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RPGamer Feature - Everstar Interview
Everstar
Platform:
Developer: Psycho Sorted
Release Date: Est. 2016














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Everstar is a new 3D party-based RPG that is currently in the middle of its Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign. It features an interesting party system where the player can control up to six party members or allow up to five friends to join up. We were able to chat with Jeremy Townsend from Psycho Sorted, the director of Everstar. Do enjoy.


Michael A. Cunningham (RPGamer, Editor-in-Chief): Greetings, and thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us about Everstar. First, could you give us the elevator pitch for those who've not had time to dive into the details of the Kickstarter project?
Jeremy Townsend (Psycho Sorted, Director): Everstar is a game about a group of child soldiers attending a military academy in a fantasy world, who fight in mock gladiatorial games for glory. Mechanically, Everstar is a story driven party RPG with realtime, pausible, truly 3D combat where you control a party of up to six characters who are each deeply customizable.

MAC: What have been some of your inspirations for Everstar? Where did the game's title come from? Did you come up with the idea for the story first or the gameplay?
JT: Some of our inspiration comes from books like Ender's Game and The Broken Empire series (fans of Jorg Ancrath will love some of the darker story choices in Everstar). The Persona 3 & 4 games have a school simulation format that we love and have learned a lot from. The way the old Bungie Myth series integrated physics into the gameplay is something we are building on; the co-op experience in Baldur's Gate I&II was some of the most fun to be had in an RPG. I don't want to give much away here, but it's worth mentioning Neon Genesis too, for the honest psychological spiral it portrayed in its child soldiers.

The name Everstar is tied into the lore of the game world; literal fallen stars walk the land in human form and are the object of the major religions in the world. For example the Avallians worship the Morningstar; the specific meaning of the Everstar will start to become clear during the game.

Both the story and gameplay are constantly evolving beasts - we had specific ideas for the plot and game mechanics early on. In working with Everstar day to day we are constantly "listening" for the game to tell us what works and what doesn't and sculpting the game experience into what it wants to be.

MAC: Could you give us some additional details about the story? Is this title going to be self-contained or are there plans to stretch this into multiple games?
JT: I'd like to direct you to the second Kickstarter update where we talk a bit about the setting. We should have another update soon that digs into the big picture story some more too.

Everstar will stand on its own as a complete game and story. We have designed the game story and systems as a long arc but we are devoting all our effort into making Everstar a great game first and foremost.

MAC: I'm never a fan of estimating playtime in RPGs, since that can vary so much between gamers. That said, how much content do you feel like you'll be able to create here using Kickstarter funding?
JT: Yeah, it's rough because good RPGs let people play as broadly or as deeply as the want, so play times can vary quite a bit. We think that a player who focuses just on the main plot thread, who skips dialogue and does the bare minimum combat will likely spend around 10 hours in the game. An average play through should be more like 25 hours, and people who want to try and do as much as possible could easily spend 50 hours.

MAC: Lots of Kickstarter success stories seem to have focused on stirring up nostalgia. Everstar looks to do more than copy games of old, so do you feel at a disadvantage being stuck between being a retro-throwback and new gen RPG?
JT: That's a good point and a smart observation. Our theory was that if we showed some exciting, working gameplay that people might be more interested than in just a nostalgic concept and some early paintings. We'll see if that's the case or not!

MAC: While I'm a fan of the art style, I've read some comments that say it looks too cartoony or generic. Why did you choose this style? Do you feel it fits the theme of game? I think it looks very impressive for a Kickstarter project, but considering many people look at graphics before diving deeper these days, do you feel like the visual style will work for you?
JT: It's funny - we settled on our character style because we didn't just want to do generic photo-real-ish fantasy, so we went for a more stylized look. I guess you can't please everyone!

What we are showing in our Kickstarter is prototype art - the final art look will be quite a bit more polished and stylized. We figured this would be another risk in showing game footage that is mostly arted, but not at all polished - that people would think this is our final look.

So given that one of the reasons we are doing the Kickstarter is to raise our visual bar, we think it looks pretty good too!

MAC: Could you talk a little about co-op? Will it be drop in, drop out at any time? Just curious what kind of hoops players will need to jump through to join another player's game mid-session.
JT: Everstar supports co-op play in the main story campaign. Co-op play has been working in Everstar since the beginning of the project. You can drop in and out whenever you want, and the only thing the host has to do is assign character(s) to each player. Each player can control as many or as few characters as the host decides.

MAC: This seems like a very ambitious project, especially the co-op aspects and dynamic story elements. How does your prior experience in development put you in a good position to be able to handle this level of project?
JT: Everstar is definitely a complex project, from the group control, to the physical interactions, to networking co-op, and story choices. But we've already built all of these systems! Our team has some amazingly high powered developers who, when paired with tools like Unity3D and a clear vision, have been able to make it all work in record time.

Because of our experience we've been able to make smart decisions, like building in co-op support from day one instead of trying to lever it in later, and avoid some common scoping pitfalls, such as not having the game be open world, avoiding a combinatorial explosion of story paths, etc.

MAC: How much control will players have over party members' AI behavior trees? Full on gambit levels or will there just be AI themes such as "focus on healing" or "all out attack"?
JT: We have a stretch goal planned to build an "Honors" system, which is a like a next-generation gambit system mini-game, which we'd love to do! If we don't hit that then you'll be able to assign AI behavior styles like the ones you mentioned, in addition to some more general group controls. The AI is smart enough to use any abilities you give it intelligently, call for help, etc.

MAC: Looking at the job system, it seems as if all characters can be any job, right? Are you stuck in a path once you head down one? If you can change your path, how would that work? Respec?
JT: Progressing though the job system is actually a mini-game itself, where each character explores and unlocks the intricacy of each job based on how you play it. Each job has its own "game board" which has to be completed before the job is considered to be mastered. If you want to change jobs you simply change boards and the game will remember progress on the prior board. It's a really modular way of building characters; you can just dive into a job to get a skill or two then hop into another job to master it and unlock an advanced job.

MAC: The two jobs that are exclusive for Kickstarter backers seems like a nice bonus for those funding early. Will these be available as DLC later for those who miss out?
JT: The two jobs are limited Kickstarter exclusives, so yes, they will (eventually) be available as DLC for non-backers. We wanted to give as much value to our backers as possible as a way of saying thanks!


MAC: (Editor's Note: Watch the gameplay video above.) I have to ask about poor Frederick. Why did Yona take out the poor guy just to have the party turn around and fight the boss just a few steps later? Just to show how much Yona disliked Frederick? How does the party react to Yona if he does jerk things like that? Maybe Frederick was a jerk who was in need of a good stomping?
JT: It's actually much simpler than that - Yona was playing dirty to get Frederick's Iron Spear and add a bit of space between them and the boss. Metal is extremely rare in Everstar, and keen viewers will note that Yona was using a wooden sword during that particular playthrough, so that spear is a nice upgrade. As you play through Everstar you'll see that Frederick is actually a really good guy - and that "bait" option is for players who want to play a character who takes advantage of good people, a real sociopath.

Each of the choices in that sequence has gameplay and story consequences, which is something we strive to do with most of the choices in Everstar.

MAC: Lots of other successful RPG Kickstarter projects have had a lower reward tier for a digital copy around $15-20 and then jacked the price up by $10-20 at release. Why start with $25 on Kickstarter?
JT: We haven't announced a final price for Everstar yet, but we can say that $25 is a steal for the amount, and quality of game you'll get for your money. The game will certainly cost more than that upon release.

MAC: In your pitch, you mention turning to crowdfunding in order to keep creative control over your IP. If for some reason the Kickstarter doesn't pan out, would you retry again down the road like some have successfully done or would you have to go the publisher route?
JT: Running a Kickstarter campaign takes an incredible amount of time and effort! We have seen other projects try re-launching failed campaigns and asking for less money, but for our budget and target for Everstar is an honest one, and we wouldn't dare ask for backer money if we weren't 100% sure it was enough to finish the game to quality.

MAC: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
JT: Thanks for reading, and if you are an RPGamer looking for a high quality game that is also fresh and innovative please have a look at our Kickstarter page and consider pledging! Also please do try and help spread the word - if we are going to stand a chance at funding it will be because of awesome readers like you and great sites like RPGamer.


RPGamer would like to thank the crew at Psycho Sorted, especially Jeremy Townsend, for taking the time to chat with us about Everstar. If you are interested in this project, check out the Kickstarter campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/psychosorted/everstar-0) going on now and follow the Psycho Sorted account on Twitter for the latest info.



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