The Bard's Tale IV Update 37: Bringing an Iconic Series into the 21st Century

kickstarter2017-06-16 16:05:22

TL; DR: A message from Brian Fargo and Nathan Long, backer news & contest, BT Remaster development update, and an old friend returns home to Skara Brae...

Updating the Legacy

First, we've got a write-up from Brian Fargo on updating The Bard's Tale series for the 21st century:

Hard to believe it's been nearly two years already since the game's Kickstarter campaign. I want you all to know that I'm very pleased with the way The Bard's Tale 4 is shaping up. The visuals are outstanding, the level design is strong, the puzzles are clever, and much of the personality and charm is starting to make it in. We've also worked out a deal to have someone very special provide input - you can find out about him at the end of the update. It's really coming together now and I can't wait to show you more.

Games today demand a deeper lore and sense of world than back in the day. My goal is to broaden the Bard's Tale world without losing the key people, places, spells, bard songs, etc. When we created Bard’s Tale back in 1985 we were young and excitable...more interested in mapping dungeons and torturing our players with teleporters, brutal combats, spinners, and darkness areas, than we were in telling a coherent story. We threw everything except the kitchen sink into those games - Nazis, ninjas, zen masters, robots, vampires, lizard men. We weren't exactly concerned with it making sense. Why did Mangar trap Skara Brae in ice? Does anybody ever say?

Well, we're for sure going to keep all the villains: Mangar, Lagoth Zanta, and the Mad God Tarjan. And we gotta keep Roscoe's and Garth's and the Adventurer’s Guild. Skara Brae's in there too, and the bard songs, the old spell names, along with all of the character classes including the ever popular Archmage. But knowing the lore is a bit thin and inconsistent (a lot of players made up better stories during their play-throughs than the games actually told) we needed to add some depth to the world. How do we stay true to the spirit and substance of the original games while adding the depth, history, and personality that today's players expect from a modern game?

Maybe we should start by figuring out how the events of the first three games fit together. How are Mangar, Lagoth Zanta, and Tarjan connected? What ambition drove them? Where did they come from? In what kind of world would beings of such power exist? What is the history behind it all? And can we give it all a unique flavor that will allow it to stand out from other fantasy games?

The Bard’s Tale was based loosely on Scottish and Orkney Island folklore so this seemed a good place to fill out the world and give it a unique look and feel. So let's deepen that - give it the mood, melancholy and menace of an old Celtic fairy tale. Let's make a world where elves keep humans as pets, where dwarves demand impossible payments for a broken deal, where the trow are a cursed and vagabond race, where Mangar and Lagoth Zanta and Tarjan were all corrupted by the whispers of evil entities from before the rise of man, where a ring of standing stones or an old stone arch or a tune whistled in a deep forest glade might open a door to worlds beyond the mortal realm.

Of course going in this direction required making some hard choices. Elves and dwarves are entirely in keeping with old Scottish lore. But orcs and hobbits are a bit played out and inventions of more modern authors, and aren't such a good fit. We dug deeper into the Orkney fairytales and found a race with a long and storied connection to Scottish legends, the Trow. So they will be our third non-human race, with unique combat abilities and useful songs they can teach your bard.

In the end it's a balancing act. Fighting to keep as many of the touch-points of the original Bard’s Tale series as we can, while at the same time filling out the story, giving the background some consistency, and updating the combat, graphics, and game-play to state of the art standards. And with every design decision, we are doing our best to make The Bard's Tale IV a game that new players will love and old fans will welcome as a true sequel to the original Bard's Tale trilogy.

Brian Fargo
CEO/Leader inXile

Preserving the Legacy

In addition, our Lead Writer Nathan Long has some more details to add about the game's lore and building on what has come before:

With Brian's directive to update the Bard's Tale world for modern audiences while keeping the spirit and details of the original games intact, and at the same time giving it touch of Celtic mysticism, my task has been to construct a world that does all those things, weaving together the old stories and the new in a way that is both appealing and believable.

Thus, I spent much of our pre-production time constructing a history for the world, using the lore and legends I had from the first games and mixing them with Celtic lore and legends to invent Skara Brae's gods, religions, and monsters, and name its people, towns, and kingdoms. But world building only takes you so far. To really find the feel of a world - and find out if and how it works - you have to live in it for a while, see how the people who live in it see it, make sense of it, and survive it.

A good way to do that is to write a story set in the world, and, since I also had to write the Bard's Tale novellas we promised in the Kickstarter campaign, it was a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. I would write one novella each for The Bard's Tale, The Destiny Knight, and the Thief of Fate, weaving the stories from the original games into the world of the new in a way that would be recognizable to the original fans and at the same time did not break the new lore.

As of now, I have completed the first novella and am halfway through the second. It's been a challenging exercise, but fun too, and I'd like to share the first chapter of the first novella with you so you can see how this process is coming along.

Grab your drinks of choice at the bar and then click here to hear a tale of a cold and wintry day...

Nathan Long 
Lead Writer

The Bard at E3

Hi everyone, Paul here to take you through the remainder of the update. We will have more to say about E3 in our next update, but wanted to note that inXile was well-represented there by these two fine gentlemen:

Jeff & David

They are Bard's Tale IV Producer Jeff Pellegrin and Creative Director David Rogers. Jeff and David were there representing the game, meeting with fans and fellow developers, and generally spreading Bard's Tale joy across E3.

To celebrate The Bard's Tale IV this E3 week, we wanted to share a new, super-high-res screenshot from the game's development. Check it out below, and click for the full 4K version!

A gaggle of goblins and other surprises!

Bard's Tale IV Backer Portal

Some of you have noticed that our backer web site is currently down. This is because we are in the process of migrating all our backer data over to CrowdOx for the remainder of the backer reward process. We've previously used CrowdOx with Wasteland 3, and our backers have had great experiences with it. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the site should be back up soon. When it is ready, we will let everyone know. Thank you for your patience while we are moving!

Bard's Tale I-III Remasters

It's been some time since we last checked in on Olde Sküül's updated version of the Bard's Tale I-III classic games, which Rebecca Heineman offered to do during the initial Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter campaign. Though these were not part of our initial Kickstarter rewards or stretch goals, we know that many of you have been excited about seeing this bonus offer. Olde Sküül has continued development on them in-house over the last several months, and they've provided a progress update on the project to let you all know how they've been shaping up and what they expect their remaining development timeline to be. To check out the news, please visit our forums!

As fans ourselves, we want these remasters to be great updates to the classic games and we wish Olde Sküül the best in their efforts. Of course, in addition to the BT Remastered bonus that Becky and Olde Sküül continue to work on, we've already provided backers with the promised emulated versions of the classic games (complete with .pdfs of the original manuals). Though many of you have already downloaded them, never fear, they'll be available again soon for everyone once the move to CrowdOx has been completed!

Open-Mic Contest: Your Chance To Be A Part of The Bard's Tale IV!

One of our "Write an Item Description" backers has opted out of the process, asking us to share that honor with a fellow backer. This is your chance to be a part of The Bard's Tale IV, so if you are interested in playing a small role in the game, please let us know in the comments on Kickstarter. We'll collect the names and do a random drawing, announcing the winner in the next backer update!

The Mage's Tale Release Date

In February, we told you about The Mage's Tale, a first-person VR adventure game coming to Oculus Touch. Now, we're pleased to announce the release date: June 20! You can see more details and preorder the game at a 10% discount on the Oculus store. We're very excited as this will be our first VR title, and we hope our fans will like it too!

New friends await you in The Mage's Tale!

Many of you have been asking, and we can confirm it will be coming to platforms other than Oculus Touch in the future. You can follow Mage's Tale news on the game's Facebook page.

New locations in the Bard's Tale world to explore!

While the game takes place in the Bard's Tale setting, The Mage's Tale is a stand-alone title, and you do not need to play it to enjoy The Bard's Tale IV. The Mage's Tale has been fully funded by Oculus, and a great deal of the asset work done for The Mage's Tale is directly benefiting The Bard's Tale IV, so even if you don't have a VR headset, we hope you'll raise a pint in salute of our release anyway! It has helped make The Bard's Tale IV a much better game!

The Bard Goes Cross-Platform

E3 is a time for announcements, and we do have a brief (but important) one of our own: inXile Entertainment is pleased to announce that The Bard’s Tale IV will be coming to consoles. We will have more to announce, including which consoles and who our publishing partner is, at a later date. We are also investigating ways for backers to opt for console versions of The Bard’s Tale IV, but please keep in mind that we do not currently know if the console version will ship at the same time as the PC one. Be on the lookout for more news across our social media channels and in these updates for further information. As soon as we can share details with you, we will.

For all our backers, it is important to note that The Bard’s Tale IV is a PC-centric release. As with our other Kickstarter projects, no crowdfunding money for the PC version was spent on console development. In addition, whether it is a partnership with Oculus that allows us to develop assets we can use for The Bard's Tale IV, hiring talented developers who bring a knowledge and passion for the series, or investing our own funds on top of the raised money, we are always looking for ways to make the best game possible for our fans. This is the next chapter in a classic franchise that goes back to mid-1980’s computer gaming, so that is the legacy which we are focused on (as you have seen throughout this update). We want to grow the fan base for this game and introduce the series to a new generation, but most of all, we want this to feel like a coming home party for those backers and fans who grew up with the games.

Bringing the Legacy Full-Circle

We've saved the best for last. In 1984, a very young Paul was playing Adventure Construction Set, a program which allowed users to build their own RPGs. Over the next couple of years, I learned the highs and lows of what it meant to make games. In 1986, I was wandering the aisles in Toys R' Us when I saw a box for the Commodore 64 version of The Bard's Tale, a game I had seen and loved, but was previously only available on Apple. I was finally able to play the game, and it was everything that I hoped it would be. As amazed as I was by the game, I was equally astounded by this picture on the inside cover of the game box:

The Bard's Tale series creator Michael Cranford.

The guy who made the game wasn't some grizzled, professional-looking white collar type. Instead, Michael Cranford looked like a version of every friends’ big brother - only a few years older, letting us young'uns know what high school and college would be like. The difference was that Michael wasn't making games just for fun; he was doing it as a job. When I interviewed for this position, I cited that memory from 1986 as the moment I realized that I could do more than just enjoy making games, I could possibly do so for a living. The Bard's Tale series was the inspiration for many developers who would go on to make role-playing classics over the next few decades. Any computer role-playing fan owes a debt to the young man in that picture!

This is why everyone at inXile Entertainment is proud to announce that Michael will be a part of The Bard's Tale IV, providing feedback for us and even contributing a bit to the game itself. He may even have a cameo in the game somewhere. See if you can find him when the time comes! For new players to the series, this is just one more way we look forward to introducing you to the special magic of The Bard's Tale series. For returning veterans, it's that much more thrilling to know that we're not alone in our excitement to return to Skara Brae - Michael Cranford will be returning with us, too!

This has been a big update, and we'll have more to come. Remember to comment below and let us know if you're interested in writing an item description for the game!

Until next update, 
Paul Marzagalli 
Public Relations & Community Manager