Rainbow Moon is a Strategy-RPG from the makers of the hit Söldner-X franchise. We sat down with SideQuest Studios CEO Marcus Pukropski and discussed the project, the development and the pros and cons about making an RPG as a indie developer.
PSM: Tell us a little bit about the game’s protagonist, Baldren.
Marcus Pukropski: Baldren is the unlikely hero in our story. On his way to the annual duel with his arch-rival Namoris, he was cursed and warped to an unknown and once peaceful place called “Rainbow Moon”. He also opened a dimensional gate, out of which troops of monsters are crawling, not much to the liking of the people on Rainbow Moon. Baldren really just wants to find a way back home but this quickly turns out to be much more difficult than he first imagined. Finally, this is where our story begins…
PSM: How did you come up with the title ‘Rainbow Moon’, and what’s the story behind it?
Marcus Pukropski: Rainbow Moon is a colorful but mysterious world, which is what we were trying to express with the name. It was actually the first name that we came up with and we all found that it suited the game very well.
PSM: Why did you decide on turn based combat? What are the advantages as opposed to realtime combat?
Marcus Pukropski: We are really big fans of traditional role-playing games and real-time combat was never an option for this game. We like the idea of turn-based battles, which is often less chaotic and offers a lot more possibilities in terms of strategic battle approaches. A lot of real-time combat is nothing else than hack and slash, something which we felt really didn’t fit into Rainbow Moon’s concept.
PSM: Coming from a completely different genre with your previous games Söldner X, what made you go for an RPG title this time?
Marcus Pukropski: We loved working on the previous Söldner-X games but the great thing about being an indie developer is that we don’t have to focus on the same genre or series for years or even decades. We thought about the idea of developing an RPG for some time, it’s another great genre that all of us really enjoy playing. After working on two shooting games, it felt like a fresh change.
PSM: Do you have any plans for a Vita version?
Marcus Pukropski: We are currently evaluating ports to other systems, including the Vita but nothing has been confirmed at the moment. We’d like to wait and see how strong the reception for the PlayStation 3 release will be this July. Afterwards we will make a decision and it will either be a port or a new project.
PSM: Did you play around with other means of presentation, like 3rd person POV etc, or was it always meant to be an isometric grid type of game?
Marcus Pukropski: We already had a very good concept in mind and knew what would suit the game best. Since we are a small development team, some options like a photorealistic look have of course been out of question since the beginning, it’s simply not possible with our financial limitations. However there was once an idea to switch the game into a side-scrolling perspective whenever entering a dungeon.
For a number of reasons, including time constraints, we have finally dismissed the idea and decided for a completely isometric view. All in all we are very satisfied with this approach, which allowed us a lot of room for details.
PSM: What is your opinion on the westernization of Eastern games? Have you done anything in particular to cater to Western players?
Marcus Pukropski: I think it’s a great tribute to Japanese games to be interpreted and developed by Western companies. Looking back 10 years or even longer, almost all great console games came out of Japan. We are a Western development team and are neither hiding this, nor are we trying to intimidate to be someone else. I think that we have our own style, which includes inspirations from Asian and Western games alike. For us it has always been very important not to knock-off any existing franchise or style, which is what ultimately also defines Rainbow Moon’s art direction.
PSM: You’ve gone from sidescrolling shooter to RPG. What other genres do you dream of dabbling in?
Marcus Pukropski: We definitely love classic genres that have defined the video game industry during the 80s and 90s. The RPG/SRPG genre is something that we really enjoyed working on, so it’s possible that you will see more in this direction from us in the future. If I have to name different genres, I’d probably say an action adventure in the style of the 16-bit Zelda or a 2D jump ‘n run would be high up on my list of favorite genres to work on. Or to please our Söldner-X fans, a jump ‘n shoot game like the good old Contra would also rock.
PSM: Will the story continue with game expansions or DLC’s in the future?
Marcus Pukropski: We will have item DLCs available during the first month of game launch. A real story expansion is not planned at the moment, unless Rainbow Moon turns out to be really very successful.
PSM: Will the entire world be open for exploration from the start? Are there a lot of sidequests or other activities to get lost in?
Marcus Pukropski: Yes, generally the entire world in Rainbow Moon is open for exploration but you gradually have to unlock new parts while you progress through the story. In the beginning you start out on a small island and once you have completed certain quests, you will gain access to new parts. There are a lot of optional areas, side quests and other activities to get lost in. Moreover you can always go back to places that you have visited before. Later on in the game you will also unlock different means of transportation that allow you to discover and explore every single spot of the world.
PSM: What is the level cap, and will there be a new game+ so players can keep building their characters?
Marcus Pukropski: There are different level caps in the game. You can only level up your characters to a certain limit until you have beaten the final boss of the main story mode. I don’t want to spoil too much but afterwards the maximum level that you can reach will be 999. There’s no “new game+” feature, however we have lots of optional content, including multiple optional dungeons, side quests and an end game story.
PSM: How long is the campaign expected to last?
Marcus Pukropski: It will take most players at least 40 hours to play through the main story. If you include all optional content, side quests, end game content and so on, Rainbow Moon will probably keep you busy for 100 hours or longer.
PSM: Have you thought about multiplayer modes like PvP or coop campaigns/quests?
Marcus Pukropski: No, it’s never been discussed for this project. I think there are too many games that try to squeeze online modes into games that simply don’t need them. We prefer to focus on making a good game, without too many compromises in terms of actual game play. Rainbow Moon however features a small online functionality, which allows players to upload their game stats to our web server.
PSM: With the recent controversy with Day 1 DLC’s: What made you decide to go for that, rather than including the content in the game on launch?
Marcus Pukropski: The DLCs that we are releasing during the release month are not typical expansion packs but boosting items that the player can opt to purchase in case he wants to put less time into his campaign. In terms of content, everything Rainbow Moon has to offer is already included in the game and the game has also been balanced and tested without the inclusion of the DLC item packs.
Basically I agree to players’ complaints, it’s pretty unfair to include future DLCs into the game and then demand the customers to pay for it again. However on the other hand, many players also expect DLC to be available within a few weeks after game launch. Unless the game becomes extremely successful and the developer can afford to release DLC at a much later time (see World of Warcraft, which is a working example), it means production of the DLC already has to take place during the development of the main game.
We once released an add-on to our shooter Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype and it launched around half year after the main game, which was the necessary time for development, testing, approval and release of the content. Unfortunately we were not able to recover our development fees, partly because the add-on was released too late. As a small indie developer, we can’t really afford many of those losses, otherwise it would be game over for us. So all in all it’s a very difficult situation between giving some players what they ask for and not upsetting others.
PSM: In terms of Rainbow Moon’s gameplay and mechanics, what other games have influenced and inspired the development?
Marcus Pukropski: I’m a big fan of the Disgaea series, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and a number of other NIS published games, which inevitably means that some influences or inspirations have ended up in Rainbow Moon. However once you play Rainbow Moon, you will quickly realize that the game plays completely differently from any of the titles that I’ve just mentioned. What makes Rainbow Moon so unique is the combination of exploration, paired with a more strategic battle approach. I really hope that people will like it.