While I was scanning through the Game Creator’s forum I ran across Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox, and after seeing one screenshot, I was very impressed, so I contacted the creator, Alex Norton.
1.) Tell our community a bit about yourself, Alex.
Hey! I’m a game designer based out of Brisbane, Australia and have been making games for about 15 years. A few years back I started getting a little recognised when my team (at the time there was just four of us in the team) made the online D&D platform called “Dungeon Master Pro“. After knocking out three versions of that we went our separate ways and after a few minor projects.
I started working on the idea for Malevolence, which was originally called “When Darkness Falls” and had a very different premise. I was in university at the time and I had developed an algorithm to generate infinite procedural worlds. After I’d gotten it working though, I put it aside and decided to try my hand at a card game for something different. I assembled a team of twelve and we made a working prototype of a card game called When Darkness Falls which boasted infinite worlds and lots of fun gameplay.
In order to get it published, however, we needed a lot of money (which we didn’t have). So in order to raise the money we thought we’d expand the team a bit and make a PC game version of the card game. During that process it turned into a HUGE project and was renamed “Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox” and the team grew to nearly 40 people. It’s been quite a ride!
2.) Tell us about Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox.
Malevolence is an homage to old classic first person RPGs such as Eye of the Beholder, Might & Magic, Dungeon Master, StoneKeep and the like, but brought into a more modern setting. However, instead of using fixed level design, all of the levels, environments, dialogue, items, quests, etc are generated by the game in such a way that it goes on forever. The aim of the project wasn’t to make a game that you could play forever – more to make an RPG that you can play for as short or as long a time as you’d like to.
3.) What draws you to turn-based RPGs? Why do you think they disappeared?
It’s actually quite a personal story. When I was a young boy I had quite an avid imagination, and loved stories. My father worked the night shift so I didn’t get to see him too much, so he didn’t really have the time to read me stories and play with me as much as he would have liked. But instead, he would play games like Might & Magic and I would sit next to him and we’d go on adventures together in the game. He would name one of the characters after me and one after himself and we would go questing together. In a way, it was so much better than reading storybooks.
The times spent exploring those fantasy worlds with him are some of the most special memories of my childhood, and I wanted to be able to re-create that for others. To be honest, I’m not sure why the classic genre died. Perhaps people preferred real-time, smooth movement games, perhaps it was just the coincidental decisions of various producers, but there are a few indie teams bringing the genre back and it’s very exciting!
4.) Explain the “infinite, not procedurally generated” part of your game. How do you make it infinite?
Actually, Malevolence IS procedurally generated. It’s just not done so in a standard way. Most procedural generation in games is done using systems like fractals, diamond generation or perlin noise, whereas Malevolence uses its own, proprietary system that I have developed. We’ve copped a lot of flack from people saying that “infinite worlds are impossible” but the fact is, we’re not the first team to be doing it… It’s a fairly well established idea, we’re just giving it a new face.
5.) Is it a sandbox sort of game? It sort of reminds me of an updated version of The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall but with turn-based actions.
I guess you could sort of call it sandbox… Try to think of it more as a roguelike such as Nethack, but played from a first person perspective. Or if you’ve ever played the earlier Might & Magic games, such as “Isles of Xeen“, it’s very much like that.
6.) What are some of the challenges and stories you ran into while making this game? It looks like quite an undertaking.
It really has been a mammoth task. When we first started it out, we weren’t expecting it to be as popular as it has been. Most people seem really enamoured by the idea and think it’s a great sounding game, but one of the biggest challenges we’ve had to deal with have been the critics. When people hate on this game, they REALLY hate on this game, and I’m never quite sure why. Everyone has games they like and dislike, but that doesn’t mean you should be outwardly hostile towards them! My advice to them is to just not play it, not follow it, and just ignore this game if they don’t like it.
Most of our roadblocks have been from trolls spamming us saying that what we’re doing is impossible and that we shouldn’t even bother trying. The long and short of it is, however, it’s here, right now, running on my PC. That’s all the proof people should need, but I guess they will get to see it when the game comes out! On the lighter side, however, I’ve managed to meet some incredible people through this game: all of the wonderful voice acting cast, artists, musicians, sound engineers, writers and more… It just blows my mind with some of the talent that we’ve managed to get on board. I feel very lucky every day that I work on this, and I’ve made some firm friends in the process (and some enemies, too!)
7.) I understand you made it using DarkBasic Pro. How was that?
Fantastic! DarkBasic Pro has its limitations, yes, but it also makes ease of coding quite a strong part of development. Believe it or not, I’m actually a fluent C++ programmer and I still decided to go with DBPro just because of how fast it lets me work! The community is also amazing and full of great people, and Lee and the team are champs and have supported the game every step of the way.
8.) How was Kickstarter for you?
TERRIFYING! To put the game out there for all the world to see and judge was a horrifying experience. Even though we weren’t asking for much it was still quite scary. It would have been quite a demotivator to have it not go anywhere. But then the numbers started to rise… More and more… Then we passed double what we asked for, and it kept going above that! As of writing this there’s still just over a week left and I have no idea where it’s going to stop.
It’s still scary though, as people are quite open with their thoughts on the game. Sometimes I think people forget that behind every indie game is a bunch of… just… people… human beings, who have put (sometimes) years of their life and heart and soul into creating something that they care about so much. But other times people are well aware of that and choose to reward that dedication by pledging, and honestly it’s the most incredible feeling! All of the contributors are total champions and I’d hug them all if I could! We’re determined to give them the best product possible for their help and support!
9.) What do you recommend to wannabe game developers?
They’re going to hate me for saying this, but more programmers need to go back to their roots. Dig up an old 386, throw QBasic on it and learn to code well on a system that has virtually no resources. It will force you to learn good, clean, efficient coding practices that will reward you greatly when you go back to coding on a high powered machine with a versatile language. Also, study and practice the basics. FOR loops, Multidimensional Arrays, data manipulation, things that people only gloss over when they’re learning because it’s boring, but if they gain a truly thorough understanding of it they will become much better coders for it!
10.) Any parting thoughts?
Don’t be a troll. Don’t fall into bad internet habits. As a games programmer you should be able to look at any game, whether it’s in a genre you like or a genre you hate, and see it for what it is – a creation lovingly made by people. Analyse it, rather than criticise it. And never let anyone tell you that a game can’t be made, as it’s simply not true.
The Kickstarter campaign is almost through! Please hurry through and donate! Thanks for the interview!
Official Website: http://www.msoa-game.com/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nathan – He prefers his last name not to be known. He’s probably a high-class superspy, but we don’t mind. For a temporary amount of time, he is the editor of Indiegraph. He’s our point man for interviews, and occasionally he takes a blowtorch to a game to see whether it measures up to his standards. He runs Gamesbydesign, an IndieGraph affliate site dedicated to game design articles. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/VGR_Reviews.