The Bard’s Tale IV Update 11: Let’s Talk Classes and Races

kickstarter2015-06-26 18:42:41

Hello again Exiles!

First off, don't forget today is the last day to take advantage of our inXile Loyalty Rewards promotion!

Before I jump into the meat of this update, we have an awesome new piece of concept art to show you:

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The castle of the High Jarl of the Einarr. When you arrive, the selkies, corrupted by the skull of a dead god sunk deep in the waters of the firth, have laid seige to it, demanding from the Jarl an ancient reliquary that holds the rest of the old god's bones.

The housekarls have put up a valiant fight, but their ranks are thinning. Each night the selkies sing another one into the sea and lure him to his death. You could be next.

How long can you hold your breath?

Now, we want to take a moment to talk a bit of design in this update. One of the more interesting challenges in running a Kickstarter comes in talking about design and details of the game before we're truly in production. Our goal in pre-production is to identify a unified core vision for the game, and then the details are hashed out and iterated on during the following months and years. That's why Brian has always worked with vision documents as it gives your game a solid foundation.

One challenge in fully describing the game is there is no one game we can point to that says “it's just like that”, as we could for Torment: Tides of Numenera in Planescape: Torment, for example. We're drawing from many, many influences which of course include the original trilogy, but also the many RPGs that have come since then.

For instance, to give you a better sense of the world, in exploration (the focus of our in-engine video), The Bard's Tale IV will be reminiscent of Legend of Grimrock and other dungeon crawlers with a heavy focus on detailed and interactive environments, in-the-world puzzles, and blockades you have to pass. But, similar to the original Bard's Tale series, we are designing our levels in a non-linear fashion so you might not always be able to pass an obstacle as soon as you come across it. We love the sense of discovery and challenge this provides.

In combat, The Bard's Tale IV will have a similar feel to first-person phase-based combat games going all the way back to The Bard's Tale I all the way up to Might & Magic X – Legacy. While we can draw a connection to the combat of those games, we're going to heavily improve on many aspects of that style of combat system. One example of this is by decoupling the animations from the inputs. Once you've learned your characters, it will allow you to play at a quicker pace, without having to wait for the same 5 second fireball animation to finish before you can make your next move. We'll have more to say on combat in future updates.

But let's talk about one element of the game's heart. What is your party made up of?

Character Classes

If you are unfamiliar with the original The Bard's Tale trilogy, it used a class-based character system, meaning the “Class” or profession of your characters was one of the first things you could choose. There were ten different classes in the first The Bard's Tale, eight of which could be picked from the start: Warrior, Paladin, Rogue, Bard, Hunter, Monk, Conjurer and Magician.

With Chris “The Director” Keenan taking point on all things design, we absolutely want to bring back each of these classes. Many of the character class concepts from the original trilogy serve as a great base to make them interesting and unique. Each character class will have a very distinct role that they play, with the ability for you to make decisions along the way on how you want to tweak and modify their core class abilities. We want to give you more freedom in how you put together a party, so you're not dictated a specific balance in melee or ranged, in weapons or magic, and you're not required to take certain classes. Certainly, this doesn't mean that every party make-up is as viable as the next. A healthy mix is encouraged.

Each class has a unique function within the party, though that comes with some flexibility depending on the class. Some, like Warrior, Monk or Paladin, are best taking the direct approach, jumping straight into the fray, but their particular role in that position is unique for each. Warriors can use just about any weapons or armor and do very well taking and dealing as much damage as possible. Monks will embrace a bit of a unique combat concept, where they will continue to get stronger as fights or even dungeon exploration progresses, making them more powerful the more you push on (incidentally discouraging rest spamming!). Finally Paladins (with requisite +1 Holy Sword) serve as your faithful shield, protecting the party and providing various status modifiers to your party or enemies. It will be fun to explore more of these concepts with you moving forward.

In addition to the starting eight classes, we will be expanding the class roster. For example: currently we're adding a Cleric, who will be a master of the healing arts, able to use restorative blessings. While not usually one of the main damage dealers, they can be surprisingly effective when fighting the undead and dark magics.

One of the more interesting notions in the original trilogy was the idea of magic users starting out as Conjurers or Magicians but evolving into different types later on, like the Archmage. Never fear, this is another concept we fully intend to maintain and expand to cover more classes, but that's a giant system that we will save for a later update.

Character Races

The original Bard's Tale games also let you pick a race for your characters, a system we plan to return and expand upon. Your race choice will be represented in gameplay modifiers, though we intend to do so in a way that avoids forcing you towards a set of particular race/class combos.

One of those expansions will be that the races you pick will have an influence in certain spots in the game, with NPCs reacting to the presence of a Trow in your group in certain, perhaps not always favorable ways. Some options may open or close to you depending on who you have in your party. As you know, we're huge fans of reactivity in our games, and that's one way we can use the character system to add more depth.

Speaking of the Trow, we're looking to make some new additions to the roster of races based on the specific lore of The Bard's Tale IV. The Trow is one such example of a mythological creature from Orkney Island folkloric tradition that we're making available as a playable race.

As you may be able to tell from all the above, we're not looking to make The Bard's Tale IV a simpler game than its predecessors. We'll have clever ways to introduce you to the game's systems and ease into it for newer players, but if you are the type who loves building a full roster of heroes, carefully going over the options and considering your possibilities and spending hours to craft your perfect party, then The Bard's Tale IV is very much the game for you!

Shout-Out

We wanted to give a shout-out to the fascinating We Happy Few Kickstarter. Very close to funding with about a week left to go, We Happy Few is a game of paranoia and survival where you are trying to escape a drug-fueled town in an alternative history 1964 England, where the best way to survive is to conform to the drug-induced forced happiness of the townsfolk. With a fantastic art style and unique theme, this is one we think you'll want to check out.

And More

We are right on the edge of passing our next stretch goal: Enhanced Crafting! We're excited to explore the possibilities of creating functional items through crafting, and that'll be fun to talk about more later as well.

Your social media support has also continued to be epic, and you have unlocked more achievements! We have passed 20K likes on Facebook, unlocking yet another room in our dungeon. Views of our in-engine videoare getting closer and closer, too, perhaps the next one to fall? Don't forget to read the full story of our dungeon on our Tumblr, too!

But those social media likes aren't the only thing that you guys have been contributing. We've got some awesome new song submissions from some of our backers – with a cappella, folk instrumentation and some really great costumes, these guys are true bards! Check them out here:

Last, we've passed 30,000 backers, which is awesome! For reference, that's nearing to half of what the record-holding Bloodstained Kickstarter ended up totaling. If you'd told me a year ago a dungeon crawler Kickstarter could do so well I would have called you as mad as Tarjan, yet here we are and still rolling forward. Keep kicking butt!

We have some big news cooking to kick off next week, so keep your eyes on our Kickstarter, and have a great weekend!

Thomas Beekers
Associate Producer/Designer – The Bard's Tale IV
@thomasbeekers

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrianFargo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheBardsTale
Tumblr: http://thebardstalerpg.tumblr.com/