Prepare to become the Vice President of the World (gah!) in Eden Industries’ newly announced 2D RPG, Citizens Of Earth – their first title after their debut arcade game, Waveform, which was released last year. Scaling up to something as large as an RPG from such a simple start has no doubt been a flustering process, so we’ve made sure to grill the Eden Industries founder, Ryan Vandendyck, with many questions about Citizens Of Earth to ensure that all of the details you should need to know at this stage are out in the open.
So, you should have noticed that screenshot up there looks rather wonderful – 2D artwork done right, that’s for sure. We asked Ryan why and how the game looks so sparkly, and he gave many reasons as to why this is the case.
“The game has dynamic reflections in glass surfaces, water, and things like that. It also features a dynamic time-of-day system that also has accurate shadow projection of characters onto the environment. So your angle, elongation, and intensity of your shadow will depend on the time of day, and it’ll realistically shade other characters, objects, things in the environment, etc. We also implemented bloom lighting, and brought back the return of Waveform’s distortion effect. So a lot of these have obviously been done before (bloom lighting, shadows, etc), but as far as I know, never in a 2D, sprite-based game.”
“…you’re able to recruit and fight with the town Baker, Barista, School Teacher, Homeless Guy, and plenty of other ordinary, but wacky, characters.”
Okay, visuals aside for now, we’re here to find out what other information Ryan is willing to dribble down our necks, right? Lick your lips in anticipation as we delve into Citizens Of Earth – Ryan, hit us with it!
“Our new game is an RPG that places you in the shoes of the Vice President of the World! He’s a classic bureaucrat: charming, charismatic, but practically very useless. After recently winning the vice presidency, he returns to his rural home town for some rest and relaxation. But he soon inadvertently discovers that there is some very strange stuff happening around town. Feeling a sense of responsibility as an elected official, but being the bureaucrat you are, you don’t actually want to get your hands dirty. Thus you go about using your charisma to recruit normal townsfolk to help you investigate and fight your battles for you. Instead of the traditional warrior, mage, etc. from fantasy RPGs, you’re able to recruit and fight with the town Baker, Barista, School Teacher, Homeless Guy, and plenty of other ordinary, but wacky, characters.”
Woah, woah, woah there, Ryan – you said a mouthful! No doubt you’ll want to read over that paragraph a couple more times to make sure you’re up to speed. But stick with us as we dig the knife into the ribs of all of these ideas in order to get Ryan to screech out more delectable details, and more specific ones this time. Just to quickly summarize, though, you’re the VP of the World, slap-dashing around a rural town, notice some things are up, employ the local workers to sort it out under your instruction. Got that? Okay, let’s move on.
Man Of The People
When we spoke to Ryan about this new game of his, the working title was actually “The Vice President Of The World”, which he admits is a “bit on-the-nose as far as titles go”. But now we have the much more succinct title of Citizens of Earth, which is a rather unique name for an RPG, and the concept is equally so. The question we first wanted to know was where this project originates from – not many developers have the balls to move from an arcade game with a simple mechanic to a fully fledged RPG, after all.
“I’ve been concepting it for a few years now. Longer actually even than Waveform. So it’s been kicking around for a long time – I guess maybe almost 5 years now – and after Waveform shipped, I just started talking with people about what to work on next. And I mentioned this idea to them and it was one that instantly clicked with everyone, and so we just decided to go with it!”
The “everyone” in that sentence being the small collaborative team behind Waveform, all of whom still hold down their fulltime jobs around various game development studios while working on Citizens Of Earth when they catch the chance to. On top of the original team of four, another audio designer and four artists have been pulled in to ensure that this RPG is given the life it deserves. Finance for the project is coming from the profits made from Waveform, with everyone working on it under a profit share agreement. Ryan also mentioned that they will more than likely seek extra funding down the line at some point via Kickstarter, presuming that everything goes to plan.
But what’s with playing the Vice President of the World? We had to ask considering the player character is such a unique one, and brash at that. Does he have any abilities apart from being a bureaucratic leader?
“The VP is mainly there to provide the nucleus of the team and a consistent character as a representative of the player. This was in response to our feeling that a lot of games that have a mechanic of recruiting a team (Pokemon, Dragon Quest Monsters, etc) have a really boring main character. His role is essential, of course, but he’s the most generic character possible. So we thought that having the VP as a funny and zany main character would provide both an interesting anchor for the player, but we also thought that having him step back from the battles a bit would allow us to not only play on the joke of him as a lazy bureaucrat, but also highlight some of the really fun and interesting characters you can recruit. We feel it’s kind of the best of both worlds between a game that has a lot of interesting battle characters (Pokemon) and other RPGs that have a compelling main character.”
Citizens Of Earth borrows the modern theme and humor stylings of Earthbound in order to celebrate the more quirky aspects of small town living, especially the local businesses and wacky residents, whose names and most distinctive features often travel the air by means of gossip. It is these very distinct characters, all of whom play a vital role in every town, that you’ll be recruiting as members of your party in order to later use them in battles too. Giving the game a “Pokemon-like feel”, each character has two sides to them, both of which feed directly into each other – their regular day job dictates their weapons and fighting style, and, likewise, how they perform in battle will determine how good they are at their day job and what benefits you can obtain from them.
“Each potential party member has unique requirements that need to be met in order for them to even consider becoming recruited by your charming red hair.”
“Some characters offer conveniences to you (remote purchasing of items, vehicles you can control); some provide new functionality for you (leave characters in school to level them up while you’re away, zoom the game in and out to find secrets, time-skip the game for power levelling); some provide information (enemy dossiers, achievement clues); some provide new possibilities in and around town (upgrade buildings, upgrade dungeons to access new areas, etc). And the list goes on and on! A unique thing for every character. So we feel that there will be a strong motivation to use every character so that you can access all of these really cool and unique features.”
More precise details include the Baker having more confectionery goods to sell to you, the School Teacher offering advanced classes to train other party members and the Homeless Guy being much better at finding hidden treasure in the garbage (told you they all had their purposes). So it’s up to you as the Vice President to use your leadership skills to lead your party to victory in order to see the whole town grow in many different ways. Of course, there are some limits placed on the player from the start to ensure that some balance is had. Recruiting party members is vital from the very start of the game, but you’ll be limited to just three (though that number is not yet final) and you won’t be able to recruit absolutely everyone in town either. Each potential party member has unique requirements that need to be met in order for them to even consider becoming recruited by your charming red hair.
“You travel around the world with your party following in behind you. And in true bureaucratic fashion you’re able to command them to rush head-long into the enemies in order to initiate combat. This actually helps you get the jump on the enemies in battle, but if the enemies are able to run into you, then they’ll have the upper hand. Once you get into a fight, it proceeds in a manner that is reasonably similar to JRPG staples like Dragon Quest, but with a lot of rework to make it into something unique for this game.”
So on to the combat portion of this RPG. Let’s be fair; it would barely be worthy of the genre if you weren’t able to send in your party of bakers and bums in to fight on your behalf. As briefly mentioned, how each character fights is down to their role within the town, and due to this being a game set more or less around modern times, there isn’t ‘magic’ as such, but there will be fantastical elements with plenty of comedy thrown in for good measure.
“Citizens Of Earth will be the first Dragon Quest-style JRPG to feature online battles”
Ryan’s already said that Citizens Of Earth is styled like a JRPG, which is fine, but for some of them there are some annoyances implied with that direction. For instance, we’re not huge fans of random encounters, so we sought solace in Ryan to give us some good news.
“I definitely want to get away from random encounters. Each character has specialities that will make them better suited to some battles than others, or to certain play-styles, strategies, etc. One of the biggest things we wanted to accomplish with this game was to encourage switching your characters around! I find that in games like Pokemon or Suikoden in which you’re able to get a wide cast of potential party members, it quickly becomes cumbersome and frustrating to try new party members. I think that’s due to a few reasons, all of which we’ve tried to address in this game:
1) Problem: No intrinsic reason to experiment, other than to try a new character. Solution: Each character has a unique day job that will improve as you use them. Thus there is a strong and beneficial reason to try all characters, since each one will provide fun and helpful out-of-battle benefits for you.
2) Problem: Switching requires you to spend time equipping the new characters, setting their items, skills, etc. Solution: In our game, as soon as you switch to a character, they are absolutely ready to use right out of the box. While they do acquire new equipment and skills down the road, these do not represent incrementally better options (like in most RPGs, thus forcing you to constantly upgrade) but rather new choices and strategic options. Therefore a casual player can just switch to whoever they want at any time and not worry about anything. An experienced player, however, is still free to customize their characters to fit their specific strategies and goals.”
Well, thank goodness for that! You’ll see enemies as you walk around the game’s various locales, and it seems there’s an effort to appeal to all different entry levels too. On that note, Ryan also tells us that the game is designed with the mantra “broad, not long”, so that people who only have time for a shorter RPG experience or are mainly in it for the story can get through the game in about 10 hours or so. Apparently, there are many features that have been designed with these types of player in mind that are yet to be revealed. Ryan teased by saying that you’ll be able to set up things in the town to develop and assist while you’re away, so that you can come back home from work, or wherever, and get right back in the action almost as if you never left, to an extent. Don’t worry if you want an epic-sized RPG to get sunk into, though, as those after will be able to seek lots of customization and find a lot more content around the world to keep them occupied for many more hours.
“…the Killer Koffee (a deranged, sentient coffee plant with coffee foam pouring out of its mouth)”
If you are looking for the ultimate battle with Citizens Of Earth, then the best place to find it may actually be within the game’s online multiplayer. As far as he’s aware, Ryan says that Citizens Of Earth will be the first Dragon Quest-style JRPG to feature online battles, and he’s understandably excited about that feature. Regarding who you’ll be able to fight, we’re told to expect to pit our team of characters from the single player against our friends, with a few other multiplayer/networking options as well. As this is all a work-in progress, there are no more specific details regarding whether there will be a server browser to fight against opponents from around the globe, but presumably that’s the aim.
“One other tidbit I’ll drop (and this is more a fun thematic thing than a real mechanical feature), but the game will feature sections that you can drive around in vehicles, and you get to fight as the vehicle. So as the car you can blow exhaust in people’s faces during combat, run them over, etc.”
Nothing could possibly be added to that morsel of information to make it sound any better than it already is, so we’ll leave it at that. Next up, we definitely need to enquire as to what our recruits will be fighting against, and this was the first sign of Ryan holding information back at all, suprisingly.
“Hmm…trying to see how much I want to reveal just yet. Well, suffice to say, someone or something is doing weird experiments on people, animals, and the environment to make bizarre hybrids and re-creations of things. You’ll encounter enemies like the Honey Bear (a honey-filled bear in the shape of a bottle of honey), the Killer Koffee (a deranged, sentient coffee plant with coffee foam pouring out of its mouth), the Toupee Eagle (a riff on the Bald Eagle iconography of the US, with it having a glorious, flowing golden mane of blonde hair), and one our personal favourites, the Rastafarian Samurai, which is the most laid-back, voodoo-wielding imperialstic swordman you’ll ever meet.”
There couldn’t be a better note to end this reveal on, we feel. So that’s what we’re going to do! This zany RPG will be further fleshed out as the year passes on, and that Kickstarter project will likely appear before the year is up too. If you want to keep up with all of the details as they’re released, then you’ll want to keep an eye on the Eden Industries website. The aim is to release Citizens Of Earth in early 2014.