RPGamer Feature - Dragon Fantasy Book II Interview
Dragon Fantasy Book II
Developer/Publisher: Muteki Corp.
Release Date: 09.10.2013

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Today, Muteki Corp. releases Dragon Fantasy Book II on PSN for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. We were able to chat with Adam Rippon, Muteki's Creative Director, about Book II and its development.

Michael A. Cunningham (RPGamer, Editor-in-Chief): Greetings, and thanks for taking the time to chat with us about Dragon Fantasy Book II. Many of us checked out Book I, so what are the key changes or new features found in Book II?
Adam Rippon (Muteki, Creative Director): Having just completed Book II, I recently started working on new Book I updates. It was absolutely shocking to go back from the now-complete Book II and see Book I again. So, a better question might actually be what HASN'T changed! We've added so much depth and strategy, so much greater graphic fidelity, an incredible new musical score composed by the amazing Dale North, and we've even got multiplayer support coming soon in the 1.1 patch. Book II is so much cooler than Book I that it's really hard to believe that they are both built upon the same engine!

MAC: Book I was fairly linear. How does the story of Book II progress?
AR: Unlike Book I, which was broken into three chapters and an intermission, Book II's story is presented as one cohesive whole. Book II still has a fairly linear story progression, but there are many optional dungeons and story bits that the player can explore. Plus, the middle section of the game is split into three paths that you can play in any order. There is even one dungeon in particular that can be explored at three separate times during the game, and depending on when you do it, you'll get a different reward for your trouble - and you can skip it entirely if you don't care. Oh, and I should probably mention this very important note - Book II does not in any way require the player to have played Book I. Other than a few in-jokes, every bit of the backstory is explained in Book II.

MAC: Some of the complaints about Book I included too many battles and too much grinding required, at least for Ogden's chapter. How has pacing changed?
AR: With Book I we altered the pacing as we went along - each chapter in the game represented a different part of the NES era of RPGs. Chapter one had a single hero fighting a single monster, and difficulty progression was very much determined by which side of a bridge you found yourself on. Chapter two added multiple party members and new mechanics like sliding on ice, and Chapter three and the Minecraft intermission continued that trend with new features like multiple monsters, monster capturing, and crafting. By the end of the last chapter, Book I was pretty well rounded in terms of gameplay. With Book II, we built the game with SNES-era tuning in mind. The game is much less focused on grinding and much more focused on story development and set-piece battles. Crowd management techniques have been added, allowing you to take out larger groups of enemies at once. Every playable character has different strengths and weaknesses. And of course, when you're running low on human companions you can always round out your party with monsters.

MAC: Combat takes place on-screen instead of cutting away to a battle screen. Does that change complicate things when party members are brought into the mix? Are battle still as fast as in Book I?
AR: While I haven't done a comparison of the timing between Books I and II, I'm pretty sure Book II is much faster paced. The multiple party members jump around very quickly, and the crowd control battle techniques are so much quicker than in Book I. Speed of battles is extremely important to me, as often I find myself annoyed with the pace of the classics when playing them for the thousandth time. So, I designed Book II's battles to go as quickly (or as slowly) as the player demands.

MAC: So...multiplayer? How does it work and how will it be accessed in-game? How easily will it be for players to drop in and out?
AR: Book II was designed with multiplayer in mind from the very beginning. Unfortunately, a few edge case bugs (esoteric stuff, like what happens when someone disconnects due to a power outage, or when two players try to join at the same time) were threatening our release date, so we had to cut the feature from 1.0. Shortly after release, however, we'll be adding it back in with a 1.1 patch. To access it in game, the first player opens the status menu and opens their game to multiplayer, and the second player picks "join game" from the main menu, which will show any friends who have the game open to join. It's really simple. Then the second player is able to control one of your party members in your party, explore separately, get into separate battles, and come help out when needed. It's a really fun way to play with your friends, instead of making them just watch you play the game by yourself. It feels a lot like Dragon Quest IX's implementation of multiplayer. Since we had to cut it from 1.0 we're going to add a few additional features to make it even more compelling, but we'll talk about those when we're closer to the release of the patch.

MAC: Without going into specifics, how did Book I do on PSN? Was there a favored system for gamers between PS3 and Vita?
AR: Book I did way better on PSN than it ever did on mobile, PC, or Mac. That PSN release is basically the only reason I've been paid at all this summer, so a million thanks to everyone who bought the game. Between PS3 and PS Vita, I believe it was ever so slightly more frequently purchased on the PS3, although because the game is cross buy, it's impossible to know which system it was actually played on more. Oh, and now that Book II is completed, we're working on mobile, PC, and Mac upgrades for Book I to bring all the PSN features we added back to those systems as well. Now that PAX is over, we should have all those updates completed fairly quickly!

MAC: What are the plans for porting Book II to other systems down the road? Any at all?
AR: Allow me to phrase it this way - I'm not yet ready to talk about all of our plans to bring Book II to other platforms yet. The PlayStation Network is our number one priority right now, and after we've launched the multiplayer patch for that we'll start looking at other platforms.

MAC: Could you share a little about the game engine you use for the Dragon Fantasy series? How did you decide what to use and how have you been expanding it over the development of the two games?
AR: Both Book I and Book II are built on the same engine, which I've been developing over the past four years or so. It was originally developed as a toolkit to help us port mobile games from iOS to Mac and PC, and so it is heavily focused on animated UI capabilities. The first release of Dragon Fantasy on iOS actually used an incredibly inefficient UI tool designed to make spreadsheets to render the tilemaps. But it worked and it was a much more exciting way to test that technology than to use, you know...spreadsheet documents. Book II uses a number of pretty major enhancements, like support for multi-layer maps (we use as many as 20 layers in some maps) and of course Mode 7-like 3D techniques. We originally used an open source mapping tool to design the game, but after a certain point we needed more power than we could get from that tool, so I ended up writing an entire world design tool around January, and that increased our productivity by a huge, huge margin. On debug builds of the game we're actually able to launch the separate editor app from in-game and just modify assets at run time and return to the game. It's really fun to build things that way!

MAC: During development, what is the most time consuming aspect for you? Do you feel like your focus on certain areas causes other areas not to get the attention you'd like to give them? How so?
AR: Scripting is incredibly time consuming. With both games, every minute or so of scripted sequences takes about a day of work to build. Sure, I could get a minute of script up and running in a couple hours usually, but the amount of testing and tweaking to get it just right would almost always result in an entire day's work. I don't think it necessarily made other sections of the game suffer for lack of attention...but it did mean the game took longer to build and I had to give up on nice things like nights or weekends or eating food by the end of the project! Eventually my wife even quit her excellently high-paying job in the tech industry to help us finish Book II without pay. It takes an incredibly self-destructive amount of dedication to build a game like this!

RPGamer would like to thank the crew at Muteki Corp, especially Adam, for taking the time to chat with us about today's release. For all the latest information, check out the Muteki Facebook page and follow on Twitter. Stay tuned to RPGamer for a review of Dragon Fantasy Book II soon.

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