You could be forgiven if Disastercake’s Soul Saga both sounds familiar and doesn’t. The Kickstarter-funded JRPG has been in development for a while now under the purview of Mike Gale, who acts as the designer, programmer, director and producer. Its ambition and scale have certainly exceeded all prior expectations and considering that one man is responsible for everything, it’s all the more interesting to see where Soul Saga could go. For starters, its first episode has already been funded and is planned to release next year for PS4, Wii U, PS Vita and PC.
GamingBolt had a chance to speak to Mike Gale about his work on the project, including the various influences, story details and the rise of old-school RPGs in recent times. Gale also offers details on Unity’s role in development and how he manages so many different roles at once.
"The generation of gamers that grew up with the old-school RPGs are now working adults with larger disposable incomes, and are driven by the powerful beast known as nostalgia."
Soul Saga has had a long history of development ranging back to 2008. How did the game’s ideas evolve over time outside of improving the visuals?
Mike Gale: The biggest evolution of ideas happened during the Kickstarter through stretch goals. I listened to what fans wanted to see in Soul Saga, and I added them as stretch goals, such as the airship exploration and combat. Soul Saga has also evolved based on fan feedback during the beta. The combat is one thing that has evolved greatly from the fan feedback.
Various JRPGs have proven to be an influence for Soul Saga. Which games helped to fine-tune the vision you have for Soul Saga?
Mike Gale: It’s hard to name any one in particular. Soul Saga is a culmination of what I’ve loved about many other games, but I would say the biggest inspirations are Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Suikoden, and Skies of Arcadia.
We know a bit about the story and characters in Soul Saga but are there any other companions you could reveal at this point?
Mike Gale: I’m asked this question a lot by Soul Saga fans. I’m excited to show off the cast, but I think if I talked about any more characters it would only spoil the experience for you. There are quite a few, and several are optional secret recruits.
Old-school RPGs have been making a comeback of sorts in both the Western and Japanese genres. What are your thoughts on this and do you feel that it will lead to greater mainstream enthusiasm for Soul Saga?
Mike Gale: I’m sure it’s simply a cycle of generations that we’ve seen happen in the past already. The generation of gamers that grew up with the old-school RPGs are now working adults with larger disposable incomes, and are driven by the powerful beast known as nostalgia. I’m sure that Soul Saga fans will feel the inspiration and love that went into Soul Saga, and will share that with their friends.
"The Unity Game Engine promises its developers easy porting between systems. Also, I will be releasing on consoles in a linear manner so that I can polish up the desktop version as nice as possible from fan feedback before porting to the consoles."
How does Soul Saga’s episodic approach work? How much content can players look forward to in the first episode and how long will the wait be between episodes?
Mike Gale: The first episode is really big for a 3D indie game on a tight budget. The amount of content I add into the first episode keeps growing as I finish it, and it will be a complete game in its own right. Regarding the wait, that will depend on how many sales Soul Saga makes. The reason the first episode is taking longer is not only because the scope changed from Kickstarter stretch goals, but because there are very few people working on Soul Saga. I am the only full time employee working on Soul Saga.
Can you tell us more about the gameplay elements, particularly the airship battles? It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any RPG attempt the same since Skies of Arcadia.
Mike Gale: I have some plans for this that I will reveal closer to Soul Saga’s release once everything is nice and polished up. It won’t be exactly like any other system that’s been done, but the inspiration will be there.
What is it like working as director, programmer, producer and designer on an RPG such as this?
Mike Gale: Exciting and tiring. There’s a reason no one has created a 3D JRPG with the production qualities of Soul Saga with such a small budget and team before. It’s really a world first with that consideration. It takes a lot of sacrifice and patience to pull it off, and I’m very proud to finally get to share my work with everyone once it’s done.
It’s especially amazing that Soul Saga will be coming to the Wii U, PS Vita, PS4, PC, Mac OS X and Linux. How do you manage the entire work load by yourself?
Mike Gale: The Unity Game Engine promises its developers easy porting between systems. Also, I will be releasing on consoles in a linear manner so that I can polish up the desktop version as nice as possible from fan feedback before porting to the consoles.
"I’m very curious to see the sales numbers between different consoles myself to determine in the future where resources would best be allocated."
Is there any reason Soul Saga won’t be heading to the Xbox One when it releases in 2016? It just seems odd you are bringing to everything out there except Microsoft’s console.
Mike Gale: At the time of the Kickstarter, there were very few requests for the Xbox One, and there wasn’t a lot of information on how they would handle things with their online store. After I port to all of the other consoles, I will have time to reconsider porting to Xbox One depending on fan feedback.
Why are you developing for the Wii U? Many developers including gamers believe it’s dead.
Mike Gale: There were a lot of Soul Saga fans that wanted it. Vita is also considered dead, but I am also porting to that because of fan feedback. I’m very curious to see the sales numbers between different consoles myself to determine in the future where resources would best be allocated.
What are your thoughts on the PS4’s hardware? Do you think with enough time it will be able to do stuff that were only possible in science fiction?
Mike Gale: I’m honestly not sure what its capacity is. If the API for it is not easily tapping into it without a ton of research, then we’ll probably see new hardware come out with better APIs before this generation is realized.
What are your thoughts on PS Vita? Do you think Sony are taking anymore interest in the handheld?
Mike Gale: I’ve heard rumors that Sony has recently announced that they will no longer make any more handheld consoles because of the poor sales of the Vita. In all honestly, I see Nintendo going the same way in a generation or two. They’ve already allowed Pokemon to go to mobile phones with a new app, and they’ve announced they have more games planned for mobiles. I’m sure they’ll use those to decide how to handle their future mobile market.
"The biggest problem with Unity is that, because it is a closed source engine, if there are any problems (like how recently Mac builds were broken in Unity) then outside developers, such as myself, are unable to resolve the problem."
Furthermore what prompted you to bring the game on it compared to say, the 3DS?
Mike Gale: The 3DS is a device weaker than the next generation of smart phones and tablets. It wouldn’t be able to handle the graphics of Soul Saga. It could barely handle the new Pokemon game (it lagged in many areas), and that was made by a team of developers who made the handheld system themselves and could tap into it better than anyone else could. The Vita is actually pretty darn powerful in comparison, and should be able to handle Soul Saga well.
How has Unity streamlined development overall while allowing for appealing 3D visuals?
Mike Gale: Unity allows for me to easily port between different platforms at the click of a button. The PC, Mac, and Linux versions are pretty easy to port between so far. The level editor is also very versatile and user friendly (for the basics). The biggest problem with Unity is that, because it is a closed source engine, if there are any problems (like how recently Mac builds were broken in Unity) then outside developers, such as myself, are unable to resolve the problem. We can only sit and wait for Unity to fix it and send us a patched engine.
Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Mike Gale: I’m very excited to finally be able to share Soul Saga with everyone! If you’d like to keep up to date with Soul Saga, then please subscribe to our Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or YouTube channels for news.