I'm happy to bring you all this one! This was several weeks in the making, so apologies it has taken a while. Today, I got the chance to interview Justus and Adam, who are hard at work with their TTRPG building program, The RPG Engine!
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Gamedev Interview: The RPG Engine
September 8th, 2023 Update
It is me again, and today is officially the 1.0 launch of The RPG Engine! This awesome little builder has great tools for dungeon masters and creators alike, and I thought it would be fun to repost the interview I held with them.
Hope you enjoy, and pick it up!
We’re back on the interview game!
I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. This interview was developed with my 2022 question template, so its not as expansive as my new set of questions. That doesn’t make today’s interview any less special, of course! I’ve enjoyed great communication with Justus, Osian, and Adam, and their tabletop world-building title, The RPG Engine, is a seriously impressive piece of kit. My reviews will be slower for a while, as I get used to my new full-time work schedule, but until then, here’s the results of my interview with them. You can pick up the game by clicking on the Steam link down below.
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you do?
My name is Justus, I’m 29 and have been passionate about gaming from a young age. A few years ago, I quit my job to pursue my dream of being a full-time game developer. Since then, I’ve worked on a variety of projects to hone my skills and once the time was right, started work on my main project – The RPG Engine.
What does being a game designer actually mean?
Game design is actually only a small element of the game development as a whole. Making games takes a vast amount of time and knowledge, starting from the idea (or core concept) all the way through to creation & implementation. The design element of this is all about how the game looks and how the game plays. What to add and when to add it throughout the design process can hugely aid or hinder the development as a whole.
There has been a great deal of controversy in recent years about microtransactions in gaming. Not so much an opinion, but why do games tend to cut out content to sell later as DLC and lootboxes? Is it to do with development costs? Or is it time related?
Personally I believe this is just how the industry has developed over the years, but it makes sense. The price of games now is similar to the price of games 20 years ago, but the price of living, cost of development and advertising have all increased. This combined with users wanting everything as cheap as possible creates the perfect environment for free-to-play games with microtransactions or DLC content because it justifies the production costs.
At the end of the day, just like most other industries, game-development companies usually have one core driving factor – making money. They will try all sorts of methods to get as much out of the player as possible and this can be done in a variety of ways. They all have their positives and negatives but lead to the same things – it’s a business and for it to run it needs money.
Tell us about your current project.
The RPG Engine is a playable gaming system. It has lots of features under the hood that players use freely to create their own world. Be it vast imagined landscapes, detailed buildings replicated from the real-world, or interesting characters, the game is there to let the imagination go wild and support the process. Once these creations have been formulated, there is a virtual world for players to host games in. These can take the form of popular Tabletop Role-playing games, or an innovative Role-playing game decided by the players.
Throughout the development of The RPG Engine, I have always held a strong focus on community content as it opens a world of opportunity. It means that players can become involved in group builds, and if one player prefers the creation aspect, and another just enjoys hosting games, both mutually benefit from workshop sharing. This community aspect also shines through with suggestions from the players being incorporated into the game. It means that the game grows, and the players get to enjoy the features they want in a game.
As anyone who creates anything, we must all deal with criticism from consumers. How do you go about it particularly in the prolific and viral standard of gaming today?
When starting up the community I knew I wanted to be different to the poor standards of today’s video game giants. From the start the whole idea was to “be better” and actually listen and engage with the community. I don’t have the marketing budget the AAA studios have so I was aware my games would only be successful through having a strong community, and I feel that shows.
Most of our players have found the game through word-of-mouth, not adverts, and thus the game has a very good reputation. We’ve got a 98% positive steam rating and the support from players has been heartwarming. Any complaint we do get; we look at objectively and try to learn from it to help improve our game.
What advice would you give new developers taking the plunge into game design?
Start small and take pride in your work. If you’re new to game development there’s so much to learn, so many things you can explore, so many ways to achieve the same thing. The most important thing is that you have passion in what you are doing. Passion combined with persistence will inevitably lead to amazing products.
If you still have time to play video games, what are some of your favorite ones to play?
My gaming has significantly dropped now that I have a project I’m so passionate about. When I do take the odd evening off, I’ll play games with crafting, building and combat elements. Some of my current favorites are Terraria & Binding of Isaac, although I have been known to play the occasional round of Call of Duty or PUBG – having been an avid FPS gamer back in the day.
I’ve also been trying to get into the world of VR gaming as it opens up an entire universe of new possibilities and ways to interact with games and each other.
What inspires you to do what you do?
From building with LEGOs as a child to motorbikes as a teenager, my whole life I’ve wanted to be an inventor. Being a game dev allows me to take any idea in my mind and share it was other people. It costs nothing but time. No day is the same and I am constantly learning and developing my skills. It also brings me immense joy seeing the experience other people are having using something I’ve built.
What is the hardest part of your job?
When I’ve had a month working 8-12 hours, 6 days a week only to have lost money because the sales don’t cover the company outgoings. This can be incredibly demotivating.
What was your favorite thing about game development? Is there anything you find difficult or challenging in dealing with the struggles?
I guess this isn’t so much something which stems from game design so much as being self-employed and that’s freedom. I work long hours but that’s completely by choice. I work when I want to work and don’t when I don’t. This alone is worth so much to my overall wellbeing.
Specifically on the game development side of things, I wake up every day excited about what the “next cool thing” is that I can add to my game. Each day is different and there’s so many emotional rewards especially given the creative nature of the game and the amazing community that’s grown around it. The things they make are truly incredible and their feedback motivates me to keep going. As mentioned before, the only real struggle is the financial side of things. I always tell people “If I got paid to do what I do, I’d have my dream job”. I truly love what I do and the joy it brings other people.
What lessons have you learned from your first game?
The biggest lesson I’ve had to learn so far, and this is something I still struggle with, is that you can’t please everybody. I just want people to enjoy what I’ve made and use it to form new memories with their friends. I find it a little overwhelming having community members throw opposing opinions at me and try and work out which one is “the correct” solution when most often there just isn’t one.
What are your future project(s)?
There’s still plenty to do on The RPG Engine but should we make enough money to start hiring some additional employees and find more hours in the day, there have been a few ideas thrown around. There are some smaller ideas and prototypes I’ve been working on in the background but our next flagship game has a good chance of being community designed (or for me to stream the full development of a game to the community). I feel this would be a great way for others to get a real insight into the game dev industry and learn a thing or two. Sometimes when I take a break from The RPG Engine, I work on another game called Lazers Hurt. It’s nice as a dev to have a change from time to time while still honing your craft.
If you couldn’t be a game developer, what ideal job would you like to do?
Something in the hands-on creative industry, most like an inventor of sorts. This could be as a blacksmith or boat builder, or a youtuber (which I may still try exploring). The most important thing for me is continued learning and growth in areas where I can have creative freedom.
What is your ideal video game if money and time was no object?
I have soooo many ideas I would love to make if I didn’t have these restrictions but, to keep it simple, my ideal game would be a combination of; Deep Rock galactic (the resource and terrain manipulation), Space Engineers (The base building) and 7 days to die (the Crafting and Hordes).
A horde looter shooter with base building and defence. I just think this would tick a lot of boxes for a lot of players and be great fun to play.