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Playdek On Unsung Story, PC Ports, And DRM Concerns

(Not So) Final Fantasy

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Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians is an intriguing prospect despite its name also functioning as a dictionary of cliche fantasy words. It’s the vision of Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre creator Yasumi Matsuno, who played a huge role in popularizing turn-based tactics RPGs on consoles. Its Kickstarter has already soared to nearly $500,000 of its $600,000 goal, so things are looking up. However, developer Playdek has provided depressingly little concrete information, and a cursory reading of the Kickstarter gives the impression that Unsung Story will be a mobile game first and foremost. I got in touch with Playdek CEO Joel Goodman to find out whether or not the PC version will be a port, how the Kickstarter plays into that, how much Matsuno will be involved in actual development, and whether or not we need to worry about DRM. His answers could’ve been a bit more detailed, but oh well. Early days and all that. Go below for more. 

RPS: To what degree will Matsuno be involved on the project on a day-to-day basis? Will he be working out of Playdek’s California-based office? Also, will it be his full-time job, or will he be pursuing other projects as well?

Goodman: Matsuno will remain based out of Tokyo, while Playdek will develop from our California office. In addition to providing the story, game play and scenario direction for the game, Matsuno will review the development of the game throughout its cycle, and provide guidance and approval of all aspects of the game.

[pullquote]We don’t really look at our current development target as a PC port.[/pullquote]

RPS: Is this all Matsuno’s design/story? Is Playdek mostly following Matsuno’s lead, or is this just as much Playdek’s world/set of systems as it is Matsuno’s?

Goodman: The story and design has been created by Matsuno, and Playdek is developing the game based on his game design. As we develop, we will have insights and thoughts into how the various features should work and be implemented, and will discuss this with Matsuno as we go.

RPS: Is the Kickstarter largely an effort to bolster the game and bring it to other platforms? If the Kickstarter doesn’t succeed, is a PC version off the table?

Goodman: The KS is intended to allow us to bring the game to platforms that we would be unable to do so, and to provide world class talent that Matsuno has worked for in the past. If the KS is not successful, we will have to evaluate all of the intended platforms that the KS is funding.

RPS: What’s the primary development platform – not just in terms of hardware, but also in terms of gameplay mechanics and similar considerations? Is it iOS/Android like many of Playdek’s previous games?

Goodman: For Unsung, we are leading with development platforms that require various controller type inputs, and then will plan for touch controls. We also are targeting higher end graphics specs, to ensure we have a very rich graphical experience for all users.

RPS: Will the PC version launch at the same time as others, or will it come later? Will anything extra be added to the PC version since it’s a very different sort of platform? How much will you be taking control types, optimization for various system specs, and other concerns that can make or break a PC game into consideration?

Goodman: We don’t really look at our current development target as a PC port. All of the things you mention that are critical to PC development need to be considered upfront in development, and we are taking that approach. As of now, we don’t have an exact platform road map for launch, but it is our early intention to try and have as many platforms available as possible at launch.

For Unsung, we are targeting a core gaming audience that enjoys tactics RPGs, and will reach that audience on their platform of choice. We are not taking any so called “mobile game” design directions, and intend for this to be a very full and rich gaming experience.

RPS: Playdek’s history is largely in less grandiose (at least, relative to Matsuno’s previous works) sorts of games on non-PC platforms. This is a big step in a very different direction. What makes Playdek qualified to handle it?

Goodman: The core of Playdek’s team has a long development history together, going back over a decade, and we have made many console games together, for multiple platforms from the previous generation of consoles. The digital board games that we have been making at Playdek have been awarded for their high quality, and are actually very complex in their details. Tactics type games have an inherent board game quality to them that we believe fits our strengths very well.

RPS: Will the game be DRM-free on PC?

Goodman: We hope to deliver a DRM free version of the game.

RPS: How many episodes will initial funding provide? Is there any chance that you’ll ever have to seek additional funding for more?

Goodman: We are still determining the number of episodes for launch, but that number will be high enough to ensure a complete experience is delivered, with deep game play lasting many hours, and good replay value. Playdek will take care of the content scope of the game internally.

RPS: How long will each episode be, roughly? How far apart do you expect each release to be? How many episodes are you planning?

Goodman: Each episode will have somewhere between 5-10 stages, or scenarios, and we are planning for at least 5-10 episodes at launch. We still need to determine the DLC plan for episode expansion.

RPS: One of the big appeals of this genre is building a consistent team of characters over the course of many, many battles and unlocking new skills/classes along the way. It sounds like there will be a lot of perspective switching in Unsung Story, though. How will that affect party building?

Goodman: Players will still be able to build their team of characters, and unlock more skills and classes for them. Characters will be available to play in different episodes, as the timeline is very diverse in its history.

RPS: Will there be player choices in the story, along the lines of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together or other genre standouts?

Goodman: There will at least be player choices in each episode, and those choices will affect that episode’s outcome, and therefore its part in the history of the Seventy Seven Year’s War.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

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