jueves, 5 de julio de 2018

Interview with David Dunham, lead designer of Six Ages

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David Dunham is the lead creator of the acclaimed video game King of Dragon Pass, the first ever set in the fantasy world of Glorantha. His company A Sharp just released a new Gloranthan video game: Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind. David is a long-time fan of Glorantha and he has contributed to many official publications over the years. For example, he edited the Gloranthan fanzine Enclosure, wrote articles for other fanzines like The New Lolon Gospel and The Book of Drastic Resolutions, wrote the Grazers section in the Hero Wars book and even edited an edition of HeroQuest. In the following interview, I ask him a lot of questions about role-playing games and his two video games set in Glorantha: King of Dragon Pass and Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind. [Puedes leer esta entrevista en castellano.]



OK, so let's start with the interview. First of all, thanks David for participating in this.

1. How did you start playing role-playing games and RuneQuest in particular?

I started playing D&D in college. At some point I discovered RuneQuest, and loved its increased realism and flexibility.

2. I remember reading your Gloranthan website in the 90s, where you still keep records of a bunch of cool Gloranthan campaigns you have played or run with RuneQuest, Hero Wars and then HeroQuest. Of all those campaigns, which is the one you have the fondest memories from?

Hard to pick just one! One that I can remember: In the game I ran set in the time of the Dragon Empire, one of the characters ended up sacrificing herself to a supernatural child she had met on a heroquest, years before. It was mythically perfect but I hadn’t expected it at all, and was blown away.

3. Back then, you played in Jeff Richard's campaign "The Taming of Dragon Pass", with the rules of Pendragon and RuneQuest, a mix you named PenDragon Pass. That campaign must have influenced your first Gloranthan video game King of Dragon Pass. To what extent? What character did you play?

I had run PenDragon Pass earlier, with a different group. Jeff and the Seattle Farmers Collective really did a great job with it. My character Korol the Poet ended up in KoDP. I think in general the influences back and forth were less obvious. Jeff and I were both drawing on the book King of Sartar, but telling different stories.

David must have had a lot of fun playing the troublemaking Korol in that campaign...

4. Have any of your other campaigns had an influence on your video games?

The original PenDragon Pass game was something of an influence, in that the idea was to run a multi-generational game depicting the resettlement of Dragon Pass. My first RuneQuest character inspired the trader from Heortland who visits you in KoDP. I think she ended up in the latest RuneQuest, too.

I wonder if that's the trader who tries to sell you a magical treasure called the Mist Paper...
The trader from the King of Dragon Pass video game. Did you buy her magical Mist Paper?

5. It looks like in that campaign the concept of the many subcults of Orlanth and other main deities was introduced for the first time, which later was used in the Storm Tribe supplements for HeroQuest 1st edition. Do you think it was a good idea or do you prefer the limited number of cults as presented in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes and RQG?

I’m pretty sure we’ve always had subcults like Orlanth the Warrior, at least as far back as Cults of Prax. I wasn’t as big a fan of having to know all the names for Orlanth, though I’m sure that’s authentic Glorantha.

6. Now RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha is finally available and it includes many elements from Pendragon, such as seasonal play. Would you play it now or do you only play HeroQuest these days?

Of course I’d play it! I suspect if I were running something it would have to be HeroQuest because GMs need less preparation.

7. By the way, do you still play pen and paper RPGs? If yes, what have you played or run recently?

Unfortunately, once I moved I haven’t found a group of players close enough for a regular game. I did play some of the new RuneQuest. Before I moved, I think the game I last ran was a one-shot introduction to FATE, and I played in a Blades in the Dark campaign.

8. Since you have run and played many different Gloranthan campaigns, what would you recommend to someone who is thinking about running a campaign set in Glorantha?

You don’t need to know everything, don’t worry if you have to make up something to keep your game story going.

Thank you, David. Now let's speak about your first video game:



About King of Dragon Pass


9. Making the first Gloranthan video game must have been a great experience. What was the best part?

It was super fun. I think being able to work with such talented people, including my wife, who could bring my ideas to life.

10. What was the most difficult part?

I guess convincing a publisher to publish the game, since we failed. Perhaps in the long run that was a good thing, since we learned a lot about self-publishing.


11. I guess one of the few disadvantages of being the creator is that you don't get to enjoy the video game with the same sense of wonder than a newbie. Is that so or do you still play the game?

Yeah, even though Robin Laws wrote most of it, I’d read it all before playing it. So it’s not the same experience. It helps if I’m getting back to it after a while away. I do recall one time when I was surprised by an event, I’d forgotten what would happen. Playing the game is my job though. It’s still fun, but not the same as playing a game just to play it.

12. King of Dragon Pass is a unique game, as it was the first to mix such different genres as interactive story and resource management. Were you afraid before its release in 1999 that no one would really get it?

One of the publishers we approached said it was a niche game. He was right, but I think we proved that the niche was larger than he figured.

Indeed. OK, so let's talk now about your new video game:



About Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind


13. What's new in Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind?

The basic game play is the same, but a lot has changed. You’re not playing the Orlanthi, for one thing. And it’s back in what KoDP considers the God Time, and you can get caught up in the war of the gods. There’s lots of smaller changes like Ventures, which give you more flexibility in choosing what to do.

Yes, while playing the first years of the story in Ride Like the Wind (see here) I've noticed that Ventures offer many more different possibilities than in King of Dragon Pass. For example, Spread the Cerala Revelation, Craft gems or Turn pastures to fields.


Ventures are a long list of year-long projects you can undertake with your clan in Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind.

14. Were you afraid people might miss taking the role of the Orlanthi again in this new video game?

Not really. Part of the reason it took so long to start this game was that I didn’t want to just do KoDP over again. The Orlanthi weren’t the right viewpoint for the story I wanted to tell.

15. How did you decide the new game would focus on the Hyaloring culture? Were there any other strong candidates?

As a Glorantha fan, you may recognize that the entire game is an elaboration of a myth that’s only briefly mentioned in various publications.

Mmmhm, that's intriguing... I guess I'll play the game through and see if I can figure out which myth you mean...


In Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind you control a Hyaloring clan and make decisions to make it prosper.

16. How did you come about the decision to not only make a new video game, but a series of them focusing on the Hyaloring culture?

Actually, it’s a series set in a part of Glorantha that's later known as Saird. I think it was Jeff Richard who joked that everything in Glorantha comes from Saird, such as horses and heroquesting. It’s almost as pivotal as Dragon Pass.

17. Wait a minute. Heroquesting comes from Saird?

Harmast Barefoot was from Saird.

Oh, OK, I didn't know that! Interesting...

18. By doing King of Dragon Pass, you had to make many decisions regarding the looks of the Orlanthi culture, which had previously never been defined. Now since The Eleven Lights campaign for HeroQuest and RQG their look has changed a little: the Orlanthi have become more Mediterranean and they seem to disregard the use of trousers. You have incorporated this slightly new view into Six Ages, but do you agree with this new aesthetic? Do Orlanthi still wear trousers during the coldest seasons?

Jeff Richard’s game burned into me that Dragon Pass is bitterly cold in winter. I’d wear trousers there.

The Hyalorings call the Vingkotlings "Rams" in the video game.

19. The art for Six Ages is fantastic, perhaps even better than in King of Dragon Pass. How did you find such fitting artists for Glorantha like Simon Roy?

It was Jan Pospíšil who found Simon. I found two others thanks to a great art gallery in Fishtown, where we used to live.

20. What was the biggest challenge you faced when designing Six Ages?

I wanted to rework combat to have more decisions, without creating an entire new game. This took a few iterations.

21. Why did you decide to play down the resource management aspect of the previous game in Six Ages?

I don’t think that I did. If you don’t manage your herds well, your clan members will abandon you. If you don’t manage your food well, they’ll starve. What you don’t do is to make routine, meaningless decisions.

Ok, fair enough.

22. Can you reveal the titles of the next 5 games in the Six Ages series?

The next games I hope to make are “Lights Going Out” and “The World Reborn.” But that’s contingent on “Ride Like the Wind” being successful in the market.

Well, then I really hope Ride Like the Wind does well! "Lights Going Out" can only mean the Great Darkness, so I guess it'll be more of a "survival horror" game, and I'd love to play that. It will also be great to play in the Dawn Age with "The World Reborn"!


I'm sure there will plenty of trolls, Chaos monstrosities and magical threats in Lights Going Out...

23. You once said that translating King of Dragon Pass into other languages was not worth it due to the high costs involved. Would that be different with Six Ages?

I think it’s only as many words as the first 4 Harry Potter books, not the first 5. But that’s still way too much to translate.

24. The video game industry has changed a lot since 1999 when you released your first video game. How is the new state of affairs going to influence Six Ages?

The biggest difference from 1999 is we don’t have to manufacture a CD and put it in a box. We can sell directly to players in the App Store.

25. I have already begun playing Six Ages: Ride like the Wind and I must say this is another wonderful game. I love seeing the Hyaloring culture brought to life, and I'm enjoying it so much I can imagine myself running a RuneQuest or HeroQuest campaign with characters from this culture. As King of Dragon Pass helped a lot of people to really get Glorantha and fostered many Orlanthi campaigns, do you foresee the Six Ages series fostering many Hyaloring campaigns, perhaps even official publications about them?

Thanks! Robin and I talked about a possible sourcebook, and I did run one or two HeroQuest sessions with Hyaloring characters. But this is on the back burner.

I'll keep my fingers crossed, then! Well, thanks a lot David for your patience in responding to my long list of questions.


David Dunham working on Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind

I would have asked David many more questions, like what did he think when the video game The Banner Saga had such a success after being inspired by King of Dragon Pass, or how did he go about designing the look of the Hyalorings. But 25 questions are more than enough for today. I'm sure Six Ages will be another great success, and let's hope David's company A Sharp can keep producing the next installments in the Six Ages series up to the Third Age!

You may want to visit the official Six Ages website or, if you haven't done it yet, perhaps you may want to read my first turns playing Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind.

2 comentarios:

  1. Cool stuff Runeblogger! Thanks also for your time David, the game is really great and the improved UI helps a lot.
    Hasta luego en Glorantha!

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