Indie developers carry a lot of weight on their shoulders — mostly in the form of pressure, and there’s no character points to allocate toward increased storage.
They face constrained staff, tight budgets and seemingly insurmountable obstacles in a quest to their far-off dreams. In Hyperkinetic Studios’ case, they have finally reached that dream. What they found at the end of their journey was a tavern with a heck of a lot of character where they could kick up their feet, throw back some mead and finally start ordering everyone else around.
Epic Tavern stepped out of Early Access on Steam Wednesday and into its full launch. It’s a RPG management-style game where you, the player, own a tavern in the world of Beor. You can recruit adventurers, send them on fantastical quests and upgrade your tavern for when they get back. If you want to learn more about the game before jumping in, check out Hyperkinetic’s Twitch channel.
The Daily Walkthrough caught up with Hyperkinetic Studios co-founders Rich Bisso and Tomo Moriwaki to learn more about their new game and what it’s like as an indie studio to produce their first self-styled product. They shared a message with other indie developers and explained future platform and DLC goals.
The interview has been lightly edited for brevity.
TheDW: How’d you come up with the idea for Epic Tavern?
Bisso: I was taking a look around and I saw these different fantasy management games. There was fantasy football, fantasy soccer, baseball, basketball. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I love management, but I’m kind of a nerd. Why is there no fantasy fantasy?’ That’s the genesis of the idea. I wanted something I could play; manage these teams of adventurers and send them out on quests and read these epic stories that they would be going through and kind of try to help them out along the way. I floated the idea to everyone.
Tomo: I think we came up with a ton of features and a ton of ideas around how things would work, and then at some point it was almost like we magically at some point assumed it would be a tavern. From the fantasy literature and video game list of tropes, all of this stuff intersects at the fantasy tavern. All roads lead to the tavern. The Prancing Pony is maybe the most famous fantasy tavern in the universe.
TheDW: What was the most difficult obstacle to overcome?
Tomo: Overcoming the obstacle of biting off more than you can chew. What we did to get over that was just try to cope with our stress and try really really hard to come up with clever solutions.
Bisso: Basically, just creating a really extensible and efficient way to create a huge amount of narrative for the player. What we ended up doing was creating a pretty unique system that’s kinda like Mad Libs. You can throw any hero into these situations and then the situations draw in context from whatever’s going on in the game.
You could, for instance, have a completely separate team of adventurers; we have these thousands upon thousands of encounters we’ve written out, and basically, you throw your party into this encounter and it’s happening in one part of the world, and then you throw an entirely different party into that encounter in a different part of the world and you get what feels like two completely different encounters. With an effort appropriate to the size of the team we have, we were able to generate a huge amount of content.
Tomo: What he said about the individual streams that get turned into these Mad Libs, that statement is true for the whole game at large. It can be imagined as layers of an onion with each layer being a Mad Lib-like structure that allows for there to be a lot of variety. There’s also a number of very strong, specific threads we put into the storytelling so it’s a sort of shared experience between the AI and our writing staff.
Bisso: Another thing about the method of development that I’ve been really jamming on recently: there’s this concept of a desire path.
Desire paths are what people who do space planning and architecture, they look at a space and essentially, they have an idea when they’re making the space of how everyone is going to travel through it. In reality, humans tend to basically group to different pathways through an environment. There are a lot of architects that will build landscapes and won’t actually path the space.
They’ll sit back and release the space to the public and let the public travel through the space and they see where people are naturally congregating onto paths, and that’s where they finish the paths out. I feel like that is very akin to what we’re trying to do here with Epic Tavern. We’ve built a very strong base for it, and then we’re kind of watching how people take to it and what they like and what they don’t like.
Then, we’re going to start reinforcing and boosting everything they like based on what their desire paths are.
TheDW: Are you planning to keep it PC only?
Bisso: No. We plan on expanding out to other platforms. Some things we’re looking at right now, Mac, obviously. We want to get that out as soon as possible. I’m personally in love with the [Nintendo] Switch, so I think it might work with that.
TheDW: What about your DLC/update plans?
Tomo: We’re kind of grappling with what the week cadence will be and trying to figure out what our development process can handle. The idea is to do it as frequently as we can functionally pull it off. We definitely have big aspirations for DLC into the distant future, provided things work out.
Bisso: The updates are going to be constant content updates, feature updates. And then we’d save big themed updates for the DLC … Our goal is to provide fresh content for the user every single month.
TheDW: What message do you have for other indie developers?
Tomo: Contact us. Let’s talk.
Bisso: Ya, Tomo sums it up right there. The best way to do this is not to do it alone. Reach out to other developers, we’ve definitely done our fair share of that. We couldn’t have got as far as we have and with as few missteps as we have without contacting developers who have already trodden that rode. We’re open. We’re open to helping out. That is the message we’d send to everybody.