Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story is an intriguing project, at the very least. It moves away from what previous games in the series did and expands upon their ideas, by giving players the opportunity to not only manage a school of wizards, but also to take those students out into the world for dungeon crawling and good old RPG combat. The game recently launched for PS4 and Switch, and as such, we sent across a few of our questions to the developers, the Indonesian-based studio Agate. Cipto Adiguno, their product manager, got back to us with the following responses.
"The main inspiration is our own high school experience: the struggling days before an impending exam, the bittersweet moment when we’re about to part with our fellow students and teachers, and the sweet memories we spent with our buddies together! One of the inspirations we had was Harry Potter."
Valthirian Arc’s mesh of management and RPG mechanics is quite a unique and interesting idea. What inspired you to make a game built around this concept?
The main inspiration is our own high school experience: the struggling days before an impending exam, the bittersweet moment when we’re about to part with our fellow students and teachers, and the sweet memories we spent with our buddies together! One of the inspirations we had was Harry Potter.
The game tries to strike a balance between its management/simulation aspects and its dungeon crawling/RPG mechanics, but was there any particular side of the game you wanted to focus on more than anything else?
We have more focus on dungeon crawling and battle, how the map generated, how each class different from the other, the design for boss battle – I think this part is the most player will interact with so we put more focus more on than simulation part.
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story has an abundance of mechanics that are effective but simple. How do you decide how much “depth”, so to speak, there needs to be a particular system of mechanic, and when to stop? Is there ever the temptation to just keep adding more and more mechanics?
The main guideline for us was how we can improve our previous iteration of Valthirian Arc. First we reviewed the meta we had and formed some basic idea what we want to implement in the new VA. For example, VA 1 and 2 had 9 jobs, and therefore VA HSS also will have 9 job. But for each job we added new skills, because in VA HSS the battle will have more action than before.
There is always temptation to add more mechanics and features, but we learned from previous development that we should have a limit to adding stuff and focus more on polishing what we have.
"Currently there are no plans for additional content like DLC, but we’d like to update the game based on the feedback we receive from player, at least for the near term."
Do you have any updates planned in the immediate future? For instance, many people have been asking for a “time skip” feature.
We also have some great suggestion from player like post game, UX, balance- we will find a time to prioritize what we could do first.
Do you have any post-launch content plans for Valthirian Arc?
Currently there are no plans for additional content like DLC, but we’d like to update the game based on the feedback we receive from player, at least for the near term.
One of the things people have been criticizing about Valthirian Arc in its early impressions is its controls. Can players expect hotfixes in the near future?
Being a Kickstarter funded product, do you think there’s any particular way in which the process helped the game’s development the most, beside the most obvious aspect of providing funding?
Backers really helped validate our designs and do some collaborative development for the content. In the first iteration we used pixel art 2D graphics and in the middle of the Kickstarter we decide to update it with full 3D graphics- it all’s because the help of the backers that give us some insight. We also have one mentor and some errand quests in Valthirian Arc that were designed by our backers.
Is there a specific reason why your game is not coming on the Xbox One, and are there any plans for the same?
We’d like to, but due to limited budget we had to prioritize, and that meant limiting our target platforms. One of the reasons was that we thought VA’s art style is more suitable with the PS4 and Switch audience.
What were the biggest lessons you learned from previous Valthirian Arc titles that you put to use during the development of Hero School Story?
Player really liked the idea of managing students in a fantasy world. We tried to improve that idea by adding variation and interaction with the students and introduce the player to the world of Valthirian Arc. Previous Valthirian Arc games were like endless sandbox games, there is no interaction in between player and Valhtirian Arc’s world. In Valthirian Arc Hero School Story, we try to show the glimpse of the world in the main campaign.
"Backers really helped validate our designs and do some collaborative development for the content."
From a development perspective, how do you find the PS4 Pro to be? With so much GPU power, we are sure you must be doing some amazing things.
PS4 Pro is powerful, too much so for our game in particular. Valthirian Arc does not demand a lot of graphical grunt, so we’re not pushing the capability of PS4 Pro to the limit.
How is the game running on the original PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
1080p, 60 fps.
And the resolution and frame rate of the Switch version in docked and undocked modes?
Docked and handheld is 720p, 30 fps.
Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from PS5 and Xbox Scarlett?
I think PS5 and Scarlett will be able to simulate the world more realistically than ever before. From me personally, my biggest expectation is not from graphics, but how we will play our games. With the advancement of cloud technology, perhaps soon I could play my latest AAA games anywhere. Also, I hope the SDK for PS5 and Scarlett will be available in Indonesia too.
Do you think cross platform play will be one of the defining features of next-gen consoles?
I don’t believe so. Cross platform for developers will be basic needs, because we need more players able to access our games. But for the consoles themselves, just like this generation, they will still need exclusive titles and specific features that differentiate them from their competitors.
"We also have some great suggestion from player like post game, UX, balance- we will find a time to prioritize what we could do first."
What is your take on the ongoing drama of loot boxes and microtransactions?
I understand the dilemma from the players’ side and developers’ side, and I think it’s okay as long as the lootboxes or microtransactions do not ruin your experience when enjoying the games.