Developer Diary
As the Mill Tilts...

Wow, it really is happening. After hundreds of conversations about great games, not so great games, and what we would love to see in a Fantasy RPG over the past decade, we are finally making a game to fill a void that Chris (Beatrice), Mat (Williams) and I (Jeff Fiske) have been discussing for years. If I tried to track Hinterland's full lineage, all the games that it draws from (both real and imagined!), it would cover virtually the entire pantheon of Fantasy, Rogues & Rogue-likes as well as builders and life Sims, not to mention some DS and console games.

Long ago we realized that people who played city-building games saw their creations (their cities) almost as characters to nurture and develop. Perhaps this comes about naturally as the 'walkers,' 'Sims' or whatever they happen to be called that appeared to live in these buildings and wandered about their daily lives breathed an all too rare sense of life into the collection of buildings that formed their environment. Separately, we privately mourned the lost opportunity in RPG games when you ran out with your character, performed some menial task (for which you were rewarded) but sadly the world did not change- even 'big scale' quests did not really change the world in any way.

Hinterland gives depth and context to the RPG experience, by allowing you to do something more meaningful with the spoils from your RPG adventures. Rather than just re-invest in yourself, you build something much bigger than yourself, that 'other character' - your village and its people. Thus the city building feeling of ownership becomes intertwined with your RPG character while at the same time creating a more seamless or consistent world, something that is always a goal of ours when making a game.

Conventional wisdom says new IP is too risky, while innovative gameplay is often dismissed as simply "just a hybrid", for the very circular reason that there seems to be some need to define all games solely in terms of established genres, franchises or points of reference - anything to remove the sense of risk! But we don't see games that way. Sure, part of why we know the Hinterland dynamic is fun is because it is essentially what you do in a city building game, and it has been fun in dozens of RPG's where the focus was on your character (and there is no reason this will not work for both a village and your character). But once we get going on a game, it becomes its own thing - much more than the simple sum of its parts or of all the different games that have inspired and informed it in some way.

Over the years of working together we also realized that we all feel that many of our favorite moments in games are starting new characters, or setting out in a fresh unknown land, and Hinterland focuses on this by keeping the scale of items, resources and characters very intimate… almost humble. A strong farmer could be an invaluable asset in early combat encounters, but losing him could be disastrous when it comes time to feed your people. In fact, to ensure that this experience is as fun as possible, when you have started to peak out, you win and are encouraged to play again! To support this we ensure you can’t exploit load and saving, the games are fairly short (under 6 hours) but very, very random in terms of replayabilty.

We also were so tired of going to E3 and seeing 'some chick with a massive sword' running around. What happened to the roots of fantasy and folklore and why not explore some of that space visually?

With third party development tools getting better and better (and more affordable), as well as new means of digital distribution opening up, developers are finally able to bring high quality, innovative, original games to the audience themselves, in relatively short development cycles, without having to focus on chasing the killer screenshot. AAA big budget games are great - we love them, we've made them, we play them - but there are also a lot of other great games out there, and finally the independent games scene is being taken seriously.

Hinterland is all about having a good time, in a tight coherent setting, where you manage yourself, a few followers, and the village that you need to lead to peace and prosperity. Every game will be different, and will contain RPG elements of item management and leveling, tactics of choosing which villager to bring with you on adventures, and strategies of how to invest your resources. You won’t just have to worry about preserving your own skin - should your village get destroyed, you lose. Your village has personalities in it as well. As few as a dozen or as many as twenty citizens populate the typical village, so you will know each and every one of your characters. Times are tough, good steel is hard to come by. No one knows much about fighting ogres… when you get your first rusty sword, should you hock it to a merchant, or hand it over to Farmer Jack- because it'll be better than a pitchfork when you're roaming the land and it starts to go down!