Interview: Sharpening the Emotional Reach of Destiny’s Sword

The MMORPG game Destiny’s Sword had some huge presence at PAX East recently, introducing a bevy of new audience members to the classic adventure. But this isn’t your typical tale. It’s one that utilizes a great deal of emotions. In fact, you can “feel” up to 80 over the course of the game, and your character could even “suffer PTSD, anxiety, depression or addiction depending upon what happens in combat and on their unique background and personalities,” according to the game’s description.

Destiny’s Sword

To give you an idea of what the game is all about, we had a chance to chat with Ken Hall, CEO for the developers at 2DogsGames, about what makes the game special. Chances are it might even take dedicated fans of MMORPGs for a ride.

 

First off, for those that are unfamiliar with Destiny’s Sword, how would you best describe it? We know that it’s a game that revolves around tactics, but it goes a little deeper than that thanks to the narrative.

Destiny’s Sword is a strategy/combat MMORPG – with a twist.  Rather than simply crunching numbers in pursuit of dominance, players will work together to manage the psychology and mental health of their team throughout the game. Players will have to get to know their characters, to understand what makes them tick, in order to get the most out of them.

But Destiny’s Sword is about social interaction and communication between players, too.  Whether it’s participating in the ongoing PvP faction war, coordinating with your guild members in a 20-player, cooperative PvE boss battle, or working together to help your teams recover from physical and mental injuries.  As an MMO, we’re all about creating shared experiences in an immersive environment.

Our innovative social game mechanics ensure that all players in Destiny’s Sword are valued and can contribute in a meaningful way, regardless of their achievement level or intensity of play.  This makes it a lot easier to form relationships with other players and continue to play together, and makes the game less daunting for new players.

 

Tell us how the conversations within the game work. Apparently you can have more than one conversation at a time, and it can have an effect on your character? How’s that work?

Sometimes conversations will just be relationship-building tools – shooting the breeze and enhancing trust and comradery.  At other times they will be more like a detective story – players will have to question multiple sources to find out what’s really going on behind the scenes.  How players interact with their characters can certainly affect their relationships and the character’s psyche.

 

How you hold a conversation can actually affect how your character works in the battlefield, correct? Like, one thing could see a critical push, but another could also be negatively affected?

What happens to characters in battle affects how they think and feel, and how they think and feel affects their performance in combat.  Players have to engage with their characters and understand what motivates them and what they’re going through in order to put them in the best place to succeed.

 

Could this eventually evolve into some kind of “beef” with fellow characters that may affect how the team works as a whole?

Absolutely – thanks to our Insight Engine technology (essentially the AI that drives our emergent world), every character has a unique backstory and personality.  They have a web of complex relationships with other characters and the players. Characters can form a synergy and work really well together, but they can also start to distrust each other and cohesion can break down.

Your squad’s morale can even affect other players’ characters within your guild.  In this way, players are incentivized to work together and help each other to manage issues, with more experienced players mentoring and guiding newer players.

Destiny’s Sword

How’s the battle portion of the game work? Turn-based? Team tactics? Or is it ever changing depending on the synchronization of your team?

The battles are real-time, and while players can influence events, they can’t direct them.  The player is the commander of the whole squad, not just a single member of the unit.

There’s a lot of strategy in how the team is assembled, matching the right personnel and equipment for the task at hand.  Then, during battle, players maintain an overwatch of their squad from an orbital support ship. They can coordinate with other players’ squads to score combination attacks, and they can steer the course of events by playing action cards, such as shielding their troops or calling in an orbital strike.

 

How long has Destiny’s Sword been in development? We understand you may be running a Kickstarter to help push it further?

Destiny’s Sword is halfway through development, and we plan to launch our open beta at PAX East next year (2020).  Although we have our production funding already in place, and the core game can be made with what we have at our disposal, we really want to take things further for players.  Our vision is to add exciting features: fully dynamic environments, more cinematic content with voice acting, guild customization. Those are things that the Kickstarter campaign will be able to help us provide.

 

What did you think of the reception of the game at PAX East? Did attendees have some creative criticism to provide? Feedback that could possibly affect the game’s development?

PAX East was awesome – it was so great to see our prototypes in the hands of our audience!  This is the first time they’ve seen a playable version, and it was rewarding to see how quickly they ‘got it’.  We thought people would sit and play like a 3-minute demo, but we were amazed by how many people sat down for over 20 minutes, playing through every line of dialogue we had!

It was very moving to have people turn to us and say – “this is just what I feel like dealing with my anxiety”, or “I have a friend who’s struggling with addiction, and these are the kind of things they say”.  It really validates our concept and shows us we’re on the right track. Now we have to get to work and deliver!

 

Are there any issues in the game that you haven’t explored yet? Like, perhaps, consistent defeats having an effect on a character in the midst of battle?

There are tons of ideas we want to dive into and explore more deeply.  That’s one of the reasons we’ve partnered with some amazing organizations: Take This,Spartan Wellness and Alda Communication Training.

They’re consulting with us to make sure we get the core experience right, and then we can branch out from there.  As a small indie studio, we have to start with a narrow scope, but we will continue to broaden the game experience throughout its future.

 

How many characters are you looking to include in the game overall?

Players will manage a squad of up to 20 different characters, but thanks to our Insight Engine, there will be an infinite number of unique characters in our universe, and no two will react the same way.  As new characters come into the squad and old characters go, the entire dynamic of the group will evolve. War does change, despite what Ron Perlman says in Fallout 3, and Destiny’s Sword is going to offer not only a constantly changing world but characters that grow and change with their experiences and with players’ actions.

Destiny’s Sword

Finally, is the game only coming to the PC front, or do you have console ports figured out as well?

We’re going to initially launch on PC through Steam, but crossplay is a big part of our vision, so expect to see us on the consoles not too long after we get the PC version up and running!

Destiny’s Sword doesn’t currently have a release date, but its open beta is set to open sometime during 2020.

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