Kynseed offers players a slice of peaceful life, letting them farm, fish, hunt, and raise a family in the game’s idyllic world. However, one day, they will have to face their own mortality, passing on their in-game legacies to their in-game children.
After their recent Kickstarter success, Siliconera spoke with Charlton Edwards, Co-Founder and Design Director for Kynseed, to learn more about how players can guide a family over the generations, what death means to the in-game characters (and family pets), and some of the disappointments around Fable that translated into this game’s mechanics.
What drew you to create this family line – to have the player craft their lives across generations rather than just one character?
Charlton Edwards, Co-Founder & Design Director for Kynseed – When I worked on the original Project Ego (before it became Fable) there were ideas of aging that were never really capitalised on. I always wanted a game where you could die, but not be the special case. Everyone should die. Why do you grow old in Fable but nobody else does? It always bothered me.
Passing to generations allows things to be freshened up and just make the world feel more believable. It is also a way of the lore of the land building itself around the centuries you play…you are creating the stories that get told around the fireplaces.
How do the generations factor into the player’s growth? What can they do over several lifetimes that they can’t do in one?
The player has multiple skills they can level up, and a number of characteristics, both hidden and exposed. Some of these are passed down, but some vanish and are replaced in your children by ‘black sheep’ traits. These traits can vary from allergies to things like how easily hunger affects them, to whether or not their family line has a baldness gene.
Your children’s skill levels start empty, and as they grow, their skills grow slowly in the areas you were proficient at. You can accelerate these by giving them tools or tasks, so by the time they come of age, ready to be played as, they should be back to around the levels you were at and possibly gained in other areas you didn’t pay attention to yourself. That is, unless you were a bad parent of course! Nurturing your kids is important and how well you do that will affect just how well they turn out.
The desire for the generational switch is that the player gets a fresh character and things may play out differently; after all you are a new person and will need to forge fresh relationships with different people and cope with whatever legacy you left behind.
The world is a big place and if you want to own everything and be the best, then it is going to take time. We want to get the feeling of a family business crafted over many years, with your family influence and reputation slowly spreading throughout the land. Imagine…Couture & Sons: Purveyor of fine meats since 452.
Will players be able to change their minds several generations down the line? What challenges will they face if they do so?
The player is free to do as they please. If they want one character to be a ruthless businessman, cornering the market and sabotaging rivals, whilst using child labour, then they can. The challenge will be for their heirs to shake off that reputation and bring goodwill to the folk of the land, rather than throwing jars of bees inside their houses.
How will the game handle the passing of the last generation? The passing of beloved pets?
A raven will bring news of deaths (local NPC’s included) plus the date and place of the passing ceremony, should you wish to attend. Their death will be noted on a monument and their family will carry on, albeit mentioning them now and then (“I am glad that old bugger is dead” etc).
Pets will be buried outside their family home below a small monument that lists every pet that was buried there. Again, their owner’s family may comment now and then on particularly loved or hated ones.
We want the player to read these monuments down the line and remember Rex, and the way he used to run away from bees and bark in his sleep, and laugh at how his bloodline are still scared of bees, just like old Rex, sniff.
You’ve mentioned that people will remember the player’s family for various reasons. What drew you to create these lasting legacies among the NPCs?
I have always not liked the way NPC’s just stood around in the same spot in most old-style RPG’s and just repeat dialogue. It really doesn’t make the world feel lived in. When I first played Ultima 7 I was blown away…these people went to bed, sat down and visibly ate food, went to work, and so on.
I wanted to capture that, plus add in the reactive NPC elements of Fable, although now the NPC’s will be aware of not just the player, but each other. We want to get that situation where one day an NPC says “Hey! Your grandma wronged my grandad!” or “You great grandad’s s pies were legendary!”.
We also want to create that idea of small communities, bound closely together. They have their petty jealousies, desires, and friendships, and the player can be invested in observing their daily lives and funny, simple, folksy quirks.
How did you decide on the kinds of activities to put into the game? The ways in which the player can support themselves with a living?
We had a list of the usual various jobs in RPGs and just balanced the amount of work versus which could be most fun. Running a tavern could involve Tapper style gameplay on the serving side combined with crafting ale and grub. Smithing could be more measured and about the process of creating weapons and armour and less hectic. The Apothecary could be the funniest, and we want it to play like a mini Theme Hospital. NPC’s will enter with various maladies and you need to mix the right concoction. Due to the Traits though, there could end up being side effects, so you may cure Blue Face but give a person a dose of Curse Trumpeting.
Going out and getting the ingredients, whether by growing the basics or foraging in dangerous areas for the better and rarer stuff, will be the loop that keeps players busy. If you want to craft the finest beers then you will need the best barley…but to grow that you would need higher grade fertiliser. Where to get that? From top quality poo, either from quality animals or monsters. This will lead the player into breeding and looking after animals, or knowing where to get monster poo and learning how to get it safely and keep it coming. How to keep a monster regular? Find or cultivate ingredients with the laxative trait then find out what foods they like and spike it.
Kynseed seems somewhat peaceful, but you did include some combat elements. Why did you add this into this life simulation?
We wanted an element of exploration and danger to cater for those who like a bit of excitement to break up the simple life or the day-to-day of running a shop. The adventuring side is optional for those who dislike fighting, and ingredients can still be gained by sending family members or hired NPC’s out, or even buying them at very expensive rates from other merchants. If you want the best Dragon poo though, you might need to get your hands dirty.
Away from the dangerous forests, there is no killing or combat (the Lore explains why,) so players who want to chill and nurture do not have to worry about death by sharp teeth.
What do you feel will truly draw players into your world? What are you most proud of in what you’re creating?
I think the freedom is the key. We just let you do what you want and the world will react to just not what you do, but what the rest of the world does. The NPC has long been a tool to the player’s ends, but now the player is one of them, living among them and immersed in these communities and families.
It’s too early to be proud, but we are excited by the possibilities for player created fun, and the choices they will have to make between ambition and nurture.
Actually though, saying that, I am proud of the puns in our demo…some are absolutely terrible.