[dropcap size=big]P[/dropcap]uzzle games are interesting things, on their own they are fun for like five minutes (for me at least) so they are often fused into rpg in order to make them interesting, or at least that’s my observation. That’s not a criticism of the hybrid rpg puzzler genera, just an observation from a jaded indie-fan, but I digress.
However, Puzzle rpgs are dime a dozen on Steam and GOG so I don’t pay much attention to them, but once in a while I come across a project that have enough of the ‘woh!’ to grab my attention. Vidar is one of those projects. I don’t know what piqued my curiosity about it, perhaps it’s the name Vidar: the name of the Norse god of vengeance; or perhaps tagline on the Kickstarter did it; “A rpg where everyone dies.” Whatever it was, I just had to know a bit more about this game, and I am sure our fine readers would be interested as well. With that in mind I contacted Mr. Dean Razavi the public face of Vidar in hopes of getting an interview. Dean was kind enough to accept our request and promptly responded to our rapid fire interview questions.
Cliqist : Tell us a little about yourself?
Dean Razavi : I’ve had a long journey to game development. I studied music in undergrad and moved on to law school, I’ve been practicing law for the past four+ years now. Ultimately, all of these paths have led me back to my first love, gaming.
Cliqist : Can you explain Vidar for those unfamiliar with the game?
Dean Razavi : Vidar is all about random story-telling. The game takes place in a town with 24 people, and every night, a random one of them dies. These deaths have a rippling effect through the community, sending every other townsperson’s storyline akimbo. When the blacksmith’s assistant dies, the blacksmith has different quests for you than before when she had help. And if the blacksmith dies first, the assistant may try to take over the work.
The thing killing everyone in town is a horrible Beast. To stop the Beast you need to solve randomly-generated environmental puzzles – think Zelda without the combat. Every day, you get a limited about of time to solve as many puzzles as you can, before you’re teleported back to town, and another one of the 24 dies. Play alternates between free time in town and timed puzzles until you’ve either stopped the Beast or everyone in town is dead.
Cliqist : Vidar is a rpg “where everyone dies”, please elaborate.
Dean Razavi : Lives are not spared in Vidar, but I want to make sure death is handled critically. Every possible NPC in the game can die (or, in some instances, they’re already dead). But these deaths have long-lasting impacts on the game, sending everyone else’s plotlines careening in different directions. This isn’t a shooter, where the death of other characters is the objective. Instead, the fact that every character is “up for grabs” is central to the story.
Cliqist : Tell us a little about the protagonist the player will be controlling?
Dean Razavi : The player controls an everyman (or everywoman once we release!) called The Stranger. At the start of the game, The Stranger leaves home with a decision to make – whether to forgive an absent father. On route to see him, The Stranger is trapped in a snowstorm and stumbles into the town of Vidar. Ultimately, The Stranger decides to help the 24 remaining people in Vidar with their own problems as a form of procrastinating on his or her own.
Cliqist : What inspired you to make Vidar?
Dean Razavi : I’ve pulled inspiration from lots of places. I love the game mechanic where you have a town or city that slowly builds up – whether that’s Animal Crossing, Sim City, or even something like Diablo III where you recruit crafting NPCs that start to show up in your town. I’m a total sucker for it, seeing new areas open up, buildings and bridges constructed, etc. I wanted to know what happens if that was all turned on its head. Would the player feel like they were failing through the game? Or was there a way to make a town decay but still encourage progress. Now, in Vidar, the city starts “complete” and becomes a ghost town as you continue to play.
Cliqist : What kind of game mechanics will be used in Vidar? (combat, puzzles, stealth)
Dean Razavi : There’s no combat in Vidar, the primary way to progress is through puzzles. These puzzles are all random from game to game. If you want to come back and see a new story, you don’t have to worry that you’ll breeze through the puzzles. These puzzles are all “environmental puzzles,” focused on getting your character from point A to point B. The mechanics of each puzzle change from area to area, but all are familiar to many gamers. And, each of these classic mechanics have been given a fresh update. For example, in the demo you can play puzzles which involve “frictionless ice,” the sliding puzzles made famous by Pokemon. Here, though, you might be asked to do it with two characters, switching back and forth between them as necessary. These kinds of traditional mechanics with new spin are what make up the Beast’s cave, and all of them are timed.
Cliqist : What kind of difficulty level can gamers expect in Vidar, would there be settings for both casual and hardcore gamers?
Dean Razavi : Puzzle balance is always tricky, and with any given puzzle one player will get it in 5 seconds and another person will take 5 hours. And their roles might switch for the very next puzzle. Suffice it to say, I’m targeting a puzzle difficulty where a vast majority of players will be able to reach the Beast before all 24 villagers are dead.
Cliqist : What kind of game-engine will you be using for Vidar and why?
Dean Razavi : I’m using RPG Maker VX Ace! RPG Maker is a really great tool for creating that SNES Golden Era style. It evokes Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger, and that kind of nostalgia fits perfectly with Vidar. RPG Maker, like any other tool, is as powerful as the developer wants it to be. It gets a bad reputation for “hobbyist” games, but the entire engine supports tremendous modification, gutting the insides with a ton of Ruby. That’s where Vidar is, and I’m really happy with what the engine has offered.
Cliqist : What kind of game length does your team have planned for Vidar?
Dean Razavi : The game will take roughly 3 to 4 hours for a single playthrough. But given the nature of the game, you can play it a dozen times and see different stories and puzzles every time. If players like Vidar (even the demo, which is on the Kickstarter page!), I really encourage them to play it again. It’s going to change each time in big ways.
Cliqist : Why should people back the Vidar Kickstarter?
Dean Razavi : We have some really cool rewards! One of my personal favorites is the “Design a Puzzle” reward, where you get to make a puzzle which has a random chance of showing up in each and every playthrough of Vidar. It’s a great way to get players involved. I’d love to see someone playing the game, come across a puzzle they designed, forget they designed it and get stuck or stumped.
Cliqist : What platforms are you planning to bring Vidar? (pc/linux/apple/handheld/consoles)
Dean Razavi : The demo on the Kickstarter page is for PC only, but we’ll be hitting Linux and Mac ASAP.
Cliqist : Can you close us out with a Vidar related haiku?
Dean Razavi :
Random stories shared
Friends and family, loved ones all