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RPGamer Feature - Breath of Death VII: The Beginning Interview
Breath of Death VII: The Beginning
Platform:
Developer: Zeboyd Entertainment
Publisher: Zeboyd Entertainment
ESRB: RP
Release Date:
04.2010










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Very seldom do RPGamers hear about the little guy. Who am I referring to? Those little indie developers whose games you see in the Xbox Live Indie Games service. Sure, there are plenty of games to choose from, but it's difficult to find out which ones could potentially be a diamond in the rough. However, there's always good to be had if gamers can find that indie gem that wets their whistle.

With news of Breath of Death VII: The Beginning exploding on the RPGamer forums, Michael and I took the opportunity to seek out Robert Boyd of Zeboyd Entertainment, and he was gracious enough to give us the scoop on all things Breath of Death. If you're curious about the game, check out Zeboyd Entertainment's official website or read below.


Greetings Robert! Sam and Michael are glad to get some time to talk with you about your upcoming Xbox Live Indie RPG. Can you explain to our readers how Breath of Death VII: The Beginning was conceived? What are some of the game's biggest influences?
Robert Boyd: I've wanted to make an RPG where all of the heroes were undead for many years now, but I didn't actually come up with the specific idea for Breath of Death VII until just a few months ago. I was on my way to work one morning thinking about what I should do for my next project on Xbox Live Indie Games when inspiration struck and the main ideas for Breath of Death VII's world, plot, and characters all came to me in a flash.

As for influences, I've been a big fan of the RPG genre ever since the 80s so pretty much any game that I've played and enjoyed is an influence. The game's visuals were obviously heavily influenced by the Dragon Quest series. The combo system was inspired by Brave Story and the inclusion of multi-character techniques was due to my love of Chrono Trigger. However, the single biggest influence was probably Guadia Quest in the game, Retro Game Challenge. That was the game that really got me thinking that an RPG with a retro look would be an ideal way to make an Indie game, allowing us to focus on the gameplay and story, rather than being bogged down by making time consuming visuals like so many Indie game projects.

Could you explain the origin of the game's name? Also why VII? Where can I obtain the other six or are you working backwards, since it is called The Beginning?
RB: My wife actually came up with the game's name. She was trying to find the worst possible names for zombie movies and Breath of Death won out for not only being horrible, but also allowing us to sneak in a Breath of Fire reference. We knew we wanted to have some arbitrary large number to go with the title and since Final Fantasy VII is probably the most popular RPG here outside of Pokemon and World of Warcraft, we went with that.

Breath of Death VII is the first game in the series. I don't know if we'll make sequels yet (depends on the kind of reception this game receives), but if we do, they'll probably be prequels – it just makes more sense with the story we have set up.

What can RPGamers expect in terms of story? Share with us some details about the humble cast of heroes.
RB: The overarching plot for Breath of Death VII would be fairly grim in most games, but the way it's handled here is anything but – the plot is mostly just an excuse for us to make a bunch of silly jokes and references to old games.

If you've seen our trailer, you know the game has four main characters in your party. Dem the Skeleton Knight is the hero and in true RPG hero fashion, he can't talk. However, having a mute hero isn't that funny so we made it so that the player can see his thoughts. Sara the Ghost Historian is your typical hyper enthusiastic girl that fans of RPGs and anime have seen oh so many times. Lita the Vampire Technie is the brains of the group and Erik the Zombie Prince is a fairly stupid horrible French stereotype. Whew!

Breath of Death VII looks as retro as they come. Why did you decide to make a retro-style RPG? Do you think that retro-RPGs will still be a big trend over the next few years?
RB: Like I mentioned earlier, Guadia Quest was a big influence in our determination to make a retro-style RPG. From a business standpoint, huge development times are a big no-no when it comes to Indie Games. If a big game company spends years on a game that ends up bombing in the marketplace, they can usually survive based on the success of other games in their portfolio, but if the same thing happens to a small indie game company, it's typically the end of the company.

By going with a retro look similar to early 16-bit RPGs, we were able to keep our development time down to just 3-4 months whereas if we did the same game but used graphics similar to more visually advanced games like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, it would have easily doubled or tripled the time it took to finish the game. Plus, with a shorter development time, a cheaper price is a more viable option and that's beneficial for everyone.

What do you think the appeal is of your game to RPGamers outside of its old school roots? How does it hold up to more modern RPGs?
RB: It's an RPG that costs $1. I think that's going to be pretty appealing to fans of the genre, regardless of whether or not they're into retro games!

One thing that I think people are going to really like is the game's pacing. With a lot of the modern RPGs out there – Final Fantasy XIII be the most obvious recent example – it feels like it takes forever to actually accomplish something. Contrast that with our game where you're almost constantly gaining a new LV, advancing the story, or discovering a new area. Just because a game has a turn-based battle system doesn't mean that it has to be slow and I think our game is a great example of that.

Independent developer Studio Archcraft released Black Sigil last year to complaints about it being too retro, too slow, and had too many random encounters. Do you have fears your game might be too retro? If not, how have you tried to address these issues?
RB: We've tried to find a nice balance balance between a retro style and modern sensibilities. For example, although our game has random encounters, we did our best to make sure the encounter rate isn't so frequent that it becomes oppressive. Not only that, but after beating a certain number of battles in a single place, random encounters are turned off in that area (although you can still initiate them manually by selecting the "Fight" command from the menu if you want to grind).

How many hours of gameplay can folks expect? Is there also additional content post game?
RB: We're looking at about 4-6 hours to run through the game once, depending on the player, which difficulty they select (Normal or Hard) and whether or not they do the optional dungeons. Also, after beating the game, a new mode is unlocked – Score Attack mode. In this mode, random encounters are turned off (although the player can still fight them to gain XP & gold) and the player gains points depending on how low their LVs are when they beat the various bosses in the game. We felt this would be a good way to increase replayability and to give people who really want to master the game's system a chance to show off their stuff.

Why the decision to release on Xbox 360 as oppose to other consoles? Why the awesome price point of $1? Will there be a possibility of a PSN version, PC port, or iPhone release?
RB: The Xbox 360 is by far the most accommodating environment for small independent game developers. You get the piracy protection of a home console, without the huge expenses that you'd incur on the PSN or WiiWare. We currently have no plans to expand to other platforms, but it's certainly something that we'll be considering in the future. As for the decision to price the game at $1, it's partially altruistic (we're gamers ourselves and love a great deal) and partially practical ($1 games on XBLIG generally sell exponentially better than the more expensive games).

What are some of the challenges you find in developing an independent RPG?
RB: I'd say the biggest challenge is assembling a good team. I've been very fortunate to have a found a fantastic partner to work with. Not only has William Stiernberg done a great job creating quality graphics, animation, and level designs for the game in a timely fashion, but he's gone above and beyond the call of duty and helped out in all sorts of other ways like finding some of the music we ended up licensing and creating the trailers for the game. Whenever my motivation to work starts to lessen, I can always count on him to get me excited and enthusiastic again.

If Breath of Death VII is a successful project, will you consider making more RPGs in the future? Other games in the Breath of Death series or do you have other thoughts?
RB: We've built a very robust RPG engine in the process of creating Breath of Death VII so we're definitely planning on making more RPGs in the future. We have a few ideas of things we'd like to do, but nothing solid yet – we're focusing on finishing this game first before we devote much time to the next project. I can tell you that our next game will not be in the Breath of Death series.

I've noticed you’ve made two other games prior to Breath of Death VII. Could you share a little about them and how they have or have not been a success for you?
RB: The two games I've released so far on XBLIG are more like e-books than traditional games. You read the story and then make choices at various points in the plot akin to the popular children's book series, Choose Your Own Adventure. They're called Epiphany in Spaaace! and Molly the Were-Zompire. Molly the Were-Zompire is my favorite of the two, but Epiphany in Spaaace! (a sci-fi parody) has proven to be the more popular. They've each sold about 500-700 copies, which I guess isn't bad for games that don't really have any visuals.

Many of our staff members and forum posters are eager to get their hands on the game. Please tell us, when can RPGamers expect to see Breath of Death hit Xbox Live?
RB: Breath of Death VII should be on Xbox Live Marketplace sometime during the second half of April.

Final question: Who would win in a bout of fisticuffs: A skeleton knight or a vampire techie?
RB: Skeleton Knight, no question. He's the hero, after all!


RPGamer would like to thank Robert Boyd for all of his insight, and we wish him all the best of luck with Breath of Death VII: The Beginning. Check out the official website and the game's official trailer, as Breath of Death VII releases sometime this month.



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