Those looking for a traditional RPG this holiday season may want to head to Avencast Academy. Self-described as an "actionRPG", Avencast has all the elements any high-fantasy fan drools over: magic, enchantment, items, riddles, monsters, evil and the added bonus of fast-paced combat.
Multi-talented Minh Tri Do Dinh - animator, game designer and AI programer - unlocks the doors to the Academy to gives a peak at the secrets inside.
GamersInfo.net: Avencast is set in a school for mages, fighting an evil that was thought long gone, by a protagonist who doesn't know much about his past. The parallels to Harry Potter are hard to set aside. Were the Rowling books an inspiration when creating the universe? And what about Avencast makes it unique and compelling?
Minh Tri Do Dinh: Funny enough, Harry Potter had no influence on the creation of Avencast at all. Initially, the game was planned to be much bigger, with several different races and character classes, different countries, and so on. Since that would have been way too much work for us since we're a small independent team, we had to cut it down. Soon it became clear that the character class of the mage, along with an elaborate story focused around the Avencast academy, would be the most interesting. What makes the story unique and compelling is of course the way things will play out, but it's hard to go into specifics without spoiling everything. It would be best if players experience it themselves.
GamersInfo.net: Rather than a simple point and click move and combat system, the game sports a more interactive WSAD movement interface with 360 degree views and multiple-key spell casting. This likens the title more to an action game than traditional role playing titles. What prompted you to choose the more engaging combat style? Do you feel it increases the depth of play? What would you say to those players who find this type of play overwhelming or difficult?
Minh Tri Do Dinh: It was clear from the beginning that Avencast would become an Action RPG, so rather than produce another Diablo clone, we thought we should work towards a clear emphasis on action and implement a system that puts you right into the heart of combat. We wanted the action sequences to be as dynamic as possible, while challenging the player to bring their own skills to the game. It does increase the depth of play in terms of how you are involved in battle, but in a different direction than what one might expect from a traditional RPG. For those who may find this type of play too difficult, we implemented three difficulty levels. It is also possible to bind a limited number of spells to shortcut keys on your keyboard to make the controls a bit easier - so newcomers won't get frustrated that easily. We have a lot of positive feedback from players who weren't familiar with the control scheme at the beginning, but loved it during the course of the game.
GamersInfo.net: Early in the game you must choose between two magic schools, with a third available to you at all times. What does this choice mean in character development? Is this choice irrevocable? And why the third school?
Minh Tri Do Dinh: It means that spells from your chosen magic school get a boost, but you're still allowed to learn spells from the other school at any given time. The third school is actually a supplementary branch with summonable creatures. We decided to add it to make the gameplay more varied. Having a creature fighting on your side gives you new tactical possibilities and it's fun!
GamersInfo.net: A staple of RPGs are items - lots of armor, weapons and baubles that change the characters skills or situation. Is this the case with Avencast?
Minh Tri Do Dinh: Avencast has all the elements that RPG gamers love. Armor and weapons can boost your stats in Avencast, while skills actually won't be changed by items.
GamersInfo.net: Early previews all make mention of using sepia tones for cut scenes. This is an unusual choice. What were you trying to signify with the stark change in color?
Minh Tri Do Dinh: Using sepia tones for the cut-scenes was very much an aesthetic choice. The story is actually presented as a retrospection of an old man, so we sort of wanted to capture that feel of reading the old book he's shown writing in. Also, we experimented with 2.5D sequences early on and it became clear that it was a much more effective and interesting storytelling device than, say, pre-rendered 3D sequences.
GamersInfo.net: The greatest RPGs - of any size budget - succeed because of the little details, the sounds, NPC conversations, idle animations, etc. What are the details you're most proud of with Avencast?
Minh Tri Do Dinh: Besides more general stuff like art direction, visual effects, cut-scenes (both 2D and 3D) and the combat system, there are lots bits strewn across the game that we are proud of. Players will meet interesting characters and unique monsters, but also small situational stuff, for example spiders hatching from cocoons in the caves that you travel through.
GamersInfo.net: If you had unlimited resources to go back and add one more small thing to the game - small is key - what would it be?
Minh Tri Do Dinh: That's a tough question because there really isn't a singular element that we would want to add to the game, certainly not if it should be small. Tweaking bits, polishing things here and there… that would be the extent of the small things we would do.
Thanks to GamersInfo.net for allowing us to share the world of Avencast with their readers. Don't forget to download the demo. We hope you all enjoy the game!
My children both play games so I often play them first, getting to know exactly how something may effect my sensitive and easily stimulated older child vs. my stoic and imperturbable younger.
I like games for games; for the pure enjoyment of them and believe that no game is wholly bad, though some are real stinkers.
I also have the dexterity of a camel in mittens so find playing FPSs difficult (and I also don't like the gore) and RTSs at times can stump me. I just can't seem to move quickly enough to keep up with them. Some of my favorite games are arcade games and I'll spend 3-5 years on the same 5-6 levels because I just never get any better. But, I have fun.