Released earlier this month, Chillingo’s Ravensword has been living proof that a 3D role-playing game is not only possible on Apple’s platform, but that it can raise our expectations for mobile gaming in general. It was not a game without its flaws, but for a first attempt, it has set the bar high, not only for other developers but for Ravensword’s own team. Not resting on their laurels, the team is already hard at work on the game’s first expansion. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask developer Josh Presseisen about what we can expect in the coming months, and snag some exclusive concept art.
Ravensword’s development was hampered by a few problems, mostly with Apple’s approval process, that caused it to receive a few unexpected delays. This will hopefully not be the case with expansion, which could see a four to six month development window. “I’d say that’s a fair estimate. We don’t know for certain as we are still in planning stages, but we hope sooner than later,” Presseisen told us.
Even though they’re still calling the game an expansion, Presseisen believes that “it will be a separate product, as so much is changing (somewhat drastically) based on our customer feedback and reports.” They already have an update to the original that should be submitted in the coming days, which “will have some new areas to explore and some other small upgrades.”
The expansion, then, aims to go a lot further than the original. “It will probably take the original and double it– meaning the size of the world will double; you will still be able to get into the old world areas too, but there will be an entirely new land (and ocean) to explore,” Presseisen explains. What we’ll be doing on the ocean remains to be seen, but we can’t help but envision something like the GameCube’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
“The story has been roughed out for the expansion,” Presseisen said, “and it includes new lands to explore. Many new enemies, which are being worked on by Elder Scrolls Artist, Mark Jones. He’s also helping out on the weapons as well.”
Jones’s inclusion on the expansion has certainly garnered our interest, and as you can see in the exclusive concept art, there are many imaginative landscapes and characters that could blossom from his work. We can only hope that the final product will reflect these early drawings. “He’s got some ideas as well to add to the mix– its great to have such a talented artist approach us and want to be a part of the team. Right now he’s contracted to do more beasties and weapons in the expansion. I’m sure as time goes on, he’ll be lending us a hand in other areas as well,” Presseisen says.
Beyond new lands and enemies to encounter, other ideas that we felt may have been missing from the original could show up in the expansion. One of the possible changes is how conversation happens and the inclusion of dialogue trees. To that, Presseisen tells us, “We are going to try to get into that more, and see how much it snowballs at first. Obviously when setting up stories, it adds more options to where you end up in the end of the game; However, it doubles the amount of testing required, and since we are a very small team, we have to be realistic about what goes into the game. Right now we’re not at that stage, but we are thinking about how it can be done.” We suppose that means that a lot of you need to start crossing your fingers if you wish to see it in the final game.
Character depth will generally be more robust in the coming expansion, though. “There will be different races and classes, including customization for each,” he tell us. There may even be multiple story arcs, although that is strictly a possibility, and nothing that he could confirm.
“We received requests to be able to play as a female character – so that is definitely going to be an option, as well as more armor, weapons, magic, etc…” And yes, having customization out of the players’ hands will be a thing of the past, as he assures us that, “At the very end of development on the original we received some feedback about doing customization, but it was much too late in the process, and would have destroyed the whole base of the code. We decided it would be better to do the expansion, and everything else that people are hoping for. Yes there will be additional customization, we’re getting into the concept stage of that now.”
And what of that fabled online component that we’ve heard murmurings about in the past? Presseisen tells us that they “are tinkering with an online component. Whether that gets made for the expansion or after, we’re not sure yet.” A co-op adventure mode is being considered. “It will sort of depend what we can get done on our small budget. We put the expansion vs. multiplayer to a vote – and the expansion won by over 2:1 ratio. I’m sure people would be more excited about multiplayer after they get the items they want in the expansion pack.”
As far as what else to look forward to, expect details to be slim for a while, but we were able to get a few hints as to what we might be seeing. Presseisen says, “One hint I can give you is that there will be a lot to do with Elves in this chapter. Ravensword will pick up 50-75 years after the first one ends, and there will be new problems in the world. The Ravensword itself will get a facelift, and it will become more powerful– but you will need to earn that.”
It’s clear that the team has been listening to feedback and is excited to make a number of changes to the Ravensword formula in order to make this expansion an even greater success than the original. As for Presseisen, he said “personally I would have liked to have more interaction with the water element, swimming, particles, etc. I’d like to address this in the Expansion.” He added that he “would like more weapons to purchase, skills to learn– these will also be in the expansion.”
If all of this falls into place, we could be in for a real treat come next spring. Until then, we still have plenty of side quests in the original to keep us busy. When we can, we’ll bring you even more information on the continuation of the Ravensword saga.