Fantasync Interview

Fantasync

Fantasync have, at the time of this interview, only released two games onto the iStore, but those games have both been extremely ambitious in scope. ‘Castleclysm’ is a strategy title with heavy fantasy elements whilst ‘Simply Knights’ describes itself as an Action RPG, bringing it firmly into My Boxed Universe’s remit. We sat down with Joeson Yu, a member of Fantasync and quizzed him for information on Simply Knights and other future titles.

MBU
First and foremost, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today. Could you introduce Fantasync for those not already familiar with your company?

FANTASYNC
Hi Ben, Boxed Universe, thanks for reaching out to us! It’s a pleasure to talk to you.
Fantasync is a small independent game design studio located in Montreal, Canada.
We design our games with a mission to invent and rethink game experiences and design for mobile gaming. If you’ve ever played any of our games, you’ll notice distinctly unique game mechanics throughout. We don’t normally present ourselves as a game studio but more as a game design studio.

Currently, most of the designing and developing is done on my own. Sometimes if I am lucky, I’ll have some awesome collaborators to work with in particular fields (sound, narrative, etc.).

MBU
What role do you play at Fantasync?

FANTASYNC
I’m a studio director, developer, designer and everything in between!

MBU
What got you into video game development and what classic games do you take inspiration from?

FANTASYNC
Video games have always been a love and fascination for me. Games allow us to get lost in an epic narrative, get lost in an adventure, or simply to rise to the challenge.
But what really brought me into development was actually designing games in general. I have an intense curiosity for crafting what users/players can experience through my imagination.

I attended Game Design School (VFS) so that brought my knowledge and skills closer to my interest, a sort of “launching point,” if you will. The classic games that I draw inspiration from are mostly titles that hail from my personal golden age of gaming; the SNES generation or older PC games. Especially the Nintendo and Squaresoft (Square Enix) titles of that generation, love them all.

MBU
Fantasync currently has two games released and a third empty slot on your website’s homepage. Can we expect to see it filled any time soon?

FANTASYNC
The concept is definitely there! But development has not started… yet.

MBU
Introduce Simply Knights for those who have thus-far not encountered it.

FANTASYNC
Simply Knights is a side-scrolling “battler” where the player can equip different weapons, armor, and shields in attempt to skilfully fight their way through legions of knights to reach the enemy king. The game’s main feature is it’s simple in-depth control scheme and “high risk, high reward” combat design that challenges skills and demands mastery.

MBU
Simply Knights brands itself an Action RPG, what RPG elements does it involve?

FANTASYNC
Simply Knight’s core RPG elements are the Weight Level, Equipment Stats, and Character Equipment Customization. The Weight Level is a mechanic like an equipment encumbrance that affects your character’s mobility and momentum. The Equipment Stats consist of HP, Weapon durability, and Shield Impact Resistance that are tailored by the chosen equipment. The last RPG element is the Character Equipment Customization. These customizable parts are headwear, primary weapon, secondary weapon, shield, and armor. They change not only stats but also your character’s appearance.

MBU
Now that you’ve created one RPG, can we expect to see more, perhaps delving more deeply into RPG systems?

FANTASYNC
Yes definitely! We love making games that players can invest and express their individualism/creativity. From changing appearances to highly in-depth play styles and attribute systems; we are interested designing systems that the player can feel immersed in.

MBU
Simply Knights has quite a serious and dramatic tone at its start and then dips into a comedy introduction. Was it intentional to try to court both themes and how did you balance them?

FANTASYNC
It is intentional. We generally look at the overall mind-set we want the player to experience in the game. We didn’t want the player to have this “we are soldiers on a mission” mind-set. We wanted to invoke the pride of medieval warriors, the feeling of mindless courage, feeling tough, and confident in victory. When the battle happens, all belief goes out the door!

As for design, the core gameplay is totally serious and demands a lot of focus. Without any comedic touches, the overall game will likely feel too serious. It is important to have the game poke fun of itself, it shouldn’t take itself too seriously. We balance the comedic aspects by sprinkling it into very subtle places.

MBU
The story uses symbolism based on Chess and some Artherian mythology, what were the other inspirations?

FANTASYNC
I am an avid fan of all things medieval, especially the mythos of King Arthur!

MBU
Where did the title originate?

FANTASYNC
We generally design our games with a particular game mechanic or gameplay experience in mind. Simply Knights’ concept originated from its current combat/control mechanic you experience now. Our mission at the time was to design the simplest control scheme, using left/right with the auto-attack mechanic. This is a design concept we feel works and plays better than any current combat/control design on mobile platforms at this time. Much testing, tuning, and changes are needed but once we establish the correct feeling, the title mostly built itself.

SimplyK 3

Building up your knight takes time and careful play.

MBU
Combat can be short and bloody in Simply Knights, the polar opposite of a button-basher where strategy and timing are crucial, how was this balanced and did combat go through many changes?

FANTASYNC
Definitely! This is a game so focused on combat and many features/mechanic came and went quickly. I would say it went through 4 major and hundreds of minor changes before hitting the current design.

Strategy and timing plays an important part in Simply Knights combat. Critical decision-making is the core feeling we are hoping to achieve here. The balance of the feeling for strategy and timing derives from the important role that positioning plays. Timing is all about the good strikes that land on multiple enemies. But in order to execute these good multi-hit strikes the player is required to be in strategic positions. So the balance of strategy and timing comes from both positioning of the enemies and player. It is literally a combat design of seizing and calculating opportunities of that (second to second) moment.

MBU
There’s a stark, distinct art style to the game, was this always the intention?

FANTASYNC
In any of our games, we don’t decide on art style until the core game mechanics and gameplay are complete. The style of the visuals for our games must compliment the gameplay. For Simply Knights, any of the highly detail art style was avoided and the cleanest style was chosen instead. The reason why clean is so important is because the visuals must give the player the clarity needed for noticing incoming attacks and enemy positions without any difficulty. Since the gameplay itself is so demanding of the player’s focus, the art had to be clear to avoid accidental blending of environment and characters. So the art style was never planned or intended from the start. Only until the gameplay was complete, we chose an art style that worked best for the game. As a side note, the term “Simply” Knights actually came from the art style.

MBU
Did any pre-existing titles directly inspire Simply Knights?

FANTASYNC
We had many inspirations from bits and pieces of many awesome titles but here are three that we felt heavily inspired our design.

One obvious game is Dark Souls. We have many inspirations from Dark Souls like the Character Stats, Combat Design, and even Equipment Design. Simply Knights combat mechanics like the knockback and stagger mechanics is largely inspired by the combat design of Dark Souls. Also certain aspects of the Weight Level and Equipment Designs have taken some inspirations by their Equipment Load design.

Another inspiration is Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. The inspiration we got from Chivalry was the experience of its engaging design of brutal medieval combat experience. This experience inspired us to create Simply Knight’s high-risk high-reward gameplay with low health and quick deaths.

Lastly, would be Cross Roads. Simply Knights current monetization design is largely inspired by Cross Roads. Another inspiration from a gameplay point is the eagle that swoops you away for not moving. This inspired the dreaded black wall you notice behind you in Simply Knights.

SimplyK 2

NPC allies are a massive help but keeping them alive is tricky.

MBU
Can we expect to see additional DLC and updates to the game?

FANTASYNC
Yes! Additional equipment is on the way and possibly a secret, larger feature too!

MBU
How long did production on Simply Knights take?

FANTASYNC
Not counting updates, Simply Knights was in production for 8 months.

MBU
How many people worked on it in total?

FANTASYNC
For this title and its development, it was mostly myself. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the awesome testers and supporters. So special shout-outs to them!

MBU
Can we expect to see your games on other devices, Android for example? The game would lend itself well to consoles too, with a simple button scheme.

FANTASYNC
We have some plans for android but consoles may be a different story. We do actually have a build that works with a console control but as expected due to the design, the game just didn’t feel right, it couldn’t live up to our expectations. However, there is an idea floating around for a completely different gameplay of related to Simply Knights that we believe might work well on the bigger screens. But for now we can’t say.

MBU
How tricky was it to pace the walking and running speeds of the game?

FANTASYNC
Determining an average speed for both walking and running wasn’t very difficult. But adjusting the movement speed of each Weight Level of both walking and running was definitely tricky. We needed to make sure that there was actually a difference for every weight level without over doing it. For example, the speed could not be too fast at lightweights while it could not be too slow at heavyweights but it needed a big enough difference of feeling that it had enough meaning.

SimplyK 1

Equipment adds variety and tactical depth to simple gameplay mechanics.

MBU
What advice would you give to budding developers?

FANTASYNC
My best two pieces:

– Work around one core experience. By this I mean have a clear understanding of what the goal is, the core experience you are trying to convey and craft. Also make sure it is very specific, for example, in Simply Knights it is “Methodical, Decision-Making Combat”. After establishing a goal, work on crafting everything to best build upon conveying that one single experience. Either with art, sound, story, design, or whatever, being flexible at any moment to change, even sacrifice anything that can help deliver that one core experience.

– Don’t fix the broken, trash it instead. If a design or feature doesn’t feel right, difficult to tune, or even difficult to describe, if it isn’t important to the core it is generally safer/better/correct to simply remove it. Focus on making the “good”, “great”. Don’t focus on making the “bad”, “good”. Don’t force features or designs to work if they don’t want to.
MBU
Thanks again for your time today. For those who want to learn more about Fantasync their official website can be found HERE with Simply Knights available on iOS HERE.