Lords of Xulima is quite an impressive indie project and who better to chat about the game than creator, Jesus Arribas. You will learn how this turn-based, 2D isometric RPG came to be and much more.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Lords of Xulima.
I am the creator and lead designer of Lords of Xulima. I also project manage the game and coordinate all of the different contributors like graphic artists, programmers, promoters, etc.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
It all started as a small hobby that we did in our free time. Over time it grew into something much more professional and there came a moment when we realized that we wanted to dedicate ourselves to the project to complete it and release it commercially.
Where did the idea for Lords of Xulima come from?
The story that’s told in Lords of Xulima is just a fragment of a much larger mythology that I began writing some time ago. Originally, I wanted to tell the story in an epic novel format. The mythology spans the entire history of the world from its creation until its ultimate end. It tells how the nine Creators, the Lords of Xulima, intervened in the world and conspired to rule it according to their own visions and desires. From this project, the RPG Lords of Xulima was born. Because of this earlier work, all of the background, history, characters and, above all, the main plot, have been developed with an exceptionally high degree of depth.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Lords of Xulima?
Our biggest success was in developing the tools that enabled us to design Lords of Xulima in the most efficient way possible. Without them it would have been impossible for such a small group of developers to create such and expansive and detailed world. Of course, our initial inexperience in developing games also led us to make some common mistakes such as starting off with too large of a project instead of beginning with something of a much more limited scope.
In its current form, how close is Lords of Xulima to your initial vision?
I would say that it’s very close to the original idea. That said, we would like it to be even bigger. There are a lot of ideas that we won’t be able to implement due to lack of resources. However, in some aspects, such as combat, it is even better than we hoped for. When you implement a turn-based combat system, you run the risk of the game being slow or even tedious if the combat is too easy. But in Lords of Xulima we feel combat is agile, dynamic and addictive. We are very happy with this aspect of gameplay.
Some devs admitted their games were too hard upon release because they became experts as they developed the game. Talk about setting the difficulty levels for Lords of Xulima and if you faced a similar challenge.
Yes, in fact that’s a very common problem. And not just with the difficulty, but also with the understanding of other game concepts. What seems obvious to you, the developer, can be a complete mystery to the players. In this aspect testing is extremely important. Lords of Xulima has the complexity that comes with being an extensive open world RPG. Every player can create their own unique group of characters with different abilities that they will develop in their own unique ways. Balancing a game with so many different possibilities is very complex and, in fact, is taking up a lot of our development time
As a team we have a little trick to establish the base “Normal” difficulty of the game. As developers, we play the game without completing any of the side missions or engaging in extra activities to level up. So, we advance through the main story line directly and try to make it as difficult as we can to complete that way while still making sure that it’s possible to do so. That way, when a normal player has problems, they always have the option of exploring more and completing additional side missions to improve their party before continuing on the main plot line.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Lords of Xulima would run on the various PC system configurations?
Lords of Xulima is developed in Microsoft .NET (in Windows) and is compatible with MONO so that any system that can run MONO (MAC, Linux, Android, iOS, and Windows) should be able to run the game. The greater difficulty is creating the installers, testing the game on different configurations and making it compatible with third-party libraries to run on all systems.
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Lords of Xulima.
For Lords of Xulima, we want an art style that is pleasant and inviting, something that makes you want to come play. The graphics of the maps and locations are all hand-drawn by our artists and they have a style that is neither too realistic nor too cartoonish.
The characters and creatures are developed in 3D so that they can have smooth animations. The animations are rendered with as high quality as possible and we add filters to make them match the rest of the art style.
The music is actually a collection of commercially licensed pieces, carefully selected for the game. We would very much like to commission a composer to create an epic original soundtrack for Lords of Xulima and that is one of the reasons we have turned to crowdfunding.
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
It’s always difficult in the beginning. You have to finance the entire project with your own savings without knowing if you’re going to make it back again. In addition to this, it is really hard to get promotion and media attention, something vital when you’re starting out and no one knows who you are.
How did you go about funding Lords of Xulima and did you receive financial or emotional support from friends and family?
Emotional support, of course. But everything related to the finances of the project has been up to us alone. Partly, we don’t really want to involve anyone else in this adventure. For that reason we have defined the dimensions of Lords of Xulima to stay within the development scope of our available budget.
Tell us about the process of submitting Lords of Xulima to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
At the moment we are on Steam Greenlight in order to launch the game on Steam. When we get closer to the launch date we will start working with other possible distributors such as GOG, Desura, etc.
Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?
Yes, of course. However, the final Price has still not been set in stone. There really is a lot of variety in video game pricing. When you dig into it, you find that some games are priced in a way that the developers are really giving you a lot of content for very little money, whereas others come out looking really expensive for the quality and quantity of content offered.
Can you tell us why you chose to release a demo for Lords of Xulima?
For a game that is more or less unknown, a demo is an important way to show the world what you have to offer. Lords of Xulima will have a demo that can be converted to a full game by entering a purchase code. Being a long and extensive RPG, it’s important that a player can continue their adventure in the full game after trying the demo, and not have to start over from scratch unless they want too.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Lords of Xulima from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
It’s somewhat important. It’s good to listen to everyone’s opinion and to keep in mind the major themes of feedback in order to make a better game. It’s impossible to please everyone so that’s not something we are trying to do.
How do you feel about the various indie bundle promotions and the “Pay What You Want” pricing methodology? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?
I think that model is interesting after a project has spent some time on the market. It’s a good way to reach new people who might not have otherwise tried your game. Perhaps in the future we may be able to offer Lords of Xulima in such a way.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole is dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
On the one hand, it’s normal that games have some sort of protection, it can be something as simple as entering a code. We absolutely do not support any type of intrusive DRM that would require a player to be online at all times. As for piracy, that’s a chronic problem that affects all digital material. I like to think that those who pirate are the people who would never otherwise buy the product at any price and actually help by promoting games by giving them more publicity and exposure through commenting on the product, sharing videos, etc.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos and receiving monetization of Lords of Xulima?
As I mentioned before, that would be a form of promotion for us and we wouldn’t have any problem with it at all. It would be great.
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
Personally, I don’t like it. I want the final game at one price so that I can pay for it once and play the entire thing. I don’t like to go back and play it again just for a little extra content or a slightly different mechanic that has been added.
How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for Lords of Xulima?
This, to me, is fantastic. In Lords of Xulima people will be able to alter the rules of the game (including classes, enemies, abilities…) and even easily translate it into different languages. We are excited to see what users choose to do with the game.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
For people with little or no experience, I would recommend starting to learn little by little as a hobby. I think they should read as much information as possible, gain knowledge through testing different technologies, develop their concepts on paper and then start with small, simple games. Once you have some experience you should decide what kind of game you would like to make and chose the scale of the game depending on how much time you’re able to put into the project. Beginning with something simple and straightforward should come first, but it’s a step that many of us skip…