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Have you ever wanted to play a game that was infinite? One where you could walk in one direction for miles and see nary a cliff or invisible wall in sight? then you may be interested in Malevolence: Sword of Ahkranox, a procedurally generated cRPG that recently got funded through Kickstarter.

We contacted the game’s creative director, Alex Norton, to ask him about the game in terms of what players can expect, how the project is coming along, and how it was inspired. Below are our questions, and his responses. To infinity, and beyond!

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Q: As is tradition for our interviews, we first have the developer give us a summary of their game for those of our readers who are unaware of the project. How would you describe Malevolence?

A: Hmm. It’s actually not the easiest game to sum up. Not so much because of what it is, but because of what it’s ‘up against’ in the community… There was a time, a good 20 or so years ago, when CRPGs were played in the first person, but in a grid-based, often turn-based world. This mechanic spawned legends of the RPG genre such as Might & Magic, Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder, Wizardry and more. They were the predecessors to games such as Skyrim, which pretty much everyone knows about today, and yet the newer generation may not have seen these older, classic games. Malevolence brings back those gameplay mechanics, but puts them into a more modern framework in terms of graphics and sound. The biggest feature, however, which sets it apart from other games, is that the game world is generated by the game itself, and goes on infinitely, including quests, magic, monsters, even the appearance of your weapons. I never liked it when games ended, so I wanted to make one that people could play for as little or as long as they liked and not run out of things to do.

 

Q: What do you feel inspired the team to make a game that is infinite? Was it perhaps based on the human desire to explore and to be a part of something eternal?

A: That was driven from me, to be honest, and it’s a bit of a sad story. When I was a kid, rather than read me bedtime stories, my dad would sit down with me and play these old RPGs. That way, we were a PART of the story, and not just reading one. It was fantastic, and they’re some of my most precious memories as a kid. I never wanted them to end, and they really stuck with me permanently. They’re partly what inspired me to go on to make games of my own. Then one day I got quite sick and was told that the likelihood of my survival was not good. I didn’t want to disappear and leave no dent in the world – I didn’t want my story to end so soon and so suddenly. After managing to survive the ordeal (luckily), I dedicated myself to crafting a part of myself that will, literally, NEVER end. I wanted to let everyone have that involved story feeling that I had with my dad, but I wanted it to never have to reach a conclusion if people didn’t want it to. Luckily, I managed to build an incredible team of people who all rallied to my cause, and Malevolence was the result.

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Q: From what we understand, there’s going to be one definitive world for Malevolence. Do you think this will add a unique social atmosphere to the game, where players can tell stories to each other and relate to one another’s experiences?

A: Definitely! And we’re helping them do that with optional online functionality. For example, if you find a new dungeon, you can hit a button and “claim” that dungeon as your own (unless someone else claimed it first), and we even have ways for people to send items “through the dimensions” to each other. Overall, we’re hoping to have a full suite of online interactivity for people to use if they want, so that in the end, Malevolence could end up essentially being a single player MMORPG.

 

Q: Will the world be completely generated from random, or will there also be the occasional hand-crafted environment or level?

A: A few things here and there are hand-crafted, but mostly it’s all generated by the game. The entire game world is always the same for everyone playing it. We’ve had people WANT it to be more random, but the fact is, if you want to find a new place, just walk in one direction long enough and you’ll find one!

 

Q: Will there be various weather conditions and climates for the world?

A: Yes indeed! We have biomes implemented at the moment with forested areas, deserts, alpine regions and oceans, and currently our weather engine is in place and generating rain and heavy storms. More will be coming as the beta progresses, including dust storms and snowstorms.

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Q: What made you pick turn-based, grid-based combat for the game rather than real-time combat, such as that found in the Elder Scrolls series?

A: It’s a matter of nostalgia for me. I want people to see where the modern RPG format originated and got its inspirations from, while still delivering an experience that holds up with today’s games. Games such as Legend of Grimrock have proven that there is definitely a call for the retro movement to come back in RPGs, so it’s just a matter of giving people some options. Those games were a massive part of my life as a gamer growing up, and I want to share that with people who may not have had the same experience.

 

Q: Apart from dungeon-crawling, what are some other major draws that will attract players to the world of Malevolence? Will there be other tasks and activities for players to partake in?

A: Soon, Malevolence will have a full crafting system, allowing people to build their own weapons, potions, and even spells to use and trade in the game. Couple that with the sheer level of exploration and the online social features and people have been really getting hooked on it; it’s been great to see.

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Q: Will there be any sort of narrative to the game, or will most of the player engagement with the world simply come from exploration?

A: We actually have a team of incredible writers, led by published author Ryan A. Span, and they have collectively written well over 300 books for the game that cover all aspects of the story. Even more will be flowing in as the game’s development progresses. As for the main questline’s story, it’s mostly just “kill the evil things” for now while people get used to such a radically different game, though the first expansion pack, coming out later this year, will be aimed at making the story really take off.

 

Q: You mention on the Kickstarter page that once the game hit $20,000 in funding (which it did), new methods of travel and even new dimensions would be added to the game. Without wishing to prompt ‘spoilers,’ would you be able to tell us a bit about them?

A: Haha! I’m actually known in the Malevolence community for being quite secretive and only occasionally dribbling info out. However, I’ve already let on that there will be a new hell-like dimension which people will be able to reach at the bottoms of the deepest dungeons, and also via magical means. As for travel, that one’s a little hush hush, however coming very soon to the beta will be the ability to fly on the backs of Gryphons, as well as be teleported between Mages’ Guilds.

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Q: We can’t help but think of Minecraft a bit when trying to stomach this ambitious premise. Do you plan for there to be some sort of level editor/builder for the game?

A: Not particularly, no. Early models of Malevolence did actually have building features, but we removed them in the end, as it broke the flow of the game. Not saying that sort of mechanic is bad, it just wasn’t a good “fit” for the game, so it had to go. That being said, there are still plenty of crafting and other personalization elements to Malevolence which should keep people entertained.

 

Q: When do you estimate Malevolence will finally be released? Were there any notable ups and downs during development?

A: Well, the beta is launching as I write this, but the first 1.00.000 build will likely come around May if all goes well. It’s quite playable and fun right now, but there’s still lots of content we want to add in to make it even more exciting for the players.

The development has been ENTIRELY CONSTRUCTED of ups and downs, haha! From massive hate campaigns against the game to Indie Game of the Year nominations to having to fire staff for lewd conduct to having a giant and dedicated community built on the forums… It’s been one hell of a ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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Q: Before we depart, are there any other details you feel our readers should know about?

A: Even if you’re just trying the demo, you should definitely check out our forums. The community that has formed around the game is just utterly incredible. They’re some of the greatest people you’ll find online and are so passionate about the game. If it wasn’t for them, I’d be a quivering mess, so definitely check it out. They regularly post screenshots and videos and hold discussions about things they’ve found and tactics they’ve developed… It’s just wonderful!

Thanks for taking the time to interview me! I hope to see everyone in Ahkranox before too long!

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You can visit the official site for Malevolence: Sword of Ahkranox over here. Stay tuned for more news and updates on the game in the coming months, and leave us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Michael Urban
Now an occasional contributer, Michael Urban is the former Editor-in-Chief at OnlySP and has the nickname "Breadcrab" for reasons his therapist still doesn't understand. From the moment he first got hacked in Runescape, he's been uninterested in multiplayer games and has pursued the beauty of the single-player experience, especially in terms of story and creative design. His hobbies include reading, writing, singing in the shower, pretending to be productive, and providing info and feedback regarding the games industry. It is an industry, right? You can ask him a question or send him spam at michaelurban@onlysp.escapistmagazine.com. Also, follow him on Twitter or the terrorists win. (@MichaelUrban1)

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2 Comments

  1. From the screenshots I get a older elder scrolls kind of vibe, looks good tho

  2. Wow. He just sounds like a gamer =) Good luck and can’t wait for the game to be on my desktop. OW!

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