Indie Developer – Red Crest Studios

Xbox Live Indie Games gives smaller developers and even lone programmers the opportunity to build their own creations and share them with the world.  This has led to some extremely creative games being released on Xbox Live at a very low cost to its consumers.  One of the genres that is becoming increasingly popular is Role Playing Games.

Indie developer Red Crest Studios is set to release Bonded Realities, an RPG coming to Xbox Live Indie Games this week.  Being a huge fan of the old school RPG, I decided to contact Michael Ventnor at Red Crest for a brief Q&A via email regarding Bonded Realities, and what’s coming next from this new indie developer.  Here’s what he had to say:

So tell me a little bit about Red Crest Studios.  How long have you been in operation?  How large is your team?

I officially started the Red Crest brand on 9th December last year. So Bonded Realities predates the studio that made it! My original plan was to release the game under my name and, if successful, then set up the studio name and continue making games. However, the interest in Bonded Realities grew quite sharply and people were asking for an official studio name, so I fast tracked its creation. I had the name and logo in mind since the beginning. Red Crest is made of just me.

Do you have plans for the mobile market as well?  Or are you concentrating on Xbox Live Indie Games for now?

Xbox for the moment. I do have game designs on hand that I can develop when I decide to try the mobile market, but that will happen later when I’m (hopefully) more successful.

Your latest creation, Bonded Realities, is a Role Playing Game for Xbox Live Indie Games.  What made you decide to do an RPG?

There were many reasons why:

a) There aren’t enough RPGs in the old-fashioned style I like. While there are a couple on the Indie service, there should be more.

b) I grew up on whimsical RPGs, and always enjoyed the number-based turn-based strategy mechanics, and the funny settings and stories.

c) I thought making an RPG would be easy. “It’s just logic and state machines”, I said. “Programming languages do this kind of thing best”, I said. That old, arrogant, incorrect self is now dead, buried and cremated after numerous development delays. But I still persevered to finish, because I didn’t want to waste the work I did so far.

Can you tell us what is Bonded Realities about?

A lot of people who’ve played the game already were surprised at how the game opens. You are a toddler, being dropped off at child care by your mum. Like your typical day at child care, you go outside to play with your three best friends, Liam, Josh and Maria. But then a bright flash of light happens, and the next thing you know, you’re in a totally different place, separated from everyone else, and transformed into a new body. Your goal, therefore, is to find your friends and get home. Bonded Realities’ story is designed such that it unfolds as you play. It may sound scant with how I described it above, but that’s because you know nothing about what happens or how to fix it at the start. I deliberately made the story like that because I enjoyed stories that didn’t reveal your end goal or how to achieve it at the start, rather it is revealed in several plot twists later on. There is a big boss fight at the end, so don’t worry :-)

How long do you expect it will take the average gamer to complete Bonded Realities?

I’d say around 4 or 5 hours. More if you want to do 100% completion, since that involves finding all the treasure chests and some of them are very well hidden (but contain very powerful items and equipment!).

Are there any particular RPGs that have influenced the gameplay that we’ll find in Bonded Realities?

As I said before, the RPGs I enjoyed the most had good mechanics and a funny setting. Earthbound being the obvious candidate, most indie RPGs are compared to that because of its quirky nature. Others I’ve played include Pokemon, Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi and others. I tried to recreate what I liked, and fix what I hated, whilst adding in a lot of my own ideas and style. As a result, I worked hard on interesting combat, jokes everywhere, and a clean and unique interface.

What were the biggest hurdles you encountered while creating an RPG for XBLIG?

Mostly just the shock with how much work is needed to make a decent RPG from scratch. I used no middleware (except XNA, of course) because I really enjoy engine programming, thus the Bonded Realities engine was written entirely by me, and all the art was done by me (I’m not a particularly good drawer, it’s taken years of practice just to get where I am now). The music was licensed since I have no musical knack whatsoever. But again, I enjoy things that others would hate, like writing code, and thinking up ways to make certain parts of the game more fun without too much implementation effort.

Can you give us a preview of what we might see on the horizon from Red Crest now that Bonded Realities is getting ready to release?

I’ll be entering this year’s Dream Build Play with a completely different kind of game. It won’t be an RPG, or even resemble anything like that. It involves an experimental game mechanic I thought up, so the biggest trouble for me right now is trying to make it fun.

A Game That Shows Promise

Looking at Bonded Realities’ trailers and screenshots, this game shows a lot of potential.  Having enjoyed Role Playing Games since the original Final Fantasy for the Nintendo Entertainment System, I’m looking forward to grabbing this one and spending a few hours satisfying my hunger for some good old-fashion RPG’ing.

~W75

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