Columns Featured Interviews

Interview With Tom Kingston, Developer Of Weaves Of Fate

Weaves of Fate is an indie SRPG created by sole developer Tom Kingston. The game follows Thanatos, the embodiment of death, and several other characters as they try to stop a demon invasion that has been brought on by humanity’s attempts to make time travel a reality.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Kingston to discuss the game’s inspirations, its development process, and plans for the future of the Weaves of Fate universe.

Me: What inspired you to create Weaves of Fate?

Kingston: Well, obviously, one of the core inspirations for Weaves of Fate that I’ve mentioned is games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force, [and] Vandal Hearts. [I’m] not sure what it was about the isometric perspective that drew me to it, but I loved playing Final Fantasy Tactics back in the day.

Funnily enough, I didn’t actually set out to create a game. I was just trying to learn C++ and then, after a little bit of playing, I kind of realized “hey, maybe I’ve actually got something here.” And then, layer after layer, Weaves of Fate just emerged.

So it just sort of came to be in its current form? There wasn’t originally the same sort of planning that usually goes into making a game?

Not at the very beginning, no. I didn’t have, say, a two-year plan or this long-term plan of what this game was going to be. Like I said, I just started trying to learn a new programming language and, at one point, it just kind of evolved into this game idea.

What I did first was I just fleshed out the core concepts: the isometric perspective and the tile-based system. Then, at a point where I’d gotten one or two levels done, I sat down and said “okay, I need to actually make a plan now.” Over the next couple of weeks, I just wrote the game’s story, which pretty much was the plan going forwards, level by level.

You said you were making the game to learn C++. Did you have prior development experience before that?

Oh yeah. I’ve worked with Java [and] C#. I’ve done Android development [and] iOS development. I’m a software developer by day, so yeah, I’ve had quite heavy experience before. It’s just that C++ was one of the, I guess we could say, “scary languages” that I’d never quite attacked and then I finally made the decision to.

Just to clarify, you are the sole developer of Weaves of Fate, correct?

Yep, I did 100% of the programming myself. For stuff like pixel art, music, just stuff that I couldn’t create myself—You know, I’m a programmer. We don’t really do very good at making graphics.—I just ended up paying a pixel artist or buying out-of-the-box, ready-made stuff for the music. All of the tilesets, sprite sheets, all of the pixel art, that’s been contracted. Completely unique for Weaves of Fate.

How long was the game in development?

Honestly, I’ve kind of lost count of how long it’s been going for now, but roughly sort of two to three years of part-time development work. Obviously, I’ve had a full-time job alongside working on the game, so I’ve never spent a lot of full-time work on it, per say. As a result of that, progress was slow. Then, a year or a year and a half or so into development, I kind of just said “okay, I’m not getting much done. I need to kind of flesh out a proper process here.” That’s when I adopted the agile methodology that real software development teams follow into the creation of the game and that seemed to have worked really nicely for me because, ever since then, I’ve had proper two-week milestones of work. Pretty much everything just came together nicely after that point.

What drove the decision to make the embodiment of death the main character?

I will admit, actually, this concept of there being a sort of human embodiments or manifestations of different elements like time and fate and death, that’s very heavily influenced by stuff like Discworld, there’s a few books I’ve read that I’ve really enjoyed that also had manifestations. There was this one book called “On a Pale Horse,” which was literally just completely about Death as a person, as a mortal, and I guess just Discworld and this book and a couple of others all just merged together into one influence for this.

What made you opt for the system in which most of players’ advancement is going to be coming from either replaying levels or playing through randomly-generated encounters?

I kind of really liked the idea of having some element of replayability. Obviously, it’s been done before in other games where you can replay levels and get more gold, more power, [and] help yourself going forwards. One of the elements of feedback that I’ve had on the game is that it does feel a little bit too grindy, but the game itself, obviously I’m still supporting it, still making updates as we go forwards. So, to be completely honest, that’s one of the areas that I’ll be targeting for improvement over the next month or so, making it a bit less grindy, but also balance, so that you aren’t able to just blast through all of the levels outright.

But in terms of the original, I guess, inspiration for it, I kind of just played around with a few different mechanics for the game and balancing everything. That mechanic was the one that I personally had the most fun using, so that was the direction that I decided to go in.

And when it comes to balance, you’re also going to sit down and ensure that players can’t just play through the randomly-generated encounters, correct?

Yeah, exactly. Funnily enough, I did have one friend who played the game and he pretty much just sat down and kept grinding over and over and over to make himself ridiculously powerful, which was a surprise to me because there’s this level in the beginning where you’re supposed to lose and he just won. [laughs]

How deep does modding support go? Can you create your own stories or is it limited to elements like characters, maps, and spells?

Originally, when I put the game on Steam Greenlight, I did have a plan to include some modding capabilities, potentially through Steam Workshop for example. The thing is, after a while, I kind of realize that that was a big implementation item, so what I’ve done with that is I’ve kind of shelved it for the future.

In short, there’s definitely a plan to implement moddability in the future. It’s just not currently in the game. With some other game modding, you can sort of go into the game files and tweak them; the same is true of Weaves of Fate, but what I’d like to do is make a proper, official level editor to make things easier for people. At current, if people so wish, although I haven’t been public about it, they can actually go into the game files and modify, say, level files, ability files, [and] character files. Basically, it’s all driven by XML, so it’s actually pretty easy to just create a new ability, a new character, a new level file, whatever you want, or modify existing ones. I just need to make an application to make this more user-friendly, as opposed to just modifying XML files directly.

I also saw that you’re considering a New Game+ mode. Given the game’s current level of replayability, if you were to do that, how would you implement such a mode?

I know what you’re referring to—that one discussion on the Steam page. I thought that was a really, really good idea. I was very impressed with that suggestion. Pretty much exactly as it was suggested, I’d look to implement it.

So when you go for New Game+, you would kind of keep all of the grinding work that you’ve done, so all of your characters would remain the same level of power, but there would be tougher configurations of enemies [that are] stronger than they were before, more difficult opponents. Obviously, I haven’t fleshed this out fully just yet, but, just as a touch-in concept, those are the first few points that I’d be looking to consider.

Are you planning to expand on the Weaves of Fate universe at any point? With the game’s main story, where demons are invading all of time, there’s a lot of potential for side stories.

There is a plan, yes. So, with the ending, and with some of the characters’ stories, I have left things a little bit open-ended, so there’s definitely a chance to expand on some characters’ stories a bit more [or] give them separate storylines. Particularly, I’d be looking at either Merlin or the thief and the bard characters for that. That likely will all be determined by the popularity of the game going forward.

The plan there, I don’t want to do it as, for example, paid for DLC or even a separate game. What I’d like to do is kind of pop those in as an update to the game, so you buy once and you get new content every now and then. Of course, there would be a limit on it, probably two or three extra stories and leave it there.

In terms of expanding on the universe itself, my plan for my next project is going to be some sort of card game. That’s always [been] a mechanic that I’ve wanted to play with is a card game system. In theory, if I can, I want to try and tie that in with Weaves of Fate, so, who knows, maybe there’ll be a Weaves of Fate: The Card Game or something in the future.

I saw that mobile versions are planned. Are you planning to use the same business model on mobile?

Yes. What I’ll do there is, obviously it’ll be through the Play store and the App Store. At the moment, I’ll be targeting Android first just because it’s a bit easier for me to port the existing codebase to Android than it is to iOS. There shouldn’t be too much porting work involved. What I’ve done, primarily because it’s C++, is I’ve tried to keep all the references and stuff very platform agnostic. In theory, it should work across them all, but of course, the thing is, when you try to take theory into practice, there’s always a problem or two.

But business model-wise, yeah, things will be pretty much the same. I suspect, for price point, I might go a little bit lower, depending on how long the game’s been out [and] how it’s performing. There will just be quite a few variables and factors playing into it.

You’ve obviously played a lot of SRPGs. What is one of your favorite moments in an SRPG?

That is a tough question. For me, I can’t say enough good things about Final Fantasy Tactics. That has been one of my favorite games since I was, you know, a lot younger. Probably the opening sequence of Final Fantasy Tactics, but not the part where they’re still in the human world, just the first intro to Ivalice, to the other world. That. That has to be my favorite.

Weave of Fate is now available on Steam for $7.99.

Matt Chelen
Matt has been playing games for as long as he can remember. He got into games journalism during college.
http://twocredits.co

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *