The Genesis homebrew scene is thriving, and along with established game makers like Super Fighter Team and WaterMelon, others are getting in on the action. As more and more people see what an amazing little machine the Genesis is, more up-and-coming developers are releasing titles for the console that are extremely polished. The Genesis has seen almost a half dozen post-mortem releases since being discontinued in the late ’90s, and the games just keep on coming.
One title on the horizon is Airwalk studios’ Affinity: Sorrow, an RPG that promises an innovative combat system and a thrilling adventure. Developed entirely by two people, Affinity: Sorrow is Airwalk’s second Genesis project, following Hangman SG. That game helped Airwalk get its feet wet, and now the team is diving head-first into a full-blown RPG.
Sega-16 recently sat down for some Q&A with the core members of Airwalk Studios, Adam and Dave.
Sega-16: How did this whole project get started? When did you decide that you wanted to do an original Genesis title?
Adam: Back in the winter time, probably December or January of this year, I had begun experimenting with Genesis programming which led to the development of Hangman SG. After Hangman SG was done and released, I had gotten both positive and negative feedback about it, but it was a great learning experience in both the development and publication processes.
I’ve always been a fan of RPG’s, mostly on the NES/SNES/PS1 & 2 systems, and then I heard about Pier Solar. Pier Solar was packaged well, the detail was done beautifully, and I wanted to put together a game that wouldn’t compete with Pier Solar, but compliment the Genesis/Mega Drive in the same fashion. Little did I know that the story had already been written, but the details were lacking until Dave joined the team, and that’s when things started rolling with this project.
Dave: Everything just worked from the moment we began discussing our ideas and the story and gameplay concepts really started to take form.
Sega-16: So you two don’t live close together?
Adam: MrMark & BeaglePuss are the guys who produce the carts for us, and they’re local to me. When I started this project, they suggested I talk to Dave (Mr. Gimmick), who lives even closer to me (in the same state), so the entire group is all from New England.
Dave: I didn’t even know Adam prior to this project, so it was surprising when I heard he lived a few towns away and was as enthusiastic about RPGs and making games as I was. Since I was working on a few other game projects at the time, I was reluctant to join another team, but after hearing it was an RPG project for the genesis I just couldn’t refuse! And once I heard the story, I knew that this could be something great.
Adam: Actually, when I first presented the idea to Dave, he wasn’t thrilled about another project right away, but after a few minutes of just talking with him in general, he whipped out some graphics that blew my mind that night.
Sega-16: Adam is the writer, correct?
Adam: Correct, however, Dave has added in some excellent ideas that fit perfectly with the story and he continues to add in new ideas all the time. The best part is, we have no problems saying an idea is terrible to each other… like my idea for a Belly Button Lint monster… Dave wasn’t keen on that one.
Dave: It has been very much a collaborative project.
Sega-16: Has the distance ever posed a problem for coordinating things?
Adam: Actually, since we’re so close, we’ve gotten to meet each other and hang out, which I believe helps the process in so many ways.
Dave: Most of what we discuss is over the internet, but surprisingly it has worked out very well. We are able to send each other files and make changes to ideas on the fly. While I work on the graphics, Adam is busy programming and coming up with ideas.
Sega-16: So why did you decide to go with an RPG? With Super Fighter team and WaterMelon out there, why not an action game or another genre?
Adam: For me, it’s always been a dream to develop my favorite style of game for any console – be it the NES, SNES, Genesis, whatever. And a few years ago, I had written a screen play that I was going to turn into a full feature film with my friend who’s a local film director, but things never moved forward due to a lot of setbacks with casting, equipment, personal reasons, and so on. So after the first game was done and finished, I was randomly going through some of my older work, and it hit me – “turn the setting from modern day into fantasy, and this story would be perfect.” The elements of the game were all there, it was just putting them together and start the creation process.
Dave: RPGs are my favorite games and always have been.
Sega-16: How hard was it to get started? Using original assets must have made it slow going from the beginning, or no?
Dave: Not at all actually, we started working full force on this almost instantly. I actually offered to use some of my original characters I had drawn up years earlier that fit perfectly into the story. For some reason it just worked, it is like we both had the same vision of how this RPG should be.
Adam: From a programming sense, kind of, but not really. Having to create an original engine from scratch can become quite tedious, but the end result is that you can make it as flexible as you want. Like I mentioned earlier, the story was already written, and Dave’s graphical skill and the time he can create the graphics is truly amazing.
I basically shut off my social life to work on this project as much as I can, so I clock in anywhere between thirty and seventy-five hours a week, whether it’s tweaking the code to make it run more fluent, or creating new functions that will help later on, or programming tools that will help both Dave and me with the game.
Dave: I must say that the tools Adam has created for me have been extremely helpful.
Adam: Well, that’s because you have the skill to use them (laughs). If I were to use them, I’d still be drawing stick figures with very large, funny shaped heads.
Dave: The tools I was using before did not allow for full screens to be made, these new tools allowed me to create tiles for large backgrounds as well as bosses, sprites, and menus.
Adam: … as well as using multiple palettes at once and not limiting Dave to just sixteen colors at a shot.
Sega-16: So it’s just the two of you doing development? Were there ever any plans to bring more people on board?
Dave: Right now it is only the two of us doing development.
Adam: Exactly what Dave said, but we did have a composer at one point. Unfortunately nobody saw eye to eye with him, and he left the project. We do have a few people interested in composing music for the game, but we’re honestly not ready to be worrying about the sounds at this point.
Dave: Our main focus is getting the gameplay going before we add any music or sound effects. However we are hoping to include music that will compliment the storyline and characters and really enhance the game. We certainly have enough of our own work to figure out in the meantime. It is a lot of work doing this by ourselves, but it is also more rewarding knowing that we can accomplish something.
Adam: Exactly. We don’t want someone to come on board, write some really amazing tunes, just to have them sit there for months on end. To me, that would give that person a feeling of “man, I put this effort into these compositions, but they’re not doing a single thing with them”, ya know?
Dave: It also has made the flow of ideas much easier.
Sega-16: So what can we expect from Affinity: Sorrow: how does it play?
Adam: Well, as you can see from the videos that we’ve posted and the concept art, we’re definitely influenced by the JRPG style. It’s hard to explain without sounding generic; the battles will be more interactive than just attack, wait, magic, wait. Also, the story will be more enticing and exciting than just “save the world, save your girlfriend” style.
In order to make something great, you need to be original, and that’s difficult because some of the best RPG makers in the world did almost everything imaginable, so it’s truly a challenge to design and develop systems that stray from the “previously been done before” category
Dave: That being said we do plan to add some new features to the genre.We really want to create something new with Affinity Sorrow and at the same time capture the nostalgia of classic RPGs.
Adam: I’m definitely stuck in the ’90s, both with gaming and music, and I believe true gaming stopped with the advent of the newer generations of game consoles.
Dave: Likewise, I don’t even own a modern console and I still use my CRT TV from the ’80s.
Sega-16: Is Affinity: Sorrow a single hero affair, or will there be more playable characters to use later on?
Adam: There will be a total of three characters that will be in your party, each of which has his or her own story and reasons for going on this quest.
Dave: The main character of the story is a teenage boy named Nex…
Adam: … who is accompanied by his childhood friend Valeria, right from the start.
Dave: There will be many towns and a variety of characters and unique races they will encounter on their quest, and of course plenty of monsters.
Adam: Past the three playable characters, it was a design choice to not have more than that. As much of a fan as I am of many RPG’s, I find that leveling up more than just your normal party can become such a daunting task. And most people stick with select characters, so we want to eliminate the hassle of trying to figure out what characters are the best and worst, and having to grind levels if they don’t use a character for X amount of time, or any of the other possible flaws with many available characters to choose from.
Dave: This way the player can spend less time leveling and more time just playing and enjoying the game and building the three available characters. We don’t want the game to get boring or have leveling prevent the player from progressing through the story.
Sega-16: Give us some details on the combat system.
Adam: You will have the option of battling it out like a traditional RPG game of the ’90s – attack, wait, attack, etc.; however, the background will be interactive.
Dave: There will be elements in the environment that can be used for various spells or abilities.
Adam: Say you cast a water spell. In the real world (not that we’re trying to emulate real world situations here with beasts and magic), the remains of the spell would leave a puddle. If it’s on a grassy area, it will leave maybe a mud puddle, which you will be able to target, maybe to throw mud balls at the monsters, or create a golem, or even a wind storm of mud and rock.
Dave: … or say there is a plant in the background, you can target it and use items to make it grow and entangle enemies.
Sega-16: That actually sounds pretty awesome.
Adam: We have so many ideas for this system, and various combo’s that will be set up between the characters and their skills, that it’s going to be fun creating this system and hopefully equally as fun, if not more fun, to play with it.
Dave: The key is that the player will have more freedom in creating combos from the environment, adding a whole new dimension to the gameplay.
Adam: Each environment will respond differently to the same spells.
Dave: … and plenty of room for experimentation.
Adam: If you’re inside, the water won’t create a mud puddle, it’ll create a regular puddle. If a quake-style spell occurs, ceiling chunks will fall that will be targetable as well.
Dave: One of the characters will also be able to throw and kick items at the enemy.
Adam: Either that, or we’ll just stick with the Final Fantasy 1 battle system where if all characters target the same enemy, and it dies before the other two attack, your attacks are useless.
Sega-16: What kind of timeline are you working on? Do you have a projected release date yet?
Adam: There’s no way to determine a release date at this stage of development, but we are aiming for the first half of 2012. Of course, Dave starts up his next semester of college soon, so his time will be very limited, and of course there will always be those unknown bugs and issues with coding as well. If I had to estimate how far along in the development process we’re at, I’d say somewhere around the 8 to 12% completed.
Dave: Development should start to really pick up now that most of the important stuff is out of the way code-wise. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but that 8 to 12% is the core of the game. We basically will just need to import the graphics and start creating the scenes.
Adam: The biggest obstacle of any game is the story and the ideas to make the story work with the gameplay – we’re past that and moving forward, implementing these ideas and ironing out the finer details of the story. We’re not aiming to push the limits of the consoles hardware, but pushing the limits of our creativity to make a game that any fan of RPGs will enjoy and want to play over and over again.Since the start of this project, we’ve both been complaining that this game needs to get finished because we’re so eager to play it – even if everyone else hates it
Sega-16: We can’t wait to see it! Our thanks to you both for the interview.
Adam: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! It’s been a pleasure!
Dave: Any time, thank you for the opportunity to get the word out! We hope that people will continue to check our updates and visit the forums.