One of the best parts of any con is being able to talk directly to creators about their work. Artists, writers, and game designers who may be otherwise occupied during their everyday lives array themselves in a buffet for inquiring minds. A Gen Con-sized event can also be crowded, sticky, and loud, but it's with the passion for games (usually.) Although it can be a crackling good adventure to enter the exhibit hall without a map, having an island of stability can help once the sore feet and neck aches begin. Level 99 Games was one of my navigation points. Their booth was centrally located and stocked with games of potential interest to digital roleplayers.

Brad Talton is head of Level 99 Games. He's also creator of board and card games such as BattleCON, Pixel Tactics, and Millennium Blades. Many of Level 99's games draw on imagery from Japanese RPGs. Pixel Tactics draws on tactical RPGs. The brawler-inspired BattleCON: Devastation of Indines includes a dungeon-crawling mode for beating up traditional dungeon mooks and earning treasure like in Flying Dragon. Sellswords is Triple Triad Deluxe.

Zach: Level 99 draws a lot of its imagery from console RPGs. Previously, RPGamer has reviewed Sellswords, which pays direct tribute to Final Fantasy VIII. What other console-related games do you have in the works?
Brad Talton: We do have one console-style RPG on the way. It happens in the World of Indines, the same world as our BattleCON games and Argent. It's currently not yet announced officially. It's a visual novel style game. Not like a dating sim, but in the sense of a JRPG where there's dialogue and then you fight battles. It's like Final Fantasy Tactics where it's cut scenes, then fight, then cut scenes, then fight.

ZW: How does that work with the roles of the players? Is there a GM?
BT: Actually, since it's a console RPG, it's single player. You go through and level up your characters, meet different people in the world, and unravel what's happening in this world. I'm really excited about it! It's got a plot that loosely follows the plot of Devastation, so if you've played that you'll recognize a lot of the characters and a lot of themes from that game.

It's got a pretty cool card-based battle system. You get to acquire cards, forge cards, and level them up to solve different puzzles. Battle is very puzzle-oriented.

Z: How much playtime can one person expect to get from this?
BT: We're shooting for the 40-50 hour range. It's a classic-style JRPG. I haven't seen a lot of those lately--you know, the old school Crono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI-style gameplay that we all fell in love with? Nobody really makes those anymore, it's all giant DLC monsters so... (Laughs.) I'm looking to make something that's complete and stand-alone in the classic style of a full experience from start to finish.

Z: Have you been following the Kickstarter for Cosmic Star Heroine?
BT: I have — and I'm really excited to get a hold of that when it comes out. I got to play it at E3 and it looks really good. Apart from this game, we want to do a [more traditional] tabletop RPG in the World of Indines. We haven't done anything on it yet, but we are doing an RPG mode in our upcoming game, Millennium Blades. Are you familiar with our CCG card game?

Z: Yes! I'm a Kickstarter backer.
BT: Oh, excellent. Thank you! One of our stretch goals was an art book. The art book also doubles as a campaign guide for an RPG that uses the cards of Millennium Blades as a resolution system. So you have a card anime RPG that comes with all the cards you need to play. The idea is to put players in a kind of Yu-Gi-Oh!-style anime through that campaign guide. It's a pretty wacky world, you know? Everyone's obsessed with card games.

Z: Have you worked out hundreds of pages of backstory, some of which the players will never see?
BT: Pretty much. Hopefully! The best kind of backstory is the kind that comes out through the world and mechanics. We do a lot of that in Indines too: there are a lot of things we haven't really said about the world, but you get if you read up on the characters. It's like there's something that's never said explicitly, but you realize there's a reason why a group of people acts a certain way.

For example, one of the unpublished pieces of lore is that in Indines, all humans can cast divine magic very easily. One of the gods is a water goddess. In the desert everyone worships the water goddess and she gives them a daily miracle that gives them free water. So the whole culture has evolved from this create water spell and it's a major part of their life.

It's about little background trinkets like that, which build into a larger narrative.

Z: Going back to Millennium Blades for a second, one of the teaser cards is Blizzard Angst, a spoof on Final Fantasy VII's Cloud Strife. What other console RPG shout-outs can we expect?
BT: Oh, all sorts! We have the Final Fantasy riffs. We have a character who's Skye, Master of the Clockblade. He has a sword that's a giant hourglass. We have Magiroth who has a giant scythe, kind of a mash-up of Magus and Sephiroth. And we have a character that's a riff on my favorite RPG series, the Atelier series from Gust.

Actually, one of our set sponsors is called something like Xeno X-Over, and it's an RPG set that's more about the console series that died. There's a Tales, there's a Radiant Historia... It's still in production, but there's quite a lot of stuff in there. [Note: Since the interview, Level 99 has released art from Xeno X-Over. How many can you identify?]

Thank you again, Brad Talton. Keep your blades timely and sharp!

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