine these two strategies. In fact, these two elements are defining the meta gameplay around your personal style of playing.
The second moment is about emotions. They are the main thing we are eager to express: you should feel that you’re dominating on the field and you should in one turn destroy the same feeling of your opponent. For instance, the accurate throw of the “Sacrifice” card (which kills on of your units but significantly increases the attack of the rest) allows you to break your opponent’s entire strategy. He will scream into the monitor: “You’re the fucking asshole!”. Currently we are working on the 4th version of the battling system, experimenting with the rules and playing with people whose opinions are important for us. The focus group by now consists of 104 gamers who mark turn-based strategies as their favorite genre. These are the people of different ages, from different countries. These are the people of different ages, from different countries. Their active response gives us a feel that our combat system will be interesting and make the game highly replayability
SGR – Can you give us a run down of the Protagonist in the Game what their story is? What feelings do you think your audience will have towards the Antagonist?
Nikolay – This question is crucial and very complex, but I will try to clear it. There are 4 major characters in the game (only 3 of them are playable in the 1st part, as Redemption is just a beginning of the planned trilogy) as well as 2 obvious and 2 not-so-obvious fractions which are leading their own politics in the world of the game. One of protagonists is intended to be an example of situation when ideal and perfect man (ideal and perfect from the point of view of Western morality and system of values) becoming the real moral monster. The sequence of events which are preceding this transformation, always offers a dilemma of a “minor evil” and “personal against common”. This character will help you understand how the way of compassion leads to the abyss of repulsion.
The second protagonist showcases that inhumans (in our modern understanding of the term “humanity”) often can behave themselves better than humans. This part of the story demonstrates that compassion and social environment are very important for the people to remain people.
As to antagonists, this is the most complex part of the story. I hope, we’ll manage to show that most terrible and repulsive deeds can have very reasonable and serious base under them. One of the major characters is one of the main antagonists. So we’ll show in the game both sides of the story.
SGR – What are the differences in developing a game where the Player has such an impact on the story overall compared to one where the story is more linear based?
Nikolay – You have to control each point of the story’s embranchment. This project has some points when the major characters may die. Or the situation when sequence of choices may lead to death of whole party because of wrong resource management. Resources affects your behavior in the story. For instance, we have no shops: each merchant is an individual person. When you need something from him, you have to decide: would you spend your last coins to buy what you need or just kill this man and take his goods. Or the phrase on which you will react with certain manner may provoke one of your companions to reckless behavior and even the death. Every such aspect makes calculate: how many animations should we create for the game to save all the story with the same amount of choices that we have planned – and at the same time fit into budget we have. I suppose that the most frightening thing for us is the fact that by now we have the main plot and 11 chapters ready – the story is branches and changes right now, in our hands. Every time when we complete the episode, we deprive ourselves of opportunity to change anything concerned to it in the future. It’s probably the hardest part of our job.
SGR- What RPG elements are going to be present during Ash of Gods: Redemption and what type of enemies and boss fights can we expect to engage in? With this game having a co-op aspect how does that change the overall game play?
Nikolay – In fact we have the “all against all” type of war here, but if I have to highlight one certain fraction, it is the Northern kingdom of Friza which have started the military conflict that lay in the base of the story. Another significant hostile fraction is the race of Ensa, mysterious warriors from another dimension. They act in cooperation with Friza or by themselves. Some of bosses are: the Reaper named Atraah, who stands behind the military part of Frizian conflict and Reaper named Dorpkhal, who initiated beginning of the war from the South.
We are eager to add a separate multiplayer mode, which would be with single campaign by leveling and characters. In fact, this is “a game within a game”. We will actively develop it in the following year, by now it’s just a set of concepts easily connected to each other.
The RPG elements represented in Ash of Gods are following. Individual leveling of the characters. Management of one global resource – the strix stones. Surviving of the whole party depends from these stones, so you have to decide how to allocate them inside your team. You will literally decide who of your friends will live and who must die for lives of the others. The journeys. Movement takes time. While moving forward you’re spending the strixes to protect your characters from the plague which was sent by Dorpkhal the Reaper (if you’re playing for Torn Brenin’s party) or from Atraakh’s curse (if you’re playing for the party of Lo Pheng). If you pick the 3d protagonist of the game – Blans – than you have to decide how the story will basically turn. For instance, you may define, would Torn Brenin be executed in one of the game’s episodes, or not. Also our game includes such elements like team management, healing of party members, dealing with merchants, card pack management, searching for the new cards and enforcing of them.
SGR – After participating in a Beta match yesterday I was able to experience how in-depth the Turn Based Strategy aspect of the game is, as well as how unforgiving making a wrong move can be. Even though it’s still in development do you have any future ambtions for Ash of Gods:Redemption after it’s been launched , such as DLC or maybe a prequel/sequel?
Nikolay – Ash of Gods: Redemption is the just the first part of the whole story. Since the game consists of several parts: single-player with its own story and the multiplayer – we’re planning to release several DLCs for the web part, including new characters, new modes and rule sets for the battles, new maps. As to the story itself – by now we have no idea how to do it better and we will discuss this matter with publishers and community. Whether we should divide the story to DLC parts as Telltale Games is doing it, or release each part separately – given the fact that each such part contains approximately about 8 hours of gameplay.
Ash of Gods: Redemption is currently still in the stages of development, but I was still able to particapte in a prototype of the battling system to get a first hand experience at what it will be like.
Super Game Reviews will be having our Indie Game Spotlight feature Ash of Gods: Redemption, be sure to stay in tune for more from Aurum Dust!