The OTK Games Expo saw a lot of different games debut, but one that stood above the rest was clearly Renown, winner of OTK’s $30,000 developer grant.
Renown is a first-person survival PvP game, where you take on the role as a medieval adventurer in an open-world sandbox world. Similar to other games in the genre, Renown encourages players to build a base, craft weapons, and form relationships with other players on their server. Currently, an early-access demo of the game is available on Steam until June 20.
Yesterday, we sat down with Jesse Jacobson, Lead Director of Renown and CEO of RDBK Studios, about the game’s development and some of the challenges that smaller indie developers face.
Keep in mind the game is still in development and a lot of the features we talk about in the interview are subject to change by the time the game reaches alpha.
Here’s what we talked about:
Renown Game Interview – On the Game
Gamer Digest: Thanks for joining us. First, congrats on winning the developer grant. How is the OTK Grant of $30,000 going to impact your development team?
Jesse Jacobson: The majority of money we spend goes directly into paying the team to work. There are a lot of things we still need to get to, like a technical artist is one of the main ones. Optimization is the biggest thing for us–we want to make sure the game runs well.
And we’d also like to get an UI artist. Because in my opinion, UI is one of the most important aspects of the game that can just so easily be overlooked. It really just ties everything together and makes playing a game just so much better.
So hopefully, we can bring those people on and it gives the team some stress-free months where we know we have the money to pay ourselves to live. Because sometimes you’re living paycheck to paycheck, so it’s huge. It came at the best possible time.
But that’s just from a money point of view. Not in our wildest dreams did we think we were going to win that. But the exposure alone–the fact that I was able to speak to Asmongold and that he was excited for Renown was so nice to hear.
GD: How will solo players be able to survive? Have you thought of any systems that will enable them to play without a group?
JJ: First, off the bat, there’s nothing stopping you as a solo player from being able to play. But of course, it will be harder. We’re balancing the game for about 5-8 player teams. So that’s of course going to make someone who’s a soloer have a harder time getting to the same level. But I think there are a few things in place that I want people to keep in mind when thinking about solo play in a game like this.
There’s very little chance if you’re being careful, especially once you have a shield or any sort of helmet–the chance of you getting killed on-site is very low. In Rust, and other survival games with guns, you can be killed no matter what gear you’re in, instantly, without really even having a second to react. In Renown, if you don’t want to fight, there’s a very good chance you can get away.
We have a system called the “chase” mechanic. If you’re in a certain range and you’re looking at someone, you get a speed increase. So for instance, if someone runs and you’re in a certain range, you’ll run faster than the person running away. So if you commit to a fight, you’re basically in that fight unless both parties agree to end it. But if you don’t get (within that range) you can easily run away and there’s not really much of a chance of them catching you.
So on that note, it does it make it a bit easier, makes it less “hardcore.” People will be able to have conversations without being at that distance. People can be out of range and chat with each other.
Another thing to think about, if you don’t know what the game is–yes it will be harder, but once you learn the game it’s going to be a lot easier to get yourself in a protected state. Going from nothing to a little base will be nothing, much like Rust–so take away the fact you can’t be shot from a mile away, and that you can build a base (quickly), it will help solo players.
GD: Yeah, that’s interesting. I never even considered the differences between having to sword fight vs. having guns where you can shoot from far away.
JJ: Yeah, and you have to get there (in distance). I recommend solos live in forests because forests are bad for zergs. If you’re a big group you have a much harder time fighting around trees–(as a solo) it protects you from getting shot by arrows. So if you come up against three people, you can use those trees to isolate and kill one at a time.
GD: And it might encourage more interaction as well.
I think it’s a lightbulb moment. You rarely get to have conversations with people in Rust with VoIP because you just get in a fight. But with Renown, the fights will last much longer. You could be face-to-face with someone, talking to them–while you’re fighting, trying to talk your way out of this fight. I just think that would be a very interesting thing. You know, there’s that psychological factor–if you know someone’s name or hear their voice in the game, you’re less likely to kill them.
GD: Yeah, that used to be an exciting thing about Rust. It used to be about talking and meeting people, but eventually, everyone just started to kill-on-site.
JJ: I hope that (positive interactions) happen more. We want to have a safe-zone as well, which can kind of be like a little area where you can hang out and duel and trade with people. Eventually, maybe an arena where you can duel people and not lose any gear–I feel like that would be a good way to have people chat and make friendships.
GD: How much resource grinding will be in the game?
JJ: You will have to farm resources pretty regularly. The way I see it, you’ve got grind–like progressing through the tiers, then you have grind like harvesting resources. I think for resource grinding it’s OK for it to be somewhat tedious. It’s the effort and time that you put into it that gives it that grind.
Whereas the grind in the progression, I would like that to feel quicker. Being able to quickly snowball your way through progression.
It’s going to be a fine line, but it’s all going to be a balance. We don’t want it to be too grindy, but we don’t want it to be not grindy enough so that the things you own (don’t have) merit. Like, if it’s too easy to make a sword, then the sword doesn’t hold any value, and you don’t care if you lose it. But also–it can’t be too long, or else you won’t take it out (of your base), like if you only have one of them–it’s that fine line.
We want the game to function like this. It wipes; the first 1-2 days is your main grind. And then, by the 3rd day, you’re reaching that end-game state. Your base is basically finished, you’ve got all your raiding stuff ready, and you’re ready to raid. Then the last 3-4 days of that week are spent raiding all the people around you competitively and using your gear up and having fun. So, we really want to make it so that first 3 days, it takes that long to end game.
I want players to feel like they can come back at any point, leave it for a week and return, and feel like they haven’t lost anything. You can give it a week, you can give it two weeks, and you know when you come back it’s always going to be a level playing field. The only thing that changes is how skilled you are against other people. And there’s beauty in that, some sort of simplicity in that style.
GD: What is the breakdown of survival, PvE, and PvP elements you’re going for?
JJ: It’s 100% a PvP game. There will be PvE aspects such as going to bandit camps and killing NPCs at villages, and taking their resources. Or for instance, a guarded cart that’s transferring goods from one of the safe zones you could jump, almost like an airdrop. So there will be these PvE things, but they’re not going to overly hard to do. They’re just a way to draw players together for PvP. The end goal of any PvE in the game is to enhance the PvP experience.
In terms of the survival side, I’ve always been in the mind that it’s not too important for a game like this to have that. In other games, the food feels like it’s not even really used–it’s there, and it sometimes gets in the way, but it almost feels like it’s there because it needs to be there. So at first, I was not going to have food for the player. Later on, we want to have worker buildings that craft your items for you, and if you feed them they are more efficient.
But as I’ve said that, a lot of people have gotten frustrated with us not wanting the player to eat. I’ve considered even having players eat for the fun of it, because I don’t want it to get in the way. So we’re still working it out–but the truth is, seeing how many people are passionate about eating, I’ll probably add it… But, it won’t impact the player that hard.
GD: Yeah, that’s an interesting take. You’re right–in certain games, eating feels somewhat of a nuisance rather than a core game mechanic.
JJ: I don’t want people to think “Medieval Survival,” where I’m having to eat food and survive the cold–that’s not at all what this game is, and if you’re looking for that, you’re going to be disappointed. I wish there was a better word to use–an “open-world sandbox” is closer to what we want to make.
GD: Does Renown have a hierarchy of items and buildings? What is it?
JJ: The way that it works is you have personal crafting, which you can craft anywhere on yourself. It covers basic stuff like clothing, a stone axe, bedroll, bandages. Then on the other (building) side, you have scaffolding, wood logs, and stone. We want 3 tiers excluding the scaffolding.
That corresponds with the 3-4 tiers we want with armor. But we want to have 4 tiers, where the fourth tier is “Gothic.” Where there are no gaps in your armor, it’s like a full set of armor. We haven’t made those yet, but all the other tiers, from tier 1 to tier 3 is done.
We have peasant sort of gear, almost like tier 0, we have leather, like leather braces and leather chest plate with a bit more of a tunic and some basic helmets. That goes into brigandine, which is sort of like scale armor. And then mail, and then plate after that.
We’ve had a lot of questions about why the light armor doesn’t seem to have the benefit. I think people are thinking along the lines of a Mordhau or Chivalry where you use lighter armor and you move faster. It’ll be different in this–every armor is going to be an improvement on the last in every possible way.
The only exception to that is we’re considering making it so if you’re in full plate armor, it’s harder to shoot bows. So that way we don’t have everyone running around in plate armor using crossbows and bows.
You also have workbenches that are used for smaller groups that don’t want to build a full castle. So we have workbenches that go up in tier and allow you to craft better items as you upgrade the tier of your base. You upgrade your base through your banner, which is like your land claim, and the banner dictates what tier you’re at.
But we want to have worker buildings, which are larger buildings that have to placed on the ground that will be inside your external walls. They will have an NPC and be basically be a big crafting bench. But it allows you to set up crafting and go away, and the idea is the NPC will make it for you while you’re gone instead of sitting at a workbench and having to craft. There may be some items you can’t make otherwise to entice people even further.
We want to move away from people from making a huge box and putting everything in the center. We want people to actually have to move around in their base.
GD: How much character customization will be in the game?
JJ: Heaps. You cannot change the proportions of your body, you can’t change the length of your arms or how big you are, you pick from the characters that are there and that have the same hitbox.
But where we have done customizations, tattoos, hair, facial shape. We have beards, we’d like to add scars. You can change your sex, race, and skin tone.
But where the customization goes crazy is, almost every armor in the game can be customized. Let’s take for instance a shirt. A shirt is split in half, so you can customize what’s in each section. So let’s say for instance, on the left, you want a checkered pattern with a dog–you can do that. You can change all the colors, the tiling, how big the pattern is, and where it’s placed. And all the armor is made like that, so you can really customize what your armor looks like. Two clans can look extremely different even if you choose the same colors.
GD: Do you have plans for skins?
JJ: I do want there to be Workshop skins. The game is going to feel a bit arcadey, as much as we’re going for a realistic feel, it’s not trying to be a realistic game. So I don’t mind the idea of having skins. Of course, our team will personally make sure to look at every skin before we approve them.
I’m really looking forward to that, there are so many skilled artists out there that love making stuff, and they get a cut of the pie so I like that idea.
Renown Game Interview – On Being an Indie Developer
GD: Have you developed any other games in the past?
JJ: No, we all basically came out of school. I just turned 26 and that’s the general age of the development team. Mr. Z, who’s the programmer, has been working in game development for a while and has been self-taught on his own programs for ten years, so his knowledge base is quite extensive. He’s looked after all the systems in the game so far. I worked in film before I came to game development…
In Australia, the two industries are quite interconnected, so all the contacts I built for film really came in handy. I was able to reach out to the right people. That put us in contact with the right people in Australia and worldwide, and they’ve really helped so far.
GD: What challenges have you faced as indie developers?
JJ: The team wears many, many hats. We basically all have our specialized role, but we all have a background in art and programming, or a mixture of the two. It’s really good. I can help the lead artist out with certain things, or I can do a bit of basic programming stuff. It’s a very team-like, helping each other, environment.
There’s a lot (of challenges). It’s been a very, very hard road. I guess initially, it was always money. So, it’s always been hard to try to find investment because we haven’t worked on any games before. You know, people didn’t believe in what we were trying to do. I don’t blame them. If you say you’re going to do something but have never done it before, people aren’t going to happily throw money at that. So that was the first one, getting initial funding.
So that lays onto the main other issue, because we’re entirely crowdfunded, all the money was totally from the community. As much as it’s good money, we do have to pay four full-time people, so we’re just having to scrape the bottom of the barrel to make sure we have enough to pay the bills and survive. But, we want to see this dream through–so whatever it takes, really.
GD: How much impact is community input going to have on the final game?
JJ: The community input means everything. Firstly, feedback–we’re a small group of people, so we need the communities help to nail down how things should feel. That being said, though, I have clear ideas on what i think is very important and things we won’t budge on. Like, specifically with the PvP aspects of the game. The truth is, we’re making a hardcore game, and if we split these groups, we will end up with both parties not being happy.
GD: When will players be able to get a copy of this game?
JJ: The demo is available now until the 20th. You can get testing access by backing the game through our website or crowdfund. It will be a continuation of the demo essentially.
Ultimately we want to release into early access sometime mid next year.
We want to deliver the best game possible in its best state. Especially because we put so much time and effort into it, that if we have ability to make it better, we’d be remiss to just release it because people want it.
GD: What’s the best way to support the game and stay tuned to updates?
JJ: The best way to support us is to tell people about Renown. Really, putting posts out, sharing our content, telling your mates–that is by far the best.
Then of course, if you really believe in the project by backing us. I want the people backing us to really believe in the game’s idea. That really helps.
The best place to follow us is on our Discord. The whole team’s there, we’re always answering questions. That’s the best place to get in contact with us.
GD: Anything else to say to the community?
JJ: Thanks to everyone who voted for us or anyone who likes the concept of the game. To all our backers, huge thank you to you, we are only here because of our backers. We’d not be making this game without them. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t understand–their support, to be the ones physically sustaining our work, means a lot.
You can support the development of Renown on their Indiegogo Page.
Download the Renown Demo on Steam.
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