A quiet revolution has been happening in PC gaming. Independent game companies, once thought lost to the standards set by the Hollywood-movie-level budgets of the big developers, have come back. Aided by online distribution, these small operations can turn out small, addictive games without the costs associated with putting a title on the shelves at Best Buy.
Aldorlea Games is a classic example of this change. Started in 2008 in France, it produces classic 16-bit, 90’s style RPGs that are big on originality, writing, and unique gameplay. ReviewFix sat down with Indinera Falls, Aldorlea’s creator and game developer, to discuss his style, his inspirations, and where he’ll take the company next.
Review Fix: Tell me a bit about your background in video game design, and how Aldorlea came to be?
Indinera Falls: 100% self-taught here. I never went to one of those game design schools, but what I did do is play a tons of RPGs when I was a teenager. This is probably the best school of all. If RPGs are your passion, and it’s the case for me, playing is all you need, and a bit of imagination, I suppose.
Aldorlea was founded following in the footsteps of my first commercial venture “Laxius Force”. The game was a huge success and opened the door for more. “3 Stars of Destiny” came next and bam, Aldorlea was created. A brand new community, a brand new website at the time. It’s been 4 years now and it’s still running pretty well.
Review Fix: Describe your process for designing a video game. What’s the catalyst for the idea? Does the plot come first, or the game play?
Falls: Given the type of game I make, the plot is very important, and does indeed come first. Then depending on what I have for protagonists and antagonists, I try to come up with cool gameplay features that most people enjoy. Sidequests, secrets, party splitting, original spells, cool relics with cool powers, and that kind of stuff.
The last part is polishing everything and tying up all loose ends. It’s usually the part that takes the most time, but it’s absolutely necessary.
Review Fix: Why do you use RPG Maker for your games, and what advantages (or disadvantages) does it have?
Falls: RPG Maker is almost perfect if you want to make 2D RPGs a la Final Fantasy 3 or Phantasy Star IV. The limitations are few and most can be turned around with proper Ruby scripting.
Review Fix: Ruby scripting?
It’s a language of programmation, and if used well, it allows you to use more advanced stuff that are not part of the default systems of RPG Maker. For instance it can add more features to the battle system, or even completely modify it.
RPG Maker’s main disadvantage is that it can’t be ported to other platforms such as Xbox or Android. This is not good. The rest is a slick little program that really has a lot of potential.
Review Fix: What video games do you like to play when you’re not designing?
Falls: RPGs, Strategy, Sports, also some Flash games. I prefer retro games over fancy 3D stuff which never sparked much interest in me.
Review Fix: Any specific titles?
Falls: I play very different games such as Skyrim, the Protector series, Mario Kart or the good ol’ Sensible World of Soccer.
I used to play much more when I was younger, but I no longer have much time for it.
Review Fix: What are some of your inspirations for your games? Both other video games, and different media (books, TV, movies, etc).
Falls: Music is my muse for anything related to plot, stories, characters. Put on a Genesis CD and I can create a plot. It’s almost as simple as that.
As for gameplay, both 16-bit and PC RPGs of the 90’s have always inspired me. I love the style of characters that Phantasy Star 2, 3, and 4 had. Their storylines, too.
I loved how Might and Magic 6 and Daggerfall were so open-ended. I think most people make what they’ve liked, and then add a bit of their own creativity. I’m no exception.
Review Fix: RPGs can sometimes fall into a trap of fantasy cliches. What do you do to ensure that your works stay fresh and original?
Falls: Original characters, original plot events. Some call me the Trickster, because I like to twist and turn what people expect.
“The Book of Legends” is a pretty good example of this. It’s full of twists. I recommend it to avid RPGers who like stories with twists.
In my opinion, a good plot is the backbone of a good RPG. I try to come up with fresh ideas that do not involve saving the world all the time, and when they do, not in the usual “boy-starts-in-village-parents-get-killed-go-pick-6-crystals” fashion.
Review Fix: Why do you think gamers are still drawn to retro RPG’s like Aldorlea, despite the older graphics style?
Falls: Well, some are, for sure. Others still judge on visuals and will pass. That’s fine with me, to each their own.
It’s not easy to compete with AAA games, but there will always be players who like the good ol’ classics, which shine through gameplay, replay value, originality and story. This is where Aldorlea stands strong. Get a game of ours and you are sure to dive into a lengthy, polished adventure with a lot of replay value.
Review Fix: Do you have any plans to venture into any other video game genres?
Falls: Nope. I think until 2014 it will be RPGs, then I may have a plan for an adventure game in the style of Monkey Island.
Review Fix: Do you have any plans to distribute Aldorlea games through Steam?
Actually I do, but Steam hasn’t approved my games so far. It’s a shame because Aldorlea is already featured on most other gaming portals, from Gamersgate (similar to Steam) to Big Fish. We’ve been around since 2008 and releasing games that were successful both with the players and critics alike, but so far it hasn’t reached Steam.
Review Fix: What plans do you have for the future of Aldorlea?
Falls: Short-term, to finish a handful of games: Moonchild (my upcoming release), the fifth and final episode of the Millennium saga, Little Hearts. Mid-term, I will probably start the third and final trilogy of the Laxius saga.
And of course, I want to see Aldorlea grow. We already have a healthy community of players, and our games are on many gaming and varied portals such as Gamersgate, Big Fish, Gamestop and Gamehouse. I would like to develop from this and hopefully, give even more visibility to the old-school RPG that so many people love. It’s somewhat ambitious, but definitely worth it.