Drake: Hey g1s, this is Drake with ScrewAttack joined by two very special guests, Dave Welch and Ben Rubach of Experimental Gamer here to talk about their upcoming indie title Boot Hill Heroes.
Thanks for joining me guys. Can you tell me a bit about yourselves?
Dave: Hmm, where to begin... I'm so complex, and deep, and stuff. I grew up playing SNES RPGs and have been trying to make one, probably forever, but it took until we had matured enough to seriously get it done.
Ben: I come from a small cow-town in Wisconsin. Now I live in Chicago with Dave and another roommate and of course, Rusty our beagle who has already made his debut in the game. My dad was an electrical engineer so we had a Commodore 64 PC in like 1985. I was hooked at a young age and my love grew with the technology to include classics like Quest For Glory and all the SNES RPG's.
Drake: So how did you guys get into game development?
Dave: I have sort of been writing game design documents since I played my first RPG. I was a part of several indie teams but we could never seem to get anything off the ground. I think the first game that I officially released was called Smash Turtle for the iOS. Nobody bought it. I've made a lot of board games and card games too.
Ben: I had some background in table top and pen-and-paper.
Drake: Let's move onto this development studio that you guys started. How did you guys form Experimental Gamer?
Dave: We played a lot of games together and shared a lot of ideas for games of our own, but I think we were inspired by other indie developers to realize that we could make a game too. My problem had always been trying to make something too ambitious. The initial idea was too make something simple that we could actually finish first. Of course we let our passion get the best of us and Boot Hill Heroes turned into quite an ambitious project for a small studio with little experience.
Ben: I guess more literally we formed a business entity for this and future projects. We want to continually look to reinvent and put new twists on games with themes and game play elements that are new to the world of gaming. Thus we donned the title "Experimental".
Drake: So let's move onto this ambitious new project. How was the idea for Boot Hill Heroes conceived?
Ben: Dave and I played through the SNES cannon (Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana, etc.) and talked about our ideas for an epic RPG. We were inspired by the success of other Indie devs and decided that we were committed to making a game. My grandfather passed away in the winter of 2011and had always been a fan of westerns. I watched the movie True Grit at this time and Dave and I started talking about using a western theme for our first project as a novel background to a fantasy story arc.
Dave: There aren't a lot of games set in a traditional wild west setting, and even fewer RPGs. Also we were interested in the idea of using traditional fantasy story tropes in a Wild West setting.
Drake: What would you say is your favorite mechanic of your upcoming title?
Ben: I think the "hat" system of classes and skills is my favorite. So instead of just attacking each round, you can set a dodge or a block to avoid enemy attacks and you have to study the enemy attack patterns to determine when they are most vulnerable to attacks. Each job has a characteristic hat associated with it.
Also, you primarily learn skills (vantages) through classes (ventures). So you get jobs in the game which let you learn knew abilities - both passive and active.
Dave: I think the combat system is my favorite. It doesn't have a traditional, turn-based combat system like you would expect. Characters have power points that regenerate in real-time to perform actions. Part of the decision to make the combat real-time was the four player option so you don't have to wait until it's your turn to choose an action.
As Ben said with the hats, characters can learn dozens of abilities related to a kind of "job" or "hat". But the player can only set four action and four stance abilities per character. So you can customize the abilities your character has. For example, you could set your character to have a ton of high powered attacks, or a lot of supportive abilities, or healing or defensive stances, or some combination of those - kind of like creating your own multi-classes so each of the four payers, can decide and re-decide what role they want their characters to have in battle.
Drake: All this sounds incredibly awesome and like it will be a breath of fresh air for RPG fans. Now the game seems like a love letter to gaming of the nineties. Can we expect a lot of snarky humor and/or pop culture references?
Ben: I like the description as a "love letter." I think that's accurate. We have a lot of western themes, but not modern pop-culture ones.
Dave: Maybe there'll be a few clever jabs tucked away in there. ;)
Drake: How does it feel to have received thousands of dollars from complete strangers to make your game?
Ben: It's touching. It really put wind in our sails. I have just completed calling all the backers personally to thank them, and it meant so much to me to hear about how they were looking forward to the game.
Dave: It feels great, but of course there's also a lot of pressure to meet expectations. Before we were creating this game in secret, but now there are a lot of eyes on us. It's both rewarding but also a little stressful. Of course creating a game in a vacuum is a little lonely too. Now we know that people dig the idea when before we could only guess.
Drake: What would you say you have learned by using Kickstarter?
Dave: Ethically Kickstarter is a tricky prospect. We made a lot of rules for ourselves regarding how we would handle our Kickstarter. For example, all the money is going back into the game in some way and we want to be transparent about where exactly that money is going.
Ben: I think the crowd-funding platform offers a great opportunity for razor-sharp market research. It let's you know if people want the product or not. In that sense I think it's great for everyone. It let's people contribute to a project that wouldn't exist without them which they then subsequently get to enjoy, and if people aren't interested you don't have to go down a long development path that nobody cares about.
Dave: Yeah that's really the best part about Kickstarter - you can determine if there is a market for your idea or not.
Drake: Well guys, let's wrap things up with one final question. Do you have any other ideas for new games once Boot Hill Heroes launches?
Ben: Oh yeah.
Dave: A lot of our ideas are kind of obvious - like a Wild West RPG. And yet they are somehow untapped. Our idea for our next game is another idea that made us ask, "why doesn't this exist yet?"
Ben: As Dave and I always tell each other, ideas are the easy part! Execution is what it's all about. That's what we're focusing on.
Drake: Well I am personally excited what comes out of Experimental Gamer in the years to come. Thanks again for joining me guys, this has been a blast!
For more information about Experimental Gamer and Boot Hill Heroes, visit their website here. Also, you can check out our exclusive new screenshots below.
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