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When six-year-old Murillo started to like anime, one that drew his attention the most was Saint Seiya, internationally known as the Knights of the Zodiac. At the time, it was his first glimpse at the mythological creature, a dragon, thanks to the bronze knight Shiryu. It was love at first sight. A passion so earnest that my young persona refused to go to school that day when the character died in the Twelve Houses saga.
Since then, my affection and passion for dragons have only grown. In my pre-teen years, when I was introduced to RPGs, my older brother introduced me to a famous series where the protagonist could transform into dragons. RPG + dragons? Count me in. That’s how I met the blue-haired protagonist Ryu and started adventuring through Breath of Fire. It didn’t take long for this franchise to become my favorite and for me to steal the nickname Ryu to use on all my gaming platforms.
Since 2002, when Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter was released, the game stopped receiving love from Capcom, much to the chagrin of its fans (Breath of Fire 6 doesn’t count, it was just a brand appropriation to try to market a totally irrelevant game).
However, lo and behold, wandering the confines of Twitter, I came across Tears of Magic, a game dubbing itself a spiritual successor to Breath of Fire. My curiosity was piqued, so it was time to see if my interest would be appeased. It was. So, seizing my RPG Informer credential, I contacted Good Old Pixel, the studio responsible for Tears of Magic, and interviewed its creator, Denis and Ellenore.
The couple shared some very pertinent information regarding the development of Tears of Magic, how it was initially not going to be a spiritual successor to Breath of Fire, the similarities with the draconic franchise, and the Kickstarter launch. Check out the highlights of the interview.
What is Tears of Magic?
There is no one better to tell you about what Tears of Magic is than the game creators themselves. So I just grabbed this tidbit from their Kickstarter page.
Unleash the dragon within you and explore a world of remarkable characters, as you define your personality, create bonds with allies and learn about the true origin of magic to stop a second Calamity. Tears of Magic is a fantasy RPG inspired by titles like Breath of Fire and BioWare games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, where you play a dragon in a beautiful pixel art 2.5D world with rich story, colorful characters and fluid mechanics
Sounds promising, right? If you’re still unsure what to feel, I hope this interview can shed some light on Good Old Pixel, the developers, and what they aim to achieve with Tears of Magic.
RPGInformer: Can you tell me about your studio, Good Old Pixel, and how it came to be?
Denis: It started as a project. She (Ellenor) wanted to make a game for some time, resurrect her childhood dream, and then she invited me to join her project to code for her.
Ellenor: Basically, I came to him and asked, you can code, right? You’re a computer scientist. The code, right.
Denis: It’s her project. She’s the designer and does most of the writing. I’m just the programmer.
Not exactly a Breath of Fire spiritual successor. Or is it?
At first, my reaction was the same as most fans that approached Tears of Magic. “Whoa, this looks like a Breath of Fire game! Blue-haired protagonist, dragons, anthropomorphic creatures, slimelike monsters, fishing!” The game’s marketing confirmed my suspicions, claiming they were inspired by Breath of Fire. But, after talking to Denis and Ellenor, I realized that may not be precisely the case. And that’s not a problem.
RPGInformer: Why did you guys choose Breath of Fire as a spiritual successor for Tears of Magic?
Ellenor: It didn’t start out and wasn’t aimed to become a Breath of Fire spiritual successor. But as the story progressed with the dragons and the main character being a dragon, people started saying it looked like Breath of Fire.
Denis: People that followed us started pointing out that it could be a Breath of Fire game. Then we dived it in and said, let’s do it.
RPGInformer: After fans started comparing Tears of Magic to Breath of Fire, did you bring even more references from the inspirational material?
Denis: I would say we have a middle ground here. People started following us, giving input and feedback, and we could feel that they really wanted a new Breath of Fire game. They want several features from Breath of Fire games. But the closer we get, we risk not having our identity and just being a fangame or a clone, and we can’t have that.
We are creating a company. This is not gonna be our last game, so we want it to succeed. Instead of people saying they are waiting for a new Breath of Fire, we want them to say they want a new Tears of Magic.
RPGInformer: I noticed you brought in Yoshino Aoki (Breath of Fire III and IV composer). How did you guys get in touch?
Ellenor: We looked her up on Google and reached out to her. We didn’t know if she would actually respond to us, but she was available.
Denis: We showed her the world, discussed business, and that’s it. She was into the project, and we were into her.
RPGInformer: Did you guys try to get in touch with other Breath of Fire veterans?
Ellenor: We tried to get in touch with the artist, but he’s very hard to contact. I haven’t actually been able to find any way to contact him.
Denis: And some of the devs at the time were not even worth searching for because they were working on Monster Hunter.
A JRPG game with WRPG elements
Tears of Magic is a game about adventure and role play, conceptualized to generate constant excitement for what comes next, rewarding the player with beautiful graphics and music, rich lore, and meaningful development to the colorful characters and story. It is also designed to make you the writer of your own story, and not just the reader of a fantasy book. The mechanics of the game have all been designed to enhance this experience.
Custom protagonist, dragon transformation, relationships, skill growth, crafting, minigames, and much more to possibly come. Tears of Magic is shaping up to be a well of good ideas. Ideally, I wish Denis could get all the planned features into the game because the prospect is exciting. But in practice, is Good Old Pixel trying to chew more than they can bite, or should we pin our hopes and trust that we are facing the next big indie?
RPGInformer: What do you think is unique about Tears of Magic from other RPGs?
Denis: First, we should talk about the core dynamics that guide our decisions, the RPG and the adventure. In the adventure, we have to always keep the player excited about what comes next. Be it like, what’s the next music I’m gonna hear, what’s the next town, next people, next race. What do they eat or wear, which means there can’t be many repetitions. It will always introduce the next feature so the fans can get excited to explore the world and learn more about Tears of Magic.
The second one is the role-play elements. Meaning that you write your own story. You’re not playing the story of someone else book. It’s you. You are the main character. And that’s a difference from a traditional JRPG. Because in JRPGS, you follow a script, you’re Cloud or someone else. And here you are you. You’re gonna be able to personalize both your appearance. You can be black, white, male, female, neutral, whatever you want to be like. You can change the color of your hair, and you can change your personality. When each character is created, you choose one personality trait. For example, I’m gonna be a brave character, I’m gonna be shy, or I’m gonna be entertaining. This will affect your options.
If you’re an entertainer, there will be jokes in the options for you to answer in the dialogue. If someone is more cautious, there’s gonna be options less brave. Depending on your chosen options, you can get traits that will modify them again. This helps (the game) get replayability since each playthrough can be different.
About the similarities with Breath of Fire. Your character is a dragon, the world is full of animal-based people, and our game is in pixel art. Every member of a race will have their own personality. For example, not everyone from the Dog Clan has the same personality or appearance. Some look like a bulldog, some like a poodle, and one like a chihuahua. That’s the magic of having a world made of animals. Cause we humans see way more differences in animals than in ourselves.
The game follows what Breath of Fire II, III, and IV could be. But there’s no Ryu, no Nina, no Wyndia. We have the Sky Clan, but their culture completely differs from Wyndia’s.
RPGInformer: How long has Tears of Magic been in development?
Ellenor: The entire concept and story are already done. I started writing the story in 2018, and then we started developing it. The world took quite some time.
Denis: Now we are in the development stage to make the concept a reality.
A Tears of Magic playthrough will be between twenty to thirty hours on average. If you explore more, it’s gonna take longer, if you explore less… it depends. That’s what we have in mind.
RPGInformer: On Kickstarter, you say there are inspirations from Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Is that for the moral choice feature?
Denis: This is more from a game called Crusader Kings, which is more of a war game than a role-play. The options change based on your previous choices. So why don’t they do it for RPGs? Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age always have the same options, no matter what.
Ellenor: It’s usually kind, joking, or serious.
Denis: Yeah, but they don’t change. Your character personality doesn’t change in-game, and the options won’t change if you joke too much. In our game, even your allies’ banter will change based on your personality.
Dragons! Give me dragons. Many of them, all of them!
This legendary creature framed in Pixel Art is the best allusion to the Breath of Fire franchise. These mystical beasts in the marketing material grabbed my attention and made players around the globe dub Tears of Magic as a spiritual successor. And let’s face it, nothing roars magic and fantasy better than dragons. Breath of Fire III allegedly boasts the best dragon system in the entire franchise. Tears of Magic wants to drink from this source, representing that draconic customization to its best effect.
RPGInformer: Let’s talk about dragons because we all love dragons. Are dragons’ transformations going to change based on the main character’s personality?
Denis: Change based on affinity. The dragon system works by borrowing power from allies. You can’t take it forcefully. You need to have a certain level of affinity to get a form.
You unlock the dragon forms, and you need your allies’ affinity. Then you can put their traits, for example, fire, to turn into a fire dragon. Or strength and mighty. You don’t lose a round to transform. When you transform into a dragon, for example, a fire one, you will fly into the sky and dive with a fire breath.
Some dragons aren’t damage dealers. You can have support like the Fairy Dragon, who releases Fairy Dust, and when allies attack the enemies, they will explode. Depends on the trait you put. With a power trait, it’s gonna be more damage-oriented. Or you can heal the entire party. We noticed people are running away from turn-based games because of the slow pace. It takes too long to start combat and to end combat too. We want to make it shorter without losing the turn-based essence. We tried to reduce the engagement time, that’s why there’s no transition to battle. If two allies use a basic attack on the same target, they attack together, merging into a flank animation, dealing bonus damage, or causing some effect, like Chrono Trigger.
When the animation becomes one, it increases the pace of the battle. You can also set hotkeys for some skills on the face buttons to use them faster. It’s some quality of life improvements we believe RPGs nowadays should have.
To fund or not to fund, that’s the question
Denis and Ellenor know what you are thinking. Good Old Pixel is a new game development studio; why should you open your wallet for them? Well, they have a few reasons to try to compel you to fund Tears of Magic. If that’s still not enough, you can get in touch with them directly through the various social media they are promoting. Whether the final product will be good or not, only history will tell. There can be no doubt that they are doing their best, spreading the word, interacting with the community, and doing what they can to make Tears of Magic a reality.
We are a small team with the necessary skills to develop the game. Reaching the stretch goals to hire new team members would greatly increase the final quality of our game, as well as allow us to deliver the product well within the expected time frame. We plan to foster transparency and foster community ownership by keeping in constant communication with our Discord Server and Twitter Feed. We will have daily contact with backers and show all Work in progress using exclusive channels of the Discord server.
RPGInformer: Let’s make a dream come true. Tell me more about your Kickstarter. What are your goals, and what do the players get from funding the project?
Denis: First, they have to understand that we are not a big team like the teams from Armed Fantasia or Eiyuden Chronicles. On the first day, they got million-dollar funding. Our first goal in Kickstarter is to allow us to be full-time in development because right now, we only work part-time because we got to eat. We also have to pay for the composers.
On the stretch goals, we want to hire another person, like a User Interface artist. It can be a pixel artist to reduce the load on Ellenor or a 3D artist to make more objects. We want to improve our maps, giving a better 3D illusion. Other things we want to do, but we need funding.
With more funding, the Kickstarter backers will get a better game and more personal customization, such as extra hairstyles and skins for the protagonist and a console port. There are people really interested in Mod support to change the sprites and animations of the game. They can try to make their experience more enjoyable.
Plus other things like minigames, like a card games. We want to add New Game+, where each enemy will have one random skill to make it a bit harder. Or randomizer, where the characters will have random skills. One thing that we didn’t talk much about is the Skill Evolution System. For example, Benji has the Rejuvenate, basically a heal over time. You can put points to upgrade the skill to Empower. So if it heals past your Max HP, you will get a buff to damage.
Another upgrade path may allow Rejuvenate to heal on the first tick because it normally doesn’t heal instantly. It’s a two-path tree at first, but they combine later, merging both effects into one. There’s also the Mentor system. They will give you a skill for each task completed. Kaiser, the protagonist, can learn skills from enemies. If they are from the same category, they merge and evolve.
RPGInformer: You also have a Patreon, right?
Denis: The Patreon is for expanding what we achieve in Kickstarter. For example, if we don’t reach the port stretch goal, it doesn’t mean we’re not gonna port to the consoles, it’s just gonna be harder. We might not port at launch, but in time, we will.
RPGInformer: Do you guys wanna add anything else about Tears of Magic or the Kickstarter?
Denis: If people don’t feel like it’s gonna be a thing and they don’t know if they should donate or not. Try to ask us how the development’s going. Ask anything you want to know. We’re always open to answering questions. You can join Discord, and we believe you’re gonna like it.
RPGInformer: Denis, Elle, thanks again. I’m gonna be rooting for Tears of Magic to break and surpass the Kickstarter funding goal.
And that’s a wrap. Denis and Ellenor were kind in accepting my invitation. I hope you guys learned more about Tears of Magic and are excited for what’s to come. I certainly am! I hope my written contribution can help spread the word about the game and raise more funds to make development go smoothly.
Question: When will Tears of Magic launch?
Answer: Two to three years, depending on how much we get on Kickstarter. If we don’t hit our goal, I think three years or so. If we get extra hands, maybe two years. It depends. Pixel Art animation consumes a lot of time. She (Ellenor) has to do all the animations, the objects, the 3D models, and all that.
Question: Can players test the game before its launch?
Answer: The game is gonna get a prototype eventually. I will be open to the public to get the feel of the game. In it, you will move around, see how the world is, see the battle, and interact with someone. It’s a small scene.
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