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The Chronicles of Ny - Interview
Brian "Dhruin" Turner, 2004-04-07

Last October, independant developer ClownKeep announced 'The Chronicles of Ny' - a story-rich fantasy CRPG that would be released as a series of episodes.  Screenshots revealed a full 3D environment but not much was known about the gameplay.  We set about finding the details by talking to ClownKeep founder David LaRocca and Game Writer and Designer, Bruce Muncher.

RPGDot: Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about ClownKeep.

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David: Hello, I am David LaRocca, founder of ClownKeep.  I started ClownKeep back in February of 2002 and since then it has grown from a hobby to a company.  We have a very talented group of people that are focused on one thing, making games. 

Bruce:  Writer and Game Designer of "The Chronicles of Ny."  I've been involved with Clownkeep for over a year.  I met this guy with a lot of drive and ambition, through an AD&D campaign I was running, and he talked to me about this idea of turning my world into a computer game…

RPGDot: Why did you decide to make TCoN episodic?  Will each episode be downloadable or how will it work?

David:  We decided to make The Chronicles of Ny episodic for many reasons; the main one was because we think that it will be a better game if we make it without the assistance of a publisher.  Publishers pay developers a lot of money to make games, eventually they want to get their money back and make a profit as well.  That's fine but in many cases the game suffers because they rushed development to make money faster.  By releasing The Chronicles of Ny in episodes we can make sure the game is what we want it to be without having to rush things.

Each episode will be available for download off ClownKeep.com and we will be working with distributors that will put it on store shelves.

RPGDot: Your website gives the impression you'd like to make a lot of episodes (6 episodes is used as a passing example at one point).  Can you maintain player interest over a long period?  What about advances in technology - will the graphics stand up over the life of several episodes?

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Bruce:  Each story will end with the main character overcoming the challenges that have been presented to him in that story.  There will be some story elements that will cross over all the games, but each one should be enjoyable by itself.  The episodic component is that all the adventures will have linking elements, story and an expanding world.  If you only play one it should be a lot of fun.  If you like it, we hope you'll come back and experience another new and exciting adventure and maybe learn more about the world and realize there is yet more to your unfolding saga.

RPGDot: Tell us a little about the setting and the story, if possible.

Bruce:  The setting is a beleaguered frontier province of the Great Kingdom of Ny.  It has been settled, fought over, conquered and reconquered.  Its' people are a polyglot of cultures almost universally suspicious of authority.  Bandits rule the highways; Cultists stalk the streets; Nobles vie with each other over the right to exploit the people; Barbarians roam freely to the East; Goblinoids fester and roil beyond the Northern Mountains; the cruel former conquerors of Racorr, the Sunite Empire watches from the South waiting for another day.  This fascinating land of danger and adventure is a place in real need of a Hero, because things are about to really turn ugly…

RPGDot: Character development is skill-based.  How deep is the skill system?  What sort of non-combat skills are there?

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Bruce:  To begin with there will not be that many, but each adventure should see a few more tossed into the mix.  Leadership will be a real key to help control your party members.  Climbing can be very useful at times.  Haggle can help get you things you want.  Some things like Sneak and Listen and Open Locks are skills that if you take and spend a lot of time practicing and developing it will take away from your fighting skills.  We will not really have classes, although if you decide to go down the path of magic, that will be pretty one-way.  It is possible to have a little skill in a number of things, but the more you spread out your skills the more difficult it will be to specialize in any one thing…like fighting style.  We want the player to feel that his character is what he decides to make him into.

RPGDot: TCoN is party-based but the NPCs aren't under direct player control.  Can you describe how NPCs will work?  How advanced are their behaviours?

David:  Every person that joins your party will have goals and a personality.  You can give them orders but they might not always follow them.  For example, an aggressive dwarven fighter joins your party and he lives to fight.  A few days later you are travelling along the countryside and you see a horde of 100 orcs ahead.  Since you are outnumbered 25 to 1 it might not be a good idea to attack so you hold your party back.  The dwarf doesn't like the idea of going around them, he wants to go through them so he charges ahead and attacks without you.  You may or may not like his style, if you don't, kick him out of the party.

RPGDot: Dialogue loops are one of my pet hates.  Your website says dialogue in TCoN isn't a "multiple choice quiz".  Can you describe the dialogue system in more detail?

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Bruce:  It will be similar to many in that when you will be presented choices of dialogue, but once you pick one and an answer comes up, you will then have a new set of choices.  The dialogue will flow based on the direction that you take it.  It is a one-way trip.  It is possible that it will sometimes loop back to previous choices, if appropriate, but many choices will be there just once.  There will be a lot of dialogue you will never see, because you don't take that path.  The tone of your conversation might lead to information, anger, love, plot twists or even a quick end to the conversation.  Perhaps if you play the game again it will have a whole new tone to it that wasn't there before with different events and endings.  We want there to be at least an element of replaying the story, you might want to see how well you might do if you didn't tell that guard to go scr…  get out of your face.  Maybe that big lug might have been a good choice to come along.  What if…

RPGDot: How does combat work in TCoN?

David:  Combat will be similar to most PC RPG's, a fast paced, turn based, system that can be paused to set up attacks.  We have designed a lot of new features that will really spice things up, can't go into much detail about that right now though.

RPGDot: What about magic?

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David:  The magic system in "The Chronicles of Ny" is very unique.  A lot of us are big Japanese RPG fans so we are trying to bridge the gap between the traditional PC RPG and the console RPG.  One way we plan on doing this is with our new magic system.  As with the battle system, I can't go into great detail on this but a couple things you can expect are beast summoning, custom spells, and much more!

RPGDot: Is there much interaction with the environment?  What about crafting, repairing and so on?

Bruce:  The emphasis is on the story and the people and the adventure.  How many people really want to take the time to re-sharpen their sword or mend their saddle?  We want it to be real, but mostly real fun.  The environment will be interactive, sometimes more than you want it to be.  Too bad you don't start the game with the Swim skill…

David:  Haha yeah.  You'll know what he is talking about when you play the first episode.

RPGDot: Your site mentions that each episode will take players to a new location.  How big are the areas in each episode?  Will players find this restrictive?

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Bruce:  Exploring a new area each time will be part of the challenge.  Meeting new people and new terrains should be part of the game.  It is not all about exploring terrain though.  Some of the maps will be huge, to denote the size of the world, but might just be miles and miles of empty land or field after field of farmland.  If you want to walk the road and look at it you can.  We will have a travel system that will allow you to pick a destination and then just arrive there…providing something doesn't happen to interrupt your journey.  Some games will be more terrain than you want.  Our third episode should take the player into the wilds of the barbarian lands where there is lots and lots of terrain to wander around in and maybe even get lost in (hope you have taken Direction Sense or Wilderness Lore by then).  It is not the size of the area that we think is important, but the enjoyment of what happens in that area.

RPGDot: TCoN will be available for Windows, Mac and Linux, which is an unusual move.  How much work is involved in developing and supporting for three different platforms?

David:  To be honest, making our game available for the Mac and Linux is not going to be very difficult to do.  We are using the Torque engine and one cool feature it has is the ability to write your game for the PC and port it to the Mac and Linux in minutes.  I'm sure there will be bugs here and there but from what I hear, the process is pretty painless.

RPGDot: Finally, your press release says you want to "bring back roleplaying".  What does this mean to you?  How will TCoN achieve this?

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Bruce: In this world you are interacting with the party members as much as with the world around you.  In every game I have seen or played, the other people that are not played by a real person are very cardboard.  They are either opponents, information sources, or tools to be used.  Instead of adding party member to your group like you would the latest and greatest weapon you find, they will be people that travel with you.  Some people that you take in might not fit for a variety or reasons, but you won't know until you talk with and adventure with them.  Your control of them is through your dialogue and effectiveness of leadership.  Your control of them will be through dialogue and not point and click.  There will be easily accessible and tailor made commands that you have, but some people don't listen well or just have their own ideas about how to accomplish things.  Getting the right mix for your style of play will be important.  Do you like a group that goes in like gangbusters and kill anything that moves or maybe or more subtle or magical approach suits you.  Maybe some have great skills but are hard to manage, can you adapt to their style?  You're in charge of who comes and goes, but once they're in can you forge them into an adventuring party that will become a legend?

 Thanks to David and Bruce for their time!

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