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Straight from the Source: Dead Mage (Tale of Ronin)

We sat down with Dead Mage Studios at BitSummit Vol. 6 and talked about Tale of Ronin! The interview was conducted by PushDustin, Nirbion, and MasterofBear.

Check out more of our BitSummit coverage here.

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Push: Hello, I’m here with a developer from Dead Mage, the studio behind Tale of Ronin. Can you briefly introduce yourself?

Amir: Hello, I’m Amir Fassihi from Dead Mage. We are showing Tale of Ronin for the first time ever here.

Push: Great, can you tell us about the game?

Amir: Sure, Tale of Ronin is a RPG adventure game with some strategy elements. The idea is that you play as a ronin and you are free to roam the world and create your own story. The game features turn-based combat, but it’s a sort of simultaneous turn-based combat. The art style for the game is based on sumi-e, which is a Japanese art style.

Push: It looks fantastic. It looks like a painting.

Amir: Thank you. That’s the whole goal, to make the game resemble a live painting where there is ink everywhere…that’s what we are trying to achieve.

Push: Can you talk a little about the ‘sekai system’, where the world continues even after the player dies?

Amir: Yes, so there’s permadeath in the game. You play as one ronin. You can gather a bunch, but you only control one. If you lose that ronin – he dies, that’s it. He’s gone forever. You can play as the next ronin, you can continue the story with the next ronin but the world stays. It’s like you lose your character, but the whole world stays. Whatever decision you’ve made with the previous character stays, they affect the world, they stay there so you can experience the outcomes of your choices in your next playthrough.

Push: When the player starts another ronin, is it immediately after or is there a generation gap?   

Amir: It’s immediately after. Right at the time, another character spawns in another location of the world, one minute after the other’s [death].

Push: Can you tell us about the turn-based combat?
Amir: So the idea of the turn-based combat is that you can select different stances – since it’s katana fighting, stances are really important. Every stance has its own actions. So you first select your stance, and then you select the action and another action, you select two actions every time and then they resolve. Your opponent also selects two actions and they resolve. You might go to offense and have to executeyour actions or you might go to defense. It depends on how fast your character is or what kind of actions you select. Then the next turn again, you select two actions and they resolve. So that’s the idea, they simultaneously resolve. So unlike other turn based combats, where you select an action and it executes, [with Tale of Ronin] you might not be able to execute the move if the other opponent is faster.  

Push: Depending on the character, they will be able to use different abilities?

Amir: Yes, each character has their own style, every character has their own stances and abilities. You can also learn new abilities by staying at a dojo and practice to learn new skills.

Push: That’s fantastic. Can you talk a little bit about the story of the game? You already mentioned you are a ronin…

Amir: Yes, you are a ronin. It’s basic that you are in feudal Japan, but there are some fantasy elements to the story as well. We can’t talk about the details of the story yet, because it’s not finalized yet. We have some main narrative ideas and the game is still in pre-alpha. We almost finished the main arc of the story, the main objectives…we have a few ideas we are still trying to find out how they can fit in the game.

Push: So there will be a number of side quests as well?

Amir: Yes, there will be a lot of side quests…that’s the idea. The name of the game is Tale of Ronin and we are aiming to have various tales in the game. So we call them tales or stories as they are more than just quests. There are hundreds of stories, little stories, which you can follow and activate…or maybe you never touch them, maybe you never want to go there. For example there’s a priest in the world, you can go find the priest and he has some requirements or some challenges. So you can go and do the adventure there, or just totally forget it.

So yes, we are trying to add a lot of options to the game so everyone can enjoy their own style and see their own story.

Push: Is there any particular inspiration behind the game?

Amir: Oh actually, there’s a lot of things. Japanese samurai movies, in particular Kurosawa films like Yojimbo, Seven Samurai…those are our biggest inspirations. There are a lot of Japanese animation which [we also took] inspiration from. But yeah, Kurosawa had a good message. In Tale of Ronin, we want to really present the human side of samurai. When samurai became ronin there was this, ‘okay what are we going to do now’ because the samurai were always following the orders of their masters, [the samurai] has to decide if they are going to find another master, or take their own lives, OR if they should live on their own with their lives and own conscience. So there’s a big human aspect that I feel that Kurosawa captures really well in his movies, especially Seven Samurai. So we would really like to just touch that area and add to it. We don’t want to make a game where samurai are just killing machines. We have a lot of stats in the game like honor, shame or morale or spirit.

Push: Do you have an estimate for the release date of Tale of Ronin?

Amir: No. We really want to have the time to really focus on quality, so we don’t have a release date yet.

Push: Are you planning a worldwide release?

Amir: Yes, this will be worldwide.

Nirbion: I have a question about the art style. It looks very beautiful and handcrafted – how long did it take to incorporate the style of moving pictures in the game?

Amir: Yes, and all the credit goes to the artist at our studio, Kamyar Nasirifar, he has done a great job. Initially there was a lot of testing things, we really wanted it to be inspired by Japanese sumi-e, we wanted it to look something new, that would make the game really stand out. But after a few months we reached something which is rather satisfactory…we are getting feedback about the art style. But yeah, it’s very time consuming because as you mentioned, everything is done by hand. If we want to have animations, we have to make sure to draw everything in layers so we can move certain parts, but that adds to the time. But yeah, our artist is doing a great job.


Nirbion: He really did a good job. One question to wrap everything up: what does it mean to be indie?

Amir: Being indie is all about attitude. Being an indie is being courageous to step into new areas that people haven’t yet stepped in. To go into the gray area, or the dark area. I think this is what is important to indies. They are doing things that AAA or major studios haven’t done. Some indies risk a lot, some risk a little, but that’s what being indie is, it’s a mindset.

Push: Thank you so much.

Amir: Thank you.