Lords of Xulima: Interviewing Jesus Arribas
Author's Note: This interview is on the lengthy side, I suggest you grab a drink, sit back, relax and enjoy.
I recently had the pleasure of conversing back and forth with the Jesús Arribas, who is both the Director of Lords of Xulima (pronounced sul-e-ma) and their tech support for the beta testers via the currently exclusive forums.
Going into this nattering session I knew very little about Lords of Xulima, to be fair there isn't a whole lot about it on the internet. This is, if intentional, a very smart move by Numantian Games. As when I got the chance to experience the game, albeit briefly for now, I enjoyed the majority of my time on Xulima.
[GameSkinny] Jesús, thank you for joining me for this interview. You are now in beta, so I am sure you may be very busy! Can you tell the readers a little about Lords of Xulima, and how they can get to play the beta and help shape the continent of Xulima?
[Jesús] Thank you John. Lords of Xulima is a RPG inspired in the old great classics like Wizardry and Might and Magic, but with modern graphics and interface. It is a very challenging and epic adventure in which the player will explore a huge and mystic continent called Xulima where the Gods had their home in ancient times. The player can create their own party of six characters. The exploration is in isometric view, with beautiful hand drawn landscapes, and the combat is turn-based in first person view.
About the beta, we have it now available from our own website, and very soon it will be available in Steam Early Access. The Special Beta Edition from our website also includes some digital rewards like the book Bestiary & Mythology, the game guide and the high-definition world map. Also players can get access to the private development forums and share their opinions and feedback.
We could say that this game would be about 50% exploration, 30% combat, 10% dialog and story, and 10% managing the party...
[GameSkinny] Sounds good, you are certainly setting up for a deep experience. How has the beta test been so far? You held an exclusive test for your Kickstarter backers, did that give you some solid data?
[Jesús] Yes, the feedback from our backers has been amazing. We have implemented lots of new features and tweaked lots of things to improve the balance and of course lots of small bugs fixed. We are very happy with the response from our community. Sharing the beta with backers was a great idea. Some of the backers has replayed the game several times, which is awesome, because the beta lasts about 50 hours (it is only the first half part of the game).
[GameSkinny] Wow, that is an incredible feat. It is something to be proud of, for sure.
Speaking of re-playability; how is the progress in Lords of Xulima, will it be you kill the Big Bad and the game is over? Or is it a game that will continue as long as the player wishes to explore the rich world you are creating? Any sort of New Game Plus?
[Jesús] Once you finish the game, you know all the story and that won't change in new games but there are several good reasons to replay the game. First, it is the hardcore mode, which has different rules from the standard mode, such as: you can die if you don't have enough food. Also as there are ten classes which are very different you can replay the game in a very different way than your previous one. Another reason is that after the shocking ending of Lords of Xulima, you surely are going to say: "Wow! Now, all those strange and mysterious pieces of dialog make sense, I want to read them once more...".
[GameSkinny] I see, so there will be lots of foreshadowing to watch out for! Sneaky, sneaky.
We wanted to separate the combat from the exploration, similar to games like Heroes of Migtht & Magic and King's Bounty but in a RPG game.
Current beta players can play around 50 hours of Lords of Xulima, which you say is approximately 50% of the overall game. That is a huge number, more so in the age of 6 hour campaigns, how much of that is main story, side-quests, hidden elements, etc?
[Jesús] Yes, it very long by todays standards, we were very ambitious with Lords of Xulima and this is the main reason for its delay but we are sure that many players will appreciate it.
The main story is divided in four plots that progress in parallel depending on the player actions. There are also four optional sub-plots, many secondary missions and some special achievements like beat the Arena and become the new Arena Champion. If you start the game in Casual Mode (the easiest difficulty mode) and you only focus in the main story to finish the game, perhaps you can beat it in 50 to 60 hours. But playing in Classic Mode requires to accomplish a good part of the optional content, otherwise the progression can be too difficult, and in that case the game can last about 100 hours or even more.
We could say that this game would be about 50% exploration, 30% combat, 10% dialog and story, and 10% managing the party (level up, buying weapons, ...). Although the combat is turn based is quite fast and dynamic, many of them can be solved in a few seconds.
I see that combat is from a FPS point of view, which is unique, what inspired you to take this approach?
[Jesús] I would not say it is unique, lots of games have used this technique before like Wizardry, Might & Magic, Phantasy Star... We wanted to separate the combat from the exploration, similar to games like Heroes of Migtht & Magic and King's Bounty but in a RPG game. We love the turn-based combat system, and have been inspired by several aspects of the classics to mix them with new original ones to have a very dynamic and addictive combat system.
[GameSkinny] That is true! It's more rare now-a-days than unique then?
Speaking of inspiration, what inspired you and your team to become game designers in the first place?
[Jesús] Our love for video games, especially RPGs. We have grown up playing some of the classic RPG legends which then were a true challenge. We really miss the challenge of the old classics, that sense of being along in a huge and dangerous world. If you made bad decisions you died and if you made good ones you got your rewards. We decided to bring back that spirit and challenge of those wonderful games and we created our game studio and our fist game Lords of Xulima.
[GameSkinny] I can relate to that. The first PC RPGs I played were the likes of Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, etc. I have never quite felt a connection to an RPG like I did when I was younger.
Have you taken any elements from newer RPG hits, such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and the Divinity series? And what are your plans to support the Lords of Xulima after your ship?
[Jesús] Mass Effect, Dragon Age....? Not really, although all of them are RPGs (or action RPGs), they don't share any similarities with Lords of Xulima. Perhaps only the third person view in Dragon Age if you play it with the camera in isometric view. RPG world is huge, and covers lots of sub-genres. We think there is no other RPG like Lords of Xulima, we can say very proudly that it is true original, and a new game-play experience.
About the future support, of course, this is our first game and we are very close to the community, Lords of Xulima will continue to be supported for a long time. If all goes well perhaps we will release a Gold Edition with new and exciting features.
[GameSkinny] Excellent! I am actually both excited and scared to hear that there is no inspiration from the modern action-RPG genre, as much as I love games like Mass Effect.
...all the story and mythology has their origin in a book that I wrote several years ago...
You make a lot of claims about Lords of Xulima, and I am personally excited to see if can you deliver on them. Your passion and confidence coupled with what I have seen and experienced of Lords of Xulima makes me hope this will a huge cult hit.
Do you have any plans to add multi-player in any form?
[Jesús] Thanks John.
As the game is a huge adventure, with turn-based combat it is very difficult if not impossible to add multi-player support. Imagine Final Fantasy X multiplayer... it would be very weird. Anyway, to create a bit of competitiveness between the players of Lords of Xulima we have designed a score system and a hall of fame in our website where the best players and their scores will be displayed there.
Another future option would be to allow the players to fight between themselves with their parties in the same turn-based combat as the game, that could be very cool, although much harder to implement, but let's see...
[GameSkinny] Any plans to offer an expanded universe, such as web comics, player created content or a video series by the Numantian Games?
[Jesús] There are some cool items that we have created for the backers from Kickstarter, and for those who have pre-ordered, which include the book Bestiary & Mythology of Xulima, which narrates the story of the beginning of the world when the Lords of Xulima (the Gods) created it until just the instant the game story begins. As all the story and mythology has their origin in a book that I wrote several years ago, we have lot of material to expand the universe of Xulima, specially their two sequels we would love to create.
Even in this game, there are some phrases very subtle and mystic that tell some facts that will happen in future parts (sequels) as prophecies. All the story was written some time ago, so we can play with it to make a very coherent world and story.
[GameSkinny] You have a depth of lore to pull from then, fantastic. Speaking of sequels; do you any other projects in the works?
[Jesús] Our main goal now, is finish Lords of Xulima and release it. Publishing a game is much more harder than what we expected, but now we have gained a lot of experience (even some of the team member has leveled up twice!). Depending on the success of Lords of Xulima we will decide if we continue with the saga or create a new game. But before that we will take a deserved rest.
[GameSkinny] If you could say one last message to the community, and this be what influences people to purchase and play Lords of Xulima, what would it be?
[Jesús] My message to the community would be: If you wish to experiment the magic and challenge of the classic RPG legends with intuitive and beautiful graphics under a huge and epic story, then try Lords of Xulima. Or as our new trailer tells at the end: "Are you a human or a God?...".
[GameSkinny] Thank you, Jesús. It's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you and I wish you all the success in the future.
[Jesús] My pleasure, thanks to you John.