Welcome to part two of the Lichdom: Battlemage Q&A with George Chapman as he continues to share his love of the game with us! (Did you miss Part 1? Click here!)
The Videogame Backlog: So what are some things that you guys have set in stone that even if the community says ‘We’d like this.’ you guys wouldn’t give the green light to?
George Chapman (COO of Xaviant): Well to be honest with you, this is a very tough game. The difficulty, well… there’s a couple of things I’ll go over. Number one, everyone wants to see is us put multiplayer into the game. What we try to tell everyone [is that for] Xaviant, this is our very first game. We are pretty much and independent studio, self funded. We have a lot of aspirations we want to put into the game that matches what a lot of the people in the community kind of want, but since this was our first game we wanted to be very careful about biting off more than we could chew. We wanted to get something that was in a very concrete set of deliverables so that we could get something out that we could feel very proud of. Something very solid that would become foundational and help us build an IP out of this that we can grow from here on out. So a lot of things that people are [commenting] about wanting to see, [they won’t] necessarily make it into this game, but there are things that we think about, we agree with and it’s things that we look into a little further into the IP.
The difficulty setting is one thing that is very tough about this. Again, our Creative Director is a huge fan of games like Dark Souls. He likes that hardcore difficulty. I think we have a very high difficulty, I don’t think we necessarily as hard as Dark Souls, but we’re pretty hard. So I think [it’s] still a little bit accessible; I think that some of the people that play Dark Souls will be very happy playing this type of a game. I still think it’s a little more accessible for people that aren’t necessarily Dark Souls fans.
TVGBL: I think the most… just from jumping in and not having played it before, I think the most inaccessible part would probably not be the difficulty, but the crafting of the spells. I kind of get it, but at the same time there’s a lot of different terms in the game.
George: Absolutely. Like I said, there’s 168 different levers. We’ve got some decent online crafting guides that people have gone though. There’s probably some things in areas we can improve on in terms of getting the player educated as they move forward. Those are definitely things that we’re looking at. Those are actually some of the comments that came out of Early Access as well. It’s tough, we iterate on these systems a lot so we get used to certain things. Again, as an indie studio and a first time game, we’ve got to make sure we’re not taking things for granted. The crafting, once you can get it, there’s probably about a four-hour point in the game where if you’ve played around with crafting and you figure it out, the rest of the game becomes a completely different experience.
We’re looking at some other ways to really put hooks in the game to get to those kind of things that you can, without having to leave the game, figure out how to get to videos that are going to help you craft better.
That’s definitely an area that people have asked for and I think we can and will find a way to accommodate that.
TVGBL: So a more basic question, what are you guys pulling from? What was your inspiration for this game?
George: Ah, that’s a really good question. You’ll see a lot of comments out there from a lot of people that think, ‘oh you just pulled this from Skyrim‘. Actually, Skyrim’s not even something we looked at in terms of how we were building this game. For us, [we wanted an] experience something more like Borderlands with magic. We wanted to be very loot driven because we all love Diablo, we all love Borderlands. We want to make it so that you get that excitement when that legendary drop comes and you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to fit that into your arsenal.
We took it the one step further in terms of the crafting to say, it’s not simply a drop or two. It’s a component for you to be able to build something that’s even better.
TVGBL: And I love that! That’s one of the things that bothered me most about Borderlands is the ‘We’ve got a bajillion guns!’ Yes, but a thousand of them are the ones I want and there’s a whole bunch more of the ones I don’t. So I love being able to craft your own weapon.
George: It’s really nice because it all comes down to ‘what is your playstyle?’ When I talk about figuring out that I want to run lightning, I want to make sure that I can craft for something that has high Apocolyptical chance. I was getting to the point where I could get an Apocolyptical basically every five casts and I was keeping that Lightning up, that sigil power all of the time. It was like a chain Lightning, but it was something I built for and I could figure it out by looking at the numbers and how I get to that point and it wasn’t necessarily that would have dropped on some pre-fab component. So that’s the key for us, it’s to give you both the excitement of the item dropping, but letting you have the ability to apply a little bit of intelligence to it and feel that this makes my custom mage and it kind of personifies it to you. Even outside of the spells, the shields are a great example too on how that works.
TVGBL: When I remember to use them?
TVGBL: They were nice!
George: We have agile shields. We have strategic shields. We have tactical shields. The strategic is kind of the middle of the road. They have a little bit of an ability to quick blink. They have the ability to galvanize when you throw that block up you get both a 100% damage mitigation [and] you also get to create the nova and do an explosion against whatever’s trying to attack you. On the left side of that then you have the agile shield. So if you’re a super twitch player and you’re like ‘I never get hit, I want to move around’ you can play that way. If you want to play the tanky-mage that gets up in their face, you can play with the tactical shield and so instead of doing the galvanize move, you’re doing the charged blink where you go into the combat and I’m going to explode where ever I land.
So you have these different playstyles where some like to skirt around the edge and want to see everything versus the ‘I want to get into everybody’s face’ and ‘I want to be prepared for anything that comes in’. We like to see people’s playstyles evolve differently and one of the nice things is we continue to see combinations come into the game based on different sigils. There are things we didn’t necessarily think about, but they’re kind of cool so we don’t touch them. So seeing that evolution of playstyles is really kind of nice.
I don’t think I talked in detail about the synergies yet. … Our synergies are a type of crafted patterns and the idea that when you have two different sigils, you can find some ways to make them to work together to make something that’s better. So in the example of Kinesis and Lightning it creates a singularity which is the black hole. If you have Fire and Ice you create Frost Burn, which is the vortex thing you saw there. If you’re using [Necromancy and Delirium] you can summon an Undead Hulk and he can be your minion for a little bit and go after things.
TVGBL: That would be Delirium Synergy?
George: That would be Necromancy, but you’re using Necromancy and Delirium together. You have to have those two sigils in order to call [the Undead Hulk].
TVGBL: That could have been useful; I’m not going to lie. (Like a dork, I had specked out of having a Synergy move while playing the demo right before a boss fight.)
George: So those kinds of small patterns come through exploration and so you have to basically continue to craft up to get to them. Sometimes what you will find is that when you unlock one of those kinds of patterns and that changes what you want run for your three sigils. You can say, ‘man I’ve been running with Fire, Ice and Lightning, but I want THAT!‘ That means you have to switch [over to Necromancy and Delirium] to figure out how that works and that’s when things get more interesting.
TVGBL: So when a player picks up [your game, what are you most excited about that player experiencing]?
George: So there’s a couple of different moments. It’s funny, I’ve seen some people talking about the game recently and I can see them, they get it! They’ve hit that moment. The difficulty at the end of the game is very strong. When you get to the second boss we have and it’s a struggle, you’ve got to figure out what techniques should I use. You’re going to need to change things up a bit. You’re going to need to see what was working and what wasn’t working. When you get through that fight it’s like I’m wearing a badge! You’ve figured out how to do this and then beyond that you get to a point where that guy that you faced there is now something that you will face commonly. He’s no longer a level boss, he’s a mob in the game that you will now fight constantly and you’re fighting two or three at a time.
TVGBL: That’s not nice, but I like it.
George: The great part is when you get to that point and now you’re taking three of these guys and you see the evolution of your character and [you’ll say] ‘I feel like a bad-ass’!
TVGBL: Is it the same level of guy or [does he] have a little less power?
George: He has equivalent hit points, but your abilities have gone up obviously at that point, but his abilities are still there and get a little bit stronger. When you first encounter him he’s more about just immobilizing at ranged and coming after you and hitting you with melee. Later he’ll be able to do ranged damage to you as well. There’s other abilities that come into play. You’ll also get other affixes that can then turn him into a mini-boss with boosted up hit-points and boosted up other things so he becomes much more challenging, but when it happens again, that’s the bad-ass moment. That’s the ‘I’ve really evolved this character’ and it’s a fun part when you get to it and I’m excited for other people to get to that.
TVGBL: Just to remind me because that is one of the things that I didn’t really remember to do: blocking. If you just hold down does that continuously negate damage.
George: Yes it does actually. Blocking is important, not just for the galvanize, but for holding down and mitigating damage all together. The shields will have a base block percent like 35-65% of the damage or they’ll block 100% if you time that galvanize. There are situations though where you’ve got the Bone Bolters, the archers who are shooting at you and they don’t just shoot once, they shoot like three times.
TVGBL: Can you Galvanize each one of those?
George: It’s hard to Galvanize each one because by the time you have to drop and then raise it and drop and then raise it… that’s a pretty tough timing, but at a minimum you should be holding down the block because instead of taking three full hits of damage you’ll take at worst one and a half hits of damage because you can block like 50% of it.
That’s one thing that I watch when you get hit like that, that moment, that startled moment you have to become a bit more calm, a bit more zen knowing ‘when that’s happening I’ve got to do this’, but I see people learn that.
TVGBL: It’s counter intuitive because usually in a game and you’re playing a mage and you start to getting hit, that’s when you start freaking out because you’re not supposed to be getting hit. I like it! You’ve covered a lot more than I anticipated because I had questions and you answered them already. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
George: Not really, other than we’re really excited to be here. We’re really excited that we launched this past week. It’s been a culmination of quite a few years for the team, but we’re very excited about this first product we think that the IP has a pretty good future.
TVGBL: I think it does too. When you said plans for the future, possibly multiplayer for the next one?
George: We aren’t announcing any of our plans directly yet, but like I said, we’re all fans of multiplayer and that’s all I can tell you.
TVGBL: Well thank you very much.
George: Pleasure talking to you!
TVGBL: You as well!
If you’ve ever wanted to play a game that does mages right, Lichdom: Battlemage is right there at the top of the list! Go out and grab yourself a copy!