Artizens, which we spotlighted about a week ago, is a 2d action title with an amazing level of customization built in. Over the weekend the Artizens team wrapped up their successful kickstarter and we wanted to ask them a few questions.
What follows is an email interview I had with the lead designer of Artizens: Charles Amis. Come back at the end of the week as we’ll have our podcast posted with Charles as our guest to talk more about the game.
1. What was the inspiration behind creating an ambitious title like Artizens?
Adam and I came up with the basic idea about five years ago in graduate school together: a game where player creations could be shared within a single world and be meaningful to core gameplay.
Design ideas flourished from there and when we met Kai, we decided it was time to start a company to build it. We’re also heavily influenced by our favorite games: Monster Hunter, Mega Man, Magic: The Gathering, JRPGs, everything Valve, and more recently, Awesomenauts.
2. Looking at the kickstarter videos and concept art behind Artizens, the game has a very distinctive art style. Given the customization aspect that the game was built on, did the art style flow from the design of the game, or did the art style come first?
We definitely had player creations in mind from the beginning. We felt a hand painted style with thick outlines on the characters would give it a beautiful, slightly cartoony and playful look that would be a good fit for anything players can come up with.
We know that player creations are going to stand out, but we want it to be that way. In the Artizens world, these people are actually creating brand new objects born from their imagination, so it’s just as wild to the characters in the game as it is to the players at home.
3. The main interaction the player has with the gameplay according to the kickstarter is the missions.
Are missions procedurally generated or created by hand? If by hand, do you have an idea of how many missions would be included at release?
Missions are created semi-procedurally. We come up with new monsters with lots of tweakable settings like how intelligent they are, how fast, how big, etc, new locations, new arena layouts, and new mission types.
Then we take your skill level into account, so that we give you something appropriately difficult, and we scramble up six fresh missions for you to choose from.
Your pick of six will continue to change over the course of the game and get progressively harder and more rewarding as your skill level increases.
So while there is a limit to the number of missions we can create, we aim to have it always be higher than what anyone can feasibly play through.
4. The hook of creating customized equipment sounds very intriguing and it’s rare that we see a game offer the level of detail that Artizens is aiming for.
Now, the drawback behind customization is that the player could make a situation worse for themselves by not using materials properly and running out. Are there any safe guards or design decisions in place to prevent that from happening?
You can always get more materials easily by harvesting from the wilderness or completing very simple missions, so the player shouldn’t get into a position where they can’t progress because they lack the materials to make better equipment. If we find that this is happening in playtesting, we’ll jump right on it and make the necessary changes to help new players out.
5. Besides equipment and pet customization mentioned in the update videos, are there any other areas of content you are thinking about adding in Artizen’s future?
We’ll be adding more monsters, crafts, mods, locations, and mission types over time, but we also want to add some bigger features down the road like PvP or other competitive modes, maybe even a system to allow players to create missions for other players.
6. Regarding future content are you planning on releasing free content, micro transactions or a combination of both?
A combination of both and a few more options. Especially to start, we want to give players a lot of choices for how they get new content. Some of the ideas we have are cycling in some premium content into the first release, so players can get a preview of expansions, purchasing access to new monsters or crafts, bundle packs of entirely new locations full of content, and lifetime purchases so you can just get everything that comes out in the future.
7. When we talk about games with player customization, there are normally two prevailing strategies to conquering challenges:
Either attempt to create jack of all trades equipment designed to handle anything. Or create gear relating to each specific challenge and switch back and forth.
Do you see the general strategy of playing Artizens falling into either of these two groups, or something else entirely?
I think it will be a lot more creating specific sets of equipment for unique challenges. You’ll have your go-to platforming build, your projectile focused build, maybe a support build you use when playing with friends, a lot of the fun of Artizens will be thinking of what set you want to make next.
The challenges we’ll throw at you will make it pretty tough to make a single build that works in any situation, but it can be quite fun to try to find that build as well.
8. Something that I’ve been curious about regarding the system of letting the player draw an item. How does it work if someone chooses a sword equipment type for example, but decides to draw something completely different like a bowling ball?
Does the game just use the sword swinging animations for the bowling ball or would the engine not accept the drawn object?
When you draw something like a sword, you draw right over our default sword appearance. This makes it a bit easier to draw things proportionally correct, but also prevents problems of invisible swords or thing with appearances much larger than their hitboxes. So yeah, you can draw a bowling ball for a sword, but you’ll probably want to cover the rest of the sword’s default look with maybe a bowling pin.
9. Continuing from the previous point, are there any limitations on the dimensions the player can draw for an object? Such as not drawing a sword the length of a small building.
Yeah, each craft has specific canvases you can draw on, so there’s a maximum size you can draw things at. However, if you want a massive sword, you can add jumbo mods to increase its size and it will increase the size of your canvases as well. We’re all for crazy equipment, we just want to make sure we balance it all to make it fair.
So that crazy large sword can exist, but it’s going to also be crazy heavy and probably slow you to a stop. If you’re cool with that and have a strategy that involves not moving, go for it!
10. How long are you aiming for to have Artizens finished?
Artizens is an ongoing game, so while we have our first rough alpha release this summer, we’ll continue working on it for as long as possible after that.
11. Lastly, from the gameplay trailer, it definitely seems that your team has had fun with the customization in the game with the arrow-proof beard coming to mind. What has been the craziest object you guys have come up with when messing around with the editor?
Ha! Northington is definitely one of our more creative ones, but we also have Breakfast woman who has a stack of pancakes for a head and two guns: one that shoots syrup that slows down enemies and one that shoots butter that reduces their friction on the ground, making them slim around.
Thank you for your time and once again congratulations on the kickstarter
With the kickstarter over, you can follow the continued development of Artizens from their actual site. And remember to come back on Friday as Charles is joining us this week on the perceptive podcast.