Midgar Studio founder Jeremy Zeler-Maury talks about the crowd-funded homage to JRPGs.
Everything about Edge of Eternity, the upcoming JRPG from Midgar Studio, is so spectacularly old-school. The mysterious foe, the central couple, the deep political and socio-cultural drama playing out in the backdrop, an epic scale, a large fantasy world that mixes technology with magic and of course, the Active Time Based battle system all contribute to making this a JRPG to look forward to. However, it’s revelatory to hear that the game has been crowd-funded through Kickstarter, amassing $161,246 from an initial goal of $44,000, and has been built using Unity. This isn’t to suggest that Edge of Eternity will be dumbed down compared to the likes of Final Fantasy or even your standard Tales game.
Designer, programmer and Midgar Studio founder Jeremy Zeler-Maury spoke to GamingBolt about the process of developing the game, the influences that past JRPGs had on Edge of Eternity, the overall visual direction with the advent of Unity 5, bringing the game to Xbox One and PS4, working with legendary JRPG composer Yasunori Mitsuda and much more.
"It’s true that Unity 5 is a major advance. We made an update about it recently showing screenshots of an early portage of Edge of Eternity. This is really impressive. In a few days we made dramatic changes to the current demo."
Rashid K. Sayed: Edge of Eternity will look to pay tribute to the JRPGs of eras past. The Final Fantasy influences are clearly visible but what other games directly inspired Midgar Studio?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: Indeed Final Fantasy is a major influence to us but its far from the only one. As we said, Edge of Eternity is a “tribute” to classic JRPG but also a proposal of a mix of Japanese and western RPG. So the list of games that inspired us is long and quite eclectic. If a list had to be made we would say Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, Grandia, Vagrant Story… But we also could name games like The Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, Fable or Mass Effect.
Rashid K. Sayed: Having looked at some of the early footage of the game, we’re impressed at just how good Edge of Eternity looks for its budget. Can you tell us a bit more about Unity and how it’s helped in the development?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: Unity is full of features that convinced us. First, it is based on C# and associates it with tools really dedicated to video game development. It means for us both power and simplicity and allows a small time studio like ours to achieve during short development cycles what was so far only possible for large teams.
Unity also offers an intuitive and artist-friendly interface that allows artists and game-designers to be easily active in the development without the help of integration specialists. It’s the engine that currently supports the most platforms, from PC to consoles, including many mobile systems. You can release your game almost everywhere, that’s a major asset compare to its competitors.
And finally, when we chose Unity its price was also a major asset. At the time, it was almost the only affordable engine for an indie team. Even now, as competitors like the Unreal Engine became “royalties based’, we think it still offers the best value for money on the 3D engine market, even more with this new Unity 5.
Rashid K. Sayed: Wasteland 2 developer inXile Entertainment recently talked about moving from Unity 4.5 to Unity 5 and reported significant improvements in visual quality thanks to physically based shading support. What effects will Unity 5 provide for Edge of Eternity and could the game look even better than it does now?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: It’s true that Unity 5 is a major advance. We made an update about it recently showing screenshots of an early portage of Edge of Eternity. This is really impressive. In a few days we made dramatic changes to the current demo. On the visual side we made a significant step forward and in the same time everything comes a lot less greedy in terms of resources and better optimized.
Rashid K. Sayed: How will the dynamic events affect combat? What kind of gains or losses could enemies and party members potentially suffer based on weather conditions and the time of day?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: Just to give you a simple example, if it’s raining the lightning bolts damages will be multiplied considering water increases conductivity. On the contrary, in the same weather conditions, the fire spells will not be as efficient as usual. A first version of this system is already functional on the demo if you want to try it. We are also working on an interaction system with the set of the combat scene, but we can’t tell you more at this point.
"We all agreed without a doubt that Mr. Mitsuda was the one composer we could dream of. We had the opportunity to introduce him our project and he really liked it."
Rashid K. Sayed: Though we love a good nostalgia trip, one of the main criticisms of JRPGs in the past has been the lack of variety. What does the world and setting of Edge of Eternity do to advance the JRPG genre?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: As we said, we want to mix Japanese and western influences. The uniqueness of Edge of Eternity will come from this merging of gameplays. We are also working on a real renewal of the ATB gameplay. We are trying to change it the way Lost Odyssey dramatically changed turn based gameplay.
Rashid K. Sayed: Midgar Studio’s Kickstarter campaign has been a strong success thus far but it carries some pretty hefty promises including a non-linear story, day/night cycle, open world, dynamic events and much more. Is there ever a case where you feel that it’s become much more ambitious than originally planned?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: Really no. We would not commit to promises we know we will not be able to deliver.
Rashid K. Sayed: How did you come into contact with composer Yasunori Mitsuda? How far will his work go towards completing the authentic JRPG experience that Edge of Eternity is going for?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: Well, we just asked him! This is that simple. Our friends at Fusty Game (another indie studio that we host in our office) showed us the way when they just dared ask Hideki Naganuma to compose music for Hover: Revolt of Gamers. We thought it was impossible that a great composer pays attention to a small French studio. They not only got an answer, but it was a positive one!
We all agreed without a doubt that Mr. Mitsuda was the one composer we could dream of. We had the opportunity to introduce him our project and he really liked it. His understanding of the constraints of an indie studio made the rest.
Rashid K. Sayed: Edge of Eternity will be heading to the Xbox One and PS4 via a recent stretch goal being fulfilled. What about the current generation of consoles excites you most?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: All major JRPGs were released on consoles. We are very happy with achieving this goal as it was almost a duty to make Edge of Eternity available on consoles. The next-gen consoles offers impressive technical possibilities, and we are very happy about the results of the early portages we made. But don’t get the idea that the PC/MAC/Linux versions are not that important to us. There are very few 3D JRPG on these platforms, we feel gamers would expect a game like Edge of Eternity.
"If we decided to propose the console release as a goal of our Kickstarter, it was to gather resources to make the best possible version for PS4 and Xbox One and to take advantage of each console specificities."
Rashid K. Sayed: Given Midgar Studio’s indie status and desire to maintain creative freedom, is there any concern about having to ally with either Sony or Microsoft to bring Edge of Eternity to their consoles? There’s also ID@Xbox’s parity clause which has garnered its fair bit of controversy in recent times.
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: At this point we do not have these kinds of concerns. We met both Sony and Microsoft representatives and we have regular discussions with them about Edge of Eternity’s development. They both provided us with Dev Kits and both made sure that we planned to release our game on their consoles. It’s all very friendly with everyone actually. We do not feel any pressure from any of them yet.
Rashid K. Sayed: Will Edge of Eternity run at 1080p and 60 frames per second on both the PS4 and Xbox One?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: It’s hard to answer this question right now as we are in the very early development of the next-gen consoles versions. But if we decided to propose the console release as a goal of our Kickstarter, it was to gather resources to make the best possible version for PS4 and Xbox One and to take advantage of each console specificities. And with Unity we have a perfect tool to do so.
Rashid K. Sayed: Since Edge Of Eternity will also launch on PC, what are your thoughts on DX12 improving performance by 50% and boosting GPU performance by 20%?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: We only just begun to learn about DirectX 12. But on paper it sounds very interesting. We look forward to test it and verify the real performances with Edge of Eternity.
Rashid K. Sayed: Do you think DX12 will have a substantial performance impact on Xbox One?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: Same as previous question. We barely started with DX 12, so its too soon to know.
Rashid K. Sayed: What are your closing thoughts on Edge of Eternity and the success of its Kickstarter currently?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: We are all thrilled with how everything happened. We achieved the Mitsuda partnership and that was really a dream for us to have such a composer working on our musics. It’s also great to see there are so many fans of this kind of game. We got so much feedback and encouragement, it was hard to answer every single message. Thanks to this incredible support, we will be able to add a lot to Edge of Eternity. We now have resources to make the game we had in mind for years.
Rashid K. Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Jeremy Zeler-Maury: Just thank you for your support and giving us the opportunity to present our game to your readers. I hope some of you will feel like supporting us and help us achieve an even better Edge of Eternity!