If you're in the business of making role playing games, you should probably have an eye on Seven: The Days Long Gone. It's a fascinating isometric stealth RPG with a gonzo setting and interesting traversal mechanics from studios IMGN.PRO and Fool's Theory, whose founders have a history at Witcher developer CD Projekt Red.
Over on the Gamasutra Twitch channel today, we were lucky enough to be joined by lead developer Jakub Rokosz and quest designer Karolina Kuzia-Rokosz (both late of The Witcher 3), who were eager to share stories about the game's development process, and dive into the technical and design decisions that went into this unique RPG.
It was an illuminating chat, which you can watch in its entirety up above, but in case you're creeping around the island of Peh as we speak, here's a few key takeaways from our conversation.
Stealth games are about "idiot npcs"
When asked to quickly sum up what they feel makes a good stealth game, Rokosz and Kuzia-Rokosz talked about a need for players to feel smarter than AI characters. Of course, since the computer literally knows where the player is at all times, it then becomes necessary to make your AI really, really stupid, so that the player doesn't feel discouraged or outmatched.
When asked for what kind of stealth games inspired the sneaking mechanics of Seven, Rokosz and Kuzia-Rokosz tossed out a few familiar names like Dishonored and Thief, but excitedly pointed to the interactions in Fallout 2 where players could sneak up on NPCs and leave grenades in their pockets (Rokosz said a similar feature almost made it into Seven, but was killed to manage scope).
What makes a good RPG quest
Since Kuzia-Rokosz was the game's quest designer, we asked her to sum up what makes a good quest in an RPG like Seven. Her first response was that it's important for quest designers to think about enabling different playstyles, especially in a game like Seven, where there's a range of options on the speaking--->brawling spectrum.
Then Rokosz chimed in to remind her of one of the reminders she gave him constantly during development: that every quest needs to be clear about "what to do, where to go, how to do it," even when it's trying to be open-ended. This was apparently advice that Kuzia-Rokosz would badger him with constantly while implementing quests in gameplay.
How to make a good "detective vision"
In Seven: The Days Long Gone, players can use the protagonist's robotic eye to scout the environment around them and highlight loot and hiding places useful to completing missions. This feature is similar to the "detective vision" features seen in titles like Arkham Asylum and Assassin's Creed. It turns out that Rokosz and the rest of the team were worried players would leave such a feature on all the time, so they tried to have their mechanic "gamify" the main character pausing to take a look around, help him gather information in a similar way that the player wants.
Kuzia-Rokosz also pointed out to us that when they let players toggle this vision mode on and off, it quickly led to information overload since too many icons would pop in to the screen at the same time.
For more developer interviews, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel.