Early last year, one open-world RPG promised to do things a little differently from the norm. A post-apocalyptic setting, various factions, and dialogue options all seemed standard, but Nightmarchers stood out because of its setting.
The game would take place on Oahu, with its story steeped in local folklore and mythology. However, an ambitious crowdfunding campaign fell short and the team behind the project, Wyrmbyte, fell silent.
Fast forward almost eighteen months, and the team stepped out of the shadows with a revitalised project, featuring a more contained world and a rebranding to Ashes of Oahu. In the wake of the comeback, OnlySP got in touch with Wyrmbyte president Scott Brown to find out about why those changes took place and what the game looks like now.
OnlySP: For any of our readers who may not remember Ashes of Oahu, what’s the elevator pitch?
Brown: An open-world, post-apocalyptic RPG shooter where you tap into the power of the spirit world to liberate the Hawaiian island of Oahu from the army that occupies it.
OnlySP: When we caught up with you last year, Ashes of Oahu was known as Nightmarchers. What prompted that rebranding?
Brown: Feedback from Native Hawaiians asked us to not use the name so we changed it.
OnlySP: What has the response been like since you brought the game back into the public spotlight?
Brown: People seem to like our story and are usually wowed when we talk about the small team and how big the world is and how much dialog is in the game.
OnlySP: Do you have any insight into why you might have struggled to garner the funding you required when you took the game to Fig last year?
Brown: We are so small and larger funding raises require strong marketing efforts, something we could not afford. We stayed with development, it has just taken much longer since the team never had the chance to grow.
OnlySP: One of the changes that stands out the most has been the shrinking of the map from a 1:1 recreation of the island of Oahu to a much more modest 25km2 area. Why have you done this, and what have you focused on in doing so?
Brown: It really came down to two issues. Scope and fun. First the scope of making an interesting world that large was just way beyond what we could pull off with our team size and budget. Second fun, there needs to be variety in experience as you travel around the world or it can become just more of the same. The game is still huge, just not the insane size of the actual island of Oahu would have been.
OnlySP: Are you at all concerned that maybe you’ve compressed things too much?
Brown: Not at all, this is still a very large world and there is a ton to discover. We have several modes of travel to help deal with the size of the game, horse, bird form, shark form and fast travel for example.
OnlySP: From the descriptions you’ve provided, the storyline seems largely unchanged, though you’ve moved away from a claim of authenticity to Hawaiian myths. Why is that?
Brown: Again based on feedback from Native Hawaiians who asked us not to.
OnlySP: This change in perspective also has me wondering what you’ve learned from the feedback you’ve received? Do you think there’s a difference between representing living and ‘dead’ mythologies (like those of the Ancient Greeks)? What advice would you give to other teams that are interested in exploring the cultures of marginalised communities?
Brown: Work with those communities as much as you are able. Listen to their concerns and be flexible in your design to accommodate those concerns.
OnlySP: Aside from the aforementioned differences, the focus on taking over outposts, the presence of multiple factions, and the combination of magic and gunplay for combat all seem largely unchanged. Have you made any other major changes to the overall structure and style of the game in the last year and a half?
Brown: It is more minor iteration in details like how the game controls, AI behaviors, balance, performance optimization. The reason for the extended time is honestly production. Building out this massive story with multiple paths you can take is a ton of work.
OnlySP: A recent blog post for the game talks about how player choices can have far-reaching consequences. Will many side-quests interact with the central narrative at all, or are they self-contained stories?
Brown: They can influence both faction rating, which unlocks skills from those factions or change your pono (karma basically) which also can change how you are perceived by NPCs.
OnlySP: You mention that Ashes of Oahu will have over 100 endings. How different will those be, and what sort of decisions will players have to influence them? Also, will players be made aware when they’ve made a choice that impacts the storyline going forward?
Brown: Whenever you are making a decision that will impact faction rating or pono you are alerted to the impact before you make the decision. However, all possible decisions are not always spelled out for you. For example, if someone asks you to steal an item from another faction there may be other ways to get the item or even convince them they don’t need the item they want you to steal. The endings all come down to the combination of how you worked with each faction as well as some significant side stories you may or may not have completed.
OnlySP: When last we spoke, you were confident about a Q3 2018 release. The reasons why you missed that seem straightforward, but how far away do you think you are from pinning down a new launch date?
Brown: Right now we are in testing and fixing issues as they are found. We want to have a solid release so it will take as long as it takes to get through the feedback. We are close however, all the mission chains are in, the major points of interest on the island all exist, and we have found and improved a number of bugs and balance based feedback already. I am confident in a summer release at this point.
OnlySP: Finally, do you have anything else that you would like to say to our readers?
Brown: We love any and all feedback and I would invite people to join us on our discord server if you have any questions or just want to talk about the game more. https://discord.gg/KhW7uSj