Interview With Red Zero Games on Here Be Dragons

By Alexander Williams 16 Mar 2020 0

Writing reviews of video games is not the only thing we do around here. Once in a while we get the pleasurable opportunity to ask a few questions of the developers who are making the games that we enjoy. We put Red Zero Games from Warsaw, Poland to the question regarding Here Be Dragons.

Hopefully you will enjoy their answers as much as we did! All questions were answered by Marek Pańczyk - Red Zero Games' founder.

The art style is both cute and distinctive. Which came first, the game design which then demanded the art or the bits of art which then suggested a design?

At the beginning, there was an image. I watched "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!” from the brilliant Aardman Animation Studio. The movie had few cartoon clips in a similar "living map"style. Our artist, Marek Rutkowski, prepared fantastic concepts to match the style. The theme appeared very fast, too. The ideas of Christopher Columbus and cleaning the sea of mythical monsters had interesting potential.

But gameplay design... was a completely different story. It was many years of fighting and hard work for a couple of people. We had a prototype in real-time, but we were not satisfied with the final effects. We experimented with Transistor or Heroes of Might & Magic systems but eventually decided to create a more compact, focused game. So we came a long rough way to interesting and satisfactory gameplay.

Your team at Red Zero Games is made up of a lot of nerds and geeks. And a surprising number of board games enthusiasts. Is there something about Here Be Dragons that wouldn't have been possible without their unique mix of skills and talents?

Our turn-based and board game experience mixed with the skill to extract many variants and unique scenarios from the simple system is what allowed us to shape HBD to its final form. The dialogue has many references to nerd movies (Star Wars, Alien, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Army of Darkness, etc. etc.), which would not be possible without our -- well -- nerdism.

This isn't the first time that the physical board game mechanics of dice allocation have been used in video games like Dicey Dungeons and Tharsis. What about that particular mechanic caught the team's eye and made them feel compelled to it for this game?

We had many issues with design and we weren't happy with prototypes from different genres. One day, I pitched a mediocre (at best) prototype to my friends from the Polish game dev scene. One of them, Krzysiek Kurek (all the best!), said that when he was the game master during RPG sessions, and he has met a wrinkle, then he rolled the dice. It was a "Eureka!" moment.

I forwarded these thoughts to our lead designer Szymon Dębski. He spent a lot of time with paper prototypes and after a few days, he suggested a very interesting concept, very similar to the one in the game as released, with an innovative initiative solution. The rest of the team liked it and we decided to go with the flow.

Here Be Dragons island

What is your favourite aspect of the game and why?

I don't like one, specific aspect of the game but rather complete experience. I see Here Be Dragons as a system of interconnected elements - all essentially important and equally adding value to the whole game. Crazy Captains with their incoherent (and yet somehow logical) view on the world, the mysterious Alchemist and adventures of Columbus... They all offer an interesting and (we hope) funny story. But they would be nothing without puzzle-like combats with their unique skills, setup, and little rules. That is something we look for in games and something we tried to offer to players. Plus the ability to choke the cherub.

HBD is hard. Maybe unexpectedly hard, given the art style and general expectation of board-game mechanics by the public (though certainly not by board gaming enthusiasts). Has there been any push-back from reviewers or players on that, or are they excited to be surprised by it?

In the Early Access stage we received feedback that the game was too simple and too short. So we tuned it accordingly. But now I think the sample might have been too small and too hardcore (kudos to all of them!). We added Easy mode in the final stage of development but I don't think it’s enough. Players seem to really resist lowering the difficulty below "Normal". We should probably make it a Normal / Hard choice. Yes, in some reviews (from players and media) we received comments that the game is too hard. We talk about it all the time and we will try to solve this issue in the upcoming updates and ports for Nintendo Switch and mobile.

Here Be Dragons Review

And now, the most asked question in all of interviews: it's the zombie apocalypse. Which do you prefer, shotgun or shovel?

I was trained by "The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks and the author suggested a repeating rifle (Springfield, Lee-Enfield, Mosin or Mauser 98) or a semi-automatic rifle (for example M1 Garand) as the most efficient firearm. But I don't have access to guns and ammo in Poland so I would have to use a melee weapon. Brooks taught that a crowbar will be the best in that situation. Plus it would be handy if we were invaded by Xen as well.

Thanks to the Red Zero Games crew and we wish them best of luck on HBD!

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