Stephan Hövelbrinks, responsible for design, art, and coding on Death Trash, talks to us about the upcoming post-apocalyptic RPG.
What do you take when you take a post-apocalyptic setting with sprinklings of cyberpunk and cosmic horror and make an RPG against it? Indie studio Crafting Legends’ upcoming Death Trash is going to answer that very specific question. But it’s not just the fascinating premise of the game that’s caught our attention- there’s plenty else about the RPG – which is scheduled to enter early access soon – that looks promising, such as its choice and consequence mechanics. We recently reached out to the developers in hopes of learning more about the game- you can read our interview with Stephan Hövelbrinks, responsible for design, art, and coding on Death Trash, below.
"Player freedom is a big design goal for us."
Death Trash is banking quite heavily on offering freedom to players- in terms of build variety and, say, approaching combat situations, how far does that freedom go?
Player freedom is a big design goal for us. This starts at basic functionality and gameplay elements like allowing the player to leave dialogue anytime, includes features like creating your own character and approaching situations in different ways, including attacking everyone or no one, and also covers big decisions for the main story.
Keep in mind though this is a small indie game with only one developer for now. It’s just not possible to create the same breadth like games with a larger budget.
What can players expect from branching narratives in the game? How divergent can the outcomes of situations be depending on players actions?
The general tools always available to the player will be combat in different forms (melee and ranged) and stealth. That means that the player can at the very least decide about life and death of characters. There will also be choices and consequences through dialogue options.
I don’t want to promise too many variants of the narrative, as we’re somewhat limited by our budget, but the stakes for many characters in the Death Trash world are high and results can be drastic, so I hope the player will have to make some very interesting decisions, even if not at a constant pace.
How many endings does Death Trash have?
That’s still work in progress and I also don’t want to spoil anything, but there will be multiple situations, potentially wrapping up side-stories through narrative slides, and then somehow giving the player the possibility to continue journeying through the wasteland to finish side quests or just enjoy the sights.
"I would always favour freedom over balance and then give tools to the player so she/he can customize that balance again so the game has a good flow but also doesn’t get too easy."
Is it possible to complete a playthrough of the game without killing a single character?
Yes, we’re aiming for that. It’s a big development task, but it was one of the design goals right from the start. It might be necessary to rely on stealth for a lot of situations, but we want to include more tools for the player, too.
Similarly, is it possible to, through your actions, get every NPC in the game killed, regardless of their importance to the story?
Yes, that will be possible, too. I’m not sure at this point if we can guarantee the world will still give enough hints and clues to pick up the story after killing a very important NPC, but at the very least it will still be possible to mechanically reach the end.
How hard is it to balance that feeling of freedom against making sure it doesn’t totally ruin the game’s balance?
I’m still figuring this out. It’s my first game in this genre so there’s not much personal experience I can reuse apart from my knowledge as a player and my research. It looks like it’s indeed a lot of work and also more about finding good compromises instead of looking for perfect solutions. I would always favour freedom over balance though and then give tools to the player so she/he can customize that balance again so the game has a good flow but also doesn’t get too easy.
What are your biggest hopes for the game’s early access period in terms of the kind of feedback you’re looking to receive from the community?
We’re looking for technical feedback as well as ideas. Death Trash is a roleplaying game with a strong personality that is actually a mix of many different elements, so there’s room to grow and for more variety in a lot of directions. The Death Trash setting is like a sponge that will soak up a lot of wild ideas without making the whole scenario too ridiculous.
Player feedback will of course help us figure out technical and balancing issues, but I also hope it will show us where the variety in quests is lacking, and, potentially, even spawn ideas for whole new gameplay elements that can co-exist or integrate well with the existing ones.
"We’re aiming for twenty hours if the player does quite a few side quests but not necessarily hundred percent of them."
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Death Trash be?
We’re aiming for twenty hours if the player does quite a few side quests but not necessarily hundred percent of them. The Early Access will start with a third of them, gradually be expanded, and then we’ll add the last part on full release.
Do you have any plans to launch on Stadia?
No current plans. I wouldn’t rule it out though once smaller developers like us get access too and the porting effort is manageable, as it adds another option for potential players without compromising the existing ones.