Interview With Skyshine Games On Creating The Post-Apocalyptic RPG
by Elise Favis on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:22 PM
Publisher: Standfast Interactive
Developer: RedBedlam
Release: Summer 2014
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PC

Bedlam is an upcoming roguelike RPG from the small indie studio Skyshine Games. It boasts a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world filled with characters who have had a few too many cybernetic enhancements. Players create a crew and journey across the world of Bedlam in a large, grungy vehicle called a Dozer. The tactical gameplay is heavily inspired from The Banner Saga, but also holds some innovative, new mechanics of its own. 

Skyshine Games compares its Blitz Battle System to chess: every crew class has unique attack rules and movements. Resource management is also a major component, with meat, crude, and metal being critical supplies to keep your Dozer running and your passengers fed.  

To learn more about the game, we sat down with Skyshine Games’ Jeff Johnson, who gave us a deeper look into the world of Bedlam, and what we can expect from the game.  

What made Skyshine Games choose a post-apocalyptic wasteland setting for the game?

The very first iteration of Bedlam was actually a pen-and-paper RPG created by our art director John Mueller and lore master Dave Davis when they were teenagers. It was essentially a sci-fi D&D mash-up inspired by the abundance of genre material in the 1980s – classics like The Terminator, Blade Runner, Robocop, Escape From New York and the Mad Max series, not to mention all the cheesy VHS flicks that filled Blockbuster’s bottom shelves.

FTL, XCOM and The Banner Saga were major influences for Bedlam. You have also mentioned that inspiration derived from ‘80s graphic novels — any in particular?

Judge Dredd, Heavy Metal magazine, Frank Miller and Geof Darrow’s Hard Boiled, and Moebius’ The Incal to name a few. Like everything awesome in the world, even the term “graphic novel” seemed to be coined during this period.

The Banner Saga is one of the biggest driving factors and influences for creating Skyshine Games, and Bedlam is running on the same engine. What was it about The Banner Saga and Stoic that was so influential for your team?

Having all come from much larger game studios, we really appreciated what Stoic has accomplished with a small team. With Skyshine Games, we wanted to keep a very lean core team of three developers and bring on amazing talents from our network as needed. We think this is a critical concept for small studios to survive. From a gaming perspective, a lot of the fundamental concepts we needed to create Bedlam were present in Stoic’s engine, even though the games themselves are vastly different. 

What would you say are the most distinct differences in gameplay between The Banner Saga and Bedlam?

Rather than follow a linear narrative, we are a “rogue-like” RPG set in a chaotic post-apocalyptic wasteland known as Bedlam, which is randomly generated at the start of each game. 

The player’s goal is always to navigate their Dozer from the futuristic metropolis of Bysantine to the distant utopia of Aztec City, but with unique encounters and rewards on every journey. Control of territories by the factions (Cyborgs, Marauders, Mutants or the A.I.) may change on the map at the outset of a new game. We wanted to focus on the fun aspect of finding something different each time, with such unpredictability encouraging multiple playthroughs. 

We think both The Banner Saga and Bedlam present themselves with a distinct art style and an emphasis on turn-based combat. The overall aesthetic and tone of Bedlam are more outlandish and irreverent, and our devastating weapons and exaggerated animations should also provide plenty of satisfying surprises. 

An interesting mechanic in Bedlam is the ever-changing climate and weather. How will this affect battles and encounters?

This is one of our favorite recent additions to the game. We needed something to force the player’s hand a bit when deciding where to travel, so we added these “roaming threats” to the map. Radiation storms, tachyon mists, and other dangers will periodically spawn in certain territories, potentially in the path of the Dozer. Some of these events could have detrimental effects to the vehicle or crew, but conversely those same events might have benefits if the player is driving a certain Dozer or has a specific relic in their possession.

Will elite classes such as cyborgs and mutants have specific special abilities?

All four factions in the game (Cyborgs, Marauders, Mutants and the A.I.) have specific weapon preferences and weaknesses. Elite classes are larger special characters taking up four squares on the battlefield. These are particularly resilient enemies with powerful abilities that are unique to every character. Each will have to be defeated in battle, at which point the player can actually have the opportunity to recruit them onto the Dozer crew and deploy them in future combat situations.

What kind of upgrades can be added to the player’s Dozer, and how will it change gameplay?

Each Dozer is unique in how they handle resources (meat, metal, crude and passengers), improvements and of course the weapons and upgrades they start with at the beginning of the game. Once the player leaves the walls of Bysantine they will be presented with tons of opportunities to install new weapons and upgrades that can be used during battles. Upgrades are basically special technologies you can install in your Dozer’s specialized rooms and are improved by managing passengers on the Dozer. During combat these Upgrade abilities can be used to heal your team, activate defensive or offensive buffs and even resurrect the dead!

What can we expect from the Double-Down New Game+ mode, and how will it differentiate from the first playthrough?

Managing your resources and keeping your passengers alive will be a significant enough challenge when traveling through the dangerous realm even once. While we don’t want to spoil too much about what happens if you successfully arrive at Aztec City and attempt to travel back through Bedlam, we can say this is where the game earns its name!

What are some of the biggest challenges the team has faced as a small development team?

The greatest challenge is balancing our budget and time with game content; we definitely want to always push boundaries, but the man-power we have at our disposal gates us from some ideas. At the same time these also keep the design clean and simple. So the trade-offs also play a big role in making a game with a clear vision. That’s probably the greatest thing about small teams is you really get a less diluted experience.

When will Bedlam be released?

We plan to launch Bedlam towards the end of summer 2015 on PC and Mac via Steam.