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From Tabletop to Video Game: The Story of Shattered – Tale of The Forgotten King

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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’.”

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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.”

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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

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Exclusive Interviews

The Occupation Designer Reveals Game Length, Talks Design, Inspiration, and More

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The Occupation promo

After a protracted development period, fixed-time thriller The Occupation is set to release in one month’s time. Between its retro aesthetic and immersive sim-inspired gameplay, the game is shaping up as one of 2019’s most unique titles.

In light of that, OnlySP recently spoke to Pete Bottomley, designer of The Occupation and co-founder of developer White Paper Games to find out more about the promising project.

OnlySP: I thought I’d start off with a fairly obvious question. Given the real-time nature of The Occupation, how long can players expect a single run through to last, and by how much can that time be shortened or prolonged by the player’s actions?

Bottomley: The core gameplay is designed around 4 hours of play. There are some sections that are untimed, whether it be for narrative impact or tutorialisation for the player. As we’re playing through the game as a team, it’s taking us around 6.5 hours to play through the game.

The Occupation

OnlySP: How many endings does the game have?

Bottomley: The game’s outcome is a reflection of the steps the player took through the game. I think when playing games, you always want the outcomes to reflect your approach and we’re massively inspired by how games such as Dishonored can tackle that. Our hope is that the ending you experience feels like it reflects their approach and actions.

OnlySP: Tied to that, approximately how many playthroughs would be required to see everything that the game has to offer?

Bottomley: Our intention wasn’t to design a game that required multiple playthroughs. I’m personally the type of player that plays through a narrative, gets an outcome, and that’s my story. That being said, we’ve tried to fill the world with a lot of content, and because of the real-time character simulating actions, hopefully with second and third playthroughs, players will uncover different ways to solve challenges or narrative threads they hadn’t picked up on before.

OnlySP: How did you come to settle on the politicised premise of an Act robbing citizens of civil liberties?

Bottomley: Since we invest so much of our lives into making games, you have to work on something you feel is meaningful and rewarding of your time. At the time of concepting The Occupation, there was a lot of friction between what was happening in the UK and abroad. It affects us all and we wanted to work on something that may put people’s views into perspective.

Our previous game Ether One dealt with the difficulties of seeing a family member suffering with dementia and our aim is to continue these important themes throughout all of our games.

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OnlySP: Also, issues surrounding privacy and freedom of speech, among other civil liberties, are pertinent right now. How close to your mind were the modern concerns about the topic while you were concepting the game? And have real-world events impacted the story of The Occupation across the development period?

Bottomley: The world around us always inspires us, but we don’t really rely on specific events to drive any part of the game’s narrative. When you’re developing a game that tries to get its own narrative across but ground it in the real world, you have to try to distil them to focus on the story you’re trying to tell. In a sense, real world stories inspire us but it’s more of an observational thing rather than a particular event we want to depict faithfully. We tend to focus on the emotional and societal impact of the event itself.

OnlySP: How present will those sorts of themes be within the average player’s experience? Or should players expect to be able to lose themselves entirely in the investigation without really leaning on the context?

Bottomley: We aim to put context on all of your actions in the world otherwise there’s not much meaning behind the choices being made. That being said, you can choose to follow certain narrative threads over others, which allows the player to follow the most interesting lead they come across.

OnlySP: Players take the role of a journalist in the game; how accurate would you say your portrayal is of the technologies and general aesthetic of late ‘80s Britain? How much research went into getting the language and atmosphere of the era right?

Bottomley: It’s interesting you raise that point as we’ve just been speaking about the world limitations in this game. In our previous game, Ether One, we aimed to deliver a grounded narrative that had certain sci-fi elements. With The Occupation, we wanted to go even more grounded and aim to deliver a world that belongs in the ’80s so any aesthetic and technological choices were always taken into consideration. Surrounding yourself with these limitations can create really cool gameplay mechanics such as our pager as a message delivery system, public payphones to update your objectives, and fax machines to deliver information.

The Occupation screenshot 2

OnlySP: The game has been delayed twice now, both times quite close to the scheduled release. Is there any chance you could shed some light on the causes of the delays?

Bottomley: Delaying a game is a gut wrenching decision. You’ve put a promise out there and you push yourself to deliver. We’ve aimed incredibly high on this game both technologically and in the game’s design. On top of this, we wanted to deliver the game in as many languages as we could along with sim-shipping on PC, XB1, & PS4 and doing a retail disc submission so that people could pick up the game in stores if they wanted to hold a physical representation of the game. Because of these platforms, the game has to be ready a couple of months in advance to help distribution and all the different regions to have the version of the game you intend for them. With complexity always come more bugs and since our last game shipped in a buggy state, we didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. We’ve QA’d the game for months and had support from our publishers in helping to identify the issues. As with any game, we’ll no doubt spot some issues on launch, but we’ve already put processes in place to address these as quickly as we can and hopefully the execution of the game will immerse people and keep players engaged so that nothing disrupts the experience.

OnlySP: I recall on Twitter that you once wrote that you were testing the possibility of a Switch port. How seriously have you looked at that possibility and what’s the likelihood?

Bottomley: Right now we have a Switch development kit frustratingly gathering dust in our studio. Since we’re a small team, it can be a tough choice trying to figure out where to best use your resources. We’d absolutely love to get the game onto Switch but we’ve not tested a build yet. It’s the first thing we’ll be moving onto in March so we should be able to update people as soon as we know how The Occupation runs on it. Thankfully using Unreal Engine makes this process a lot more straightforward and we’ve seen a lot of developer friends find success on the Switch so it’s a great opportunity to reach a larger audience.

OnlySP: How does it feel for you and the team to be just about ready to wrap development after four years of work?

Bottomley: It’s not quite set in yet. Although we’re done with the game and excited to see the reception it gets from people, it’s really only 50% of the work, especially when you’re in a small team. We’re currently planning all the marketing and PR opportunities along with reflecting on the development cycle and figuring out what we can do better (to hopefully not spend another 4 years on a game!).

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OnlySP: Finally, do you have any closing comments for our readers or anything else you’d like to say about The Occupation?

Bottomley: The whole team has put an incredible amount of energy into The Occupation. If you look at our previous game compared to The Occupation, you can see how far we’ve come. It’s been a huge learning curve for the studio both technically and in production and we’re excited to move onto another game to push ourselves. We’re unable to do that without game sales. It sounds corny, but we really can’t develop games without our community’s support. We value each purchase and we want to grow and keep pushing to create more interesting games. We have a lot of goals and drive and we’re focusing on growing and creating more experiences for the player. If you’re reading this and have purchased any of our games, thank you. It absolutely means the world to be able to wake up in the morning and be excited to develop games. Thank you.


The Occupation is set to release on March 5, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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