Turn 1. Introduction – The Heart And Soul
Thank you, once again, for answering these questions! You’re, likely, very busy these days – as the project gets closer and closer to the full release. As such, I especially appreciate you taking the time to talk a bit about the game.
From my side, I’ve originally noticed it in one of the famous #TurnBasedThursday threads on Twitter. There are, of course, a ton of amazing projects showcased there. However – your work seemed to jump out at me. It looked absolutely professional and also very classical. It was clear that lots of effort went into crafting this style – from graphics to the UI and the textures.
But let me stop praising the game for a moment, and let the developers themselves do it! Could you tell me, what’s the heart of your game? What is the most important thing in it? What makes you, yourself, want to continue working on it each day?
Hi! Thanks for the opportunity to do an interview about my game Tidewoken. This is actually my first ever interview about the game, so I’m very excited.
The core element of Tidewoken is the vast amount of builds you can create. Just the thought of having hundreds of different combinations of skills to take, makes me want to try out a new character build. The goal is that players themselves can create and share their builds, similar to decks in card games.
Turn 2. The History
The game looks so polished – it definitely seems as if it’s been in development for quite some time. There are many features, such as the multiplayer and the cutscenes, that couldn’t have been done overnight. Could you talk a bit about the project’s history? Why and when did you decide to begin? Did you have other games, or software development experience before this?
Development on Tidewoken began in January 2019. It simply started by creating a new project in Unreal Engine 4 and looking at tutorials… lots of tutorials.
The idea of the game came by combining one of my two favorite games, Dofus and Guild Wars 1. Both are MMOs but have really interesting core concepts which I tried to combine.
I do not have a professional background in development or art, so it was a hard time learning to code the game and learn Blender at the same time, while also having a full-time job.
Turn 3. The Team
Considering everything I’ve already said about the game – it certainly seems as if there are a number of specialists working on it. Such organization, however, usually requires large investments and isn’t feasible for indie companies.
So, after trying out the game, I became especially interested in asking you about the team. The music is fantastic, the models are very detailed, the UI is clean and functional, the game mechanics don’t break. Certainly, no single person can be that talented – so, maybe it’s a good time for the introductions? Also – how do you manage to support the project, from a financial standpoint, if that’s not a secret of course?
Originally the game was solely created by myself, but over the past years, a few very talented people joined me.
The music is composed by Scott Starrett, who already made pieces for shows on major TV networks like Hulu and HBO. We found each other by accident when I was looking for a composer, and I absolutely love the music he created.
Our sound designer Sixten creates the sounds for the game.
A close friend of mine, Raphael, created the backend for the game, which controls the database, when game servers are started, saving characters, and so on. Lately, I’ve been more into coding, so I occasionally add features to it as well.
Another contributor to the game is Simon, who is also a close friend of mine. He occasionally helps me with programming and tries to fix issues.
Everyone on the team is doing it as a hobby, contributing whenever they can. The project does not require any funding, but this is only possible because I do most of the work (game design, programming, 3d models, textures, animations, UI) myself.
Turn 4. The Style and The Inspirations
Another thing that surprised me were the somewhat unusual character classes. Instead of a knight or a wizard, I was offered an almost shamanic-looking hero with a wolf companion as the main choice. The enemies too are varied and unique, both visually and in terms of their mechanics. The cannon-summoning pirate dummy made for a truly memorable fight!
How did you come up with the game’s striking aesthetics? What are your sources of inspiration, concerning the visual style? Are there some books, movies or other games – both computer and tabletop ones – that you can specifically mention as an influence?
Most of the creatures and characters originated from spontaneous ideas. I think I take a lot of inspiration subconsciously while playing other video games. When I’m working on a new dungeon, I look at animals, mythical creatures, fantasy places and try to combine things I find interesting.
Turn 5. The Tactics
The main focus is on the tactics. With a multitude of skills and effects, the game offers endless possibilities of replaying each battle. It’s a complex system and, even though I mostly play turn-based strategies and roguelikes, some parts felt, undoubtably, challenging.
It’s a sort of system that requires careful balancing above all else. The encounters must be well though-out for the campaign not to become frustrating, yet remain challenging. So – as a game developer myself, I am especially interested in how do you strike that balance? Are you guided mostly by instinct, or by careful play testing? Maybe there’s some system, which allows you to quickly add new features without breaking the gameplay?
The balancing is a mix of testing, looking at numbers, and theory.
A great thing about the skill system of Tidewoken is, that you can approach dungeons in a lot of different ways. Balancing in PvP will be an ongoing challenge because players will eventually find stronger builds.
Turn 6. The Turn-Based Combat
Let’s talk more about the gameplay. It seems very traditional, hearkening back to tabletop classics of the past. The turn-based system is somewhat unusual, however. The opposing sides don’t take turns – instead, the individual characters do. Having three enemies move after your first and before your second character can make planning ahead a difficult task. What systems inspired that unique approach? Was it taken from some board game – or did you come up with it naturally during the development?
I kind of came up with it on the spot. The turn order is determined before the match and every character and monster has its turn before the turn order starts over again. I might add a system in the future to manipulate the order.
Turn 7. The Engine
The game runs, for the most part, without any issues. The few problems I did encounter were mostly visual – like the characters not facing the correct way during attacks. 3D engines, however, are difficult to work with – both in terms of gameplay and optimization. The multiplayer component is also hard to do correctly.
How much time did you spend on the code, compared to the visuals and the music? What were the specific challenges you encountered?
I’d say 50/50 on visuals and code. The biggest challenges were the dynamic hosting of game servers and making the gameplay feel fluent in multiplayer.
Turn 8. The Multiplayer component
Multiplayer support can offer numerous advantages to the project, when done right. It can greatly affect the replayability, but, more importantly, create a dedicated player base around the game. The value of this cannot be underestimated, especially today, during the times of user reviews and modding communities.
However – it’s also something that requires a lot of effort and is rare to find in indie projects. Why did you decide to focus so much on this feature? Did you decide to do so from the beginning – or at some later point during the development? What do you think are the advantages to that approach?
Multiplayer is an important part of Tidewoken since it was planned to include PvP from the start. I also enjoy working on the networking of the game. Personally, I think games are the most fun when played together.
Turn 9. The Community
You have been very active in the turn-based game dev community. I think you must’ve participated in each Turn-Based Thursday thread on Twitter, since the very beginning! Certainly, community support is an essential part of any successful project – and something that can’t really be bought, but is deserved through passion and dedication to your work.
This component is especially important for a multiplayer game. How long did it take for your work to be noticed and recognized? Was it difficult, in the beginning, to find your audience? What was your approach?
I think I’m not a good marketer, so I struggle a lot with promoting the game and finding more players. Most of the current testers come from Guild Wars 1 and Dofus, as both games were the inspiration for Tidewoken.
Turn 10. A Word to our Readers
We’ve talked a bit about the importance of community in game development. So – is there anything in particular you would like to tell our readers about your project? TBL is dedicated exclusively to turn-based games like your own – so what makes your work stand out from the rest?
Most tactics games are singleplayer and story-focused. Tidewoken twists the genre with non-linear progression, theory-crafting, and both PvP and COOP multiplayer.
To me, the game definitely stood out in many ways – so there’s a lot I wanted to ask about. Each of the ten questions was really more like three, in the end! I hope it wasn’t too much – but the project really captured my imagination, even when I only saw the screenshots. And after I played it myself – I was not in the least disappointed. Thank you, once again, for answering these – and thanks to our readers, of course, for their continuous support!
Our interview has now come to an end – the game, however, is still in the testing phase. So – if you are looking for something to do now – why not sign up on Steam? I already did, and certainly didn’t regret the decision!