Video games and tabletop paper RPGs have a lot in common, and quite often will take inspiration from each other for both gameplay and story. More rare, however, is a video game conceived entirely at the table, created by those who built the world together as players with a game master tying it all together.
Redlock Studio’s upcoming Shattered – Tale of the Forgotten King is a video game that spawned out of pen-and-paper shenanigans and is slowly coming to life in a more concrete form. OnlySP spoke to writer Laureline Denis-Venuat about how the game came to be, how the team transferred its story to a new medium, and what she has learned along the way, among many other things.
This project’s interesting inception is a major topic of interest, and Denis-Venuat expanded upon it. “What today is the project was originally just a group of friends playing a pen-and-paper RPG something like 10 years ago,” she explained. “We played really long campaigns that never really ended and that meant we had built so much of our universe, along with the characters. We liked them so much that we finally had to make something out of it.”
Luckily, some of their gaming group had the skills to allow a potential video game to be considered, and Denis-Venuat explained “Max [Maxime René], our art director, went to a concept art school where he met some people who were interested in creating an indie studio. From there, he called me back and said that he was thinking of creating the studio we had talked about before. He said ‘hey, you should come so we can write all the stories that we have already imagined’.”
From this point, an early connection with Square Enix was formed, and the Japanese publisher was soon helping to arrange a Kickstarter to make the game even more plausible.
“We were with the Square Enix Collective, which is the programme for indie developers,” Denis-Venuat said. “It was pretty cool, and allowed us to realise that our game had some potential. People who didn’t know us at all were actually interested and thought that maybe we could do something cool. Square Enix also allowed us to go to E3 in LA when we were really small, which was a big step very fast for us. They actually offered to help us build a really nice and functional Kickstarter page to be sure that people would read it and pledge money, which is the actual goal.”
Square Enix’s help led to the team managing to raise $137,000 for the game via Kickstarter and meant that it was already quite a romantic beginning to the story. Sadly, the whole journey has not remained that way.
“Well, the idea was to raise a certain amount of money to be able to then contact editors and then find some more resources to achieve the goal that we wanted to achieve,” Denis-Venuat said when asked about how things have gone since the Kickstarter campaign. “Since we had Square Enix around we thought it would be not so difficult, but it actually has been. I think it comes from the fact that we’re all new to this industry and didn’t know what to expect. We thought it would be much more easy. I think it comes from the fact that Square Enix contacted us very early and sent us to LA and all that, so we thought everything was going so well, and, actually, it hasn’t been that way.”
Nevertheless, the team has persisted, determined and convinced that its RPG would make a great video game. The team still felt that it had an opportunity to make the dream a reality. As the story writer, Denis-Venuat stressed that their determination, together with the pre-existing material, made writing the game much simpler than a lot of the other necessary work. “We had a lot of different stories already,” she said. “Firstly we had to choose which one we wanted to start with. The story was almost already written as it is now, we just had to refine some details to make it consistent for a video game, but I think almost everything came from the stories that we’d already played through in the past. It was really great, actually, and easy in a way!”
The RPG story was not simple though, and Denis-Venuat explores what comprised its components.
“It was generally made up of lots of Call of Cthulhu, mixed with a few other things. Then we merged it with our own universes. We had several eras that we played in. For the Cthulhu game, for example, it was almost now—in the 1940s maybe—and then we had a medieval one that was more fantasy stuff. Our game master managed to link everything all together. I can’t actually say really how because it would spoil a bit of Shattered,” she said coyly, “but they are different universes that connect together in some way.”
Since Shattered is the fledgling company’s first venture into video games, it was a trial by fire for Denis-Venuat, who says she learned how to work on games on the job.
“Basically I think I learned how to make a game,” she chuckled. “I didn’t study video game making, I studied literature, so it’s all of the others who bring the technical knowledge. I could finally get a sense of how it felt to actually make a game after playing them for so long. I think the main thing that I learned was communication. It’s a little dumb but really for us making the game was a lot of brainstorming all together, and listening to everybody’s ideas and so on. I think it really made us grow as a studio, to be able to hear what everybody had to say and to learn all together, from one another.”
She elaborated on that, saying that the game would not be as good as it is now without that process. “I think there are things that would have been less cool if we didn’t discuss them, like for instance the craft system. When we first thought of it we thought it was so amazing, and someone just said we could do certain things to improve it, so we all talked about it and I’m really glad that they didn’t hold their ideas back and follow the rest of us without saying anything because it’s much better now.”
As a result of the fact that the team members at Redlock were all rookies at the beginning of the process, a logical assumption would be that transitioning from a format that allows almost infinite agency and perspective shifts to a narrower, more refined scope might be challenging. Denis-Venuat disagreed, saying that the team found the process of transposing the game both rewarding and relatively easy.
“We found that quite easy because we wanted perspective to be one of the main themes of Shattered,” she explained. “The story doesn’t unfold all at once; it comes out in small pieces, which are scattered along the way, and it’s up to you to find out what really happens with all the little hints that you will have gathered throughout the game. I think that we actually managed to incorporate those different perspectives even with just the one player because the player has to incorporate their own perspective in the story. It’s not totally written down, it’s up to the player to understand what they want.”
Continue on to page 2 for more with writer Laureline Denis-Venuat on Shattered – Tale of The Forgotten King