Q. Hi Dean, So what is Vidar?
A. Vidar is an RPG and a puzzle game for PC (windows now, and soon mac and linux). The game takes place in a suffering town, where there are only 24 people alive at the start of the game. Vidar is under siege – a terrible beast lives in the caves below town, and every night comes up and kills a random villager. It’s up to you to stop the beast before all 24 townsfolk are dead.
The game is focused on random storytelling. Every one of the NPCs in town has their own stories to tell, quests to give the player, and critically, relationships with each other. What each NPC does is in response not just to the player’s actions, but is also dependent on who is alive and who is dead. Since the order of deaths is random, this means that the story that each villager tells (and the story of the game in general) is random every time.
To stop the beast, you’ll need to go into the caves where it lives. The caves are filled with traditional dungeon exploration puzzles (in the demo you can see some frictionless ice puzzles) but they’ve all got new mechanics in them. Moreover, the puzzles themselves are randomized – if you come back to play a new game in Vidar to see a new plot evolve, you won’t breeze through the puzzles, because they’ll be different too.
Q. What inspired you to make Vidar?
A. I definitely drew inspiration from all over. For the setting, I was actually skiing when I started conceptualizing the game and so it was definitely going to be snowy/wintry/norse-ish. For the core game mechanic, I’ve always loved games where you slowly populate a town. Sometimes that’s just a city builder, but in other instances you can recruit services or NPCs to a central village. I wanted to see what happens when you stand that on end, where your town is slowly dying instead of slowing growing. And finally for the story, about a month prior to starting to design Vidar, I lost a dear family member and mentor. I wanted to take the opportunity that a game presents to work out some feelings about how death impacts a community, and to tell the stories of those left behind to grieve. Although the graphics are golden-era SNES pixel art, the plot isn’t for kids! There are some heavy themes involved as mothers lose sons (or sons lose mothers), lovers are separated, or one best friend dies before the other.
Q. So who is on the dev team for Vidar?
A. In addition to myself, I’m working with two very talented artists. Becca Bair is the pixel artists responsible for all of the graphics in the game, from tilesets to sprites. Adrian Jakubiak is the musical talent behind Vidar, and he’s put together a really spectacular soundtrack for the game. I’m in New York, Becca is in Colorado, and Adrian is in Poland. Add to the group Tess Baines, who lent her amazing voice to the Vidar trailer and demo and is based in Los Angeles, and we’ve really got a long-distance team going!
Q. What is your favorite aspect of Vidar? e.g. AI, Artwork, Story, Setting or anything else you can think of
A. The work that Becca and Adrian have done for the game have blown me away – seriously, I’m so impressed with how they taken my vision for Vidar and run with it. Beyond that, I’m having a lot of fun working on “Town Events,” moments where just the right combination of events have happened to trigger something big. In the demo, if the right 3 people die, a leaky streetlight can cause a nearby house to catch on fire. It has big repercussions for the rest of the game. I love looking at the possible plot points and matching them against each other to find these moments.
Q. What is the biggest challenge in making Vidar?
A. Testing testing testing. Random puzzles and random story means a whole lot of testing. Hopefully through the Kickstarter we’ll get enough beta testers to help find some really obscure bugs that only in happen 1 out of ten thousand playthroughs!
Q. Are you planning on continuing development for Vidar after the release? DLC, Expansions, Updates
A. Wonderfully, the game really lends itself to after-release development. Particularly in terms of adding quests, adding puzzles, and adding rooms to the dungeon. How these get released and when is up for grabs, it’s way too soon to tell. But it’s definitely on my mind!
Q. Are you planning on launching Vidar anywhere else besides Steam? e.g. GOG, Desura, retail box…
A. If they’ll have me! For me, having all of my games in one place is the most important thing, but I know others are more concerned about online-only requirements or DRM. I don’t want to alienate those people, and there’s really no need for Vidar to be online all the time, so yes we’ll definitely target GOG and Desura. As for the retail box, there will be limited edition retail boxes only available through the Kickstarter. I’m only making as many as strictly necessary, so make sure to back on the Kickstarter if you want the box set with the instruction manual.
Q. How much are you planning on selling Vidar for?
A. Currently I’m targeting $20 for retail. For those that back at that level on Kickstarter, we’re offering some added rewards in addition to the game so that people who help us out early are thanked appropriately.
A. More cave environments – right now, we’re sticking with four because the art expenses to add another are huge. It’s a stretch goal, though, so I might get my wish!
Q. Why have you chosen to use crowd funding?
A. Particularly for someone starting in indie dev, crowd funding serves two equally important roles. First, and most obviously, it gives you the necessary capital upfront that you may not be able to get from any one particular investor. Video games (like any other actual product) require all of their resources up front, which is a much tougher cash flow than say a services industry. Second, crowd funding provides a level of “social proof.” You don’t want to develop a game that you think is great, and then when it’s 90% done starts advertising and demoing it, and then release to no sales. Ideally, you want to know what the public thinks of your game before you’ve spent tens of thousands on development. So taking the pulse of your current community is truly awesome for any indie developer.
Q. Would you suggest other indie devs turn to crowd funding?
A. It totally depends. On the one hand, you can get money up front and get that social proof that what you’re doing has a market. On the other hand, preparing for a Kickstarter can take months away from your development – it took me a solid two and a half months to gear up for Vidar’s campaign. That’s time not spent coding, but it’s for a large-in-concept game. If you’re making a game that you think you can get done in 6-12 months start to finish, I wouldn’t worry about crowdfunding. Just make your game, and stand proudly on the fact that you’ve released.
Q. I know its a bit early but do you have any idea what you will do after Vidar?
A. I’ve been toying with going even smaller in scope. Vidar has been great, a wonderful ambitious-but-doable project, right in that sweet spot. I want to join some 72 hour game jams, maybe make a quick free puzzle game on mobile, experiment with the world of fast development. I’ve spent a year plus on Vidar, and it will take about another year to finish. I imagine by that point I won’t be ready to embark on something long term immediately thereafter.
Q. Apart from Vidar what is currently your favorite game?
A. Changes regularly, but I’ve been playing a lot of Guild Wars 2, Animal Crossing, and Mario Kart 8 recently. Based on this list, I think I’m turning into a more casual gamer (what happened to New Year’s resolutions to grind the Starcraft 2 ladder, Dean?!) and I’m totally ok with it.
Q. Anything you would like to add?
A. Vidar was accepted to the MAGFest Indie Videogame Showcase, so if you’re in DC for that on January 23-26, we’ll be demoing the game all weekend!
Vidar homepage: http://www.vidarthegame.com/