I recently had the opportunity to discuss the upcoming JRPG-inspired role-playing game from Cloud Runner Studios called Melancholy Republic. The game is a tragic romance tale that was made in RPG Maker and is aimed at giving gamers a slightly different take on a role-playing adventure by excising the combat and focusing on the relationships certain characters have in the midst of turbulent times and the events that surround those relationships.
Melancholy Republic centers around a young woman named Claire C. Lockridge in charge of a kingdom under threat as she attempts to assuage the troubles of the townsfolk while thwarting the rise of corruption. She can make or break relationships in the game based on various tasks and quests and there’s plenty of intrigue and thrills centered around political malfeasance and civil unrest.
The game was recently greenlit to appear on Steam and is currently going through the process of being crowd-funded through Kickstarter. A fellow reader named Fenrir007 previously asked a few questions about the game and the developers answered, acknowledging that things like combat were not present in Melancholy Republic and that it would be closer to titles like To The Moon.
It was also revealed that the game would have multiple choice factors implemented and that majority of the art in the game is originally produced. Oh yeah, and for the frame-rate aficionados out there… it runs at 60fps but the team is looking at unlocking the game to 120fps.
With a lot of the basic information out of the way, it was time to pick the brains of the developers and find out what makes Melancholy Republic tick. Nicholas Spargo from Cloud Runner Studios stepped up to the plate to answer the questions. Check it out below.
Billy: One of the big questions surrounding Melancholy Republic is how you’ll manage to flesh out a lengthy JRPG-type experience without focusing on grinding through combat? Are there other forms of mini-games available or will this be mostly focused on character engagement?
Nicholas: Great question! A huge part of JRPG games is the combat, dungeons and grinding which combined with the story usually mean lengthy games. Melancholy Republic is inspired by different aspects of JRPG games, specifically the exploration, cities and hidden stories often found with their characters. So we are definitely focused on delivering a story based game with player made decisions, plenty of exploration and plenty of different fun mini-games. During our main story there are still many available opportunities to get involved as the player will be able to make choices for Claire throughout conversations.
While the heart of our game is its story and characters we still want to make sure players will have many things to discover and explore over the course of the our tale.
Billy: With that said, how many hours of gameplay is Melancholy Republic expected to have?
Nicholas: As a story based game you can look at other similar types of games such as ‘To the Moon’ for an idea on length for the main plot. Roughly around 5 hours if the main story is the focus. Since we are adding more exploration and optional stories across our city this will likely increase depending on how much players find and explore. So it could be anywhere between 5-10 hours depending on your desire to explore and partake in different side stories.
Billy: It was mentioned that there will be romance in the game and various outcomes to the choices players make in regards to the romance. Will relationships have to be fostered in the game similar to some interactive visual novels?
Nicholas: The fate of Claire Lockridge and Marianne Dawnmark are linked in the main story. The goals they want to achieve draw them together even though they are very different individuals, often at complete odds. They share a deep connection and this relationship is key to the main story.
There will not be any sort of visual novel dating, gifting or alternative love options available. The choices players make throughout can foster either a romantic relationship or a friendship, so the love story between them is optional and based on personal choice.
Billy: With the game’s aesthetic and visual similarity to the old-school, 16-bit JRPGs and the focus on story over combat, do you worry about reaching the intended audience for the game or have most people come to terms with what the game is about?
Nicholas: That’s an interesting question that I hadn’t thought too much about actually. The 16-bit look is definitely because of my love for JRPG games, especially classic ones. The influence they have had on me and also their ability to create a rich and detailed look on a relatively limited budget are the main reasons for going down the route we have.
I think it took some people by surprise, sure, but overall we have had a great reception for the look of the game. We have also had lots of excitement for it being focused only on the story and exploration. Our approach certainly is different and the reaction to that has been overwhelmingly positive!
Billy: Regarding the subject matter… it’s very rare for games to go the political-romance route or the story-oriented tragedy route. Were you more-so aiming to fill in a gap that rarely gets explored in games or was it driven out of a desire to see a long-awaited story come to life?
Nicholas: It was definitely a story I had been working on for a while. The idea of a single city setting, a politician fighting to change her country from within, these concepts were always really interesting to me. The story was written without any sort of desire to fill a gap, it came about naturally from what I personally found engaging and fascinating as a story. Personally I have a love for unique stories and themes that have not been done before, I find they engage me more than other more familiar settings and tales.
The fact that the initial script was so different from anything I had played motivated me to make this world and its characters a reality, for sure. I think as a developer you definitely want to make something you want to play, and for me this story and world was it.
Billy: As far as the tragedy is concerned… will all of the “tragic” moments be optional – for instance, will players be able to prevent them from happening – or will some be part of the narrative no matter what choices are made?
Nicholas: We want to keep the main story as tight and powerful as possible so having many multiple outcomes to the chapters I think would weaken the overarching story and events that transpire. The sad short stories are there to develop Claire’s character across the story and are instrumental to the ending. Players cannot change the main moments that occur but their choices will affect what characters think about Claire, what they learn to think about their country and their impact in the final events of our story.
You will definitely feel the impact of your choices through the story and the message players will walk away with will be different based on them.
Billy: There have been all sorts of debates and arguments and flair-ups over female character depictions in games. Knowing that the lead in Melancholy Republic is a female, were you at all worried about how the audience would receive her as a protagonist or what the criticisms would be like for how she would be portrayed, or was all of that pushed aside to focus solely on what the team wanted to bring to life?
Nicholas: I never really worried about what people would think of our female protagonists, the focus was on making these characters come to life in the writing, concept art and in game. Making them as charismatic, flawed and ambitious as we intended.
I always thought that Claire Lockridge and Marianne Dawnmark were pretty awesome characters and I hoped people would see that too. From our feedback people have praised our female leads and fallen in love with their characters as much as the team have, so that has made me really happy. We have had a few toxic messages directed at Melancholy Republic simply because we have a female lead, but honestly, we don’t care about those ignorant opinions. If you hate a game simply because you don’t agree with what sex the lead character is then you don’t deserve to play and experience the awesome world of video games.
Billy: There’s a also a lot of talk from some gaming media outlets about the lack of diversity in gaming. How do you feel about the media’s perception of lacking diversity in the industry and do you think that Melancholy Republic would live up to the standards of what some might consider to be “diverse”?
Nicholas: It is a tough topic, I do think there should be more strong female characters, more diversity in race and better representation of LBGT characters. I also think that the diversity in gaming has increased tremendously in recent years. However I don’t think this should be forced on creators, I always feel uncomfortable when a game is criticised for not having ‘enough of this sex or that race’. I think there is a history of somewhat catering video games to the largest target audience for financial reasons, I think that has been done to some extent. Usually resulting in white male leads and not the best representations of women or other races. If writers and game designers had more freedom I think there would be greater diversity in gaming, and I think we are seeing that with the rise in indie game developers who are free to make whatever they want.
Given that freedom in the creation process I think greater diversity comes about naturally. I think its increasing and I hope it continues.
When we started designing Melancholy Republic, we did not have a ‘diversity checklist’. Instead we created characters that suited the world we had envisioned. We are incredibly proud of these characters, the story and the city we have built. Our game deals with issues such as racism and inequality as part of the story. So whether it is considered diverse or not for us is not important, as long as we don’t cater to anyone and stick to the story and world we were creatively driven to make.
Huge thanks to Nicohlas Spargo for taking time out to answer the questions. If the game has tickled your fancy, you can check out Melancholy Republic over on the official Kickstarter page.