Interview: Caleb Stewart’s knowledge of RPGs has lead him to create nostalgic Chaos Drift
Let’s all jump into a time machine and travel back to the mid-90s. Welcome to the height of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This is when turn-based RPG games were king, and games like Final Fantasy IV (2), Final Fantasy VI (3), and Chrono Trigger were shaping a permanent place in my gamer heart. To this day, FF6 and Chrono Trigger are my favorite games of all time. This was my personal golden age of games.
As time went on, game developers moved past this style and made more mainstream titles – Final Fantasy games become more ostentatious and appealed to a wider audience. Such is the way of business.
So when I was browsing through up and coming Kickstarter projects to see Chaos Drift, it instantly grabbed my attention. This project basically takes every aspect of the gamer nostalgia from my youth and packs it tightly into a single game. From design to story to the very soul of the game, it strongly speaks of those SNES RPGs.
Thrilled to not be alone in my yearning, I reached out to the creator of Chaos Drift, Caleb Stewart, to chat about his project and some other things that are related to video games. Check out the interview below. Definitely take a look at the Chaos Drift Kickstarter page; if it tickles the nostalgia centers in your brain, support the project.
GameZone: What exactly is Chaos Drift?
Caleb Stewart: Chaos Drift is a role-playing game that takes its cues from old favorites like Final Fantasy 6. The main thing that Chaos Drift does differently is its take on difficulty. It isn't going to hold your hand.
GZ: Where did the idea for Chaos Drift stem from? How long have you had a project like this in mind? What games inspired you for this project?
CS: I'm going to answer these two questions together as they are both so related. Ever since I was about 10 years old, after my first time playing Final Fantasy 3 for the SNES (technically FF6), I have wanted to make a similar game. I can't even put into words how much that game affected me and others like it (i.e. Lufia)... for years to come.
In my college years, I wrote stories but never had the tools to make the game I wanted until now. Then, very recently I picked up a copy of Dark Souls. Not since FF6 had a game impacted me so much. So that's what you are going to see in this game... the story and gameplay of an old school RPG with the difficulty and feeling of risk/reward of a game like Dark Souls. So this game is a culmination of my lifetime love of RPGs. I started actually working on Chaos Drift about 6 months ago.
GZ: I like the idea of putting a free playable demo out there so people can get a taste of the project. What was the thought process being that?
CS: With Kickstarter changing the way that projects like this are funded, I felt that it was necessary for the fanbase to be able to taste what they were supporting with their money before they committed to it. I always hate preordering a game based on concept art and what the developers are saying, only to find that the game was nothing like what I had originally envisioned. The only downside of putting a playable demo out there this early is that some people are like, "Is this all?" And they don't see the more complex systems of risk and reward that come into play later in the game.
GZ: Are you doing all the writing, coding, and art yourself for the project?
CS: I am a writer and a designer, and I'm doing 100% of that for the game myself. I am not a programmer or an artist. Tools like RPG Maker VX Ace and its very supportive community are making the gaming industry easier to break into by people like me who have a passion for this kind of thing but haven't went to school to learn how to code or animate. With a successful Kickstarter project, I will be able to obtain custom art assets for use in this game and possibly future ones like it.
GZ: I’m curious about the duel class system, could you tell me more about it? Is there a benefit to being purely one class?
CS: Sure... this part of the game is still very open to feedback. However, the way it is currently implemented, there is no benefit to being purely one class. Your primary class gains EXP at twice the rate of your secondary class. For example, one character is an Engineer/Priest. You have to decide if you want to gain access to his higher level Engineer utility skills first or his Priest healing skills. If you go all out and max your character before the end of the game, you are going to have all of his skills from both classes available to you. However, your stats like HP, MP, Str, Mag, etc will be based on your primary class.
GZ: Can you explain the orb customization system?
CS: The orb customizations system is very heavily inspired by Final Fantasy VII's materia system. Weapons and armors have slots, and some of these can be linked to each other. For example, you can equip Chaos Orb Frozenshard in one slot, and an orb next to it that modifies it to level up twice as fast or cost half as much MP or do more damage. Chaos Orbs can also directly affect stats like HP MP and Str. Over time, Chaos Orbs level up and grant more powerful versions of that ability or in some cases, a completely new ability.
GZ: What went into the decision to make the game quite challenging? Trust me, I’m not complaining.
CS: My biggest beef with RPGs over the years is that you get to a point where it feels like you are just mindlessly clicking through menus. You are playing nothing more than an interactive storybook with very little thought required on your part. I want to stay away from that. Overcoming enemies in Chaos Drift will require you to pay attention and figure each boss out. There's a boss where if you don't use your Defend command when the ground begins to shake, you aren't going to survive the next attack. It won't be that easy for all bosses though... especially the optional ones. But I don't want to give away any secrets :)
GZ: Do you think there will ever be a revival movement towards the old school turn-based RPG style of games?
CS: Yes. I really do wish that big game studios would realize that they don't need to push the boundaries of 3D graphics for every game release. Don't get me wrong... I'm currently enjoying the free copies of Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider that came with my new graphics card. But at night, I still curl up with my iPad, and after finding no new worthy RPGs, I fire up Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy 4. Variety is the spice of life... and because of that, there will always be a market for these games.
GZ: Who was your favorite: Celes or Terra (Final Fantasy VI)?
CS: Oh my gosh... I didn't know we were going to go this deep into philosophy. There's a lot to say on that subject, and I love them both. You start the game as a confused and lonely Terra, but you later start over as an equally confused and lonely Celes. Both struggle with identity, but I felt that I identified more with Celes. The way she handles others' accusations of betrayal, and still does what is right, and refuses to get bitter... is inspiring to me. Her selfless act at the Magicite facility to save her friends, and then later risking her life to retrieve Locke's bandana, were moments that just made me love her. Plus her Runic ability can cancel Ultima. Who else can do that with such ease?