RPGamer Feature - Dragon Fantasy - Interview
Dragon Fantasy
Developer: Muteki Corporation
Publisher: Muteki Corporation
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Retro has definitely made a comeback in the last few years — in fashion, music, and especially in RPGs. There are so many retro-style RPGs on the market that selecting a great one while wading through all the options can be a real challenge. Developer Muteki Corporation is trying to bring back retro done right with it's recent iOS release Dragon Fantasy. This little RPG has got quite an epic development story, which developer and founder Adam Rippon was kind enough to share with RPGamer in this detailed interview.

Greetings, Muteki Corporation! You've recently released Dragon Fantasy; an RPG for iOS devices. Share with the readers a bit about your background as a developer, how you got started, and some of your previous titles.
Adam Rippon: Hello RPGamer! Muteki Corporation is a small independent game studio in Emeryville, CA. All of us here have been making games for a long time, but got tired of working in larger studios so we banded together to do the kind of work we wanted to do. Two of us, myself and Bryan Sawler, started in games professionally in 2000 with a little Gameboy Color demo called Talisman (more on that in a bit). We as a studio have done a number of iOS titles prior to Dragon Fantasy, most notably being The Battle of Pirate Bay, a finger-based pirate defense game, and Super Jetpack Dragon IV: Village Burntopia, a run-and-jump action game. For more info on those, see our webpage :)

Please tell us a little bit about the story behind Dragon Fantasy. What inspired this retro-style RPG?
AR: That is a LONG story! Bryan and I met when we were in high school, back in 1994 on an IRC chatroom dedicated to video game emulators. I asked if anyone wanted to help me make a home-brew RPG, and Bryan signed up for it. Little did that poor guy know that that game would be our white whale for sixteen years!

We started writing the game for DOS without any real programming experience. I had a copy of Photoshop 2.5, a book on Turbo C++, and the Watcom C++ compiler (which was not quite compatible with Turbo C++, to my great distress!). We worked together for a while and got a basic map scroller up and running, along with some simple sprites. The entire game was based on player input - the townspeople would only move when you moved. In short, it was total crap!

We scrapped that version after awhile and started fresh, a process we repeated several times. We ended up doing 14 different revisions of the game before finally giving up in 2003. We had done versions for DOS, Windows, Gameboy Color, Gamecube, and even a port to Bryan's SGI Octane workstation that he bought on eBay! Some of those versions actually looked pretty good, but in retrospect they were very messy hack-and-slash projects. We got a lot better at avoiding that type of coding as the years went on!

Now for the sad part of the story. In 2010 my dad, Tom Rippon, died of lung cancer. Dad has always been one of my heroes, and one of the eight main characters in Talisman was based on him even in the earliest versions. His death hit me pretty hard, so as a way to cope, I started working on Talisman again on his birthday, April 1st, 2011. This time I focused only on his parts of the story, making the game's scope much more manageable. The truncated project was renamed Dragon Fantasy, as a tribute to the games that inspired the now 8-bit styled interpretation of the story. Long story short (TOO LATE!), it turned out that the intervening years of experience helped make building an RPG a lot easier than I'd remembered, and we actually ended up shipping the game in August. Four and a half months, compared to the sixteen years since I'd come up with the original idea!

What is the main premise of the game? What makes Dragon Fantasy different from other iOS RPGs on the market?
AR: Dragon Fantasy is the story of Ogden, a washed up old knight who was once the most respected hero in all of Westeria. As a kid, Ogden was exactly the sort of 16 year old generic RPG hero we've all loved in the past, but after he saved the day... nothing. No new adventures, nothing else to do but get fat and bald. Until, of course, one day that peace suddenly ends and he's forced to go back out and become a hero again. It's a story of recapturing glory and youth — something I think a lot of us who grew up with NES and SNES RPGs can probably relate to these days.

Unlike many other iOS RPGs, Dragon Fantasy is an entirely original game that was built explicitly for iOS. I tried to play to the strengths of the platform and avoid some of the common pitfalls that the games ported from game consoles faced. It's an 8-bit style RPG, and when I say 8-bit, I really do mean it. I tried to make the game actually believable as a NES game on an iPhone. So many games call themselves 8-bit but could never actually run on an NES. Dragon Fantasy is about 90% faithful to the platform's capabilities, particularly in the use of color and sound.

What made you decide to develop Dragon Fantasy for the iOS? What are some features that make it unique to this platform?
AR: iOS is a great platform for self-publishing. It's in the pockets of millions and millions of gamers, and even though there are thousands of games on the platform, there's still room for new good games to come out and do well. That's first and foremost when you're a tiny studio that lives or dies on the success of its games.

I'm also just a huge fan of the platform — I love touch input, and it's something that I think few games really do well. I'm a huge interface nut, and while I won't claim Dragon Fantasy has the best UI of any game ever (it's kind of hard to pull that off while trying to stay 8-bit), I think it worked out really quite well!

How long did it take you to develop Dragon Fantasy? What were some hurdles you faced along the way?
AR: Either 16 years or 4 and a half months, depending on how you look at it :) For the long version of the story, the biggest hurdle was lack of experience. It is very hard to write an entire RPG when you have no formal training in programming, art, or writing! But more importantly, it's very hard to stay motivated writing a 40 hour epic RPG when you're in high school, so we gave up numerous times.

For the short version... honestly, remarkably little went wrong during the development of Dragon Fantasy. Bryan was too busy to help for most of it, so I just started firing away and built the entire game with our existing Muteki engine. Kevin James, my wife Donelle Rippon, and I all worked together to provide the art. Bill Schmidt helped with writing and testing the game, and bouncing jokes around with him was extremely important to the creative process! We met Morgan Tucker, a great San Francisco 8-bit musician ( and he provided the music and sound effects. If I could change anything, I would have brought Morgan on earlier, because he's been a great help on the team, and he did almost all of the music and sound effects in just a few days.

Oh, and it was annoying when I realized that half the character and place names from Talisman now have very similar counterparts in the Game of Thrones books ;)

How would you define the challenge that Dragon Fantasy provides? Is it a game that's easy to pick up and play, or is it one that poses a decent challenge for veterans of the genre?
AR: As a veteran on the genre, I think the game is really easy to pick up and play. The game is very forgiving in the sense that dying is not game over, but instead you just lose half your gold. I think for fans of old school RPGs, this game is exactly what they're looking for. For fans of newer RPGs, we've tuned the game to not be a total grindfest, and to provide a decent challenge without getting terribly repetitive.

What has been the overall response you've received in terms of feedback for Dragon Fantasy? Has the response you've received influenced the way in which you may develop your next project?
AR: The response has been AB-SO-LUTELY FANTASTIC. We've got 4 and a half stars on iTunes, and we've had numerous positive reviews. I could not be happier than I am right now, because the game I've worked on for half my life is actually something people want to play! And that's way more than I can say for the movie licensed games I've worked on in the past, let me tell you :)

The response has been so great, in fact, that our plans are to continue developing Dragon Fantasy. There were 8 characters in Talisman, and we've only covered one of them. We're hard at work right now on the second chapter of the game, the story of Prince Anders. This new chapter will introduce us to the main part of the story, involving a particularly nasty case of demonically-induced split personalities. After that, we're going to keep doing new episodes until we run out of stories to tell!

What would you say is the most important aspect in developing an RPG?
AR: Storytelling is key! And you can't tell a good story without good writing, backed up with good art and particularly good music. I think we had pretty solid efforts on all three fronts. Now that the game is out and has been so well received, we're working much more closely to get the three in perfect sync for the new chapters.

Considering how long this project was in the making, do you think you'll be developing another RPG anytime soon? Do you have any new projects you wish to share with our readers?
AR: Absolutely! We intend to do a full season's worth of episodes of Dragon Fantasy, and after that, I've got plans for another RPG that isn't retro at all. Extremely modern, in fact!

How do you feel about the iOS as a platform? Would you say it's easy or challenging to develop for? Will we possibly see the game on another platform such as PC?
AR: I would say it's very easy to develop for iOS. I've been doing it since the iPhone came out, and I have loved it. Much, much easier than most of the older platforms I'd worked on. That said, Dragon Fantasy was written in our cross-platform Muteki engine, which means that yes, we will be porting the game to other platforms. We've already got PC and Mac builds up and running, they just need some tuning to ensure that all the scripts work properly on larger, wider displays. We're hoping to ship those versions in the next couple months.

Any final words you'd like to share with our readers?
AR: I've been reading RPGamer since I was a kid, and I never even dreamed of being interviewed for a game that I'd written. It sounds corny, but I'd say follow your dreams, man! Maybe sometimes it's time to give up, but you can always dust off an old project and take another crack at it. I mean, if Ogden can go out and slay some new monsters after all these years, what's to stop the rest of us from reaching our goals?

RPGamer would like to thank Adam Rippon for taking the time to discuss Dragon Fantasy with us. The game is already available for iOS devices for the price of $2.99. Check back with RPGamer soon for more upcoming interviews!

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