Indie Developer Pow-Wow - Deadly Sin 2 Interview
Deadly Sin 2
Developer: Deadly Sin Studios
Publisher: Deadly Sin Studios
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Building an indie RPG on the PC seems to be easy as pie for amateur developers. RPG Maker has given anyone and everyone the chance to build their own RPG and sell it in the PC market. However, RPG fans tend to be harsh on these indie creations, claiming that RPG Maker games have no place in the RPG market. Finding a good RPG Maker title is challenging, but there are developers out there determined to show that their work is just as good as anything out on the market. Today, we are talking to Phil Hamilton, creator of the Deadly Sin series, about his challenges and accomplishments with these downloable RPGs.

Hello Deadly Sin Studios. Mind introducing yourself to our audience?
Phil Hamilton: Hello there. Phil Hamilton, owner of Deadly Sin Studios. I grew up in Iowa and currently reside in Kansas City. After college, I taught music grades 5-12 in Iowa public schools for a while, ended up a financial advisor for a stint, and am now fully committed to game creation. I originally got into using RPGmaker as a hobby, and as a platform for my music composition. I released a freeware RPG, Legacies Of Dondoran, and before finishing LoD's sequel, got into the indie RPG realm with the first Deadly Sin.

How many people are involved in the production of your games?
PH: I continue to grow my team of contacts and friends. Legacies of Dondoran was a solo effort, though the fact that it was freeware allowed me the use of commercial game rips, which drastically cuts down on the art budget, let me tell you. For both Deadly Sin 1 and 2, they were technically still solo projects. For DS1, I was lucky enough to hire an amazingly talented artist, Brittany Fuerst, (who also has a ridiculously good sense of humor) who did the cover art. Deadly Sin 2 saw a much expanded team and budget, as I hired Britt again, a sprite animator, and a master Ruby programmer. The end result was a marked upward surge in production values, as these artists are much better at art than I am! For our current project, I have brought on the programmer as a partner in development, making it a true team effort, and we are commissioning out several artists, and even a voice actress!

For those who are unaware, tell us a bit about the Deadly Sin series. What made you decide to create a sequel to the first game?
PH: The Deadly Sin games are my vision for bringing retro RPG golden gameplay to the modern age. This mix of retro and modern is seen much more clearly in Deadly Sin 2. They are both epic-length RPGs, average of 20 hours, 30 if you love to explore and read text, 10 if you're insanely fast and skip dialogue. They depart from retro RPGs in that the battle systems have many modern RPG aspects, such as threat, the consequent tanking paradigm, and equipment modification. Both games have soundtracks that are widely considered the best part of the games, which is fine by me, but I don't want to be typecast as some composer who tried to hack out a game or two. :) Deadly Sin 2 is not actually a sequel, it is an independent game. If I had known what I know now, I would have named DS2 something that suggests that it is totally stand-alone. DS2 is actually the spiritual successor of Legacies Of Dondoran 2. It's first 2 chapters basically take the storyline aspects from LoD2 and modernize it for RPGmakerVX. LoD2's very brief appearance received glowing accolades, and its cancellation was met with much disappointment, so I thought it deserved a chance to be resurrected and finished in its new, shiny form.

It was mentioned on the Deadly Sin Studios forums that you're creating an expansion pack for Deadly Sin 2. What will this expansion pack entail?
PH: Unfortunately, the expansion pack has been cancelled for good. I planned on tying up some loose ends in the storyline, creating a new major quest line and some more side quests, some more gear, augments, etc, but I felt my time was better spent on my current project. DS2 is a complete game in its own right, and doesn't necessarily need an expansion.

One thing I greatly enjoyed about Deadly Sin 2 was the maturity of the characters. What made you decide to avoid having an under twenty protagonist?
PH: You've given me hope that more mature games do have a chance in this tough market! Several things influenced my decision. First of all, the characters in DS2 are all about my age. Shameless narcissism maybe? But much more importantly, the plot focused on a variety of mature themes, namely political schemes, cult-bashing, and drug addiction. The characters' station in life suggests that they've had some time to mature, and develop themselves as adults. I don't feel the need to gratuitously render something cute or goofy just for the sake of cuteness by making the entire cast teenagers.

Most people are unaware that outside of being a developer that you're also a composer. How difficult was it to compose the music for the Deadly Sin games?
PH: Composing is what keeps me going. I've been involved with music since I was 4 years old, from piano lessons, to learning violin, trumpet, all the band instruments to some degree, voice, and composition. That said, composing the soundtracks for my games took a great deal of creative and mental energy. While it does not take 8 hours to write a song, it certainly makes me feel that I've done a good day's work if I start and finish one song in a day. It's very difficult to compose with forced inspiration... it has to be genuine.

How long did it take you to develop the Deadly Sin games? Do players need to play the first game to enjoy the second one?
PH: Both games had about a 10 month production cycle, though part of that can be blamed on the fact that I was working full time the whole time. No, players do not need to play the first game in order to enjoy the second game, as they are totally unrelated, but it doesn't hurt to try both. ;)

What was the most challenging aspect of creating the Deadly Sin games?
PH: Writing, characterization, and cutscenes are probably my greatest weakness, and I continue to try and improve in these areas. I am often consulting with trusted friends about storyline aspects and dialogue. I would be so lost without them.

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?
PH: Fire Emblem! I would love to interject my own characters and storyline settings into a Fire Emblem game, especially one of the huge quality of the latest one, Radiant Dawn. I'd probably end up writing music if they'd let me.

What is your philosophy when it comes to designing games?
PH: It's all about fun. Some of my friends use the phrase "good gameplay," which is their way of saying that it's not about how pretty the graphics are, or how advanced the engine is, it's how fun the game is. That said, we all have different definitions of fun. As a designer, we will inevitably design games we find fun, that is, if we work from inspiration. I enjoy games with lots of customization, exploring, loot gathering, boss slaying, and character advancement. I enjoy dinking around on the equipment and skills menus in Final Fantasy Tactics, balancing various factors in order to optimize my team's combat abilities. I probably spend more time doing that than actually playing out the levels. What I enjoy the most, however, is epic boss fights, especially late game, where your party has been building and building to this climactic moment, or as one might say, a "Crowning Moment of Awesome."

I believe that we should only design games for the right reasons. We have a moment of inspiration that creates an interesting storyline aspect or world setting... we hear a song and envision a scene to accompany it... we have something to say, and designing games is the language we use to say it...or we simply just want to make a game that we'll enjoy playing, or enjoy making. As a commercial developer, I believe that the content of the game will speak for itself, even if the game is not developed with a specific demographic in mind.

Do you have any other projects that you wish to share with our readers?
PH: Yes! I am currently developing an action-RPG platformer. This time, we've got a real team, and a real budget... it should blow the lid off the market that's been familiar with my games. It is set in a fictional galaxy of a war between alien and human, with an innocent scientist-turned-cybernetic super heroine as a protagonist. Not the usual "save the planet" plot, will have some compelling twists as the storyline develops. The game is still in its infancy stage at this point, but I will release more details as it starts to resemble a playable product.

Any final thoughts that you'd like to address to our audience?
PH: While sales figures are a necessary evil of commercial game designing, the real reward from designing games is hearing from players. One particularly great moment was a long and elaborate post on my forum from a player who basically created her own fan fiction, based on speculation about the events and characters of Deadly Sin 2. Another was the potential cosplaying of Ruby, one of Deadly Sin 2's primary characters. There are many more of those moments. These are what really matter in the end... that I've managed to somehow inspire someone's imagination. We've all got to have an imagination after all, it's the eternally innocent child inside all of us that never stops dreaming.

RPGamer would like to thank Phil Hamilton for all his enthusiasm. RPGamers can check out Deadly Sin 2 on the Deadly Sin Studios official website. Next week, we'll be talking to Lunatic Studios about its upcoming release Aphelion: Episode Two Wings of Omega.

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