We live in a golden age of indie RPGs. It's never been easier to create and publish an RPG of your own design. However, it is also becoming more and more difficult to stand out. Thankfully, I'm not sure Sully: A Very Serious RPG will have that problem. With a unique approach to the comedic RPG genre and gorgeous aesthetics, Sully: A Very Serious RPG seems primed to take the indie RPG scene by storm this Summer. RPGamer was lucky enough to catch up with Breadbrothers Games' neckbearded Studio Head, Ben McGraw, at PAX East 2013 about this upcoming and unorthodox RPG.
Trent Seely (RPGamer): Firstly, thank you for taking the time out to chat with us about Sully: A Very Serious RPG.
For those unfamiliar with this upcoming title, could you give us a quick rundown of what kind of game it is and how it came to be?
Ben "Grue" McGraw (Founder & Lead Designer, Breadbrothers Games): This is a reimagining of a very old RPG. The Sully Chronicles was the pack-in demo for the Verge RPG engine. Before RPG Maker really made an impact in North America, there was this big gulf because people wanted to make 16-bit RPGs. This engine called "Verge" came out of it all. Through sheer serendipity, [Verge] was posted at the top of Yahoo's index. It swelled from a community of three guys to tens of thousands of people for several years.
Robert Boyd (of Zeboyd Games) originally made his game Rainbow Despair way back in the day as the Verge game, and I remembered him from that. When I saw him make Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, my long dead RPG heart swelled and I thought, "I should get back into this."
TS: Can you talk to Sully's inspiration?
BM: When it comes down to it, I'm really inspired by Phantasy Star IV, Lufia II, and the original Wild Arms. These are my desert island RPGs, and I don't think they're paid a lot of homage in the scene, so I'm bringing that sensibility into it. Stylistically, the battle system is akin to Valkyrie Profile, but it also has a bit of Super Mario RPG with its use of in-time command boosting. So, it has strategic elements when you're menu planning and skill-based elements to keep you engaged while you're watching the cute animations.
In terms of exploration, I'm trying to lean on Final Fantasy IV. What I miss in modern RPGs is the option to spend an hour just exploring all the nooks and crannies of town. Storywise, I'm going for an in-game cutscene rich environment, which is something that Final Fantasy IV and V did a lot. As I've been writing this, I've been finding that if I make big, bold movements with the sprites it sells the scene a lot better. I also love tool-based puzzles, so that's kind of how Lufia II and Wild Arms come into play.
Sully: A Very Serious RPG is like a lot of my indie RPG peers, in the sense that it's a comedic RPG. However, I'm trying not to break the fourth wall. Although, it might get nudged once or twice. Really, I'm trying to go for the 80s summer film of RPGs. John Cusack could be in the film version of this. There might even be an orphanage that needs saving. I just wanted to draw from some places that had some interesting scenarios which really hadn't been touched on before, as far as I know. It's definitely a hard field (the comedy RPG) because there are so many amazing titles coming out these days. I wanted to play the comedy a little different by going situational with the comedy — mostly playing the characters straight. I hope it finds its audience.
TS: What can you tell us about the outfit at Breadbrothers Games?
BM: I'm the head of Breadbrother Games, which is a company that sort of went defunct around 2006 — when I had to grow up and make my living wages. I basically got out of indie game making when the indie game scene was really becoming a thing. In 2005/2006, people were finally making money doing it just when I was running out. When I saw Robert Boyd and Muteki doing such a great job with their indie RPGs, I decided to throw my hat back in.
With the blessing of the original creator of The Sully Chronicles, I moved forward with a reimagining of the game. There was a community of tens of thousands of people who had a really fond connection with an RPG that never had a battle system — which was even a running joke. So, why not make a game based on these characters that were stuck in my head?
TS: How long has the title taken to develop?
BM: Sully: A Very Serious RPG's development started, in earnest, about a year ago. Its planned ship is in about three months from now. We're definitely feeling the crunch, and I'm exhausted due to many late nights getting everything ready. Things are going very well.
We're a team of ten to fifteen — depending on how you count the contractors. It was hard for me to let go of some of the more niche responsibilities, because the reason why I went indie again was that I wanted to create sprites and tiles, and I loved constructing maps. As the project got older it became obvious to me that we needed more people and that I could only be the person pulling everyone together and the scriptwriter/principle programmer. I really had to let go of more and more roles, so it's been a process of growing and letting go of things.
TS: What platforms will it be on?
BM: It will be available on PC platforms (Windows, Linux, and Mac) as well as PlayStation Mobile (PS Vita and Android platforms that PlayStation Mobile supports). Developing in MonoGame basically means that I can port to all of these platforms relatively easily, although some localization to each individual platform's interface is required.
I am planning on eventually releasing the game's engine for free under a VSD license, because one of the problems I see a lot of indie RPG creators as having is being stuck in Windows only due to RPG Maker. I am not at all pledging to make a comprehensive GUI, but if it's opensource and someone else thinks it's a good enough toolchain — they can add a GUI and that would be fine. I wouldn't mind if a strong community came out of it, but I'm not pursuing it. It's serendipity that creates a scene, not planning.
TS: Is there anything else that you'd like to add?
BM: Check it out! The trailer is up on the website, and it provides a glimpse at both the game's tone and gameplay.
RPGamer would like to thank Ben McGraw for participating in this interview. Sully: A Very Serious RPG is shaping up to be one of the more hilarious releases of the year. Based on my all-too-short twenty minute playthrough of the game's "gaiden" demo, I can already tell that indie and mainstream RPGamers alike will have a really fun time with this title. Keep an eye on Sully: A Very Serious RPG and check out Breadbrothers Games' official website for further details and media.