Earthbound was a real gem during the SNES days. It got rave reviews from just about every reviewer who played it and was loved by nearly everyone who purchased it. Unfortunately, the game sold so badly in the West that it’s part of the reason why Nintendo still hasn’t put it on the Virtual Console, and likely never will. So to see someone create a classic RPG that’s very reminiscent of Earthbound makes me incredibly happy. Boot Hill Heroes is that RPG.
I was fortunate enough to have an interview with the creators of Boot Hill Heroes; David Welch and Benjamin Rubach. In this exclusive interview, they talk about what inspired them to create this game, how they decide what platforms to release it on, and they share some details about the mechanics for the battle system.
Kyle: First off, how did you two come up with the idea of Boot Hill Heroes?
Ben: We had been talking for years about RPG and battle system ideas, really thinking about “what’s missing?” in video games. Then we spent a dark and stormy winter as roommates eating pizza and playing our way through classic SNES titles and RPG’s new and old. That was last spring, and we both resolved that we could make an Indie game that offered a unique gaming experience and really added something that wasn’t otherwise available in the market, specifically for this genre and theme. My grandfather had recently passed away and had been a lifelong fan of westerns. I had been thinking about him a lot during this time and Dave agreed that a western theme would be a fine debut title for Experimental Gamer.
David: I had always wanted to make video games, but always took on projects that were too ambitious. Other indie developers showed us that you could make fun games without making the next Elder Scrolls.
Ben: So that’s the story of how we started the project.
Kyle: Interesting. Now, obviously this game took inspiration from Earthbound. Were there any other RPGs that you two took inspiration from?
David: I’d say Tales of Vesperia and Final Fantasy III/VI.
David: Tales of Vesperia for its cooperative gameplay and Final Fantasy for its pacing and direction. But we’re both naturally inspired by other classic RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, Secret of Mana.
Kyle: All of those are pretty great RPGs.
Ben: I got a Sega Genesis when I was young so I was also a fan of Phantasy Star and Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday.
Kyle: I didn’t even know there was a Buck Rogers RPG. I’ll have to look that up.
Ben: It was great. It combined space combat and a tactics based D20 sort of system.
Kyle: Now, how about spaghetti western films? Were there any particular films that you took inspiration from for this game?
David: Ace High, Django, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Kill Bill (which could possibly be considered a spaghetti western).
Kyle: I think it’s safe to say Kill Bill is a spaghetti Western in spirit.
Ben: I think what people will really find fascinating about the story is how we’ve woven the western theme together with tropes from traditional fantasy.
Kyle: Speaking of which, can you tell me a little bit about the story?
Ben: Sure, we’d be happy to. What everyone has seen so far from the videos is that the Saint’s Little Gang was dispersed but not wiped out by Templeton Howl.
David: Not completely wiped out.
This is the summary of the story from our website. “After an alleged attack by the Chepakwik Indians, the people of Bronco County are on the brink of war. Only a farm boy who knows the truth that can stop it. Together with his three friends – a gunslinging desperado, an Indian princess, and a calamity jane – he must expose a conspiracy by bringing to justice the six outlaws of the notorious Saints-Little gang. Their journey will take them through cowtowns, Indian villages, ranches, gold mines, prisons, and into the very heart and soul of the American Wild West. But on their epic adventure to right the wrongs of the past, will they see justice done or discover an even darker secret lying in wait behind the scenes?”
Kyle: Sounds very intriguing!
David: Maybe we could reveal something else Ben?
Ben: I think that sounds great. Give a special teaser for Kyle and his readers!
David: Let’s just say things don’t turn out to be as simple as they seem.
Kyle: Do they ever?
Ben: Haha, not to me!
Kyle: Now, you stated in your Kickstarter page that you planned on releasing this game onto iOS, Mac, and Linux in addition to PC and Xbox Live Indie Games if you reached the Kickstarter stretch goal. Do you still plan on bringing this game to those other platforms?
David: We didn’t reach those funding goals but that isn’t to say we definitely won’t. We don’t have experience with those platforms so the money would have been used to get some outside expertise. But if there’s enough interest we’ll have to develop that expertise ourselves.
Ben: We want to make the game available as soon as possible on PC and Xbox live. Then we’ll look into other platforms as Dave mentioned.
Kyle: And how about other platforms, like the PS3/Vita by way of PS Minis or the upcoming Wii U?
David: It’s not outside the realm of possibility. I’m not familiar with all the steps required to develop for those platforms, but there are quite a few at this point. We would need to become a more established company first. Microsoft’s XBLIG makes it easy for anyone to develop games for.
Kyle: That’s true. Why don’t we talk about the gameplay a little bit. You said you took inspiration from Tales of Vesperia in terms of co-op gameplay. Can you describe how that kind of concept is applied in a more traditional RPG?
David: Of course. Battle participants don’t have to wait until it’s their turn to take action. Actions use power points that are generated in real time. So you can take any action at any time if you have the required power. It’s still command-based like a traditional RPG though. But even that’s a little outdated as we’ve made a few more modifications since then.
Ben: To further the explanation about power points, our system is a hybrid of real time and strategy commands. At any time you can select offensive actions or take what we call “stances,” which give you defenses and other special effects. The battle system plays best when you are strategically selecting when to defend and when to choose an attack based on the strategy of the other players and the enemy AI.
Kyle: So I guess you can’t just mash attack until the other guy dies. It must require a little more thought?
Ben: You got it. We’re adding a lot of depth since our world has minimal healing and magic.
David: That’s right, healing is rare. In the Wild West there was no magic incantation to cure 30 bullet holes in the gut. If you try to mash attack so you attack faster, it will just make the enemy attack faster too because it speeds up the battle pacing. Your best bet on healing is to avoid getting hurt.
Kyle: So the enemy AI adjusts to your fighting style?
David: A little bit. But what I meant was if you input actions before you have enough power for them, it will speed up the battle so you have the power. But this will also speed up the enemies’ power regeneration.
Kyle: Ah, okay.
David: Fighting enemies is more about learning how they fight and trying to discover a weakness in their patterns. I would say that stats and levels are not the sole determining factor of who wins the fight as much as most other RPGs.
Kyle: Very interesting. I can’t wait to see how this all comes together when it’s released.
David: Us too, as we’re still adding different actions that mix things up and tinker with the mechanics.
Ben: It will be a unique and challenging system which allows for lots of play styles, individuality, and teamwork.
[Note: The video shown here is an early version of the game and has since gone through some modifications.]
Kyle: Now, I know this was designed to be a co-op experience with friends, but I take it that you can play the game just fine by yourself if you wanted?
Ben: Yes, that’s right. You can control from 1-4 characters yourself. Each character get’s assigned to a player/controller.
David: Yeah, it’s just a matter of what controllers are assigned to which characters. One player can control all four just fine.
Kyle: Finally, do you guys have a solid release date for the game yet?
David: We promised our backers that the game would be finished in October and so far that date is holding steady.
Ben: Plus, that is a great time of year to release an RPG. Lot’s of people are looking for a nice title to curl up with over the holidays.
Kyle: Do you guys have a price in mind for the game as well?
David: We were just discussing that. I don’t think we’ve nailed down a price just yet.
Kyle: But I assume you plan to announce it at some point.
Ben: Yes. We’ll have a pre-release price and a launch price available on our website.
Kyle: Excellent. Thank you so much for letting me interview you two.
Ben: You’re welcome. We’re happy to be here.
One again, I would like to thank Dave and Ben for taking the time to talk to me about their game. Boot Hill Heroes will be available on the PC and the 360 this October. You can learn more about the game by visiting their website at Experimental Gamer.