Welcome back everyone to my second interview of this year. This time I decided to interview our own forum member Aureus about his unique indie game called Roadwarden.
He was nice enough to do a short interview and sent over some new screenshots.
RPGWatch: You have been a member on RPGWatch for a few years, but can you give a brief introduction for new visitors to our site?
Aureus: Thank you for the invitation. I’m Aureus, and almost the entirety of Roadwarden is developed by me alone. I live in Poland, and while I used to often post about my projects in various places, I generally avoid spending much time on social media.
Before Roadwarden, I developed one adventure game and one Visual Novel. While the former was quite bad and is no longer available, I’m happy with the latter, Tales From Windy Meadow. Or rather - I think it has some good ideas, I just wasn’t experienced enough to make them shine.
RPGWatch: What was your inspiration to start developing a retro-style game? It looks like a combination of different genres.
Aureus: To be fair, I never intended to develop a “retro” game, and I would argue some of the game’s systems, quests, and dialogues are strongly influenced by modern adventure games and RPGs, with their complex dialogues, branching storylines, and fascinating ways to allow the player to shape their avatar and express themselves by their actions.
But I understand where this association comes from. The game has a wall of text, pixel art illustrations, very simple controls, and even some sanctions that involve writing words with your keyboard to solve puzzles. It’s in large part because of the games I played in my primary school years. The Polish version of Baldur’s Gate was released when I was 10, Planescape: Torment - one of the most important games of my life - when I was 11 (not that I understood its plot at the time). As the years went on and I played the isometric Fallouts and Arcanum, I held the dream of making a game in a similar vein.
Nevertheless, I don’t want to imitate those older titles. The games that I used to obsess over are my inspiration, but not my chain. There are many other works that planted a seed in my head over the years: the old Gothic games, Morrowind, but also Pyre, Kentucky Route Zero, various novels, tabletop games, and movies. When I look at Roadwarden and its world, I see the web of experiences that shaped me and my passion for stories, instead of combat or XP-grind.
RPGWatch: How long has the game been in development?
Aureus: I started in January 2019, though the oldest game design documents - a written-down idea with various concept arts and the first draft of the game systems - is almost one year older. On the other hand, the game is set in a fantasy world I’ve been using in tabletop RPGs since 2008, so I had many ideas to guide me.
RPGWatch: What engine was used to make the game?
Aureus: The Ren’Py engine is designed for Visual Novels, but it was very convenient for this project. There are static pictures displayed in various parts of the screen, simple buttons that you click with the mouse, and a lot of text to show, but there’s no virtual space that needs to be wandered about by the avatar. So no physics systems, no advanced math to bother with, no crazy animations. It’s a great tool, and most of the issues I had with it were tied directly to my limited knowledge. If I were to start the game anew, it would be a much easier project to make.
RPGWatch: How did you decide to go with the unique graphic style?
Aureus: The very first illustration that was intended for the game’s prototype was directly inspired by The Friendly Arm Inn from Baldur’s Gate. I love the isometric camera, and the minimalistic, stylized visuals common in pixel art. I just don’t care much about realistic landscapes and character models in video games.
The colors used in the game are meant to aid the adventure’s atmosphere. Some would call it grim; in my head they’re melancholic. I enjoy the browns of the fallen, autumn leaves, and the sepia palettes so often matched with post-apocalyptic visuals, the perfect fit for my fantasy world just great.
I don’t want to ignore one of the most unorthodox decisions I made considering UI either. Having a large block of text in the center of the screen, instead of leaving a tiny box pushed to the side or to the bottom of the screen, may look weird to some but is going to give the players the comfort of reading I rarely experienced while playing other games.
RPGWatch: Will the game have many choices that affect gameplay?
Aureus: I can’t possibly list them all. :) The main reason I limit the game’s visuals, controls, and sound is that I’m obsessed with games’ reactivity to player actions in video games.
The player can select one of the three classes - warrior, mage, or scholar - that impact all sorts of interactions during their journey. Many large quests can be solved in various ways, changing the game’s world and what can be done in it. A befriended innkeeper can provide for the player with free meals and shelter, while a destroyed village becomes simply unavailable for the rest of the game.
One of the mechanics I especially like is being able to select one of five character goals - six, to be specific, but two of them are fairly similar gameplay-wise. The player can choose if they want their Roadwarden to pursue money, influence, or fame, or maybe they prefer to role-play as a noble adventurer, or as a lost soul who needs to find a new place for themselves after their difficult past. The “win states” and “fail states” between these quests are nothing alike, and I hope they will impact the players’ decisions and how they perceive their character.
RPGWatch: A demo of the game has is available on Steam, has the feedback from players been positive or negative?
Aureus: The latest demo available to the public (as of August 8th 2022) is about one year old, and isn’t representative of the quality I aim for. I hope to update it soon, but I have some music license struggles to solve first.
The feedback has been very motivating, but there’s this phenomenon known as “the survivorship bias”. Roadwarden is an unusual game, and reading is an unusual type of interacting with video games - especially in such massive amounts. Those who played Roadwarden and were curious enough to download it were a tiny fraction of the people who saw it in the store. A small chunk of those people explored the entire demo, and even fewer decided to leave some comment or send me an e-mail.
In other words, those who are a part of the game’s target audience seem to be happy with it. But it’s unlikely those people are a massive group.
RPGWatch: Is the game still on plan to release in 2022?
Aureus: I hope to have it ready this September! I pushed the release date a few times because of my inexperience and terrible planning, but the game on my drive is pretty much ready. I now try to polish it, fixing as many bugs as I can find.
RPGWatch: Will there be any future DLC, and do you have plans for more games?
Aureus: I’m a daydreamer so it’s not difficult for me to have plans for the next decade or so, but I need to be honest with myself and first see how the game does after its launch. If it fails to impress and sell, I’ll have to admit to myself that I don’t have what it takes to be an indie designer.
It wouldn’t be difficult to add more and more content to Roadwarden. Various systems, NPCs, and areas are already there - I could always add more dialogues, simple quests, and fight scenes from my long list of dropped content. I just don’t think the game needs to be bigger. Instead, I would love to give myself a month or two of rest, then start to work on a new project.
And since Roadwarden is focused on playing a single traveler, it would be amazing to attach a similar level of care and details to a game that’s about exploring a dangerous world as a party.
RPGWatch: Do you have any advice for indie game developers?
Aureus: Don’t neglect the significance of luck, and of good and bad events you can’t control. The only reason why Roadwarden gathered any attention in the first place is because of Jay Castello, a game journalist, who scrolled through the new releases on Itch.io back in 2019 and saw my bare-bones, terrible prototype, but decided that despite its shortcomings and my terrible English, the game has potential. After her small article on Rock Paper Shotgun, the game gathered its first fans, supporting me with their feedback, likes, and word of mouth.
I had no control over it, but without Jay’s helpful gesture, I would never learn as much as I did during these few years, and would likely abandon the project a long time ago.
RPGWatch: Thank you for your time. Do you have anything you want to add?
Aureus: And thank you for noticing my game, and to the community of RPGWatch for their feedback. Roadwarden should be available on Steam very soon, and it is truly a project born out of passion. It may not be for everyone, but I can promise you haven’t played a game like this before.
Developer: Moral Anxiety Studio
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released: 2022-09-12
· Publisher: Assemble Entertainment