Here we are again folks. In part one of this Q&A series, we spoke to Mila about the quests and lore of Thea 2. For the second part in Thea 2: the Shattering Q&A series, we’ll be delving into the mechanics and gameplay elements. This time, we are joined by Khash Firestorm, the (remarkably well-named) lead programmer for the game, to get answers for our pressing questions. Enjoy!
What is your professional background? Have you always been a game developer?
I have been working in the games industry for over 10 years now. During that time I took part in multiple projects for studios of different scales, from small “no-profit” indies, to large AAA such as Codemasters and CD Projekt Red.
My understanding is Thea 2 wasn’t your first idea for Muha’s second game. What convinced you that making a sequel was the right way for your company to go?
Nah, the image with Sci-Fi models we released early on was just a joke, Thea 2 was planned from the moment Thea 1 was shown to be a success. The cooperative mode we added for Thea 1 was in part for prototyping and testing ideas for the proper co-op in Thea 2.
Thea 1 was wildly successful for a small studio strategy game. Is it at all intimidating to have to follow that up?
Yes, and because people tend to idealise games from the past and the bar for expectations is set high, I would guess that we might have many players complaining that Thea 1 was better than Thea 2. But making a sequel is always very hard. You don’t want to make too many changes because it still needs to retain that feeling of the first game, but you want to make enough changes and improvements to make it worth calling a sequel.
But I think we are on a good path to satisfying most of our current players with the revised mechanics and art improvements while keeping the spirit of Thea 1 across all design aspects.
What was the most surprising aspect of developing Thea: The Awakening from launch to the Multi-Prayer DLC?
I was hoping multiplayer would be an interesting addition to Thea 1, but when we finished working on it, it turned out to be way more than that. It was almost a completely new experience despite some limits in interactions. This seemingly “small” change has invited many of our players to spend dozens of hours in game and enjoy it all over again with their friends.
Let’s dig into the mechanics. Players are going to able to control multiple villages in this game. How will that work as far as inventories, resources, and research points?
Players will no longer receive research points simply from crafting. In Thea 2 we wanted to try a different approach as the previous mechanics relied on grinding too much. Now, players will have the option to “research artifacts of the past” and, of course,collect research points from events. Players will be able to take part in some events together and they will be able to trade items and resources.
It’s worth noting that we aim for gameplay in which any player may have multiple villages or none at all and simply stay nomadic. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages, but building a village will require a specific artifact which means one cannot simply spawn villages everywhere he or she goes.
It looks like Thea 2 will have a lot more resources than Thea 1. How many are in the game so far and which ones stand out as particularly unique to your game?
We have 30 basic resources (not counting food) which can be gathered from the world and each biome will specialize in one type of resource. Additionally, these can be fused to create more powerful crafting materials.
I read that groups will be more limited as far as numbers go. Does that limitation apply to adventuring groups or to villages also?
We do not impose hard limits but there is a soft push toward smaller groups. For example, a lone character or characters forming a small group will advance relatively faster than those in a large group. Combat encounters will also allow players to use characters more than once in a round.
Equipping a smaller group in quality items is easier, and crafted items will usually be more powerful than those found in the world. Pets will partially offset the disadvantages of having fewer characters in a group too.
Our aim was to ensure that group size does not linearly scale the efficiency and power, but we have not balanced it out to zero, numbers still count.
Will there be any major changes to the gathering and crafting mechanics from Thea 1?
Gathering in general will work similarly with some tweaks here and there. We would like to introduce seasonal variables (such as food not growing in winter) and the possibility of depleting a resource spot.
Changes to crafting are deeper. It still follows the concept of “mix and match” between resources and being able to use higher tier resources in place of weaker ones, but crafting is now influenced by researched recipes a lot more. When the player researches the first rank of a recipe he is able to craft it using two main and two secondary resources which are randomized per player (these are known before unlocking). With further research the player gets access to other resources in this recipe and gets a boost to the essences used in crafting. A recipe defines which skills are available for the item while the type of the essence and its amount further changes its attributes and power. Some recipes will allow you to use a different amount of the same resource, so you can decide whether to go for a weaker but lighter or stronger but heavier item.
Buildings may influence available boosts as well so if your friend builds a smithy that you don’t have, go and camp next to their village and use its benefits for your craft. (Yes you can craft in the camp!)
On our forums, Thea 1’s card-based combat was the most often cited reason for why people didn’t try your game. What made you decide to keep the card-based system for Thea 2 rather than a more traditional battle map?
The card game is a deep part of Thea 1. We do understand that some players don’t like that element and autoresolves do not always give the expected results. Still, a lot of players argued that it was the card game that made Thea 1 stand out from other similar games. And in the end, we are making a sequel, so replacing one of the signature elements of Thea 1 would not really be appropriate. As a side note, this time you will be able to join forces with your friends against an enemy so it might convince some players to try it out.
What are some of the biggest changes to combat/challenges in Thea 2?
The combat mechanics has been significantly changed and we hope the new mechanics will provide more flexibility and control over what is going on. Characters will be able to use a range of skills that come from either their equipment, class, or a temporary effect. Players will be able to summon creatures to the battlefield, heal allies, etc.
Last year we released a demo of the new card game mechanics and, while it is outdated, it presents some of the new features and the overall direction we are taking. It is available for download HERE!!
All skills (but also races, resources, recipes, events…) are scriptable, which means players will be able to add their own ideas and share them with the community.
Are there any new challenge types for Thea 2?
In general, Thea 2 will have three types of challenges – Physical, Mental and Spiritual. All of them can be performed against groups (physical fight, argument or fending off a ghost) or against concepts (moving a heavy object, solving puzzles, performing a ritual). It’s worth noting that in challenges against concepts characters will not use any active skills acquired from their equipment which may change the way the player approaches challenges even within the same challenge type.
Also while “vs concept” challenges on their own do not deal permanent damage (though events may punish or reward the outcome in different ways), characters may receive damage in three forms matching challenge types. While Physical damage heals over time (unless the character gets killed), Mental damage drains “Quality of Life” to regenerate, and Spiritual damage can be regenerated only by rituals in camps or villages. Losing too much of Mental and Spiritual health leads to some other interesting mechanics, so let’s say a character’s life will be interesting.
I noticed that pets will be in the game this time around (yay!). What can we expect to see besides horses in that regard?
Horses increase the carrying capacity of the group, but you can have pets in the form of spiders, goats, dogs or cats, ghosts, demons and more. Some of them can give you new skills, some can be summoned to challenges, some will benefit your attributes… But all of them will accompany you during your darkest hours and greatest victories.
Can you give us a little information on how the various playable races in Thea 2 will differ from one another?
Races and race-unique classes are used to unlock unique paths in quests. Those characters also bring many rare skills and attributes that are unavailable or limited for other races.
Will there be any new terrain types in Thea 2?
Players will be able to travel across the sea to different islands. Each island will have its own look, much like a biome.
Another new thing you’re adding is seasons. Can you tell us a bit about what the mechanical effects of each of the seasons will be?
Seasons bring changes to resource availability and, if everything goes well, we may have weather effects linked to seasons as well.
What has been one of the most pleasant surprises so far in Thea 2’s development?
It is always a pleasure to see building blocks connect into a working mechanism as the work progresses. But I think the biggest thing for us was achieving the Kickstarter goal because that means Thea managed to gather a community that believes in us, the developer, and in our vision for the sequel.
What has been one of the biggest difficulties so far?
Some of the features we planned turned out to be harder to develop than expected and not everything we have initially designed will get into the game. Even though we have no publisher breathing down our necks we still need to deliver the game in a reasonable time frame and it has already slipped a bit. Cutting features is quite common in a development cycle, otherwise the game turns into a monstrosity with half baked features that never gets finished. At the same time it leaves us plenty of space and ideas for future updates, which we would very much like to provide free of charge.
What new aspect of Thea 2 are you most excited about so far?
We are making Thea 2 as a game we ourselves would enjoy playing, and I particularly would love to play it with my wife A’vee (who is also one of the developers). Luckily, the story is being written by another person Mila (Yuuki) so there will still be something new and surprising to discover.
How was your experience at Digital Dragons this year?
I was not there in person but I can imagine it was great and stressful at the same time. We were presenting the game for the first time to a broader public and no matter how hard you try, there is always the possibility that some hidden bug comes out and breaks our efforts. Luckily, there were no serious issues and the majority of feedback we have received was positive, even though the demo we were presenting was quite limited.
Where are you right now in the development for Thea 2?
At the moment we are closing down on implementation of features planned for September, when we will present the game on EGX (‘18) in Birmingham (England) and deliver the demo to our KS backers. We also need a layer of polish on the things we already have to make sure it leaves a good first impression. After that there will be a sprint to Early Access at the end of November and a period of intensive development based on players’ feedback until release next year.
Is there anything else you would like the fans to know about Thea 2 before we close?
If you’re on EGX in Birmingham this year (2018) – come and see our booth in the Rezzed Zone. Thanks for all your support folks!
We’d like to thank Khash for answering our questions this time around. As always, we learned something new and can barely contain our excitement for Thea 2. Keep checking eXplorminate for more updates and the preview.