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For games on Kickstarter, persistence can sometimes be the thing to move you to success. Also, sometimes finding an awesome publisher to help you out along the way can also work. Kingdom of Night, a new kickstarter project from Black Seven Studios is a good example of both. A new 80’s-inspired Action RPG that claims to be a mix of Diablo and Earthbound is what they claim to be cooking up for us and we were lucky enough to sit down with Erin Hasslacher (Creator/Lead Designer) and John Hasslacher (Creative Director) to ask some questions about it.

Thank you so much for setting some time for us to answer some questions about the new upcoming title, Kingdom of Night. Let’s start with an obvious question. What is this game all about? How would you describe this upcoming title?

Erin:

“It’s the story of a kid who wakes up in the middle of the night from hearing his neighbor getting kidnapped. He gets thrown into this apocalyptic plot which revolves around him saving her before she’s sacrificed at dawn or else the entire world is going to be owned by demons. It’s a story thats interested me for a while now, and I’m glad I’m able to do it in the format of a video game. This story is paired with some really awesome gameplay mechanics and I thinks it’s going to be really exciting.”

John:

“To me it’s a game about what it’s like to be a kid in a small town. That might sound stupid with all these demons running around but I think both of us had pretty active imaginations as kids (maybe we still do). In large part those imaginations were fueled by the games we were playing. That’s why the class system has a very old-school feel. There are also a lot of neighborhood dynamics, social stuff, in the game, as well as this split between the lives of the teenagers and the adults that I think is interesting too.”  

What was the main inspiration for this game, both from a video game perspective as well as other mediums?

Erin:

“The main inspiration for this game came to me when I was on a lunch break back when I was doing electrical work. So, you know, sheer boredom is what really inspired me. I was just sitting there thinking about what game I would really want to play and I started piecing it together.

From a video game perspective I’ve played so many games in my life especially when I was kid. I had so much time i would tear through them. I really loved games that had great stories, Legend of Legaia, Lunar Silver star story, Final Fantasy 7, Brave Fencer Musashi, the Zelda games… I could name a gigantic list but those games played a huge part in shaping my perception of what a good story in a game is.”  

John:

“When I heard about his idea I just jumped on the chance to do something different. A lot of games these days are either hyper realistic or take place in settings so alien that there’s nothing for people to latch on to. I grew up loving movies like The Last Starfighter and Labyrinth where ordinary kids were drawn into extraordinary worlds. It’s the same idea behind putting Alice in Wonderland. If you didn’t have this girl there among all the talking chess pieces and giant caterpillars the story would end up just being a kind of phantasmagoria. It’s just that in our game Wonderland comes to you.”

I also see in the kickstarter headline, that the game is being described as a mix between Diablo and Earthbound. I can definitely see the Diablo comparison but what exactly inspiration from Earthbound is this game drawing from?

Erin:

“Yea, sure, Diablo seems obvious because of the action-rpg mechanics and all the demonic stuff. But also earthbound because you’re just a kid that wakes up in the middle of the night. Then suddenly, in this seemingly ordinary neighborhood setting, you’re on a quest to save the world from extra terrestrial invaders. I say extra-terrestrial because, if anything, demons are most definitely extra terrestrial.”

John:

“The game may look really dark and serious but part of our Earthbound inspiration is that we wanted there to be this humorous undertone happening throughout. There’s a lot of really satirical dialogue with the township and it’s the contrast between these two dynamics that we think makes the game unique.”

The monster fighting seems like this will be the majority to the game but I also noticed that you mentioned the game as a coming of age and love story. Will there be a large focus on the story of the main character? Will there be things such as dialogue choices or other story branching mechanics?

Erin:

“Yeah, the trailer might be a bit deceiving in this respect. We just showed a lot of combat footage because we wanted people to see a lot of action. That’s what makes a good trailer. But the story is a huge part of the game. It’s the story of everything that’s going on around him and his relationship with the townspeople during this one night. Every one of the Demon Generals holds control of a particular part of the town that has a dungeon and multiple storylines associated with it. For instance, Cain has taken over the mall, where a group of local teenagers have barricaded themselves inside. The player shows up just in time to find them all accusing each other of murder and it’s up to you to find out ‘whodunnit’”

John:

“We mentioned before that there was this contrast happening between the humorous side of the game and the actual events of the story. Part of that is designed to play up the absurdity of being this nobody from nowhere who has to save the world. It’s the struggle of asking ‘Why me? Why do I have to do this?”. That unasked for responsibility being placed on a kid’s shoulders is an emotional core of the game. And we’re borrowing that Spielbergian thing of having a lot of different tones, a lot of highs and lows. That kind of range is what makes something like E.T. a great movie. Which, come to think of it, is another example of the extraordinary intruding on the ordinary.”   

Speaking of the main character, what makes him so special in relation to this story? The world seems to be ending and it is up to you to save it. Can you expand on any details as to why this character is the one to take on this task?

Erin:

“Well he’s not really special in his original ability but he is special in the respect that he has been chosen. In the same way his neighbor Ophelia was chosen and kidnapped by outside forces, he’s been chosen by outside forces to combat the invading evil. If you wanna know who he’s been chosen by then…. I don’t want to give to much away you’ll just have to find out by playing the game.”

John:

“I totally agree. He’s not special at all except that he’s there. Sometimes being there is the best qualification to have. It’s part of the horror of the game that there are these grand machinations with powerful forces behind them that don’t have any concern for you. And it’s part of the game that your individual desire to save someone you love can, hopefully, be powerful enough to stop those impersonal forces.”  

Back on the subject of game play mechanics, you mention having up to 9 classes that you can choose from. Some of those classes appear as locked on the kickstarter page and will be unlocked as you hit higher stretch goals. What happens if those goals are not achieved? Will the game not receive multiple classes or is this something that just wouldn’t be a part of the initial release?

Erin:

“Yea those nine classes are a part of the original game design and it would really be a shame if they didn’t get funded in the kickstarter. I think we’ve designed a full palette of play styles so everyone can find one that they enjoy. For instance if you like magic you have the three choices of the different magic types. If you like melee weapons, then you also have three very different choices. Or you can just cross-class to make a hybrid for people who like a little bit of both. That way you can be the exact hero you want to save the world with, I think that’s awesome.”

John:

“I think it would be a shame too. One of the unique things about the game is that cross-classing an [sic] the unique items you find in the game can give you a totally unique build. You could end up being this barbarian-rogue with a football helmet who stealths into combat and then charges away. It’s very dynamic. But it’s really all down to the level of support, whether that support comes now or after release.”  

Let’s move on and talk about the kickstarter and the team itself now. First off congratulations on already hitting your initial goal and in such a short time. Did you have any idea you would make it so quickly? What were your initial expectations when starting this campaign?

Erin:

“Thanks, no initially I had no idea what to expect but it’s awesome to see such a quick and positive response to the project.”

John:

“We tried to be very pessimistic about things and so I think it’s safe to say we’ve been pleasantly surprised by all of the support. We can’t say enough thank you’s.”  

You have an interesting take on trying to ramp up interest to the kickstarter page by creating The Journey. Can you expand on what this is and what made you think of running a mini game inside of a kickstarter itself?

Erin:

“We wanted to get people engaged in the story aspect of Kingdom of night and play a game with it. Rather than just thinking about it as work, it could feel more like play, which I think is a really cool concept. We also wanted the players to be able to meet “the gang” who are not only running around the town in “The Journey” but also in the game world. You’ll be able to interact with them and know that you were a part of moving them around to whatever situation they end up in.”

John:

“It’s difficult to ask people to share your stuff on social media without feeling like an ass. We wanted to make it reciprocal and fun instead. People who back the kickstarter now have even more stuff to check the page for. Almost everyday, people playing The Journey have unlocked something cool.”

Is this the company’s (Black Seven Studios) first title? I attempted to look for previous work from them but did not see anything.

Erin:

“Yes we are all relatively young guys and this is our first title as a company. But it’s not the first title for our programmers and artists. They’ve worked on games like Starbound, Golf Story, Saints Row, Clone Drone In The Danger Zone, just to name a few. They really understand the production side of things and know what needs to be done to ship a high-quality game.”

John:

“Ditto. When a project is creatively very ambitious it’s a huge plus to have an incredibly capable and stable team of professionals who can bring it to life.”

The only thing that I did see from this studio before was their previous attempt at backing this game but under a different name, One Night. What was the reasoning behind the name change? What pushed you to start a kickstarter again after the initial one?

John:

“We’ve got lots of stuff about this up on the campaign page, in updates, and even on the comments page. The short and sweet answer is that the name had bad SEO, infringed on some existing properties, and wasn’t as cool as the new one. With DANGEN’s help we’ve been given a second chance to bring this project to the public and with a ton of great improvements.”

The page says that the release will most likely be October of next year, is there anything that we can expect before that time to help keep that hype train rolling? Any plans for demos, early access, places to follow for videos etc.

Erin:

“Yes, we want to be as transparent as possible during the development process so we can show everyone what’s going on. As soon as WE have a some cool footage to show ill [sic] show it. All that kind of stuff will show up on the campaign page or through DANGEN’s social media accounts. We’re also offering early access to the beta build for every backer who supported us by backing the $75 and above tiers.”

—-

Once again, thank you so much Erin and John for the great content and looking forward to the game. It is currently at 21,000 of their 10,000 goal but many of those stretch goals are still available for the campaign to hit. If any of this sounded interesting or you want to know more, be sure to check out their kickstarter page for more.

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Joshua

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