Alaloth – Champions of The Four Kingdoms Interview with Producer Giulia Zamboni – Isometric Soulslike
The Souls franchise made popular by From Software has spawned a series of games inspired by at least some of those key design principles.
However, none of those titles featured an isometric point of view and that alone distinguishes Alaloth - Champions of the Four Kingdoms, the ambitious action RPG in development at Gamera Interactive, an Italian indie studio.
The combat system is said to be hardcore and there will be consequences for your death, such as the loss of your equipment/loot. Gamera seems willing to go one step further than From Software, though, as your own grave can even get looted by other NPCs.
The dark fantasy setting has also been co-written by none other than Chris Avellone, which is music to the ears of any true RPG fan. Some of the other features as outlined on the Steam store page include 12 companions that can either fight you or join you, 40 houses or clans to fight for, four playable races (Humans, Dwarves, Elves and Orcs) and even local multiplayer.
Our Dave recently spoke with Giulia Zamboni, Producer at Gamera Interactive, to talk about this interesting project. Enjoy the read!
Can you tell me about the vision behind Alaloth and how you came to create it?
One of the founders of the studio seems to have had this game in mind for something like 15 years. But an indie studio wasn't able to create something like that. Now that we have the Unity engine and other things, it's time to do this. We did a lot of research, and fantasy stuff is something that is still appealing for a very huge audience. So the basic idea is to take some of the coolest aspects of many masterpieces and put them together, trying to give the final result a modern twist. We have Chris Avellone working with us, and he seems to enjoy working with us on the project. He gave us creative support, he's taking care of all the character stories and lore of the world. This is helping a lot because the story is very, very deep and rich. Another thing that we are taking a lot of care with, is the visuals. We wanted something pretty gorgeous to look at. That's why all the animations that we are using are motion captured. We want a very fluid and choreographed vibe. And also the environments are something that we worked very, very hard on. Consider that we spent basically one year just on pre-production before starting development. We started pre-production, one year and a half ago. So we have all the documentation, all the concept art, all the details for every single feature of the game. And that, of course, makes it a lot easier to develop the game, because you know what to do in a very precise way. We also decided to move to pre-rendered backgrounds, because the very first prototype of the game was a pure 3D game. But then we realized that the pre-render technique allowed us to have a very detailed visual style, more so than pure 3D. That's why we switched to using pre-rendered backgrounds in Alaloth, just in time too, because when you enter the production you are not supposed to change anything of the sort or you will never release the game. So we spent a couple of months, more or less, to perform tests and then decided to go this route. We're really happy with the result. Every single environment is something that our artists can hand paint and paint over. This means we can have very good results, I think. I hope you think the same!
Yes, of course.
Considering we started the real development of Alaloth in February 2018, we are pretty happy with what we have been able to create since we started. The release of the game could happen later this year for PC and Xbox One. Because as a studio, we are small and we are new, but we are used to working with Xbox on some of the other projects. Probably, later on, Alaloth could launch on PS4 too. Let's see what happens.
Will Alaloth have multiplayer at launch?
We will have local co-op. Because the game has been developed in Unity, and Unity3D has pros and cons like any other engine. I mean, there are a lot of super fans on Unreal Engine, but Unity3D is strong enough for the kind of game that we are going to develop. The problem is that if you don't take into consideration the implementation of online multiplayer from the very, very beginning, it would be really hard to implement later into the development with Unity3D. And online multiplayer itself is a feature that many publishers or investors or people that we are talking with, are asking for, but it's something that we know that we can't do at the moment, or we will release very, very late. And we are always on time, on budget with our projects. The previous two games that we released have been out on the precise date. We know what we are able to achieve in a given timeframe. But we have the local co-op, so you will be able to play with your friends on the couch.
How did you get Chris Avellone involved with the project?
That's a funny story. We met with Chris at Reboot Develop here in Croatia, two years ago, maybe three years ago. We went to the conference, just because we are from Italy so it's not too far to travel, and we had also heard about how wonderful the Reboot Develop conference is (it really is), we think that Reboot Develop is one of the best conferences in the world at the moment, because it's not too big, like E3 or GDC or something like that. But you can meet very, very experienced people, very cool people from the industry, and you have the chance to talk with them in person. That's always the best thing. So we met Chris, and at that time we just had a little pitch document and a very, very small prototype demo. So we started talking with him, saying that we really love his work. And we asked him if he would be happy to check out our project. He said yes and he saw the game, he saw the documents, and he apparently fell in love with the project. So we didn't have to force him to participate in the project. He was very happy to help. So we started to exchange a lot of emails and stuff like that. Some months later, we started to work together. And he is doing very good work, of course. And also, I have to say that he seems to be really, really passionate about the project, he receives, I don't know, something like 100 proposals each year. And he chooses like three or four games to work on. So yeah, we are one of them, we are pretty happy about it. And yes, of course, his work is going to help a lot, because it won't be an anonymous game, it will sort of be a Chris Avellone game. And another thing that I want to say is that he is working really hard, and sometimes he has written much more than we expected him to. So he's really taking care with the stories, the lore, the characters, it's becoming a real world.
What inspired the lore and the world of Alaloth? From playing the intro of the game, I noticed several races, personality types, factions...
So the game was first thought of by Alberto Belli, he is one of the founders of the studio. He is a very experienced guy because he has been in the gaming industry almost 20 years now. He started from the press and then he was able to take on many, many different roles in the industry. So, how a publisher works, how distribution works, how development works. So that helps a lot to decide which features would be the good ones to put in the game to have a hopefully successful game. The very, very first idea came from Alberto. He is a super fan of D&D and lots of RPG stuff. And that's why he decided to create this world. People who are 30 to 40 years old are likely to enjoy this because it's something that can make people remember their D&D sessions with friends. And then Chris came in, and he created all the story so now we have something like 3,000 years of history before the very start of the game. So it's really a new world.
I can see you've got a lot planned for Alaloth. How expansive can we expect the world to become? In this demo, I can already see a fairly large world map...
Well, the Alaloth demo that you tried here only had the human kingdom playable. The map will be pretty huge. We have four different kingdoms, so one for each race. So we have dwarves, humans, orcs, and elves, very classic fantasy stuff. Each Kingdom has seven different cities and seven different fighting areas of different sizes. So, two are very small, two medium, two big, and a special one that will be unlocked depending on the reputation you are able to achieve in your kingdom. Everything also has three different points of interest. So, very beautiful environments, where you're not supposed to fight, but encounter and meet someone, or collect something. And the cool thing is that all of these points of interest have been built around the real places, very cool places. On the map, we have very different kinds of territories. So, mountains, forests, and depending on that you will be able to move at a different speed, you will have mounts that will help your movement. So the map will be pretty huge and will change depending on the way you choose to play the game. Because as we always said, Alaloth is something in between a very classic RPG, and an action RPG. So if you decided to just go exploring and see everything, every place, meet every character, it will be a game that could easily take, I don't know, 80, 90, maybe 100 hours of gameplay. If you, on the other hand, choose to go straight to the fight kill enemies and arrive at the final boss, it will probably last, I don't know, something like 15, 20, 25 hours in the end. The map is pretty huge, but of course, this is not an AAA project. So yeah, we don't have a map like The Elder Scrolls, but we are trying our best.
I see NPCs walking around the world map. What sort of interactions can we expect from those?
The world of Alaloth is a living world, while you are playing and completing your quest, there are things happening around the world. On the world map, you will be able to encounter different wandering units, some will be good ones, some others will be evil ones. So, we have many different kinds of evil enemies, that will spawn randomly on the map, you will be able to fight with them, but they will also be able to lock you and go after you. We also have different kinds of interactions with these units. For example, if you encounter a champion for another family, you will be able to talk with him, and he will probably give you some information about his family, there will be different alliances and stuff that will happen between the families, so the dialogue will change, you will also be able to interact with merchants for example, and brigands. We have four different special wandering characters that you will be able to meet around the world, in the cities, or on the map, and they are going to ask you for some special items to bring back to them. And if you will be able to do so, they will turn into very special vendors so they will be able to create wonderful equipment for you. We also have dragons on the map. Dragons are very, very hard to defeat. You will probably be forced to party with some other champions to defeat the dragons. I don't know if you remember Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight. It was an Amiga game. And it's one of the references for the game. And in Moonstone you had four different champions, and the dragons steal from the champions. So, let's say that there are many, many references to many of the big and cool games of the past.
Sounds great. Thank you for your time!