neXGam: Any glimpse of the story and setting you can give us?
ES Team: Our storyline puts a lot of emphasis on the tension between magic and technology. "Magic" is a very religious thing in Elysian Shadows, as it's bestowed by The Creator to loyal folllowers, whereas technology is more used by scholars and adventurers, and that culture is seen as more heretical, since they are basically turning away from god's gift and are "meddling" in other affairs.
It was actually highly inspired by real-life. Especially with stem cell research, human genome mapping, and cloning, we truly are reaching a point where science is coming at ends with the religious community. There is a sect of people who feel like we're meddling with powers that are reserved for god, while other people believe the scientific advances could benefit humanity... We basically really wanted to make a story with relevance to real life and endow it with a deeper meaning... We think that's vital for establishing an emotional connection with an audience, and that truly is the goal of any form of art...
neXGam: Any details on VMU support, or other gimmicks like maybe DLC via SD card on Dreamcast?
ES Team (Falco):
Yep, all kinds of details, haha. I'm not sure I would call them "gimmicks," because we aren't doing them to sell copies of the game... We're doing them, because we genuinely fucking love the idea of having maraca support in something like a dance rhythm minigame or fishing rod support for a fishing minigame... It's something that just makes Dreamcast development and the Dreamcast scene that much more awesome, and we know our fans will love that. As far as the VMU minigame goes, we really wanted to do something like the Chao Garden from Sonic Adventure
, to where you actually have a great reason to take your VMU with you and play with it... But we also really love games like Poke'mon, so that's really where that came from. For the other non-Dreamcast builds, we will be packaging the apps with a VMU emulator, so we won't have to rewrite the minigame, and you can experience it as authentically as the Dreamcast owners.
We have actually gotten a lot of eyebrows raised at the thought of DLC support on the Dreamcast, which is really funny to us... The Dreamcast can easily support swapdiscs, SD cards, and streaming via the broadband adapter or modem (all of which are supported by the KOS API) to support DLC... We aren't crazy. We're engineers, and we have been developing for the console for a decade. ;)
neXGam: As development went on, you added a PC version. Now you have been working on the engine a lot; what was once pure 2D is now a unique kind of 2D/3D hybrid with fancy effects such as real time lighting and bumpmapping. How much of that will be carried over to Dreamcast?
ES Team (Falco):
Believe it or not, the Sega Dreamcast was actually the first console to ever do bumpmapping in hardware, but the technology was too new at the time for any commercial game to really take advantage of it. We have the rare opportunity to try to tap into some of the Dreamcast's power that never saw the light of day. While I cannot definitively say exactly how much of the lighting engine it can support until we really get deep into it and start hand-optimizing for the hardware, we are really looking forward to pushing the DC to its limits... It is technically capable of per-vertex lighting and bump mapping. The only thing it definitely cannot do is shadows on a per-pixel basis, but it can still do them per-vertex from a sheerly technical standpoint... Oh, and 3D perspective will absolutely work fine on the Dreamcast. Our engine is fully 3D even with the 2D perspective. ;)
December 2015 seems far away now, but with constant engine improvements and redoing things, do you think you will make it?
ES Team (Falco): Yeah, we do believe we will make it. That's also why we chose a year and a half for the project, rather than the Kickstarter standard one-year timeframe. We kept redoing the engine in the past, because it was not capable of powering our creative vision for Elysian Shadows... But this time the engine is complete. You can already see that. Our Kickstarter campaign and funding is to now allow us to create the content for the game itself, since the back-end tech has been completed.
neXGam: Elysian Shadows has a very unique visual style. Especially the sprites don't look quite like the usual JRPG sprites. Was there an intention to give it a unique look or to seperate it from the standard fare is it something that "just happened" along the way?
ES Team (Falco): We get that question a lot. While I think lots of our environments are more hammered out than our characters, there is definitely still work to be done on that front. I see a lot of criticism about Julien's character being "bland and boring," but that part actually was a design decision. He's actually supposed to be a fairly average guy, and you later on gain party members with the crazy JRPG clothing and styles. That was something we had consciously agreed upon, and we felt like having Julien more relatable would help the player feel more connected to him as he explores this crazy world of Elysian Shadows... Kind of like how Harry Potter was an average boy thrown into a crazy wizarding world... Unfortunately the rest of the party was not pixeled in time for our Kickstarter, so yeah, we get a lot of shit for "bland" characters, even though that is not the case.
neXGam: Is it hard getting the word out? You did a great job with your videos for example but afair sadly a large part of the gaming media isn't too interested in retro development.
ES Team (Falco):
It's exhausting, really. If you follow us on social media, you should know we are doing our own marketing, and we're constantly doing podcasts, interviews, articles, YouTube videos, and trying to find ways to engage the press. We do things very organically on this team, which is why we have so many backers that truly believe in this project and feel emotionally invested... At least we know our backers truly support us and like our creative vision, because it sure as hell isn't because we have shady industry insider friends promoting us on Kotaku. ;)
neXGam: Worst case scenario: Kickstarter fails. Would the years of work you already put into Elysian Shadows really go to waste?
ES Team (Falco): OoOo, my favorite question... If we fail this Kickstarter, I will be depressed as shit. Probably the most depressed I've ever been in my life. I might turn to heroin or something and do some dumb shit in my depression, but I will eventually pull my head out of my ass and return to the project. Throughout my life, Elysian Shadows has been the one constant that has pulled me out of major depression through heartbreak, surgery, and disaster. I'm not about to abandon it just because some guys on the internet did not agree with or understand my creative vision.
If the Kickstarter succeeds, and Elysian Shadows
is a sales success in relation to the usual retro-game-numbers, will you continue supporting Dreamcast or other vintage consoles? Or is ES a one-time-gig?
ES Team (Falco): It's really hard to say for sure, but as long as the console is capable of handling our game without requiring us to fundamentally change our creative vision, I don't see why we would not continue supporting the Dreamcast... The engine and R&D work is already done.
neXGam: Some Dreamcast developers have complained about declining sales. Do you believe this has to do with the scope of most games or lack of variety, and what people expect from the system?
ES Team (Falco): Yeah, I think if it's declining in sales, that's more a reflection of the quality and diversity of the indie games coming out for the console... If you look at our Kickstarter, we're still selling more Dreamcast games than any other console, and we've sold something like 7 custom Dreamcasts for a thousand dollars each... It really shows you the audience is there, and people are hungry and ready for quality homebrews on their little white boxes... I also know that with our success on "Adventures in Game Development," we have personally been able to introduce thousands of people to the Dreamcast scene who had no idea the console was still being developed for... That has been very rewarding for us, since I feel like our position in the press gives us a pretty unique opportunity other DC developers might not have.
Why did you choose to work with Watermelon
as a publisher? There are other Dreamcast publishers too.
ES Team (Falco): It wasn't even really a choice for who to choose as a developer. We've always been Watermelon fans, and the minute Tulio reached out to us, and especially when we realized he had also been following our project, WM won us over immediately. The other guys never took the time to watch our YouTube videos or to figure out what we are trying to do creatively. They just saw a business opportunity... Tulio and WM have really become close friends to us, and in all honesty, their packaging and attention to detail with Pier Solar on the Sega Genesis is by far the most impressive physical release I have ever seen--indie or not.
neXGam: Lastly, please tell me your three favorite games.
ES Team: Jeeez, that's a really hard question...
Falco: Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IX, Megaman Legends
Tyler: Legend of Dragoon, Castlevania, Final Fantasy Tactics
Connor: Resident Evil, Silent Hill
Dan: Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy X