Indie Developer Pow-Wow - Cthulhu Saves the World Interview
Cthulhu Saves the World
Developer: Zeboyd Entertainment
Publisher: Zeboyd Entertainment
Release Date:

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It would be wrong to host an Indie Pow-Wow without talking to the man who brought us the charming parody RPG, Breath of Death VII: The Beginning. Back in July, we talked to Robert Boyd about his current project, Cthulhu Saves the World, which was supposed to release back in August. This December, RPGamers will finally have the chance to save the world and then be able to destory it later. We decided to catch up with Robert Boyd to find out what's been up with Cthulhu just before its release to see what changes have been made, added, and what the overall process has been.

Hello again, Zeboyd Games. Seems like every time we talk about indie games, you are the go-to guy. Mind introducing yourself to our readers?
Robert Boyd: My name is Robert Boyd and I'm the founder of Zeboyd Games, creators of great RPGs on the XBox Live Indie Games platform. Our first game was Breath of Death VII: The Beginning. Our upcoming game is Cthulhu Saves the World.

Could you share a little bit of info about the Zeboyd team? What do each of you do and what are your inspirations?
RB: Currently the Zeboyd Games team consists of three people. I'm in charge of game concepts, overall design, programming, and story. William Stiernberg is in charge of our visuals and level designs. Finally, Gordon McNeil does our music.

We've already discussed Cthulhu Saves the World at great lengths in the past, but how has development progressed since then? Any new additions?
RB: I believe the biggest new features we've added since last we've talked are a new cutscene engine (styled after the manga/comic style of Phantasy Star IV) and some new accessibility features (save anywhere or teleport back to town for free).

How did Cthulhu Saves the World come to be? What’s the story behind the project?
RB: I had a few hours of just waiting around for an appointment soon after releasing Breath of Death VII and I came up with the general concept for Cthulhu Saves the World while I was waiting. Cthulhu is a very popular character in gaming, but he's inevitably the villain - I thought it would be fun to make him a protagonist.

Why choose to make RPGs? What is it about the genre that encapsulates everything you wish to achieve in making a game?
RB: RPGs have been my favorite genre since I was little and played the original Dragon Warrior game on the NES for the first time. I would love to branch out and make games in other genres as well, but I felt that for our first few projects, it would be best to stick with something that I knew very well.

You've also talked about wanting to move onto Steam, would this be a move away from XBLIG or in tandum?
RB: Although we are planning on expanding our operations to include PC versions of our games, we have no intention of leaving XBLIG at the moment.

I've heard you talk about wanting to do an action RPG. What challenges or fears would there be in attempting such a project?
RB: All of my games so far have been turn-based, so moving to a realtime system would obviously require many changes to our engine. I think my biggest fear would be that we wouldn't get the feel just right - the control, the level design, the enemies, etc. When you play a game like one of the early Zelda games or the Seiken Densetsu (FFA/Secret of Mana) games, it just feels right. It's the result of a lot of subtle decisions and I'm afraid that we might end up focusing on the big picture so much that we overlook the small things that make that sort of game fun.

Is your ultimate goal to eventually have a boxed retail game at some point or are you happier being able to develop on your own schedule?
RB: I don't have any desires to sell games at retail - far too risky for a small development studio IMO. However, I would like to increase the visibility of our games so expanding to an official digital distribution platform like XBLA or supporting a portable system like the 3DS with digital games might be an option.

If you could work on one existing RPG property (active or non-active) out there, what would it be and what would you do with it?
RB: Phantasy Star. Phantasy Star 1 & 2 were revolutionary games in the genre and Phantasy Star 4 remains one of the greatest 16-bit RPGs. And even the odd duck of the series, Phantasy Star III, has a cool generation system (something similar later showed up in Dragon Quest V). I think our style of gameplay and visual style would be just about perfect for a retro-style Phantasy Star 5. Making a sequel to such a beloved classic series would be a fairly difficult balancing act - you don't want to just make a clone of the old games, but at the same time, you don't want to ignore what made the older games great. For starters, I'd use Phantasy Star 4 as the base, toss in a few of the defining features of the first three games like the branching plotline from PS3 and the bio/mech & melee/gun division from PS2, and then add on from there.

What is your philosophy when it comes to designing games?
RB: If the player isn't having fun at any point in the game, then we've done something wrong. RPGs have a reputation for being time sinks and I'd like to change that. What would happen if you took the kind of budget that goes into making a 60 hour RPG epic, took out the filler, and concentrated on making a shorter game, but made sure that each moment was pure distilled awesomeness? I don't know, but if I am ever put in charge of a big gaming budget, I'd like to find out!

Do you have any projects or plans beyond Cthulhu that you've like to mention or tease?
RB: We've gotten many emails from people who would like to play our games but don't own an XBox 360 so after we finish up with the 360 version of Cthulhu, our immediate plan is to make PC versions of Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World. Beyond that, we've already started to plan out our 3rd RPG and we're very excited about it. It's far too early to say much about it now since it probably won't come out until the second half of 2011, but I will say that I'm looking at Grandia & The Adventures of Hourai High School for gameplay inspiration.

Aside from those two projects, I also have a number of game concepts that I tinker around with in my spare time that could turn into full fledged games later on. One that I think holds a lot of promise is a strategy game that would be best described as Sid Meier's Civilization plus a zombie apocalypse. We'll see how that goes.

Final question: Do you think it's possible we’ll ever see a Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World crossover?
RB: Full blown crossover? Probably not. Breath of Death VII cameos in Cthulhu Saves the World? Maybe.

RPGamer would like to thank Robert Boyd for all of his insight. Check out Cthulhu Saves the World on Xbox Live Indie Games as a part of the Indie Winter Uprising this December. Later in the week, we'll be dicussing an indie RPG release from the summer, Deadly Sin 2.

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