Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a great holiday season and a fantastic start to the year 2019.

The studio has been busy since we came back from our holiday break. PAX South was fast approaching and Atul, Keith, and I were preparing to fly from frigid Montreal to warm San Antonio to showcase Project Witchstone.

As you might have seen on social media and several websites, our new sandbox RPG, Project Witchstone, has been officially announced.

For the unveiling at PAX South, we showed a video montage (screenshots below) of what we currently have in the game, 4 months into pre-production. The goal here was to raise awareness about the game for our upcoming Kickstarter campaign, which will begin mid-2019.
Project Witchstone is a living world sandbox RPG.

Living world:
The world you explore is alive, meaning that characters that inhabit this world go on with their daily lives and move around following a routine (from their workplace to their home, for example). They also own properties, have personalities, friends and enemies, likes and dislikes, appreciation towards you, allegiance to factions, perception of their surroundings, etc.

Using actions common in RPGs (dialogue, combat, spells, abilities, stat checks, stealing, etc.) and less common ones (stealth, influence interface, etc.), you can interact, manipulate, and shape this world as you see fit. Our goal is to give you the freedom to live the adventure you want. No overarching pre-defined main story thread, you get to decide how you want to proceed.

Want to frame an NPC for theft or murder? Want to join a faction, become their leader, and destroy the other factions? Want to destroy the factions but scheme in a way that they never know you're responsible? Want to become a treasure hunter instead? Maybe the best solution is to blow everything up?

All of this is possible in our sandbox.

With our systemic approach to narrative, tailored events will occur based on your previous actions. All crimes will result in law enforcement running an investigation and attempting to arrest the suspect. Any violent act committed against a faction will result in retaliation. Taking over someone's house will work fine until the previous owner's relatives or friends come to visit.

These are some examples of the ripple effect you can cause in this world. And how you deal with the ripple effect will determine what happens after.

Witchstone F.A.Q.

PAX attendees were super enthusiastic about Project Witchstone and had many questions for us. I've compiled them here with answers.

Is the game going to be single-player? Multi-player?

Single-player. The focus is on customizing and living out your adventure in this world. You will be able to recruit characters in your party though and we are keeping multi-player in mind as a potential feature in the future when we build the game.

So you've all been working on this for 4 months now, what are your plans for the future?

We want to have a playable version to showcase at PAX East (which is happening at the end of March) to build momentum for a Kickstarter campaign starting mid-2019.

Why a Kickstarter campaign?

As you can imagine, Project Witchstone is an ambitious endeavor which will require a few years to complete and require a lot of testing and fine-tuning of our systemic elements. So we need your support to make this dream possible and help us along the process. Backers will have access to builds of the game, which we'll use to gather feedback and learn more about what narratives players are building with the game systems.

Have you ever done a Kickstarter before?

We haven't but we do know many fellow developers in Montreal who have successfully completed Kickstarter campaigns before. We will be enlisting their help and support.

On what platform(s) will the game be available?

The main focus is to get the game on Steam Early Access (so PC). It makes it easier for quick and regular updates and get the feedback loop with the players going. We'll talk about ports to consoles and other stores once we are done with the Early Access process and have a full, solid game.

How big will the world be?

For the PAX East demo and Kickstarter version, we'll be focusing on a town with 2 competing factions and a dungeon. The goal is to start small and figure out the permutations of the system and gameplay time possible then scope up the game based on that. From that point on, we will regularly add content (more towns, more dungeons) to fill up this island. The focus is more on density rather than scale.

Is Witchstone going to be the name of the game?

Maybe. We've been using the name internally. Witch stones (also known as adder stones) are believed to possess magical powers and this fits well with the setting of the game. The name might stick or we might find something better in the future - we'll see.

This game seems very different from your previous games. What made you want to build a sandbox RPG this time?

It is different but at the same time it isn't. We've actually been building towards Witchstone since Stories: The Path of Destinies, which started out more like a traditional RPG. Ever since we've been exploring the significance of decisions in video game narratives, how can choices impact characters and the world. In Omensight, we've even programmed AI that behaved differently based on player's decisions.

So for us, Witchstone is the next step in our exploration. What if basic gameplay actions were a decision? What if how the player deals with situations dictate how their story continues?

Can I play as another race than human in the game?

Yes. We've been focusing on gameplay and the whole living world aspect so we've only been showing the base character model in the game. In the key art shown at PAX South, you can see an elf and a dwarf. But we'll also be adding anthropomorphic beings in the future as well.

What game engine are you using?

We've been using the Unreal Engine 4 since Stories: The Path of Destinies and we're going to keep working with this engine. It makes it easier to transfer over tech and assets that we've built for our previous games.

Have more questions? I'll be more than happy to answer them on social media or Discord.

Xbox One versions!

Besides debuting Project Witchstone at PAX South, we brought our demo for Omensight to the event since we have some major news about it:

We're happy to announce that Omensight and Stories: The Path of Destinies will be coming out on the Xbox One soon.

I'll have more details on the release dates in an upcoming newsletter.

How was our trip to PAX South 2019?

Let me start by saying that the reports about wait times for airport security due to the US government shutdown have been overblown. We were done with the TSA in about 5 minutes each time, and that's including on a federal holiday (!).

Having been multiple times to PAX South, we have a tradition now in San Antonio. Once our booth is set up at the convention center, we have to go stuff ourselves with meat at Fogo de Chao. The lamb is always tender and delicious (that's pretty much the only thing Atul eats there)! And when we are full, we burn off a few calories by taking a stroll on the Riverwalk towards The Original Mexican Restaurant and meet up with fellow developers from Quebec for a few drinks. I recommend having the Black Volcano there.

As for PAX itself, the booth was constantly busy so we didn't have much time to play many games. But still, shout-outs to Boyfriend Dungeon from Kitfox Games, Foundation from Polymorph Games, and the board game Churrascaria: A Cutthroat Game of Gluttony.

On Sunday, to properly celebrate the end of PAX, our friends and co-founders of Albino Moose Games, Sheena and Travis, brought us to a great restaurant called Mi Tierra. If you want excellent Tex-Mex and margaritas, this place is a must-go! And the decor is amazing!

As it turned out, Sunday was also the night of the Super Blood Wolf Moon, so I couldn't miss the opportunity to snap a few pictures!
Thank you to everyone who took the time to talk to us at PAX South. It was great to see familiar faces and new faces on the show floor and outside the convention center as well. Whether we hung out in one of the great restaurants and bars in San Antonio or briefly met at the booth, we had a blast interacting with you!

What's Coming Up Next?

I'll be showing more gameplay footage for Project Witchstone next month as we work our way towards a playable demo at PAX East.
Stay in touch on Facebook, Twitter, and Discord.

Take care!
Phil from Spearhead Games (@philiptam)
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