Interview: How Snowcastle Is Nurturing a Unique PS4 RPG with Earthlock: Festival of Magic
Posted by Sammy Barker
The advent of the crowd funding phenomenon has culminated in something of a resurgence for the classic turn-based role-playing game. The likes of Soul Saga and Liege represent recent success stories, proving that there’s still pent-up demand for titles inspired by the PSone classics of yore. Norwegian studio Snowcastle Games is the latest outfit to have a crack at servicing the gap in the market, and its upcoming Earthlock: Festival of Magic promises to be no ordinary pretender.
Currently in the early phases of its Kickstarter campaign, the release has already accrued over $60,000 of its $150,000 target with 26 days left to run. Offering a fusion of tense strategic combat and Harvest Moon-esque crafting mechanics, the PlayStation 4 release certainly boasts an intriguing premise. With that in mind, we caught up with game director Bendik Stang to learn a little more about the title’s progress – and also get to the heart of what sets this unique adventure apart.
Push Square: Earthlock: Festival of Magic is being pitched as a return to the turn-based RPG classics of old. What is it in particular that’s drawn you back to that genre?
Bendik Stang: The whole team sat down for a round table in which we all discussed our favourite games and what our dream project would be. The result was unanimous: we all wanted to make an RPG. The reasoning behind this was simply that the games from that genre are the ones that we have the fondest memories of.
PS: You’ve put a big emphasis on plot. What are some of the inspirations behind the story, and why do you think that the narrative is so important to your game?
BS: Once you have finished a game and put it aside, the thing that sticks in your memory is very often the story and the characters. The gameplay matters greatly too, but it is often a tool to tell the story and give the player a chance to become immersed in the universe and connect to the characters. If we can make the player laugh and cry while providing thrilling gameplay, we will have achieved our goals.
PS: Talk us through the crafting and harvesting mechanic. What has served as the inspiration behind that feature?
BS: We really like the feeling of progress and achievement that you get in games like Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon. Still, we do love a good battle and some epic quests, so combining those elements seemed to make sense, and we believe that we have made them work.
The loot grind found in many RPGs with trash loot clogging up the inventory doesn’t seem very user friendly to us, and we wanted to address that issue with Earthlock. We wanted to add a calculated element to that loot and equipment cycle.
The home base in Earthlock consists of several buildings and various production resources, such as the farm field. In a meta way, it can be compared to your castle in Heroes of Might and Magic. The home base is where you upgrade and produce the stuff that you need to win the battles ahead.
PS: The combat system sees you work with pairs rather than individual party members. Why have you taken this route, and how does it change the experience?
BS: It's a mechanic that we think will provide more strategic variation with the combat experience. With Earthlock, you’ll be able to combine the pairs into either extreme combinations or more balanced pairs.
PS: Your Kickstarter hints that this is the first instalment in a trilogy. How close to completion are you with this initial iteration, and are you even thinking about those second and third episodes yet?
BS: It's the realisation that our vision for this universe is too big to do in one development cycle. We decided to divide the story into three chapters so that we can best honour the story. Each chapter will be a self-contained game with its own story arc and fulfilling ending. We do, however, have an over-reaching story arc in the background that will continue over the chapters and will reach a conclusion in the last.
PS: The Wii U version will be receiving unique gamepad features. Are there any plans to use the Vita to replicate those ideas?
BS: If we add features or use input devices specific to certain platforms, we want them to feel natural, and so extensive testing will have to occur before committing to it. We have some ideas as to what and how we can use the cool features, but we want to do them justice. As of right now, we have only committed to the gamepad for the Wii U. Of course, this is subject to change if we find time to do the proper quality assurance of the utilisation of other unique input devices.
PS: Have you spent much time developing with the PS4 yet? If so, how are you finding the experience?
BS: We have recently been certified as a PlayStation developer and have barely had time to process the paperwork and order the first development kit. We are very excited to try out the kit and are optimistic to find out how easy or hard it is to work with.
PS: Are there any plans to support the PS4’s other unique features, such as the touchpad, light bar, and PlayStation Camera?
BS: Since this is a turn-based combat RPG, we don’t see an immediate use for those input devices. If we at any time in the development come up with an idea for the use of those, we will try them out and see if it makes sense for the game.
PS: In as few words as possible, explain why someone should pledge their money towards Earthlock: Festival of Magic.
BS: If you long for a game with a focus on the characters and story, you should check out our campaign, and you are sure to enjoy the ride. If you’re looking for a throwback to the classic RPGs of old, check out our campaign and see if it resonates with you as much as it does with us. If you like to get emotionally attached to the characters that you control and enjoy tactical combat and puzzle solving, you should check out our campaign – you will not be disappointed.
You will get a chance to talk to us and let us know your input, and keep up to date with the reveals as the campaign progresses. We are reading all of the suggestions that our community gives us, and many ideas have already been implemented in one way or another. There are many ways to participate other than just a monetary pledge, and we are ever eager for more feedback. So, check out the campaign – if you like what you see, we would be honoured if you were to show your support.
You can learn a lot more about Earthlock: Festival of Magic courtesy of the project’s Kickstarter page. Is this a title that you’re eager to back, or are you not really a fan of the genre? Raise a response in the comments section below.