Review Fix chats with
About Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements:
Sixteen-year-old D’arc has spent most of his life confined to the Mage’s Tower, studying elemental magic under the instruction of Ele’Wold’s most accomplished scholars. Now his skills will be put to the test with three quests across a mystical land he knows only from stories and dreams.
But something’s rotten in Ele’Wold: the realm’s once benevolent winged guardians have turned hostile and restless redcap goblins are on the warpath. Can D’arc pass his initiation and rescue a kingdom on the brink of chaos?
Mage’s Initiation is an adventure/RPG hybrid inspired by the venerable Quest for Glory (a.k.a. Hero’s Quest) and King’s Quest series by Sierra On-Line. It’s the second commercial adventure game from Himalaya Studios, who have also released four free remakes of classic Sierra games under the moniker Anonymous Game Developers Interactive (AGDI). :
Review Fix: How was this game born?
Chris Warren: After we wrapped up production on our remake of Sierra’s Quest for Glory II (as AGD Interactive) and released it, we saw how well the adventure/RPG hybrid genre was received by the community. It seemed such titles were in short supply, so we put up a community poll, asking our fan-base what our next commercial game should be. There were various options, but “Adventure/RPG in the style of Quest for Glory” won, hands down. The community had spoken, so we set to work on creating something familiar but new… and thus Mage’s Initiation was born.
Review Fix: What was development like?
Warren: I’m not going to lie; creating this game was the most difficult development experience we’ve undertaken yet! It’s often said that certain game projects experience “Development Hell.” Well, that term perfectly encapsulates the production experience associated with Mage’s Initiation. Despite having over sixteen years of experience creating adventure and RPG games now (surely enough to fine-tune our craft), this turned out to be the longest dev schedule we’ve ever endured. Previously, we thought eight years was a long time for Quest for Glory II and King’s Quest III Redux, but Mage’s Initiation certainly held both of their beers!
From the get-go, it’s more time-consuming creating an original title, as opposed to remaking an existing game and riding on its coattails. Thanks to the decision to include multiple character classes (each with their own puzzle solutions, side-quests, and spells), key team members departing early in the project, a dated engine (Adventure Game Studio) that likes to misbehave when asked to do things it wasn’t designed for, and other assorted dramas related to the crowdfunding, it has been a wild ride. To say that I’m glad to see it finally released might be the understatement of the century!
Review Fix: What makes this game special?
Warren: There aren’t many games on the market that blend adventure and role-playing elements into a unified experience. Quest for Glory was always popular but it didn’t inspire many copycats, as most commercial adventure titles have tended to follow a more traditionalist route, while RPGs were usually a complex affair (sans adventure elements), designed for seasoned players. We wanted to do a middle-of-the-road approach with Mage’s Initiation by making it familiar to Quest for Glory/Sierra fans, but also, being uniquely its own game, rather than just a direct rehash of Sierra’s formula.
We’ve made our RPG elements somewhat casual – in a departure from Quest for Glory’s “stat-grinding” experience. This means you’ll never get stuck solving an adventure game puzzle on account of the RPG system requiring certain stats to pass it. The combat and stats system borrows elements from the original Diablo game; the two are intertwined, but you can also easily avoid combat encounters (except for boss battles) by fleeing into the next screen. Your game points are also your XP, so completing adventure game (non-combat) puzzles helps you level up your combat stats. The whole experience is designed to be seamless and I think we’ve achieved a nice balance.
Review Fix: What games influenced this one the most?
Warren: Quest for Glory, King’s Quest, and Diablo would be the main ones.
Review Fix: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Warren: Daniel Stacey (the game’s writer) and I were walking down the street late at night, discussing game ideas, when a carful of five drunk women pulled over (more like came to a screeching halt that left tire marks in the middle of the road) and implored us to jump in the vehicle with them and go for a joyride. Having a commitment to our backers and fans to see the project through to completion and not… well… die, we declined.
Does that count?
Review Fix: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Warren: I wouldn’t say it’s important or crucial, per se, but we’re catering to a specific niche, retro market. The old tech actually limits us in many ways. You should see our design docs! They’re written like action-packed, bustling scenes from Hollywood motion pictures, but we often have to cut a lot of things down to make the elements fit with the limits of the old technology. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to modernizing and innovating our adventure titles to current standards (we have a lot of ideas on that front, as a matter of fact). But adventure games are typically very expensive to produce. So for the time being, we have to stick with the tech we’re familiar with.
Review Fix: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Warren: I don’t know if I can pick a favourite, but some memorable moments are:
- Finishing Target Renegade on C64 as a kid (it was the first game I “clocked”)
- Encountering the first zombie in Resident Evil 1.
- Being elated when I discovered there would be a Quest for Glory V
- Seeing Doom for the first time
- Spending late nights playing the old AGI Sierra text-parser adventure games
Review Fix: Who will enjoy this game the most?
Warren: Its appeal will span across genres. Adventure and RPG gamers would be the main market, but it’s engaging and varied enough to attract other types of gamers, too. For example, retro fans, fighting game fans, puzzle game fans, and even casual game fans.
Review Fix: Bottom Line, why must someone play this game?
Because we think it’s awesome, polished, and a decent successor to classic Sierra adventures! Aside from that, supporting the adventure game genre and the developers within it (and spreading awareness if you enjoyed the game) really helps us keep producing more of these types of products. It’s a very niche market, so community support is the lifeblood of the adventure genre and keeps us going.
Review Fix: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Warren: As an experience that blends adventure/RPG elements together while also being unique and original enough to stand on its own.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Warren: No plans yet for our next game project, as we still need to finish our Kickstarter crowdfunding obligations for Mage’s Initiation, which will take some time.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Warren: Thanks to everyone who pledged to crowdfund the game and for all your support. Your assistance helped us make this game more polished and much better than it otherwise may have turned out.