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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Baladins from Seed by Seed is a narrative co-op RPG that respects your time

French indie studio Seed by Seed appreciates the importance of players’ time. That’s why the play sessions of their narrative-driven, co-op multiplayer RPG Baladins last around an hour. In that time players go on little big adventures in a magical world. “We’re aiming at making non-violent games that bring families and friends together around the screen.”

Narrative designer and Seed by Seed co-founder Antonin Demeilliez explains the idea behind Baladins. “We wanted to give players the opportunity to live stories together, which is not that common in the current gaming landscape. Also, we wanted to make a RPG that would go straight to the point, and would be very fast to play, with short sessions. We found inspiration in games like The Yawgh and Monster Prom.”

To keep the world and the stories relatively small, the team opted for a board game-like structure. That immediately dictated the game’s graphical look. “In order to make an accessible game, we wanted to create something that would look familiar for everyone. Hence the table-top look and feel”, says Demeilliez. “So, we created gaming boards that look like actual models, and we made characters resembling cut-out paper. They fit the world and are much easier to animate. The general look of the game, inspired by actual materials, also creates a continuity with our previous game Pile Up!, which has a universe made out of cardboard.”

Time-eating dragon

Players share a single screen as they all take turns in their journey to appease Colobra, the time-eating dragon who’s awoken from its deep slumber. But they don’t all follow the same path as random events and side quests can easily distract even the most dedicated Luxomancer. To keep everyone invested in the same story, the game has a voting system that appears only a few times, but carries some real weight. “It’s part of our intent to create real multiplayer moments during the story”, says Demeilliez. “Sometimes, when a choice may have dire consequences on the game world and engage the reputation of all the baladins, active players will have the opportunity to vote. This way, we wanted to convey the idea that the baladins act as a whole, not only as individuals. The idea of community and consensus is fundamental in the whole story, so we needed this idea to appear in the game design as well.”

Creating a narrative-driven multiplayer game that is fun both online and with some friends on the couch posed some real challenges. To make the proceedings a bit more lively, the team allows for players to intervene during anyone’s turn. “We didn’t want people to just wait for their turn”, explains Demeilliez. We want them to have an active role, and help their fellow Baladins out. So everybody has to see the same thing on screen, and you can ‘raise your hand’ with a simple input to propose your help. You can always exchange items with other players, or even teleport to their position or summon them to yours. So, we had to create interface flows to be sure that players can give their consent.”

Randomness is the enemy

According to Demeilliez one of the biggest lessons the team has learned during the development of Baladins is that randomness is the enemy of telling coherent stories. “Rolling dice and failing often seems arbitrary and frustrating for the players. We also wanted to create a system of random encounters as you travel on the game board. But when we tested our stories, we felt that those encounters needed to be more in line with the quests we started. So, we went from a completely random system to a more weighted and controlled one. This way we’re sure that players will encounter events that are relevant. I think that in the future we’ll try to explore ways to make interactive stories with less randomness.”

Seed by Seed was founded in 2018 by eight people who all met in school. Three years later they released their debut game Pile Up!. Another three years later it’s time for the release of Baladins. “Our studio has a flat hierarchy, nobody is the boss, and we don’t have a creative director. Everybody in the studio is welcome to pitch ideas and we chose the projects we all want to work on, together. After that, everyone is the boss of their own part of work, whether it’s design, art, writing, coding etc. We always ask for feedback from the entire team and we have the moral obligation to listen to this feedback, but at the end of the day, we all have the final cut on what we do.”

Welcoming RPG

Demeilliez continues, “We hope that Baladins will find its audience. We designed the game for players who don’t have the time to play very long RPGs anymore, but we also think it can be a good entry point for a new audience. People who just want to live stories in a fantasy world but are turned off by violence and combat. With Baladins we want to show that the RPG scene can be welcoming for everyone and that we can imagine new ways to write fantasy. But most of all, we hope people will have fun exploring the world of Gatherac together, that they will like our characters and want to discover more about this small universe we created.”

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.
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