Indie Developer Pow-Wow - Aphelion Episode 2: Wings of Omega Interview
Aphelion: Episode Two – Wings of Omega
Developer: Lunatic Studios
Publisher: Lunatic Studios
Release Date:

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Growing up, I wasn't a huge fan of science fiction. I found it too weird, too complicated, and it never really appealed to me. As I aged, I started to realize what makes science fiction such a versatile genre. Most popular when was growing up were space operas. They were not quite a soap opera, but they existed to tell a tale of space as a romantic endeavor. Although I wasn't crazy about the first episode of Aphelion, I was reminded as I played the game about romanticism within the science fiction setting, and realized there was a lot more I may have been missing out on. Lunatic Studios was kind enough to join in RPGamer's little Indie Pow-Wow to discuss their progress on Aphelion Episode 2: Wings of Omega and give us the scoop on how the development has been progressing.

Howdy, Lunatic Studios. It's been awhile since we've last spoken. Would you mind reintroducing yourselves to our audience?
Matt Kleen: Hi, my name is Matt Kleen and I am the Co-Founder of Lunatic Studios. Lunatic Studios is the developer behind Aphelion saga on Xbox Live Indie Games. My business partner and founder of Lunatic Studios is Josh Spinell.

While Aphelion Episode 1 was not widely received on RPGamer, the game did have some amazing ideas. What are some of the major changes in Aphelion Episode 2?
MK: We got a lot of amazing feedback from reviewers and fans. Josh and I made a catalogue of comments, criticisms, suggestions, etc. after Episode 1 and then spent several days on an internal post-mortem.

We spent a lot of time refining progression so there aren't big jumps in difficulty and a few other things that we weren't happy with. One thing we really want to stress with Episode 2 is that it is not just a more polished version of Episode 1. There are a ton of new and cool features such as status effects, a new playable character, a vehicle you get to control, a teleportation system, an improved cutscene system, improved enemy functions, etc.

Why did you decide to make Aphelion a serial release instead of one big game?
MK: Aphelion was always meant to be 1 game. However, very early into development we realized that we couldn't get Aphelion under the 150mb limit on Xbox Live Indie without seriously altering the game or reducing the graphics. When it was decided that we were going to split the game into two parts, our goal became to release the second episode after the first as soon as possible. There was only a 5 month gap between Episode 1's release and Episode 2's.

What are some additions to Aphelion 2 that weren’t present in Episode 1?
MK: One thing we really wanted to do to give Episode 2 more of an open RPG feeling was allow the character to travel to old places at any time. We came up with a very cool Teleporter feature that does just that.

After the teleporter system was designed and implemented it allowed us to expand on optional content. Episode 1 only had the Coliseum and Abomination outside of the main quest. With all the previous levels open we were able to add in a lot of cool side quests and optional content. It also became supplemental in helping the overall balance of the game. One of the major complaints of Episode 1 was the difficulty of the last boss. If you trigger the last dungeon and are too low of a level you were sort of out of luck and had to grind on that last dungeon without a save. That is no longer the case with Episode 2. Any area that becomes locked off is strictly story related.

One of Aphelion's greatest strengths comes from its combat. Have any improvements been made in this aspect of the game?
MK: I'm a terrible artist so it amazes me that they were able to cram so many amazing monsters and animations into the game without going over the 150mb limit. We were also able to get status effects into the game and those really add another dimension to Aphelion.

Another cool new feature is better buff/debuff management. We added in icons to let you know what buffs/debuffs/status effects are on a character so you can better decide what the next course of action will be.

Is there a possibility that RPGamers will see Aphelion outside of Xbox Live Indie? Is it possible to port the game to PSN or PC?
MK: We aren't prepared to make any definitive statements on future distributions of Aphelion.

Since Episode 2 is considered the last of the Aphelion saga, will you be creating another game set in the same universe, or are you planning to develop something entirely different?
MK: I think eventually we would like to come back to the Aphelion-Verse, but we have some projects that we would like to work on before we come back.

Why choose to make RPGs? What is it about the genre that drives you to create games falling in the category?
MK: It is a simple answer. It is the genre we love the most. It has progression, story, fun gameplay etc. It is awesome that other genres are starting to incorporate RPG elements into their games, but we don’t want to see the traditional RPG to go extinct.

What is your philosophy when it comes to designing games?
MK: We make what we would want to play. To us JRPG's reached their zenith in the late 90's and we wanted to try and recapture some of that. At the same time we know that customization is something featured more prominently now and we incorporated that into our games. Just because something is paying homage doesn't mean you have to handcuffed by excluding modern features.

Do you have any projects outside of Aphelion that you’d like to share with our audience?
MK: Check back with us about that question in the future!

Any final words you'd like to share with our readers?
MK: Follow us on twitter @LunaticStudios! We’ll be giving updates about future projects there!

RPGamer would like to thank Matt Kleen for all his energy and insight into Aphelion Episode 2. RPGamers can check out Aphelion Episode 2: Wings of Omega when it releases on Xbox Live Indie Games later this month. Next week, we'll be talking to our only non-developer in the Pow-Wow, Carpe Fulgur, on some of their upcoming projects and the success of Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale.

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