Interview With Zephyr Games’ Kenneth Johnson

How much background work went into the plot, world, and lore of Kirin Wars before programming began? Once you got the ball rolling, what was the hardest part of keeping such an ambitious project together?

Quite a bit, actually! We had the plot, world, and lore pretty well settled before programming started, although the starting 15-mission storyline’s actual script didn’t begin until the programming started. We waited until we had an idea of what would be possible with our engine. Aside from development mishaps, I would say that our art needs were really the hardest thing to keep together. We have 66 unit and commander classes, each of which needed unique map and combat sprites, animations, sound effects, descriptions, you name it. Now it’s all in the bag and ready for future episodes and releases, but it certainly was quite an ordeal getting it in!

Tell us about the tie-in comic, Kirin Wars: Sundered Ties. How does it relate to the Kirin Wars story – is it directly related to in-game events or does it flesh out some of the wider background lore?

The comic is really great, isn’t it? Sundered Ties focuses on a part of the story long before Episode 1 begins and covers the breakup of the guardians that protect Kirin’s source of power, which is a gateway to a world called the Fey. Essentially a rift was driven between these guardians, and one of them was destroyed, separated into numerous smaller pieces. These fragments are key to the larger storyline of Kirin Wars, and we hope to have it play out over four full episodes. The comic was drawn and designed by Phillip M. Jackson, who keeps his own collection of comics, artwork, and other fun things at Collected Curios.  It was a pleasure working with Phillip, and we do hope to work with him more in the future — hopefully within the game itself.

We see that the soundtrack’s been available on iTunes and Amazon for about a year already! Do you think it’s common for the soundtrack to be one of the first assets an indie game studio generates during a development cycle, or was Kirin Wars pretty unique in that regard?

Ah yes, the soundtrack. So our composer hosted the soundtrack back when we were chugging along with our developer and it seemed like we would be out of beta in a short period. Of course that did not happen, and with the cat out of the bag already we figured there was really no harm in leaving it up there. It was certainly not one of the first assets generated; in fact, all of the videos and roughly 80% of the artwork already existed at that point. But yes, having it out there this far in advance of a launch is certainly unique, if unplanned!

We worked with Steve Horowitz, an award winning musician who has done some great music and themed tracks for games over the past 10 years.

Finally, what’s left on your checklist before the game releases? Are you still planning on an episodic release structure?

So let’s see, what is left! Right now we’re really in bug-hunt mode, as well as dealing with the few remaining quirks in the system. All of the underlying mechanics are sound now though, so we’re feeling pretty confident about Kirin Wars being released in April.

We are definitely planning on keeping the episodic structure intact! Our current plan is to launch with 15 missions built in. We will then release a free update with an optional side mission/storyline of 5-10 missions in length, covering the story of one of the characters before Episode 1. After that we will schedule a release of Episode 2, which will be an in-app purchase updating the base game, expanding the story forward another 15-20 missions and covering new ground while keeping the player’s existing characters from Episode 1 intact — in some cases to continue playing as, and in others to serve as future antagonists. All told, we intend the story to be roughly 60 missions in length. As updates and improvements are worked out for future releases, they will improve the player’s experience over the older releases.

As far as price is concerned, our intent is to release the game at a $1.99 price point, with a $.99 per episode pack update cost. We will also sprinkle in some free/optional updates that will tell side stories and help keep players engaged while we work on future episode packs. We know we’re up against some great titles out there in the market, so we are hoping users stick with us through to the end to experience all that the world of Kirin has to offer!

Big thanks to Ken at Zephyr Games for taking the time out to answer our questions as the team heads for the finish line on Kirin Wars. The preview above is going on a year old now, but we’ll bring you new footage just as soon as it’s available. In the meantime, find out more at Zephyr Games’ official Kirin Wars website, Facebook page, and the studio Twitter account.