Going ahead with a new game — Deathfire

I am certain it has not escaped your notice over the past few months that I’ve been working on some game-related things lately. I am sure my posts and tweets about Unity were a dead give-away.

Well, I have decided that it may be time for me to share with you some of the things I’m doing, because with every new day that I am working on my current project, I get more excited about it. As you may have guessed, I am working on a new role-playing game. I have to point out, however, that it has nothing to do with Thorvalla, the project I tried to Kickstart a few months ago. Thorvalla is dead and off the table. There was not nearly enough interest and support for the concept to make it happen, so that continuing on would have been a fruitless endeavor. Instead, I decided to learn from the experience as a whole and move forward.

Deathfire logo

The new game I am working on is called Deathfire… for now. It is kind of a project title currently, but the longer we’ve been using it, the more it grew on us and there is actually a chance we may use it for the final game. We’ll have to wait and see. There’s going to be a lot of water going under there until we cross that bridge.

There are currently three people working on Deathfire. Marian Arnold is the lead artist on the project. Marian used to work for my old company Attic, just after we released Shadows over Riva, and he has a pretty long gaming history himself, working on games, such as the Divine Divinity series. What’s even more important, however, is that he is a complete role-playing buff and immediately jumped at the occasion when I approached him with this idea. Being such an avid role player, he often serves as a sounding board for me, too, while I design the game and bounce ideas off him. Oftentimes he comes back to me with comments, such as “We could do this and then do that on top of it, making it work even better.” So, all in all, I feel that Marian is a great complement for myself, forcing me to think, re-think and try harder all the time. The many code rewrites I had to do to try out and/or accommodate some of our cumulative ideas are certainly testament to that.

Then, there is Thu-Lieu Pham, who is also lending her artistic abilities to the project. Lieu is a classically trained illustrator and graphic designer, and her strengths lie squarely in the domain that oftentimes makes fantasy games so mesmerizing — the tantalizing look of characters and scenes. Many of you may recall the paintings she did for Thorvalla, such as the iconic dragon ship at sea scene that we used as the game’s main visual hook, as well as the female Viking character.

Currently, Lieu is busy drawing character portraits for Deathfire’s Character Generation. Instead of creating them in 3D, we decided early on to try and capture the look of Golden Era role-playing games. The covers by Larry Elmore, Clyde Caldwell, Brom, and Jeff Easley come to mind, right away. Call me old-school, but to me this kind of vivid imagery and paintbrush work is much more inspirational and engaging than a rendered 3D character.

And then, there is me. I am currently serving double-duty, designing and programming Deathfire. It is marvelously invigorating, I can tell you that, and it reminds me of the good old days when Hans-Jürgen Brändle, Jochen Hamma and I were making games such as Drachen von Laas, Spirit of Adventure or Blade of Destiny, the first of the Realms of Arkania games, which were, to a large degree, just the three of us working triple-duties, designing, programming and often also illustrating these games. Working with such a small team on Deathfire appeals to me very much and I am enjoying myself, perhaps just a little too much.

I’ve decided from the outset that I will be using Unity3D for the game. As you can tell from previous posts and some of my tweets, I have become a big Unity fan, as it puts all the right development tools at my disposal at a price point and level of quality that is unbeatable. The package has not let me down once so far – though I would like to say that 3D object import could be improved quite a bit.

Deathfire is using a first-person 3D role-playing environment, and I am glad that we can rely on the muscle of Unity to make sure that we do not have to limit ourselves because the technology can’t keep up. Unity may not be a bleeding edge engine, but it can sure play ball with the best of them, and the fact that it is so incredibly well thought-through, makes developing with Unity a lot of fun. More importantly, we can focus on creating the game, instead of the technology to run it on.

I know, you may have a lot of questions now, about the game. What, when, where, how… I’ll get to all that some time later down the line. For now, however, I simply want you to let the info sink in, and hopefully you’ll be as excited as we are. Visit this blog regularly. I plan on sharing more of Deathfire with you as time goes on. In fact, after some deliberation, I’ve decided that I will cover the development process like a production diary of sorts, right here on my blog. And also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@GuidoHenkel) for a constant vibe-meter as to what I am up to.

Talk to you again soon…


16 Replies to “Going ahead with a new game — Deathfire”

  1. Svetlin Balcanski

    Thorvalla not being funded was one of my biggest disappointments with Kickstarter, it was an interesting concept, and I consider the RoA series to be some of the best games ever made. I will follow Deathfire’s development with great hope.

    Good luck !

  2. Tom

    Super Neuigkeiten! Ich wünsch dir viel Erfolg und Spaß an der Entwicklung.

    Wirst du dafür später auch wieder eine Kickstarterkampagne starten oder macht ihr das gemeinsam als Hobbyprojekt in der Freizeit?

    Viel Glück

  3. RPGFan

    I hope you make something similar to ROA series, turn-based combat and a party. That has big potential for a kickstarter. However another first person game really doesn’t, we have tons of those to choose from.

    Witness how well WL 2 did, and how poorly richard garriot’s new kickstarter is doing. No one wants the games being churned out today, and the people who can stand them have tons of games with 20 million dollar budgets to choose from.

  4. Roq Marish (@Roqsan)

    @RPGFan – I notice the blog didn’t say single character first person. So hopefully, what was meant was a first person party game. Can’t think of a decent one since Wizardry 8 (Grimrock is more an action/puzzle game), so that would be great – especially on unity!

  5. RPGFan

    That woud be great, too. Loved the old wizardries.

    Grimrock but with some more substance to the game system and some more puzzles would be great. Grimrock as is turned out was too simple for me to bother to finish but it was a great proof of concept. Those old games can get made again and without spending millions.

  6. RPGFan

    Also look how well the torment KS is doing. In the last KS not only was the project vague but you didn’t hit the nostalgia notes one tenth what the other guys do. Most of them exaggerate a great deal, at least mention you were the guy on the front of the original torment box, and mention ROA in the video more than once.

    People who know stuff you did are probably 99% of the potential backers so it’s important to not only make stuff they’d actually care about but also to remind everyone of the cool stuff you were involved in as much as possible. And maybe get some of the old team of those projects back to talk about it.

    Nal halford would have been awesome for making the story for thorvalla but I think it was just not obvious enough to people what you are making and why they should care.

  7. Hideo Kuze

    Great news Guido!
    Glad to see that you haven’t given up on making cRPGs.

    Regarding the Thorvalla KS, there were several problems with it, but it wasn’t with the game’s concept itself.
    – the Thorvalla KS was very vague at first, both in terms of ideas and concept artwork, thus unable to convey a proper image;
    – this resulted in a very poor start and when that happens it becomes almost impossible to shift the pledging trend into making people believe it will succeed;
    – some people will only donate if it looks like the KS will succeed;
    – a lot of other pending-backers were waiting for a reboot of the KS;
    – a very high funding goal;
    – the fact that your name is not well known as some other game developers — though that doesn’t say anything about quality;
    – bad timing for the concept, since Skyrim vulgarized dragons (not that Skyrim and RoA players are the same… but still).

    You are known for the RoA series and making another game like it (in terms of mechanics) is your best option if you’re thinking on crowd funding.
    I would only change it so that it plays with an isometric view point at all times 🙂
    Additionally, being able to show gameplay snippets or even screens would do wonders!
    And do feel free to bring in Neal Hallford to the project.
    I think it’s a great approach to start brewing the new game through the blog and build a community around it.

  8. Adriel


    ich schließe mich dem Rest der Gästebuchbeiträge an und empfehle dich an deine Wurzeln zu erinnern. Die Leute sind gierig darauf ein Spiel wie die alte NLT zu spielen. First-person Erkundung, große ereignisreiche Überlandkarten und taktische Kämpfe aus der Iso-Perspektive.

    Wenn du das bieten würdest und zu einem späteren Zeitpunkt auf Kickstarter vorstellst rechne ich euch gute Chancen aus gefunded zu werden!

  9. RPGer

    Guido, those Torment guys have promised a “Planescape Developer Retrospective” and contributors to this Retrospective will include:

    Chris Avellone, Lead Designer
    Eric Campanella, Artist
    Tim Donley, Lead Artist
    Scott Everts, Technical Designer
    Brian Fargo, Leader in Exile
    Adam Heine, Scripter
    Dave Maldonado, Designer
    Colin McComb, Designer
    Brian Menze, Artist
    Aaron Meyers, Artist
    Mark Morgan, Composer
    Dennis Presnell, Artist
    Dan Spitzley, Lead Programmer
    Feargus Urquhart, President, Black Isle Studios
    Scott Warner, Scripter

    Do you not participate?

    • Guido

      No, we have not set up a website yet at this time, because we’re still so early in development and there’s not all that much to show. Creating and maintaining a full website for the project would just add yet another layer of work, and we simply feel the time would be better spent working on the project currently.

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