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“We more or less gave up our social lives” – GLITCHED [Developer Q&A]

GLITCHED is an upcoming RPG by En House Studios. It focuses on breaking the 4th wall and making YOU, the player, a character. Before reading this Q&A with the team, be sure to read my preview on the game here.

1. The concept behind GLITCHED is rather unique. Having the in-game character be aware of how the player influences the game is a nice twist. What sort of inspiration (if any) did you guys draw from when writing the story?

The original idea of a video game character who interacted with the player was Nikko’s (our artist). This came about when he was doing an assignment for a programming class in high school. He created a program where a character (who eventually became Gus) would spew out insults to the player based on what key they pressed. He toyed with the idea of applying the concept to an RPG, but didn’t get very far.

When Nikko met Zack and I (Justin) in our first year of college we all became fast friends over our love of video games. We found common interest in RPG titles like Paper Mario, Zelda games, and numerous Square Enix RPGS. We would often joke about making our own game, and eventually Nikko shared his concept of the 4th wall breaking protagonist. From that point on the three of us worked together to create the world, characters, and conflicts of GLITCHED. We’ve applied our general knowledge of role playing games to creating the base story of GLITCHED. That being said we also attempt to turn a lot of these tropes on their head with GLITCHED.
Nikko has probably been most influenced by games like OFF, and Final Fantasy titles. Zack really likes Paper Mario, and weird games like The Stanley Parable. I personally like games with expansive worlds like the Warcraft games and the .hack franchise.

2. How much influence will the player have on the story? Will they be locked out of major story arcs based on our choices, encouraging multiple play-throughs?

The player will have a major influence on the story of GLITCHED. We hope to provide players with a healthy mix of big impactful options and relatively insignificant ones. There will, on occasion, be chunks of content locked to players based on their decisions. Currently, we expect players to give GLITCHED at least two playthroughs to get the bulk of what the game has to offer, but that may change. Essence plays a role in this as well, and we have six.

3. The ESSENCE system is a brilliant alternative to the normal evil/good morality system we tend to see. Creating a system like that couldn’t have been easy. How are you planning to balance out the decisions between each ESSENCE?

Developing the Essence System took a few months of Nikko and I going back and forth. We didn’t want to have the generic binary of good and evil, and Nikko had some ideas around a trait system. The idea was that your decisions would earn you points towards different traits. The traits were on a continuum with opposite traits on either side. This was too difficult to balance and wasn’t quite as encompassing as we wanted. I think I suggested something using symbols as a base, and then having the characters and the world tell the story and meaning of each symbol. We worked from there and fleshed out our current system. Not every decision or action will award players with essence points. And not every opportunity to gain points for one essence, guarantees an opportunity to gain points for other essences. So you may find options to gain Zeal or Insight points, but not Bastion or Drift points. In another situation, it may be the opposite.

Being a certain essence dictates some of the opportunities you have to gain more essence points, as well as dictating what types of essence you can get. Generally the more essence points you gain of one essence, the fewer opportunities you will have to gain other essences. We want players to feel like their essence identity becomes more concrete as the game progresses.

Essence has more to do with nuance and player experience. A Drift player and a Harmony player may find that they have similar story arcs when they finish the game. The difference will be in how they experience that story arc. Essence is more nuanced and deals primarily with how you go about completing tasks, why you choose to do it that way, and how other characters in GLITCHED feel about that.

4. The combat mechanics in GLITCHED are similar to traditional turn-based games, but with a few twists. There is no leveling system. Similar to Undertale, the player has the option to avoid fighting by using interaction. However, GLITCHED will not have random encounters – each fight is story essential. Because of this, will combat scenarios be few and far between? Can a player potentially complete the game without ever entering combat?

We’ve overhauled our combat system since the Kickstarter demo. Our current system combines turn based RPG mechanics with modern trading card game elements to create what we are calling a game of FATE. FATE is the form of ‘Conflict’ resolution implemented in the world of Soren, and it’s sponsored and produced by F.R.O.G. Inc. Whenever a conflict arises in Soren (no matter the stakes) players will be given the opportunity to avoid battle by navigating conversation options through our Conflict System. If the conflict cannot be settled peacefully those involved are thrust into game of FATE.
We experimented with various combat systems before settling on FATE, and we even entertained the idea of cutting combat completely out of the game. We think FATE presents a happy medium alongside our Conflict System. Many battles may be avoided (essence often plays a role in this), but sometimes a conflict cannot be resolved, and the only option is to play!

5. GLITCHED is En House Studios first game, correct? What has been your guys’ biggest challenge during development? Is it everything you expected? I imagine balancing life and game development with such a small number of people can be rather difficult at times! We as gamers greatly appreciate the time you dedicate to creating these experiences.

Yes this is our first title, and the first undertaking of this scale for any of us. Our biggest challenge probably arose after our initial Kickstarter failed. Failing is discouraging for any creator, but at the time we really believed in our chances for success. When it flopped we more or less threw in the towel. We went back to our normal lives and gave up on the project.

About a year passed before Nikko approached me to revive the project. Zack had moved back to Washington, and morale was low. Still Nikko and I worked away for the better part of a year to prepare for our new Kickstarter campaign. We had learned a lot from our previous campaign, and there was a lot of work that needed to be done for our second go around. Eventually Zack moved back to Chicago and bolstered development during the final months before our campaign. Those weeks leading up to the demo’s release were the most difficult. The amount of work required was almost impossible to balance with our jobs and schooling.

I remember going to my previous job at 8 in the morning until 5 PM. Then I would show up at Nikko’s house by 6 to work on the game until 3 or 4 in the morning. We more or less gave up our social lives to get the demo ready. That being said, the positive response our demo received along with our Kickstarter’s success made all of the work worthwhile! Now that we are funded it is easier to manage the workload. Still we joke about how each moment we don’t spend working on the game we are disappointing our fans and those who believe in us. It is fun to joke about, but we do honestly feel that pressure.

The pressure is a gift in many ways as it keeps us dedicated and on track despite the mountain of work this undertaking requires. Not many have the opportunity to create what they love, and share it with thousands. Our fans are super supportive, and it is super rewarding when we get to share new content with them. Each step is difficult, but as we move closer to completion we press more swiftly and confidently forward!

Thanks a ton to En House Studios for their time and answers. Be sure to keep an eye out for their next interview in a few months.

Does GLITCHED have you intrigued? If so, be sure to support the game here.