Kickstarter Project: AERO
AERO: A Kickstarter Interview
By: Erin Walker
Keith Burgun, designer of Dinofarm’s iOS game 100 Rogues, is coming out soon with a brand new game! AURO will be playable on iOS, Android, Windows, OSX, Linux and many more systems, Dinofarms promises. But I was told not to expect the old 100 Rogues style of gameplay, but instead be ready for a more streamlined and innovative style of play. There are no maps, no inventories, no mana/energy pools to manage… Instead, there are to be courses, cooldowns and a stand-alone story featuring a spoiled little prince who has to right his mistakes before the world suffers from his ignorance and arrogance. I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Burgun about AURO, who happily discussed the game’s styling and the changes.
1. What made you decide to have almost ‘courses’ instead of something like a map that fills in as you go along, or something along that line?
Well, basically, we start from scratch. We find a core mechanism – for AURO, it’s “using your disciplines efficiently against the disciplines of monsters”. With that in mind, there’s just no need for “exploration”. I think it’s important that a game design is really focused, and every mechanism that makes it needs to support the core mechanism to support that. To be specific, I’ve never liked a *minimap*, I think they’re a sign of bad design.
2. What made you decide that you didn’t want to have an inventory system at all?
Same answer as above. It has nothing to do with the core mechanism. Further, I tend to think that inventory systems end up being a lot of noise in games, and tend to involve a lot of no-brainer decisions. Hmm, should I equip the +3 helmet instead of the +2 helmet? That type of stuff is rampant in most equipment systems, including 100 Rogues‘.
3. Couldn’t this hamper players who want to maybe have more variety in their weapons?
Yes, but… the fact that AURO doesn’t have racing could “hamper” players who want to race. AURO isn’t seeking to satisfy every gamer’s pet interest, it’s seeking to be really NEW game. Like, before someone played Tetris, did they “want Tetris“? They probably didn’t know that they wanted it. This is how things which are actually new work. Videogamers have grown a bit out of touch on this, having been fed little but the same 10-12 games (in thousands of re-skinned variants) for the last decade.
AURO has plenty of variety – but the good kind of variety – emergent variety. Instead of hard coding 500 special items into the game and requiring new content injections every 6 months to keep the game fresh. It is a deep game of emergent complexity.
4. Can you describe how the Disciplines System works a little bit more? It almost sounds like a spell system.
It is a spell system, but it works on cooldowns. Every new dungeon level, you get to choose a new Discipline. Disciplines can be used as many times as you want, but have a cooldown in number-of-turns. Further, you can find randomly placed “scrolls” on the ground, which allow a single-use casting of a discipline. Scrolls can also be of monster abilities or some super special rare abilities, so there’s a lot of interesting combos you can make with them.
5. What made you decide to throw out the mana/energy use for spells and skills, opting instead for the D&D style cooldowns?
A few things, but the biggest issue is that with mana/energy, you can just keep casting nothing but one skill, and AURO is all about using multiple skills in synergy with each other.
6. You say that the monster complexity will get harder as the levels go higher. Do you mean that their tactics will become harder to counter, will they get stronger powers, or will they suddenly become just overall more ‘intelligent’?
Monsters’ difficulty will increase a very small amount, but what makes the game much harder is combinations of greater *types* of monsters. So on level 1 you might face just two types, but by level 5 or 6 you may be facing 3 or 4 types. Further, the quantity of monsters increases.
7. What made you decide to deviate so strongly from the other games you have created?
In the grand scheme of things, AURO isn’t incredibly un-like 100 Rogues. Really, I see AURO as fixing many of the fundamental problems 100 Rogues has: it’s slow, it’s noisy, it’s highly luck-influenced, and tactically interesting situations can be somewhat rare. So really I think AURO is the game that I wanted to design 100 Rogues to be, but I simply wasn’t a skilled enough designer.
8. Could AURO be a stand-alone game, or would players need to have played any previous games to understand any plot that may be going on?
Stand-alone game. It’s a completely new universe and story. Also it should be noted that players can completely ignore the story mode and go straight to the normal game and have a blast that way, if they wish.
9. You said that you wanted a game to be fast, around 30 minutes at best, is there going to be enough time to push any story in there, or is this game designed to be just something that is a lovable time consumer?
I wouldn’t word it as a “time consumer”. There are more things that a game can be than “story-based” and “time consumer”. I actually believe that gameplay itself can achieve great depth. I’ve seen this happen mostly in European designer boardgames such as Through the Desert, Puerto Rico and Chicago Express, but it’s also true of some videogames such as Tetris, Desktop Dungeons and Super Smash Brothers.
To directly answer your question, the games will be short, and the story mode, too, will be short. So while it will have an engaging story, it will be very light when compared to something like Final Fantasy VII.
To go further, it is fair to say that AURO is a game that is about gameplay, not about story.
10. Any idea when the game is going to be released for play?
Our current estimate is somewhere around the end of 2012.
11. Are you worried about people who are going to complain about the game being too linear or that there isn’t enough content? (I ask because there are always going to be people who complain about that sort of thing).
Well, you answered the question yourself. There will always be people who complain about that. However, the game is really not “linear”. Yes, each map is a straight line, and you can’t choose what map you want to go to, but inside of each map is where the real gameplay is, and that is totally non-linear gameplay. It’s all about being creative with the tools you have – the disciplines.
In terms of content, people mistakenly believe that more content is always better, when in fact, for every game, there is some point that is the “optimal” amount of content. We’re doing our best to figure out what that point is, however, after 10-15 years of “more is ALWAYS better” philosophy, I’m prepared for people to tell us that our optimal estimate is nowhere near what they expect.
12. I notice that the art style is very stylized and simple, though very nice. What made you decide to go that route instead of using either the simplest of sprites or any other art design?
AURO‘s lead artist, Blake Reynolds, was largely inspired by the pixel art from games such as The Minish Cap for GBA. We like pixel art a lot. Also, we found that a single, looping idle animation for characters was a great compromise between “giving characters life” and “keeping animation delays from slowing down gameplay”. Having just a single animation per character allows us to make them very elaborate, which Blake was really excited about.
13. What inspired AURO?
Quite a few things. Firstly, a lot of AURO‘s design was based around fixing problems with 100 Rogues, so in a way 100 Rogues was a big inspiration. I was also really inspired by Rodain Joubert’s Desktop Dungeons, which I think is a fantastic, elegant thing that I am just super-impressed by. The biggest inspiration, though, is probably the aforementioned designer European Boardgames. Those guys really get it about games in a way that digital gamers just don’t, yet. They’re 10-20 years ahead, in my opinion.
With all of that said, AURO has been in the design workshop for nearly a full two years.
14. I didn’t see anything about multiplayer in your article, so I assume it is to be played single player, but is there any way to compete among your friends other than in conversation? Like an online leader board or anything?
There is no multiplayer in the conventional sense, but there are online leaderboards and more. We have really dramatic plans for that, actually… I generally think videogames have almost always dropped the ball with regards to how they handle “score”. One idea of a thing you can do with AURO is to challenge an opponent to a 1 week, or 2 week “battle”, and after that point, whoever has held the high score for the longest amount of time wins.
The AURO kickstarter project can be found here. I highly suggest giving it a look-see and maybe donating a bit of your money to something that sounds to be a pretty fresh and unique game.
I can’t wait to see how it turns out!