Forsaken Realms: Exodus Rising has a long, and interesting history. This, despite not even having a firm release date yet. The game was first announced to the world back in 2018 via a Kickstarter campaign. At the time, the studio working on it was called Team 14, though they have now rebranded into Titan Roc. The Kickstarter campaign did well and was on track to meet its goals before it was unceremoniously cancelled. The reason given at the time was that the studio didn’t want the game to be compared to titles like The Elder Scrolls or The Witcher. They argued at the time that they wanted those comparisons to come via “Exodus 3” rather than with Exodus Rising. Of course, it could be argued that they fuelled those comparisons themselves, with the following being a quote from the Kickstarter campaign:
“Our vision for the Exodus series is obviously a grand one. To eventually rival the likes of the Elder Scrolls or Witcher series in terms of scale, but with our own level of finesse, whilst providing co-op with a team of only 9 right now, we are under no illusion that we have a long road ahead of us.”
Over the past three years, development has continued. We’ve received frequent updates, screenshots and short videos via the developer’s Twitter account. The game’s official title has also changed. Originally just called Exodus Rising, it’s been updated to include the series title, Forsaken Realms. That is more important than it sounds on the surface. As you’ll realize from some of the answers below, Titan Roc are already thinking of Exodus Rising as the first in a new series. This is not planned to be a standalone game. In fact, the name change may have been more recent, but this long-term plan was in place back in 2018. As above, they mentioned in their cancelled Kickstarter that they were already thinking of “Exodus 3”.
Well, recently, I had the chance to talk to Titan Roc Director, Craig Smith, about Forsaken Realms: Exodus Rising. You can read the full interview below.
Pixel Hideout) Who are Titan Roc? Could you give us a brief history of you as a developer and introduce the team.
Craig Smith) “Titan Roc is a small indie studio of 5 full time developers, based in the south-west of England. Our team currently consists of:
- Environment Artist
- Level Designer
- Gameplay Programmer
- Marketing and Community Manager
Additionally, we have a Character Artist and an Animator currently working with us part-time. We also had a few others working with us in the past, but they have since moved on to working within larger studios. The company was founded in 2015 with a passion for RPGs [and] an urge to create a brand-new fantasy world. We’re currently working on our first title, Exodus Rising, which has been in full development for over 3 years.”
PH) For those who aren’t aware, what is Forsaken Realms: Exodus Rising?
Craig) “Exodus Rising is a story-driven, semi-open world action RPG set in the fantasy world of Leyda. In Exodus Rising you play as a mercenary on your way to the war-torn city of Vahrin in search of work. [Something] you’ll discover in the game, things have gone from bad to worse within the city and you as a player will become a part of its fate. As you explore the various locals of the city, you’ll get to know the survivors, their stories and in traditional RPG fashion help them out with their plights. As you travel the city, you’ll discover new gear to improve your character. Gaining experience will of course allow you to tailor your character toward your preferred playstyle and you’ll also be able to imbue and upgrade gear to add further flavour to how you like to play.”
PH) Could you just expand a little on the lore of the game?
Craig) “Leyda is a brand-new fantasy world that we’ve been developing since before Exodus Rising was even in development. It’s been through numerous changes and re-works in that time to ensure that we have rich lore full of unique locations and races that we hope to introduce in future titles, far beyond what you experience as a player within Exodus Rising.
Establishing laws, rules and guidance for science and magic as well as how we allow as much variety into the world as possible as a player within a high-fantasy setting was something we knew we’d have to get right from the beginning as it sets the foundation for every single race, culture, story and mechanic that we develop, potentially/hopefully for many years to come.
Exodus Rising takes place entirely within one of the human Free Cities known as Vahrin.
Vahrin has faced many hardships in recent years and as such now has a variety of factions located within the city for you to get to know and engage with. From the Knights of Vahrin desperately trying to restore order to their city to the Peacekeepers of the Combined Order and religious zealots of Narum attempting to undermine the war efforts.
Alongside varying human factions, you’ll also be introduced to the Gron, a forest-dwelling race resembling friendly giants and the insectoid race that linger beneath the surface known as Khraiax.”
The Alpha trailer for Exodus Rising
PH) You had a very successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2018, yet you refunded all payments due to unexpected levels of “hype”. In retrospect, do you feel that was the correct decision?
Craig) “We still feel this was the right decision for both us as developers and for our potential fans and players. Ultimately, whilst the Kickstarter was on track to succeed which would have been brilliant, it, unfortunately, wouldn’t have provided enough funding to cover the full development costs of Exodus Rising. We knew then that unless a publisher saw value in what we were trying to achieve, which is always difficult when you’re a new studio, that Exodus Rising would have to be funded with blood, sweat and tears. We just didn’t feel it was fair to expect players to sit and wait whilst we did that. Whilst the money would have helped with licenses and other costs, we felt it was far better to focus on building positive relationships with players.”
PH) Continuing on that note, if you had taken the money, in what ways do you think it would have changed Forsaken Realms: Exodus Rising?
Craig) “I think it might have ultimately hurt development. Because we’ve done this ourselves, the hard way, we’ve had complete freedom to really refine what we want the Forsaken Realms to be.
We’ve got a great foundation and every single day we refine more aspects of the game, add in new content and we really hope people enjoy what we’ve put our hearts and souls into.”
PH) According to the aforementioned Kickstarter campaign the game was due for release in 2019. The Steam page now has a release date of 2021 listed. What major features are yet to be implemented and are you confident of hitting the 2021 release window?
Craig) “We hope so. Things are going smoothly right now. It’s brilliant to see our hard work paying off and the final game becoming a reality. However, game development is difficult; things change, things break, and small tweaks can have bigger impacts across other parts of the game that you just don’t consider.
Balance, fine-tuning and bug fixes are something we want to allow a decent amount of time for, so I wouldn’t like to say yes right now that we will be releasing this year, as there’s a lot happening and only five of us to do everything; whilst paying our bills.
But what I can confidently say, is that we’ll be open and honest every step of the way and that right now we’re making great progress.”
PH) How important has tester feedback been to development? Can you give us some examples of where testers have changed the direction of the game?
Craig) “Tester/QA/Player feedback is crucial as a developer. We try to get people in to play as often as we can.
The most difficult part with feedback is figuring out what is achievable and in many cases what lots of people are doing more so than what they’re saying.
A prime example of this is that back when we did the Kickstarter and took Exodus Rising to EGX (Eurogamer Expo). We had a solid gameplay loop that we thought would allow us never-ending variety on skills, spells etc.
It was generally well-received, and we had lots of praise at the event and so continued to focus our efforts on other areas of the game throughout 2019.
In February 2020 we did an alpha test with people from the Discord server and it became really apparent from watching them play that the skill system we had built favoured ranged and magical playstyles far more than melee playstyles.
In response to that, we had to completely re-work the systems for how players developed their characters and make sure melee playstyles had quicker access to abilities and actions without the need for a skill wheel.”
PH) What are some of the major issues that you’ve faced as a smaller indie game development team?
Craig) “I think manpower has been our biggest hurdle from day one. When indie, everyone must wear multiple hats and be incredibly flexible in their approach to development. This unfortunately means that things in many cases are always 60-70% complete as everyone on the team is working on multiple things at the same time. This can be difficult to manage, especially if you have a day where multiple jobs come your way and things break.”
PH) Following on from that, in what ways do you think storefronts such as Steam and Epic Games Store can help indie developers?
Craig) “Steam has given us a place to easily publish alphas, run tests, generate keys and get hands-on experience with launching a video game. Whilst Steam gets a bad rap for how much it charges developers for sales you can’t really fault their developer support; it’s been top tier so far.
If I could wish for one thing it would be for other platform holders to be as accessible.”
PH) How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted development?
Craig) “As a small studio new to the industry, our team was working from home even before the pandemic hit. We are quite lucky to be in the position where the pandemic has not impacted our development drastically and we have been able to continue work on the game as normal.”
PH) What would you tell aspiring game developers out there?
Craig) “Do the thing. Some fail, some succeed but at least you tried and either way you’ll gain experience.”
PH) Finally, if you could go back to 2015, what advice would you give yourself regarding Forsaken Realms: Exodus Rising?
Craig) “Start smaller. We always knew we wanted to create a huge unique fantasy world and we’ve always tried to be realistic about what we can and can’t achieve with our first title. But as with all experiences, you learn what is crucial and what could have been left as a stretch target. Hopefully, when Exodus is finished, people will enjoy it enough to allow us to do even better in the next Forsaken Realms title.”
Forsaken Realms: Exodus Rising is available to wishlist on Steam.
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