Edge of Eternity is one of those games that seems a little too promising to be true. It’s an epic Japanese-style RPG that combines 3D world exploration, fantasy elements and sci-fi story lines, an active time battle system, cute mounts, huge creatures to fight. And it’s all made, initially, by four people.
Of course, that was a little too much work for four people in reality. And so Midgar Studio, the French four-man studio behind the game, took to Kickstarter with a proof-on-concept demo to raise funds to hire more people to work on the game.
Siliconera saw this an opportunity to catch up with Jérémy Zeler-Maury, Midgar Studios founder and designer of Edge of Eternity, to find out how the game started out to get to where it is now.
Edge of Eternity seems to be a lot bigger than your previous games. Why did you decide to go with this project and why now?
Jérémy Zeler-Maury, Midgar founder: Indeed, Edge Of Eternity is our most ambitious creation so far. But this is a project we had in mind for a long time. Since we funded the studio in 2008, we simply took the time to grow our experience on smaller in-house or third party projects, and waited to feel ready for it.
We started almost two years ago now. As you may know we tried a first Kickstarter in 2013. Our first idea was to make Edge of Eternity for mobile platforms. We thought it would be cool to offer a real JRPG experience on tablets. But we heard the gamer’s feedback, and that’s not what they expected. So we took it back to the start and worked on this PC/console game that they were asking for. It’s even more exciting for us!
It’s been more than a year now and here we are back on Kickstarter with a demo we developed as “proof of concept” to show of what we meant to do with this game.
What would have happened to Edge of Eternity if the Kickstarter wasn’t successful?
Kickstarter is for us a way to improve our game drastically, to add more talents to the team on the art side, extra gameplay features such as “Nekaroo Breeding” and exciting collaborations as planned with Mr Mitsuda. Without Kickstarter we would be still working on Edge of Eternity but with less resources, with more restrictions on what we can bring into the game, meaning basically less content, a shorter game. With Kickstarter, we expect to bring to game to a whole other level.
What specific features are you able to add with the extra funding? Anything you’re most looking forward to adding?
Obviously, the most exciting goal for us is the unique opportunity we have to work with Yasunori Mitsuda. His music from Chrono Trigger and Xenogears is still fresh in our mind, and so it would be terrific to have him work on Edge of Eternity.
We also already achieved some nice goals. Edge of Eternity is coming to PS4 and Xbox One and that was very important to us as we believe this game belongs to current-gen consoles. We also achieved the Nekaroo Breeding goal that was also something the team really cared about. We believe that will be one of these side game features that make the difference between a good and a great game. Crafting is also at sight right now, and its the same about it. The game would be so more cool with it!
We also have extra goals we’ve been preparing as we say “just in case.” We did not expect our campaign would be such a success but we still worked on additional stretch goals based on ”what would be the coolest things to add if things go terribly good?” We had some nice ideas and found the right partners to do it if this is possible. I don’t want to unveil anything right now, but let’s say some of them have already been asked for by some of our backers. So we are confident that would be things they would like and expect.
On that note, how did you manage to get people like Yasunori Mitsuda to agree to work on the game (if the funding is raised)?
Well, we just asked him!
As you may know we host in our office another studio, Fusty Games, who was quite successful on Kickstarter with their game Hover: Revolt of Gamers. This game is inspired by Jet Set Radio and during the early development the community started to chat about how cool it would be to have Hideki Naganuma join the adventure. Obviously, for Fusty and for us it seemed impossible someone like him would even answer an inquiry from a small French indie studio. But the Fusty guys finally gave it a shot and… it worked!
When we saw that, we said “OK, there’s no limits to this world! Who’s the composer we really want to work with?!” We quickly agreed that Mitsuda-san was the one composer that “musicalized” so many of our teenagers gaming nights. And as Fusty did, we just gave it a shot. We had the opportunity to introduce him our project and he really liked it. He is really seduced by our idea to create a JRPG melting the Japanese roots with our western culture. His understanding of the constraints of an indie studio made the rest.
You mention in the game’s description that the players’ behavior will change the lands. How will this work? And how dramatic will the changes be?
We want our game to be dynamic and player-driven. This will work on several levels, from little things to major changes to the world.
The classic example we give is about robbers. At some point in the game, you will have to fight a group of robbers that threatens a village. Your behavior will be important on many levels. When the farmers ask you for help, will you go straight away to do so? If you don’t, you may come back later and find the farmer dead and the village in flames. This will close any further interaction with this town, quests, and shops. There will be at least one village with a living population at all times, but survivors may offer other possibilities. In the same story, if you do go hunt down the robbers you will eventually fight their boss. If you beat him you will have to make a choice: kill him, dismantle its group, and make the villagers happy; or join him and take advantage of the plundering of the village to gain resources easily. Yet again, your choice will open or close a set of quests, missions and encounters possibilities.
Your choices in this area will also impact the rest of your adventure, you may be banned from some towns, or shot at sight by troopers if you choose to follow a dark path. But you may be more welcome in other places. This example is Manichean on purpose to explain how it works. In the game, the addition of multiple moments of choice will make it a lot more complex.
Why did you decide to use an Active Time Battle system rather than another battle system? What do you like about it?
We chose an Active Time Battle system because it has proven to be a fun way to play. For us, it’s the perfect match between the intensity of real time and the strategic reflection of turn-based.
It’s also a combat system that we don’t see any more these days. And we loved it as many other gamers did. That’s why we are trying to renew it with Edge of Eternity.
Another choice you made was to have no fast-travel on the world map. Why is that? How will you ensure that exploration doesn’t become tiresome or repetitive?
There will not be instant travel but there will be fast travel by mounts and vehicles on the world map . It wasn’t ready for the current demo but it will be in the game. We want to make it fun for the impatient players but also offer our explorers gamers another way to discover Heryon.
One of your stretch goals is a craft system. How does the player acquire items without a craft system? And is Edge of Eternity honestly any better with a craft system – it’s added to a lot of games of late when it probably shouldn’t be?
We chose to make crafting an additional feature of Edge of Eternity because we wanted to have the time and resources to make it good. Otherwise, we agree with you, we would rather not make it at all. We would like our crafting to at the same time simple and explicit but yet powerful with a real impact on your gameplay. This is why we aim to propose diversity not in the way you will have to do things, but in the things you can do. There would be three crafting categories in Edge of Eternity: Weapon Smithing, Armor Smithing, and Alchemy. Each are ruled by simple rules but rich of many recipes and possible unique items.
Lastly, have you had any feedback since releasing the demo that has made you want to change any parts of the game? How has the general reception been?
The general reception is quite good and we could not be more happy of what is happening. The main negative feedback we have to face is the scepticism of some people about the fact we started this project with only four people. Some say it’s too ambitious for us and do not pay attention to the fact that we are on Kickstarter to have resources to hire more people. And we do not agree that you absolutely need a 30 person team to make a good game.
On the other hand, some other think of us as a big studio and say they expected better of our demo. But you have to remember that we are not Square Enix and that our demo is just a pre-alpha one, its a proof of concept of what we intend, not a full clean demo. Still, the vast majority is very enthusiast about it, we think that demo is a big part of our campaign. We do not arrived empty handed with just some sketches and artworks. Many backers told us that was the reason they supported us.
Concerning features feedback indeed we saw some very interesting ones. For instance, someone suggested we should have defensive QTE. We loved that idea and we will definitively try to add it to the game.