History of Son of Nor – Part 5

Oh wow! It was Friday the 13th last month! Did anything happen? As confusing and superstitious as this date is, we, too, were totally confused in part 4 of this series as we were advised to make a free2play version of Son of Nor to give as many people easy access to the game. Was another dramatic change in strategy for our game imminent? It seemed to us that we can’t even get started with our game without changing our core strategy for it over and over again. This had to end and we had to decide on something! Luckily, we found a partner that brought us onto the right track we now stick with.

The Transition Phase

We already started to think about free2play models and how this could translate to our game. And it didn’t translate well. Our game has no HUD and no inventory, so getting or purchasing items is kind of lame without items. There were ideas floating around of monetizing with visual enhancements and customization options and maybe they would have worked. But at it’s core, our game is for core gamers, not casual players. And we don’t have as much experience with free2play models that we felt we could pull this off.

Luckily, we met a partner at Quo Vadis in Berlin that specializes in bringing titles to market and helps startups find publishers: Remote Control Productions. They told us that a well-designed arena game with all it’s balancing requirements and player vs player game modes is almost as hard to get right as having a story mode with different locations. Story and content take a little more time, but that time can be saved in elsewhere and in the end the differences are not as huge as we believed.

This led us to question our arena player vs player model and think about getting back to our original story idea. But we had to limit the scope of our story idea several times and stop providing a really open world to explore. Rather we decided to come up with cleverly designed locations where we could reuse assets and keep overall complexity down.

The Idea Today (August 2012)

So this is the stage we’re at now. We went back to our story idea. This means there will be a background story for single and multiplayer modes to play through. Our game designer Ricardo adapted the story and locations for an effective re-use of assets.

To increase replayability, there will be hidden areas you can only explore after having played through the game and having acquired more spells and powers. Challenge levels and random encounters in-between chapters of the game should loosen up the story mode and add some crazy action. These challenge levels spawn monsters after monsters and they can be played over and over while the game tracks your stats: kills in a given timeframe, number of kills with the least spells, kills with a single blow, amount of havoc wreaked (I don’t know how to measure that yet but we’ll give it a try) and so on. Your best achievements will be saved in a global player highscore list.

We tweaked several aspects of the gameplay and spell system to increase fun. Early iterations were slow to play and it reminded more of a round-based strategy game than an action RPG ;) We’ll keep on tweaking!

Chapter 1: First Glimpse

To get a glimpse of the first chapter, tune in to our recent GDC promo video. It shows The Edge, where the first chapter of the game will begin and it introduces you to a little bit of lore and story behind Son of Nor.

Next Steps

As you can see in the video, character models and animations are still very clunky. The reason is that we mainly focused on The Edge town area model with a Horastes statue and some spell effects like magic shields for this video and didn’t have any animators in the team. But now that we got some incredibly talented animators, we’ll start with great looking running, walking, jumping and spellcasting animation cycles. Can’t wait to show them to you.

Our next milestone will be due 6. / 7. October. We will meet Uniworlds, a German indie game studio we met at GDC Europe in Cologne. They organize an indie dev gathering called Devmania and invited us to speak about our game and use the community they built for playtesting and first external feedback. We’re excited to meet them! Anybody else going?

That was it, folks. This concludes our retrospection of Son of Nor, where it came from and where it’s headed. We will refine gameplay, add more content, animations, story and keep at it. We have assembled an incredibly cool team and I will continue posting about our journey as events unfold. Reports from behind the scenes and the indie life in general. See you soon!

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