Questions by Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Answers by David Bowman, Creative Director of Stone Wardens
I recently got the chance to ask David Bowman, the Creative Director of the up-and-coming Burst Online Entertainment game, Stone Wardens, a few questions. It will be a unique blend of Tower Defense and Action RPG. There will be the strategy and planning of traditional Tower Defense games, mixed with point-and-click action combat similar to what you get from games like League of Legends or Path of Exile. The game looks like it will be incredible, and from what I saw while playing the pre-alpha demo, it will deliver. The questions I asked are what I believe potential Kickstarter backers will be most interested in. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Hello and thank you for your time. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I'm David Bowman, Creative Director on Stone Wardens.
Can you explain what it is that you do at Burst?
I create the designs for our games to meet the goals set by the company. I work with Paul Tanganelli, our Lead Engineer, on the details of the game design to specify the way the systems will work and collaborate with John Cboins, our Art Director, on the style and emotional goals of the art. We are a small team, so I also do the data entry to set the values for the game play, and then adjust those values and the corresponding spreadsheets based on play testing.
Burst is made up of industry veterans. Can you tell us a bit about your past projects and if you will be taking what you've learned from them into Stone Wardens? Do you think your experience will help you provide a quality Tower Defense game to your players?
Prior to starting Burst, we have worked at Bungie, Turbine, Nintendo, THQ, Gazillion Entertainment, NCSoft, Certain Affinity, and NetDevil on Asheron's Call, Wizard 101, Guild Wars, Halo, Call of Duty, Left4Dead, Age of Booty and many other successful games. Our experiences have taught us how to create well-built, fun to play, online games. We've done a lot of multi-player titles, and our goal with Stone Wardens is to create a very fun to play experience that plays well as a solo game, but multiplies the fun as you add more people playing cooperatively. We love playing Tower Defense games, but the current ones are predominantly single player only. The few that allow for multiple players often make you feel you are playing a solo game at the same time as someone else is playing the same game, rather than create systems that are synergistic and cooperative at their core.
Can you tell us a bit about the game itself and what will set it above and apart from your competitors (such as Dungeon Defenders)?
Dungeon Defenders is a fun game, and we have played it along with every other example we could find of multiplayer games with tower defense mechanics. But we are looking for a different experience; one that is less about setting a tower down to create a choke point and then using your abilities repeatedly to kill the backlog of enemies. In Stone Wardens, the player's abilities change the state of the enemies, allowing other players to get secondary bonuses in their attacks; for example, freezing an enemy sets them up for extra steam damage if they are hit by flame attacks, or a chance of shattering if physical attacks are used, causing shards of ice to damage other nearby enemies.
Our enemies also have many different abilities that not only affect other enemies (healing, speed boosts, damage protection), they also have abilities that keep the players on their toes causing not only damage to Wardens, but also creating secondary effects such as knockback, freeze, teleporting, etc.
Our world is a much more open world, with lots of vertical dimensionality which opens up opportunities such as the Ninja's Assassinate ability letting you jump onto the back of a passing Cyclops as he moves under the bridge you are standing on.
What was the inspiration for the game setting?
Stone Wardens takes place in a world of magic that has been confronted by invasions for generations. The story of the Wardens being trained to combat these invasions, evolving into specialized Warden classes, and using their magical familiars to harvest spirit from the world and use it to bring ancestral guardians to life comes from both the core game mechanics and our love for fantasy novels and games. We built the game to be fun, and then we wanted to know why these things would be true? The story fits the game we have created, and then the art style grew out of that story and the fun, cooperative feel of the game.
Potential players who see the pre-alpha screenshots might be a bit put off by the current level of detail in the graphics. Are there plans for improvements for the final product?
Yes, we are iterating on the game, and improving some of the technical aspects. So far, we've gotten a great response to the look and feel of the game art, and look forward to reaching our release bar during Beta.
Personally, I love the chosen art style as it reminds me of some of my all-time favorite games from back in the day. Where did the decision to go for this style come from? Was it purely chosen for aesthetics or did your cross-platform (specifically mobile devices) support play a role?
We set out our emotional goals for the game first; we wanted a friendly, approachable, cheerful art style that made people smile and want to engage with the game. We then worked with proportions on our Wardens, trying out many styles to find one that evoked those emotions. This, combined with the story that had evolved, set the style that we have today, and we are very happy with it.
Why Kickstarter and the large goal of $225,000? Are traditional investors not an option, or is it just personal preference?
Kickstarter has two purposes for us. Ideally it would help us find an audience that we could engage with early in the development while there is still time to respond to their feedback, and it would provide funding to complete the game.
We're self-funded entirely to this point, but don't have the resources to complete Stone Wardens without further investment. Publishers today appear to be primarily interested in low-risk, proven franchises or completed games that they then market and distribute, rather than funding 3rd party game development. Investors are also risk-adverse, and look to franchises or teams with long track records together. While we have extensive experience in making games on previous teams, this is our first major game as this team.
Are there any plans for Stretch Goals?
We've set out three stretch goals, which are focused on more content and adding iOS and Android mobile platforms. We'll add more to those goals as we can, and add further goals once we get closer to our primary goal.
If this Kickstarter campaign fails, do you plan to seek funding elsewhere or will that be it for Stone Wardens?
We have not yet secured funding that would allow us to complete Stone Wardens independently, so we are continuing discussions with potential investors and publishers to help with that. Ideally, players would learn about the Kickstarter and back us. We've seen a great response among those who have visited the Kickstarter page, but the numbers have been small. I suspect because we have not done a great job of creating awareness about our game and Kickstarter; rather we have focused on making it fun. It's a difficult challenge.
Speaking of final product, do you guys have a goal date yet?
If we meet the Kickstarter goal, then we'd be ready for release in February of 2014.
Thank you for your time and for answering our questions. It was a pleasure being able to have your insight on Stone Wardens and playing with you in the demo. Do you have any other message to share with our viewers?
Stone Wardens was born out of our desire to create a fun and unique multiplayer experience that blends the best of action RPGs and tower defense games...and to provide that experience to a community of players in an online service with social and competitive features. It is our hope the readership here will help catapult our funding efforts on Kickstarter and beyond so we can make Stone Wardens a reality.