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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Runespell: Overture


Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We at Joystiq believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, the Mystic Box band discuss the creation of Runespell: Overture.

What's your game called, and what's it about?

Our game is called Runespell: Overture. Our story takes place in England, twenty years before William The Conqueror invades it. It is an age in which Vikings and Normans still menace England, but are largely held at bay by its Saxon king, Edward the Confessor. At the heart of England a massive storm is brewing, a furious whiteout that consumes the countryside, called the "Grim Whyte." People say that gods and monsters roam the icy realm behind the storm's wintery curtains. It is within the Grim Whyte that our story unfolds.

How did Mystic Box get started in development?

We have been in games development for a long time; most of us started our careers in the previous century. We created many games before this one, all in various capacities as either Leads or Producers. All of this experience has led us to this point, where we independently made this game. It is our first game as Mystic Box and hopefully not the last. We have a lot of plans for the future.

Why did you want to make games?

Because we love playing them and we love thinking about new concepts. Playing games inspires us to create games. It is a medium most of us have been in love with since childhood, and others have stumbled upon from other career paths, but which all of us want to work in forever. Compared to games development other types of jobs are painfully dull and tedious.

Why be independent rather than try to work for someone else?

Is that regular paycheck more important than the feeling of freedom and being able to do your own thing?

Both have their pros and cons. For us it was the fact that the concept of Runespell: Overture was something that we knew we could do well on our own, so we thought let's do it ourselves. When we started on this project, the indie road was emerging as a viable option for many developers out there and so it was for us. It all depends on your priorities: Is that regular paycheck more important than the feeling of freedom and being able to do your own thing? A lot of developers have different feelings about that, and it depends on the culture of a development studio you'd choose to work for. Some companies are good to work for, others are not; some indies succeed, some do not. There are a lot of different experiences in that regard, but for us the dream is to work on our own stuff. That is probably true for the majority of the indie developers out there.

Do you feel like you're making the game you always wanted to play?

We do. Every time we look at Runespell we are proud of what we did. We have had to playtest many of our our own games over the past decade and sometimes that will get very painful and boring. However, with Runespell, after all this time, playtesting the game over and over again is still fun. If we hadn't made this game we would have wanted somebody else to, so we could play it.

Runespell looks like a mix of poker and a turn-based attack system. How would you explain its mechanics?

In essence, the game mechanics are based on a card system that is called "Mythic Poker." It also has a battle chess type quality, but seen from the side. As you cause damage, you gain Rage, and you can use it to activate spells (which are called Power Cards) to further influence or damage your opponent. You travel trough the game across an overworld map that holds different locations, and you take on quests as you progress through the game.

Which aspect of Runespell are you proudest of?

We are very proud of the production values that we managed to achieve on a limited budget and with a small team. The game looks professionally made, and when people see it they usually remark how they are amazed that it is so well executed, knowing that we were severely limited in our resources.

We like the fact that by and large, the people who play Runespell remark that it reminds them of games they have played before, yet at the same time they consider it unlike anything they have ever played before.

Anything you'd do differently?

One, there was a moment where we lugged an early beta version of the game around publisher and investor meetings in order to see whether we could get the funds to increase the scope of the game. Not that Runespell is lacking either in scope or content, but you always would like to add more. Make it bigger. It didn't work out and we lost several months in getting the game to market because of that.

Two, early on we were very much multiplayer focused, then that went away and now we realize that we should have persisted in that vision. We are going to provide that after launch, for free, but we could have packed that in before -- if we'd had more resources.

What one thing would you tell someone to convince them to get Runespell?

If you like Poker, if you like RPG's, if you like collectable card games, if you like an epic story and the chance to experience those four elements during short or long play sessions, then give Runespell a shot. We'll continue to update it with free content after launch.

What's next?

We are looking into bringing Runespell to multiple platforms, are working on multiplayer and singleplayer content updates. We are discussing other Runespell products with interested parties at the moment and are looking to bring Runespell to the persistent online game space. Next to that, we are actively developing some new concepts for 2012.

Runespell: Overture is out now on Steam. Check out the demo for free or buy the complete game at 10 percent off during its launch period, starting July 20.

If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.

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