(Article originally published in 2013) We recently were able to grab an interview with Trent Custers, the Founder, Creative Director, and Game Designer of League of Geeks, a studio designing an upcoming indie title called "Armello", which features an anthropomorphic cast of characters. Check out what he had to say about the work so far on the game, and some special details about the story, characters, and furry influences.
Armello is a swashbuckling adventure that combines RPG elements with the strategic play of card and board games, creating a personal, story-fuelled experience.
You play as a 'Hero' from one of the four animal clans: Rat, Rabbit, Bear or Wolf. Players navigate their fully animated 3D character across the board (procedurally generated from 3D hex tiles) as they quest, scheme, explore, vanquish monsters, perform the Mad King's royal edicts, and face off against other players, with one ultimate end goal in mind—storming the palace and becoming King or Queen of Armello.
Armello is League of Geeks’ attempt to revolutionise digital board and card games, whilst providing players a rich world within which they can craft their very own stories of epic adventure.
First of all, thanks for taking the time to answer a few of our questions! We're really excited about the prospect of such a unique and adventurous game.
No problem, at all. Thanks for reaching out!
- What is your game, Armello, about story-wise? What are these four clans fighting for?
Great question! I’ll give you a bit more depth than I’ve given before. ;)
The land of Armello has been ruled for centuries by its king, who originally came to Armello as a mysterious stranger. A benevolent leader, he brought peace to Armello and brought the clans of Armello together under one banner, his own. Under his rule, Armello prospered, and although Armello was no utopia, for a time, life was good.
That was until the king was struck with a mysterious illness, and it soon became apparent that he was in the grips of the Rot - a dark, mysterious and corrupting force that feeds off the lifeforce within nature, the Wyld.
Worse yet, as the Rot slowly claims Armello’s beloved loved ruler, it twists him deeper and deeper into a profoundly maniacal, and tyrannical ruler. At times, he is the hand of pure evil.
And so, the clans see not only a need to save Armello from the terrors of the Mad King and his will of darkness, but an opportunity to claim the throne of Armello for themselves.
Enter, our game. You play as a hero from one of the four clans and have answered the hero’s call, off to claim the throne for the glory of your clan and to protect the fate of Armello.
- How will gameplay in Armello work? Is it styled after any similar titles, and did you all try to do anything differently?
It’s a broad question to answer, but the short answer is yes, we’ve done a lot differently and that’s mainly because Armello isn’t modelled on any existing games. Instead, we sat down over a period of eight months and designed Armello on paper, from scratch, all in pursuit of this particularly elusive ‘feel’ that you get from great adventures or RPGs. When a world or story just swallows you up and you’re immersed in it. So yeah, that was our goal as opposed to ‘game X meets game Y’.
As for the moment to moment gameplay, you’re controlling a fully animated 3D character as you move around the hex based world of Armello. Questing, vanquishing banes, exploring, encountering other characters, fighting opposing heroes, and much more. All of this, so you can become as powerful as possible as fast as possible so that you can be the first to claim the throne. It’s a heap of fun, especially when the end-game hits and everyone’s going for that throne.
- Since it is a card-based system, are there any plans of producing hard copies of the game in decks or expansions?
We get asked this a lot. The short answer is yes, but we’re a tiny indie team so it’s just a matter of how and when.
- Similarly, will there be any money-based system where users can buy extras or enhancements?
Yeah, for sure. There won’t be any pay-to-win crap in our game, but there will be a heap of content that will augment the Armello experience for people. Hopefully that won’t just be in-game items too, but ways we can expand the universe outside of the game.
- The art style and animations in the screens and videos we've seen so far have been gorgeous, and with a defining style. Who provided the art direction for Armello and what did you want to accomplish with such a smooth, colorful style, instead of a gritty, sharp design similar to say Magic?
The art direction is all Ty Carey. He’s the guy that’s been pulling all this together and funneling everyone’s creative visions through his filter. Not to mention recruiting and leading the amazing artistic talent we have on board.
As you all no doubt know, not only the quality of anthropomorphic art wavers greatly but the extent of the anthropomorphism. Ty worked closely with one of our key artists Adam Duncan (who also led the production and animation on the trailer) for months to ensure that we got anthropomorphic animals ‘right’, with our own defining style and a fit for our world. Adam's eye for anthropomorphism and experience animating and illustrating animals of all creeds and colours was a key piece of that tricky puzzle. We wanted people to be able to look at one screenshot or character and be able to instantly say; “Oh, that’s Armello.” That immediacy and unique visual trademark was super important to us.
There are a tonne of talented artists working on the game though. Illustrators like Arden Beckwith, Simon Boxer, Richard Lyons and Cyril Corallo. As well as talented 3D specialists Paul Harris and Gavin Kusters. Having these folk on board is super humbling and we’re grateful every day for their input.
- We here at Gaming Furever approve of your decision to go with animals as your characters, of course, but we're also interested in an idea some people may not think about. Why did you decide to go with anthro animals, and, more specifically, what about each specific species carries the qualities you wanted to convey in each of the four clans?
I’m glad you asked! So it first started with Blake Mizzi, one of LoG’s directors and the man largely responsible for a lot of our system design, just threw it out there. He loved Red Wall as a kid and was super keen on exploring a game in a fantasy setting with anthropomorphic animals. We’d thrown the idea around for years to be honest. At that point, we knew we wanted to do a game that had storytelling as a main focus and I was super keen on doing something that really brought about that sense of adventure, so it was a no-brainer.
As a writer, you study archetypes a lot, in mythology and folklore and I knew I wanted to lean on these to make Armello as culturally approachable and relatable as possible. Animal characters are a natural extension to that - and they have been for millennia. Right or wrong, there are instinctual archetypes and personalities humans place upon different animals. In the case of developing a game, especially a card or board game where you get little opportunity to effectively convey narrative, being able to lean upon those super evocative and rich character archetypes (or tropes if you will) is the perfect fit.
As a storytelling tool, animals as characters is such a rich resource, it’s been phenomenal to work with. It’s raw, archetypal mythology in its purest form.
- Did you have concepts of using other species in your game before deciding on the final choices? If so, what were they?
Wow, that’s so long ago now I can’t really remember. I know we settled on the four clans pretty quickly. For the land of Armello, we tend to stick to European animals, so Rat, Rabbit, Bear and Wolf sort of rose to the top as the four most evocative and popular animal groups, I guess.
It’s easy to go crazy with animal characters, but it’s in restraint that Armello finds its strength as a universe. We make very deliberate decisions every day of what animals to include and how far we push the anthropomorphism. It’s imperative to the verisimilitude of our game and universe.
- Is the game still scheduled for a 2013 release, or do you have a more definitive time-frame? Also, what devices will Armello be available on at launch?
We’re all doing this out of hours, so production fluctuates. Up and down all the time. Currently we’re looking at 2014, but the short answer is, “When it’s ready.”
Armello is our passion project. We won’t release it until we feel it’s as close to perfect as we can get it. Sure that can be frustrating for our fans, but this is how we work and when people finally get their hands on it, they’ll thank us for giving it the time it needed.
We look forward to seeing more from League of Geeks in the future, and can't wait to get our paws on Armello!
Thanks! We can’t wait to get it finished for you either! We’ll be at PAX Prime in the Indie Megabooth so if anyone’s at PAX, please do come and say hi! We’d love to meet you.
Check out more information about the game and send a shout to Trent if you appreciate his team's work!