A first in the IGM Greenlight series, we decided to interview the developers behind today’s game, and let them tell you why it is worthy of your vote on Steam Greenlight.
For this interview, I spoke with Harald Dosch, the lead developer at EpicBeyond Studios, about Crystal Kingdom, a pretty looking multiplayer RPG that pays homage to the classics of the genre but brings to the table its own sleeve full of tricks.
The Game – Crystal Kingdom
The Developer – EpicBeyond Studios
IGM – Hey Harald, so how long have you been at work with Crystal Kingdom?
EpicBeyond - My programming roots in multiplayer games go back to 1997 where I coded libraries for multi-user dungeon text muds at universtity and started doing fangames of established singleplayer RPGs at the time like Dragon Quest or Ultima. I decided to drop doing fangames and create my own thing around 2010. I grew tired of working on something that I wouldn’t even own in the end and never could advertise or sell as I would need to to increase the budget and workforce.
So it’s been roughly 2 years, but keep in mind that Crystal Kingdom recycles most of the code and tools done for its predecessor. At first [Crystal Kingdom] was called SEYKEN: Crystal Kingdom and later “SEYKEN” was dropped to avoid confusion with a fangame of the same title.
IGM – What was SEYKEN?
EpicBeyond - SEYKEN was an online multiplayer fangame that used graphical content from numerous 16-bit console JRPG classics. It was in development from about 2005 untill 2010, but never really took off because of its fangame restrictions and limitations. Also, the owners of these classics started to hunt and shut down quite a lot of fangame projects in 2010 to protect their rights and ownership. So we decided to drop doing fangames and started work on Cyrstal Kingdom.
IGM – What makes Crystal Kingdom such an ambitious project?
EpicBeyond - First of all, the size of the project compared to the quantity of people working on it. We are only 4-6 guys working on a project that usually a larger team would work on. To make it even harder, we also can’t afford to work on it full time. I’m a commercial airline pilot for instance, another developer is a software engineer, and another was about to finish highschool when he joined. Usually the teams meets in the evenings via Skype and will quite often work until early next morning or as long as real-life allows us to. Don’t get me wrong – it’s fun, but it’s also very demanding on a social and physical level.
Then, the technological foundation Crystal Kingdom required. It took us years to create the gaming services needed to run the game on. Crystal Kingdom will be running inside a Cloud Service where things like a central database and game server satellites and data replication comes into play. We had put a lot of time into the technological aspect of the game and just recently brought it to a point where we can spend time on the game itself again.
IGM – Who is responsible for Crystal Kingdom’s beautiful pixel art?
EpicBeyond - Fabian, aka “Vierbit”, the background artist, joined the project almost 3 years ago when we decided to drop doing a fangame project and set out to persue our own title. Thomas, aka “Cyangmou”, the spriter and animator, joined the project over a year ago and created all the player and monster sprites as well as all the animations, icons, and effects in the game.
IGM – How did you meet these artists?
EpicBeyond - No big story really. I searched through pixel graphics communities like Pixelation and Pixeljoint around 2010 and discovered Vierbit/Fabian’s art. I emailed him and later we Skyped at some point. I showed him a live prototype of the engine and game —fortunately it was enough to convince him join the team. Cyangmou/Thomas joined about a year-and-a-half later —I discovered his sprites and animation work at Deviantart. Again, also mailed and Skyped at some point and like Vierbit I also showed him a prototype with some stuff Vierbit had done up to that point, and it was enough to get him join the team too.
IGM – Plans to port Crystal Kingdom to other platforms/operating systems?
EpicBeyond - We would love too, but we are running on a very small budget. Yet Crystal Kingdom is made entirely in Java which is very port-friendly and at the least supports Windows, Mac, and Linux right away.
IGM – Multiplayer indie games sometimes have small online player-bases, how are you ensuring that Crystal Kingdom will still be fun with a minimal amount of players playing online?
EpicBeyond - We never had planned for a huge amount of players. A small and dedicated community is just as fun, and since the maximum party size of people playing together is five, it doesn’t really matter. Also many of the maps are generated based on the player/party entering it to make it more of a challenge. Sure, usually, more players online makes a world a little more vivid, but can also be a burden.
IGM – Why the decision to go MMO, and not just single-player?
EpicBeyond - All projects I did before were multiplayer right away —my roots as a programmer go back to creating libraries for text-based multi-user dungeons running on my universitie’s mainframe. Also if its done right, a 16-bit OJRPG could be real fun, and prove to be a retreat and community hub for all the classic JRPG lovers out there.
An early build is available to play, for free, at Crystal Kingdom’s official website.