RPGamer Feature - Arcadian Atlas Interview
Arcadian Atlas
Platform: PC, iOS, Mac
Developer: Twin Otter Studios
Publisher: Twin Otter Studios
Release Date: 02.2018

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Developer Twin Otter Studios, comprised of siblings Taylor and Becca Bair, is creating a new classic-style, pixelated tactical RPG, named Arcadian Atlas. The team just kicked-off a Kickstarter campaign, in an effort to secure funds to fully realize their vision for the game. We sit down with one half of the Twin Otter duo, Taylor Bair, as he answers our questions about Arcadian Atlas and its development.

Johnathan Stringer (RPGamer): Can you please give us a rundown of Arcadian Atlas and on what platforms will it be available?
Taylor Bair (Twin Otter): Arcadian Atlas is a tactical RPG about the lengths people go in pursuit of what they love, and the havoc it wrecks on a whole kingdom. Itís inspired partly by classic pixel art games like Tactics Ogre, Chrono Trigger, and Breath of Fire, while also being something fresh for the SRPG genre.

We are releasing on PC, Mac, Linux, and have plans for an iOS version and strong hopes for a Vita/PS4 port as well, depending on how good the Kickstarter response is.

JS: What is the working dynamic and responsibilities for game development amongst you and Becca? Do you have any other help?
TB: We wear many hats. For a title card, you need something succinct like ďCreative DirectorĒ and ďLead WriterĒ, which are Beccaís and my responsibilities respectively, but thatís misleading. Becca has a hand in the story, and I have a hand in the creative side amongst a thousand other things like marketing, press, getting food inside our mouths, etc. We still stick largely to our functions, but when pressed for time, we trade responsibilities as needed.

While Becca and I are the core team behind Twin Otter, we have help from our musician Moritz, in Germany, who is a programmer as well.

JS: With everyone working remotely from each other, how do you schedule work and coordinate activities?
TB: Weíre remote, but not that remote. Sheís in Austin, and Iím in the DFW area. I make a trip down about once a month at least, and we talk on the phone and text constantly. Seriously, itís constant. To the point where, if I get a text, itís ninety-nine percent from Becca.

We also keep meticulous lists. There are so many lists of to-dos, that we have lists reminding us to look at lists.

JS: What sort of steps have you had to take preparing for the Kickstarter? How far along is Arcadian Atlas at this time?
TB: Oh boy, the Kickstarter Ė what a beast. Weíve essentially diverted everything to the Kickstarter the past two months. Theyíre incredibly involved, including creating promotional videos, graphics, marketing the Kickstarter, press interviews, creating stretch goals and rewards. These all require meetings upon meetings and iteration upon iteration. Itís rather exhausting to be honest, especially when we both have full time jobs outside game development.

JS: Not to be negative, and I am sure you guys are already well aware, but a Kickstarter campaign is not a sure thing, especially for developers not yet well established. Is game development going to go on regardless of the results of the Kickstarter? Have you considered the setbacks if it were to not meet its goals, and what your next plan of action will be?
TB: Oh sure, a core philosophy in my life is to always count the cost before you start building to ensure you can finish. So yep, we are certainly still going to work on the game if we donít get Kickstarted, though it becomes a question of time and finances at that point. Release dates, features, storyline, these things all depend on time and funds, and without funds you often donít have a lot of time. So, setbacks would include a much longer development time, heavily reduced features, and a much more condensed and limited story experience.

JS: Looking at screenshots of the game, one can't help but notice the Final Fantasy Tactics influences in gameplay, style, and art. You mentioned some other influences in your description of the game as well. Can you expand on those influences, and what will set Arcadian Atlas apart from them?
TB: Our primary influences are classic pixel art games from the SNES and PS1 era, particularly Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire, and the Suikodens. Of course, thatís just classic games. We also find a lot of elements from more modern games like Ragnarok Online, The Witcher, and character driven television shows like The Sopranos interesting inspirations for various things.

Ultimately though, Arcadian Atlas is different than those things. We love a lot of different genres, but all creations must be more than a just a mish-mash of influences. Weíre creating something fresh and uniquely us. This shines in the story as well as what we hope to implement gameplay-wise in the game.

JS: How did work on Arcadian Atlas start, and when did it go from an idea, or dream, into a reality in progress?
TB: It went from a dream to reality about the time my sister and I joined up on it. We had both wanted to do something uniquely our own for a while, but a year and half ago we both decided it just made sense with our talents, and history with previous games, to do this.

JS: What is the tone of the plot and setting? Will it be more lighthearted, political, dark?
TB: The setting is semi-medieval, though I always found pseudo-medieval phraseology a bit hackneyed, so we avoid that where possible for more natural sounding characters. And tone-wise, itís rather a mixture to be honest. It isnít lighthearted, though there are elements of the comedic.

Ultimately, I like to think of the tone as I think of people. We have dark elements, the political, yet amongst certain people in certain circumstances, we need laughter as well. We need the light with the heavy, and so thereís both. Thereís also some occult elements, which weíre excited to tease a bit in the Kickstarter with our character Fennic.

JS: Can you give a brief explanation of combat in Arcadian Atlas? What are some features that stand out?
TB: Combat, at itís most basic, is the tactical RPG, turn-based, isometric grid battles most people will recognize from Tactics Ogre and more recent games like XCOM.

Weíre looking at implementing terrain obstacles and cover mechanics for projectile based attacks, along with class and character specific stat modifiers, to make each member of your squad unique.

Class-wise, we have several base classes, that rather than switching between, you develop upon branching specialties, until the class itself branches into two advanced class choices. So, you choose say a Ranger, specialize in hard-hitting, though sluggish crossbow skills, and eventually that Ranger class can branch into one of two advanced classes. It essentially means skills arenít wasted, and you can really hone each team member to your liking.

JS: How long do you anticipate development to last? Will there be any plans for an early access, or will this be a wait to release when ready?
TB: We donít have plans for early access, mostly because we arenít huge fans of the model. We will certainly do bug testing and quality assurance amongst select groups, largely for balancing reasons, as thatís vital in SRPGs. And we anticipate development to last roughly one and a half to two years at this stage.

JS: Anything else you would like to add that we haven't covered?
TB: Only that our community has been amazing. I seriously love nothing more than hopping on Twitter after a really crummy day at my day job, and seeing what others are creating, and being a part of the gaming culture. Itís very inclusive, and itís one of the few industries, at least amongst Indies, where people are supportive.

Oh, and we literally went to RPGamer as kids ALL THE TIME. My thirteen year old self went there for coverage of games I actually wanted to play, and it never let me down.

We thank Taylor for answering our questions during his hectic Kickstarter campaign preparation. RPGamers, and especially fans of tactical-RPGs, should keep Arcadian Atlas on their radars.

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