“From the Devs” is a daily feature where we find indie games with potential, and let the developers tell you about their projects and what makes them unique. Today we have Chris Polus of Stillalive Studios about upcoming indie game, Son of Nor.
TechZwn: What’s your game and what’s it about?
Polus: We categorize ‘Son of Nor’ as an action RPG. It’s not an RPG in the classical sense with looting, leveling and such. But you definitely play a ‘role’ in this game. You play a ‘Son of Nor’. People give this title to individuals with great magical power which are tasked with the protection of what’s left of humanity. In the fantasy world we came up with exclusively for this game, humanity is on the brink of extinction. Hunted and killed by a dominating race, the Sarahul.
As a player, you will have to fight attacking Sarahul who found humanity’s secret retreat, as well as various creatures that inhabit the desert world of Noshrac. Having been found by your worst enemy, players need to improvise a lot. You don’t have an army at your disposal, being at the brink of extinction and all. It’s pretty much you and a handful of other Sons of Nor.
The player’s magic can be used directly as a weapon in the form of fireball spells and such, but it can also be used to manipulate the environment. Fights can be won in differend ways. And one of the more intruging ways is to use the environment as a weapon.
TechZwn: What makes your game unique?
Polus: It’s not the firepower of your spell that will always lead to success. It’s how players use physics, tricks, elevated places, stones lying around, and their magical abilities. Or short, the brain is a better weapon than spamming enemies with spells. And this is a concept we’re working on hard to make it fun and rewarding.
Besides spells and spell combinations (where you combine two or more spells to create something new) we have telekinesis and terraforming in our game. None of these abilities might be revolutionary on their own, but we think they’re unique in this combination. Telekinesis helps you move heavy things such as stones and set up traps. And terraforming helps you shape the environment to find tactical spots, find entrances to buried temples with potential escape routes, or make enemies fall over as you move the ground under their feet. These abilities will be heavily used in the puzzle elements in-between battles, when we progress with the story and players find out about the background story of Son or Nor.
We don’t want to make it easy on ourselves and just release a game with known game mechanics thrown together. So we try to find alternative ways in several areas of gameplay, too. A more technical aspect of this is that we try to get rid of any user interface and integrate all information the player needs as organically into the world as possible. Son of Nor is not a point and click RPG where you target the enemy and then click a spell icon on-screen and the faster you click the more successful you are. That’s not the idea. We wanted to add some personal skill to the game where your character doesn’t level up, but the player does. Players need to get better at targeting enemies with your mouse, because your spells don’t have a built-in GPS. The more they know about how spells behave, the better and more efficient they handle them.
Of course, there will be some kind of progress where players learn more and more spells during the game, but it’s the way you combine these basic spells to more powerful ones, your playfullness and skill guiding slower or faster spells towards enemies while tactically using the environment that ultimately leads to success.
TechZwn: Where did the inspiration come from?
Polus: Julian, the founder and CEO of stillalive studios came up with the lore and basic gameplay ideas. He wrote several pages of background story to create the world and then derived gameplay from it. I remember reading a short story about all what happened in Noshrac, the desert world Son of Nor plays in, in his older German documents. The basic idea must have been around for quite some time. And from there, it slowly developed into a game idea with more and more people joining the project.
TechZwn: Is there anything you saw in modern gaming that you’d like to change or build on with your game?
Polus: There are many great games out there today. Very polished and professional AAA titles that we, too, like to play. On the other hand, increasingly professional indie titles get released all the time. Think of Fez that has a great take on 3D puzzling. Or Braid with its time- and mindbending puzzles. We also loved Minecraft that is a special case in the genre altogether.
So it’s not so much that we would like to change something in modern gaming, but more think along the lines of these great game ideas out there that take one aspect of gaming and twist it to something fresh and enjoyable.
We want to think outside the box and come up with something fresh and enjoyable. With our ideas being: No leveling in an RPG, it’s your personal skill that counts; spells, telekinesis and terraforming interact with each other; no user interface for more immersion into the game world.
We’re working hard to realize this concept and make it fun to play
TechZwn: Is there anything else you’d like to say or talk about regarding your game (or gaming in general)?
Polus: Creating a game is wonderful. But I never would have thought it is that hard of a job at the same time. All the ups and downs you go through individually and as a team. Moments where you think that was it, this is never going to work, we could as well stop everything right now! But every time you come up with a solution that works, it feels great. Until you throw it away in favor of another idea again, haha.
There is a lot of good momentum in the indie and gaming scene now. Games get recognized as their own grown-up medium and not as child’s play anymore. And, boy, people have all kinds of crazy and unbelievably great ideas for game concepts. We would like to participate with our idea and bring something new to the table we can be proud of at the end. And we’re working hard for that.