WGTC: When I got the chance to play Cosmic Star Heroine at E3, I was really impressed with how you took established character classes yet gave them a new twist. Can you go into what makes Cosmic Star Heroine‘s classes so unique?
RB: I generally start with a few basic mechanical and thematic ideas for each character and then use those to develop their individual abilities and statistics. For example, with Chahn, I knew she was up-beat and optimistic individual, that she attacked by summoning guns (gunmancy), and that she had a kind-of orphaned Shinto priestess background. Using those as a guide, I decide to base her roughly on a Paladin archetype – good attacks plus healing and defense – but with twists on different aspects.
For example, rather than tank a bunch of damage like a Paladin might in an MMORPG, she helps the entire party tank by increasing party defenses or by creating a temporary force field on the party whenever she uses her basic defend command. And since gunmancy is such an interesting concept, I made sure to include some abilities that focus on the art of gunmancy itself – for example, one ability lets her repeat the last gunmancy that she used, while another ability makes her next gunmancy affect multiple enemies or allies.
WGTC: Cosmic Star Heroine seems like a love letter to classic RPGs such as Suikoden, and Chrono Trigger. What games have you taken inspiration from, and what do you feel Cosmic Star Heroine contributes to the genre?
RB: Chrono Trigger and Phantasy Star IV were our two biggest inspirations, with Suikoden 2 being another big one. We also had a lot of people mention the Lunar series after playing the demo, which makes sense since Lunar: Eternal Blue is one of my favorite games of all-time.
We’re really pleased with how the battle system has turned out and feel it adds a lot to the genre. We hope the title makes it clear that there’s still a demand for these kinds of games. And by “these kinds of games” we don’t mean retro-style RPGs, but rather RPGs with a good mix of interesting stories, entertaining casts, and excellent turn-based gameplay.
WGTC: It’s hard to believe that Zeboyd Games is a two-person studio with how gorgeous Cosmic Star Heroine is. How is the workload split within the studio, and how happy are you with the art style that you’ve been able to achieve?
RB: I handle the programming, dialogue, and general gameplay design. My partner, Bill Stiernberg, does art, animation, and level design. We also are working with the two-man team at HyperDuck Soundworks who are providing music and sound effects. We’re very pleased with how everything is turning out – art style, music, the works.
WGTC: Zeboyd Games have typically worked on relatively short development cycles, with Breath of Death VII: The Beginning notably only taking three months to complete. When can players expect to play Cosmic Star Heroine, which has had the longest development time of any of your projects?
RB: We haven’t announced a release date yet, but we’re working hard on getting the game out as soon as possible! We’re thankful that our Kickstarter backers have been understanding even though we missed our expected release date for last year.
WGTC: Cosmic Star Heroine had some fantastic chest gags when I played it at E3. Will the title feature the same humor found in other Zeboyd Games titles, and what tone is it going for?
RB: There will still be plenty of humor in the game, but we’re trying to make the story stand on its own and not just be a vehicle for gags. The Lunar & Grandia series are good example for the kind of tone we’re shooting for.
WGTC: One of the key bullet points for the game was “no grinding.” How important was it to make a game that was properly balanced, and didn’t fall into some of the negative trappings of turn-based RPGs?
RB: No grinding has been a priority for us ever since we started making games. We offer multiple difficulty levels, include the option to change difficulty mid-game, and I test the game carefully to make sure that it’s playable at every difficulty.
WGTC: Give us your best pitch on why gamers should keep up to date on Cosmic Star Heroine?
RB: With Cosmic Star Heroine, we’ve tried to make the ultimate indie JRPG – a game that could proudly stand among the giants of the 16-bit and 32-bit generation. With gorgeous pixel art, an amazing soundtrack, innovative turn-based gameplay, and a main storyline with twists and turns that should last around 15-20 hours with minimal filler, we’re excited to share Cosmic Star Heroine with all of you soon!
That concludes our interview, but we’d like to give a big thank you to both Robert Boyd and Zeboyd Games for taking the time to do this interview. Robert can be found on Twitter at @werezompire, while his partner Bill Stiernberg is @bill_at_zeboyd. More information on Cosmic Space Heroine can be found on Zeboyd‘s website, Twitter, and Kickstarter.