Imagine you’re in a fantasy universe that has already fallen to dark forces. The apocalypse has come, given a once vibrant land a proper spanking with its armies of chaos and everybody is downright miserable. You’d think that kicking off a game with a band of misfits who are all nursing some serious trauma wouldn’t be the best way to introduce audiences to a dark new fantasy universe, but you’d be wrong.
Trials of Fire is that game, and it’s a refreshing twist on the usual formula of knocking around dungeons and possibly encountering dragons. Here is a world that is begging for a second chance to restore a semblance of civilisation to bleak wasteland that you inhabit, an adventure that sets itself apart by making your story part of the tapestry of a rich tome that wouldn’t look out of place in an arcane library.
It’s this visual style, this emphasis on making the right decision even when all the options on the table makes such choices range from bleak to awful, that allows Trials of Fire to stand out from the pack. I had a quick chat with Whatboy studio director and co-founder Dax Ginn about Trials of Fire, about how decisions impact on the game, how its unique visual style was chosen and the benefits of Early Access. Here’s what he had to say:
So I’ve got you in an elevator, give me the quick pitch on what Trials of Fire is. How do my decisions make an impact on the game?
Trials of Fire is a game about making good life decisions at the end of the world.
The kind of post-cataclysmic environment that you’re in, this fantasy realm that we’ve created, the rogue-like structure of the game, the high stakes every time you play, all of that detail then flows back to ‘what are the decisions that I am making?’. How do I make the best decisions that I can right now for my survival, for my party?
The whole thing is wrapped up in this kind of user-defined narrative because all of the narrative content is procedurally generated throughout the game, it means that every run that you play is completely different. You’re kind of authoring your own story every single time.And that’s why we set the whole thing within a book, because it’s not a book that’s waiting to be read, it’s a story that’s waiting to be written. Every time you play, you’re authoring that experience from scratch every single time.
You’re on Steam’s Early Access right now, how does that help shape the development of Trials of Fire?
We launched three weeks ago, so connecting with the community early and being part of Early Access phase means that we can take on a load of feedback and commentary from the community. Its really helped us to define what’s really working and the other areas that we need to focus on. That’s what we’re doing every day at the moment is really staying true to that core of making really interesting decisions but finessing the game in areas where we know that it needs more attention.
I really like the idea of the game unfolding inside of a massive book. Where did that idea come from?
That was one of (Whatboy Studio co-founder and Game director) Adam Doherty’s initial ideas I think. He has always been really influenced by Choose Your Own Adventure style books and the Final Fantasy series as well. I think he had this idea in his head of paying tribute to the influences of even before computer games were really a thing. As a kid in the eighties, a lot of the really profound narrative experiences that he was having were all from Choose Your Own Adventure books.
So he always wanted to touch back on that. And to be honest, it also solves a sort of aesthetic technical problem as well, how do you get from one place to another? How do you get your inventory and loadout into a battle that isn’t choosing a menu or fading down and fading up? Just being able to do it in a page turn, really streamlines the process for a player because you feel like you’re in the same space but you’re turning a page so I’ve fundamentally changed where I am.
I’ve gone from a 2D loadout menu defining equipment and items to my party and I’m now into a 3D overworld and now I’m going straight into a battle arena. I think it was a kind of smart solution to a couple of aesthetic and creative challenges.
Do you have any plans to add more elements to the book as development continues?
The more we add the effects to it, we bring on the really good artists to add more of that texture and make it feel like this magical tome that you found in a cove. That’s the thing about being in Early Access, you can deliver something to gamers and ask “what do you think about this?” but in our minds we know we’re really going to be adding so much more content to the game across the board. Really lifting those production values when we can. Things like sound and visual effects push that a long way.
Tune in tomorrow for part two of the interview! Meanwhile, you can find Trials of Fire right here on Steam.
Last Updated: June 5, 2019