Kickstarter Korner: Ambition Meets Creativity with Stonehearth
Welcome to the premiere of Kickstarter Korner: a weekly feature showcasing the amazing Kickstarter games and innovative developers who created them. This week’s first guests are Tom and Tony, founders of Radiant Entertainment. They are responsible for developing their first highly anticipated game Stonehearth. This game has taken the gaming community by storm, boasting freedom of creativity within a beautifully pixelated universe. Check out the interview below as I’ve asked Tom and Tony a few questions about their dream game. It is well worth the read.
As crazy as it may sound, some of our readers may not know much about your game. What is Stonehearth?
Stonehearth is a game about exploration and survival in an epic fantasy setting. Your job is to help a small group of settlers survive and carve out a place for themselves in a hostile land. You’ll need to establish a food supply, build shelter, defend your people, and find a way to grow and expand, facing challenges at every step.
Starting from procedurally generated terrain with dynamic AI encounters, Stonehearth combines city sim and good old combat with infinite building possibilities. It’s built to be moddable at every level, from your city, to the people and creatures inhabiting the world, and will ship with the tools and documentation for you to add your own customizations to the game, and share them with friends.
You guys quit your jobs in the software industry and decided “hey, let’s make our dream video game!” What motivated you take this risk?
We’ve always been really into video games, and we both chose to be software developers as a career. So we knew we probably had the capability to make a game and have always wanted to, but time was always a factor. It’s really tough to work a long day programming then come home and program some more! At a certain point we had both achieved a lot of our professional goals, and we decided it was time to take a big risk and follow our dreams.
The pressure was on for Stonehearth to be a success. The game hit Kickstarter and was funded in three days. What was your first reaction?
Our first reaction was a huge relieve and gratitude. We had been heads-down working on this idea for over a year, showing it only to close friends and family. We really had no idea if the game idea and our hyper-cute art style was going to resonate with gamers. The Kickstarter funding will allow us to continue to make the game, which is fantastic, but the validation of the concept has been really important as well. It’s motivated us to really do a great job for our backers.
You mentioned Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft as games that influenced the creation of Stonehearth. What other games helped spark ideas during development?
The overall concept of the game is definitely inspired by Dwarf Fortress, with an emphasis on building and crafting. Our class system is inspired by the early console tactics games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre. Our art style draws from the SNES and PS1 RPGs, as well as the early Zelda games.
This game has proven to be very ambitious with lots of support pouring in from the gaming community. What was the biggest challenge during the developmental process?
The first six months of development were rough. We sort of intentionally broke all the rules for a first time indie developer. Pick a small project and build on success: nope, Stonehearth is a hugely ambitious project. Don’t write your own engine: we totally did that. In fact we’re on version 3 of our engine. That plus there were a lot of things that we just had to learn, in terms of tech like AI and pathfinding, but also for processes like how our art pipeline would work.
Our Trial by Fire is mostly behind us now, which is exciting because we’re picking up steam and seeing things come into the game at a faster rate.
How much control will players have over what their citizens do or don’t do? How much is automated?
Most of the time the player won’t have direct control over citizens. We don’t want to overburden the player with a lot of micro tasks, and we really like the ant-farm quality of watching your little guys decide for themselves how they will fulfill your orders. You’ll be able to give specific orders for what to do, but not how to do it.
For combat, you will have more direct control, where you’ll be able to assign waypoints and patrol paths for units, and order them directly in combat like you would in an RTS game.
GGPO has been lauded as a fantastic online multiplayer tool. How involved were you in that process and can we expect similarly smooth and robust online play in the release?
For those who don’t know, GGPO is specialized network middleware that hides lag in peer-to-peer twitchy action games like fighting games. Tony wrote GGPO from scratch, coming up with the key tech to hide lag through prediction and rollback, but also adding a ton of tiny non-obvious enhancements that combined really improved the experience. He already has a lot of ideas for how to have a really robust co-op multiplayer experience in Stonehearth, which is exciting.
Stonehearth is “moddable at every level,” giving players free range to create their own weapons, monsters and world. Are there other additions or updates you wish to add in the future?
Our philosophy on modding is that there should be no difference between the APIs that we expose to modders and what we use as 1st party developers. The whole game of Stonehearth is literally written as a bunch of mods. If we want to add something to the game and the modding framework doesn’t support it, we fix the modding framework.
So modding will be really powerful right out of the gate, but over time we want to spend more time on tools to make things easier for modders who are brand new to scripting.
Tom, you started EVO, one of the biggest fighting game events in the world. What made you guys decide to create an RPG as opposed to a fighting game? Could we see a fighting game from Radiant Entertainment in the future?
The best advice we got when starting out was, “make the game you want to play.” Stonehearth is the game that I’d most love to play right now. We’ll always love fighting games, but we have other interests too, and this is an opportunity to deep dive into something other than fighting games for a while.
As far as our next game goes, I don’t even want to think about it yet! We’re 100% focused on making Stonehearth awesome so that there can be a next game.
I noticed you guys have been hosting live streams to show progress of Stonehearth as the game approaches release. Are there any upcoming streams or videos fans can look forward to?
We plan on doing a stream at least once a week for the remaining of our Kickstarter campaign, and we’ll probably do them every so often even after the Kickstarter. The best way to find out about our stream is to follow us on Twitter at @radentupdates, or follow our stream page at Twitch.
Alright so here’s the million dollar question: When will the full game be released for fans to enjoy?
We’re shooting for a full release in Sept 2014. That’s an ambitious date and we know it, but that’s the goal.
Anything else you would like to tell the folks reading this lovely interview?
First, thanks to all our backers for your support and enthusiasm. If you’re just hearing about us for the first time, thanks for reading this far, and I hope you’ll check our Kickstarter!