Concerns about Seven Dragon Saga

Is it too soon to be worried about the 7DS kickstarter? I was really hoping it would blast on to success, and we’d already be talking stretch goals. Many successful Kickstarters I’ve seen hit 30 to 50% of their funding goal in the first few days; 7DS is lagging at 13%. Since the typical KS curve is bowl-shaped, you can see why this doesn’t bode well.

A few folks have told me on the back channels that they don’t think the video makes an effective pitch. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I do think it could have whipped up more nostalgia and enthusiasm by showing more of the Gold Box games and talking about what made them great. It also could have used more of that movie trailer like vibe you got from the Project Eternity trailer (one of my favorites). I would’ve spent a grand on a professional voice actor and had them narrate some of the story and game world descriptions, too. Throw that over some compelling concept art…

Speaking of which, there’s some art on their page and in the footage that, frankly, looks amateurish. I would’ve hired or at least commissioned some pieces from the likes of Clyde Caldwell, the artist who did some of the best covers on the Gold Box games, to jazz up the page. Clyde is a very reasonable guy; he let me use one of his paintings on the cover of my book Dungeons and Desktops for a pittance. Hell, as much as I’m loathe to say it, it wouldn’t hurt to have some cleavage on display!


Clyde Caldwell’s art could go a long way towards sprucing up the 7DS page.

However, criticism of the pitch video may be irrelevant. I’m more concerned about three points about the game itself.

First, I’m not sure what to make of the setting. I had the same feeling about Wildman. Everyone seems to think that gamers are tired of the “same old” high fantasy worlds and desperate for something different. I’m just not. Heck, I put off playing Planescape: Torment because I wasn’t initially attracted to the setting! The truth is, I loved the Forgotten Realms and could play a thousand more games there. Those settings are popular for a reason. As far as I’ve been able to gather, 7DS will have a pronounced Asian theme to it; I envisioned something like Jade Empire (though according to the designers, it’s not an apt comparison). In any case, I liked that game, but let’s face it, it lacked the appeal of more traditional fantasy. I think that boredom with traditional fantasy settings is a common experience to frequent tabletop RPG players; maybe it does get tiresome after awhile, and DMs want to show off their creativity. But for guys like me who get their RPG fix on the computer, the good ol’ stuff is all I really care about. If you’re lucky enough to have an established fan base, like TSI, all you really need to do is give them what they want.

Secondly, I noticed something in the gamplay footage in the video that gravely worries me–slow movement. That’s one thing that kills me in turn-based games. I don’t want to have to sit around waiting for 5-6 skeletons to slowly amble into position, one by one. Perhaps the game will have a speed toggle, or a setting that lets all the monsters move simultaneously (a great tedium buster that ought to be in every turn-based game), but they need to mention that, because what I saw in the footage looked slow. One thing I liked about the Gold Box games on the C64 was, paradoxically, the lack of animations and flashy spell effects made the turn-based combat a lot snappier–plus, when I play them on an emulator, I can double the speed, which works even better. Animation and effects are nice, but not if they slow things down. Turn-based combat always has the potential to become tedium-based combat, especially when lengthy animations are involved.

Finally, there’s this statement: “This is not a tale of farmers or aspiring novices learning how to swing a sword.” My first reaction to this line was to say, “Well, then, it’s not a tale I care about.” The comment felt like a slap in the face, and it also seemed to be missing the whole point about why I liked the Gold Box games in the first place. It’s FUN to grow a little crop of weaklings into well-honed instruments of mass destruction! To me, this line would be like saying of a new FPS–“This is not a tale of a guy shooting bad guys.” I’m reminded of the scene in The Meaning of Life when the headmaster says “We’ll take the foreplay as read, if you don’t mind, dear.” Well, actually, yes, I do mind!!! However, I’ll try my best to keep an open mind about it, but I hope the party won’t start the game too overpowered.

I hope this doesn’t come across as too negative, but I can’t help but get a bit emotional on this one. The Gold Box games are, as you well know, some of my favorite all-time games, and the chance to play one in a modern format is really exciting. I just hope, first and foremost, that they meet their funding goal, and secondly, that TSI won’t lose sight of what made the Gold Box games such a joy to play.

8 thoughts on “Concerns about Seven Dragon Saga

  1. Infinitron

    I don’t know if you remember this, but in the interview that you did with Dave Shelly, he specifically said it _wasn’t_ like Jade Empire

    1. Matt Barton Post author

      I know, but the average person looking at the pitch may not realize that. At any rate, I revised it. 🙂

  2. Zombra

    Interesting comments. I disagree with most of them. 😀

    Personally (and speaking as a Gold Box old-timer), I’m sick to death of generic fantasy settings. I’m delighted that they’ve done *something* to spice up the old formula a little. I am also a wuxia fan, so that influence on the “super-cops working for the Emperor” angle is appreciated. I think it’s great that TSI are working to establish a distinct setting. At the same time, superficially, the “vibration” of the game footage *is* very ordinary. It’s not like an elf shooting a dragon with a lightning bolt is some kind of wild new idea no fantasy fan can relate to. Hell, next to Pillars of Eternity with its amphibians and fire elemental PCs, 7DS looks downright boilerplate.

    As for starting at a medium power level instead of as a team of losers, I think they made a good call here too. Not every RPG has to start with beating rats to death with a wooden spoon. You can still have a satisfying advancement arc from “pretty tough” to “phenomenally powerful” or whatnot. And in a story about Imperial special agents, it makes sense that the party shouldn’t suck, even at the beginning.

    I do fully agree with you on one point, though. I think the art style is nice enough, but I prefer something a little more schlocky and sensational. More pulpy.

  3. Shriya

    I completely agree with Zombra. They need our support at this point to get funded and they are ofcourse working video based on feedback (based on our comments in KS).


  4. Sausage

    I agree with Zombra completely. The setting seems fresh and exciting and is actually the main reason I am interested in this game (as someone who has not played the GoldBox classics. Yet.)

    That you already start out as a power factor within the empire actually opens up a lot of potential for actual *role playing*. There are more than enough games that do the ‘adventurer from rags to riches in medieval europe’ thing already.

    That being said, since this is my first comment here, I take the opportunity to say: While I disagree with you on this Matt, I really enjoy your videos and appreciate your work a lot!

  5. Mico Selva

    Another +1 to what Zombra wrote.

    This kickstarter has many problems, but the setting and starting power level are not among them.

    Good point about the art, though.

  6. Chris

    “” Well, actually, yes, I do mind!!! ”

    Yeah, I mind too. Not only because it’s fun to work your way up,but when you start the people with a bit of a story, it’s not really creating your own party. It decides a bit of the “Role” in my Role-playing game, and I knee jerk to “Hey! That’s my job!”

    Not only that, but when building a new setting, it can be handy to have the character as unaware of the world as the player is. Create a player transfer system for the next game (Like gold box did), and go from there.

    It’s the one point that got me to hold back and see what’s happening with it. I might come around, but right now the premise and character starting point isn’t wowing me.

    I also think there’s a point to be made for “Think of an SSI RPG that wasn’t gold box. GO!” I think a few of us can name them, but a lot of people would have to stop a moment and say… um…. The RPGs for SSI WERE Dungeons and Dragons. That liscense is what sold Pool of Radiance more than Wizard’s Crown. This doesn’t have that.

  7. Chris

    I agree with Matt on this one. Sure, I like some variety every once in a while also, but if I’m waiting on a spiritual successor to the Gold Box games, I’m expecting the same or similar high fantasy setting. I’m not convinced I would get the same experience, which is what I would be forking the money over for, really. If they are successful with a true Gold Box clone in a traditional fantasy setting, I would consider something like this.


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