Imagine yourself in the heat a desolate and hostile environment, equipped with the bare essentials for survival. All throughout the desert, wars erupt between various tribes. Some tribes are for justice, others are bandits trying to make a name for themselves. In Kenshi, your choices as a player will impact who you will become. These choices will set your destiny as you begin to build your legacy.
Kenshi is a game that gives players independence from standards of how a game should be played. With the ability to be what they want and do whatever they like, the opportunities are endless. There is no script or set storyline, for the story is created while playing. In a recent interview with Chris Hunt of Lofi Games, he described the vision he has for Kenshi.
At the moment, Hunt is the one and only developer of Kenshi. He has aspired to create his own game since he was a young child. Via e-mail, he explained that, “Since I was a little kid playing games on the Amiga I’ve been designing games I’d like to play.” While reading books and researching, Hunt took it on himself to learn C++, “but I could never find out how to actually make games with it.” With a limited access to the internet and a non-existent indie community, “It was a hard thing to figure out in those days.”
[pullquote_right]Most games nowadays seek to restrict the player … Kenshi’s focus is on freedom and emergence; stuff that happens dynamically, and affects the game world in some way too. [/pullquote_right]
It wasn’t until years later when Hunt began developing his very own games. Looking to start a career in music, he attended college to master his tunes. Halfway through his course he learned how to make games using Shockwave. He told me that he hasn’t played the guitar since.
It is quite noticeable that the majority of games these days lack originality and tend to take key elements derived from others. Hunt strives to create a gaming experience that is set aside from the rest. He points out that Kenshi “was anti-inspired by traditional fantasy games, I wanted to make something that was as far from fantasy as possible. I could never understand why there are so many Tolkien-type fantasy games when there’s an infinite variety of worlds and settings that the imagination can come up with.”
“Most games nowadays seek to restrict the player. The modern focus is on linear stories, cinematic production values, and stupid quests. Kenshi’s focus is on freedom and emergence; stuff that happens dynamically, and affects the game world in some way too. Too many games and movies focus on the main character being the chosen one, and having some kind of mission to save the world.” Hunt said. “In Kenshi you are insignificant, the world exists despite you and its up to you if you want to make your way in it. I can relate much more to a story about a common farmer fighting a bandit to protect his family than a prince with magic powers saving the world.”
Once a new character is created, players will spawn into the world as nothing more than the average Joe, without any special abilities or elevated social status. The life introduced to players must be configured from the bottom and slowly constructed as they progress. “I want a crooked world where the weak are regularly robbed and abused, and the player is one of the weak,” Hunt said. “Ideally, I want the player to start off getting pushed around. I don’t just mean losing fights all the time, I mean tougher guys actively bullying you, stalking you, taunting you, stealing your hat. An official who beats up an old woman in front of you and there’s nothing you can do about it because the police force will come down on you. Soldiers who raid a village and take all their food, then slavers who come in and take all their women.”
As players begin to settle into the environment, they begin to make a name for themselves. The story they create begins to be revealed, and as it does so, the world around them adapts to the specific actions a player makes. Chris elaborates on this by saying, “I want the player to slowly gain his strength until he can start standing against them [the bullies], and maybe even start standing up for others. I want a seemingly endless stream of stuff you can upgrade, buy or research, and even once strong I want the player’s characters to be regularly pushed and hounded and forced to haul their wounded bodies out of bed to fight because the building is surrounded.”
Once players have advanced into the game, they can recruit their very own warriors, start their own businesses, and create an impenetrable fortress. “And forts are essential just because I love defending things,” he said. “Stronghold was a great game for that, but I always wanted to add some RPG elements to it so my overworked archers could get some experience.”
Given that it is entitled “Kenshi” (the japanese word for “swordsman”), there obviously needed to be a strong combat system. With a very keen attention to every little detail, Hunt emphasized the combat/medical system he created for Kenshi, noting, “I don’t think any game does combat right. Its all in the medical/damage system.”
He added, “In the game you don’t just drink a red potion and instantly get better, you need to work around the physical state of your characters.” The damage system is broken up into various stages of severity and classified by each individual body part. If there is heavy bleeding in the character’s leg, it must be bandaged to reduce the blood flow and also start the slow healing process. Side affects are also present such as limping and blacking out.
It is a crucial point in the game to remind players that they aren’t invincible. While in combat, great damage will be taken and it is up to players to soldier through it, even if that means limping back to their fort. Hunt took a lot of inspiration from classic films where even the hero sustains injuries. “You watch a good fight scene in a film and they don’t just stand there punching each other until one of them suddenly drops dead, they get injured in different ways that affect the fight. Die Hard was cool because Bruce Willis kept getting injured and limping around with glass in his feet. Its these complications that make it exciting.”
Hunt explained the challenges of developing a game independently. “Working alone makes for a slow pace, even when you go at it every hour of the day. Doing all the art myself was a bit of an effort, but now that I have some income from the game’s sales I can start taking on a freelancer now and then. It will be good to have a proper artist work on the game.” He continued by saying that his pesky cat continually walking across his keyboard has also added to the challenges of development.
Despite his setbacks, Hunt is determined to make a game destined for great things. “Making my own game is pretty much the only life I am willing to accept,” he said. “I’ve turned down a couple of jobs in the game industry in the past, and recently I’ve found myself turning down publishing deals. I’m going to take as long as I need and make this game my way…”
“I would like to thank those that have bought the game so far. I’m working on it full-time and nothing short of death will stop me finishing it and making it awesome. Then just wait and see the other games I have planned.”
Kenshi is currently in the Alpha stages of development and will continually update with new features. You can purchase the game now at the official website for $9.99. This purchase will include all future updates until the game is finished. Be sure to check back here at TechZwn.com for the review.