RPGamer Feature - Americana Dawn Interview

Max Lam is the map designer, writer, and project manager for Americana Dawn as well as the public face of Bit Bonton. Americana Dawn, the team's first project together, is currently at the tail end of a Kickstarter campaign. Although the game displays a strong JRPG lineage, its heroes are far more comfortable in powdered wigs and frock coats than plate mail and scowling mempo. It takes place in a colonial America that never was, where immortal water spirits drift through the currents of history. Americana Dawn has recently been greenlit for Steam.

I was lucky enough to exchange a few e-mails with Max to discuss the future of the past, Americana Dawn's ludic and literary cousins, and one of her family's secret recipes.

Zach: Colonial America hasn't received much attention in video games, let alone RPGs. Are there any books on the topic you would suggest to anyone looking for education or entertainment?
Max Lam: I'm a bit of an odd duck because I'm more interested in the lives of ordinary people in that era than the larger-than-life historical figures, so I'd recommend firsthand accounts like Private Yankee by J.P. Martin. This isn't a historical account per se, but I'm very fond of the social analysis and characters in The Scarlet Letter.

Z: Will readers of The Scarlet Letter have an easier time ferreting out the ignominious secrets of Foster & company? The previews make it look like a story where conflicts won't just occur on the battlefield. Should I plan to play in the rain so no one sees my tears?
ML: I actually read The Scarlet Letter sometime after working on Americana Dawn, so it doesn't have much of an influence, even though it has become one of my favorite books. I wouldn't say Americana Dawn is a war story; Foster is more like an anthropologist working in an 'exotic' and 'strange' world that he is trying to understand. It's a game about humanity and all the struggles that come with living in 18th-century America. I hope to tell a touching story through Americana Dawn to make people both laugh and cry.

Z: How do you balance the historical elements and the fantasy elements of Americana Dawn? Is that even a useful distinction to make?
ML: I would say Americana Dawn is very grounded in reality. The fantasy elements just provide another lens to see the world - like Foster being able to see a family through multiple generations and have a much more holistic view on history, compared to a story where you changed characters.

Z: What sort of systems will players experience? The promotional videos show grid-based combat and Suikoden-style mass combat. Will there be mini-games? Romantic choices?
ML: There are large historical battles where the players have to accomplish certain missions; victory is not always the objective since many of these battles were losses.

Z: Large-scale battles that can't be won remind me of Suikoden, a series mentioned on the Kickstarter page. What are some of your favorite RPGs, and how do they inform Americana Dawn?
ML: I would say another favorite game of mine is Final Fantasy 6, because how it was focused on its characters and how its theme was this undying will to live, a theme Americana Dawn shares.

Z: One of the themes of Americana Dawn seems to be change. According to your website, collateral damage from military engagements can damage nearby towns. What sort of mechanical and narrative effects will this have?
ML: The main game takes over three decades, so in the first half you see construction and return there later there are building propped up! But towns also get destroyed as well during the war.

Z: How much direction do you give to Juri Hayasaka Chinchilla and Shnabubula for the illustrations and sound? Is there a lot of give-and-take, or is the game your pure, shining vision??
ML: I generally describe them a character or situation and let them run with it. For Juri, sometimes we look up historical paintings and reenactment models to reference the clothing, but sometimes we take liberty with it, too and don't follow the historical fashions.

Z: Aside from the fashion, has it ever been tempting to change history to better suit the story?
ML: Definitely how the historical battles work. In reality, many of these battles were losses and sometimes I worry it would be frustrating for players.

Z: Many of the images on the Americana Dawn Facebook page have Japanese text. Is the script being worked on in multiple languages simultaneously? What’ve been the silliest and most challenging parts of being such an international team?
ML: The script is translated into Japanese as it's being written, just so we make sure the jokes and lines make sense and don't have to create revisions down the line after its been inputted into the engine. So far, I haven't had any real challenges working with an international team. Communication might be one, because not everyone on board speaks English, and not everyone speaks Japanese, but it's not a major problem.

Z: Your Kickstarter page explains this is the second time Americana Dawn has asked for funding. The game’s original team has disbanded. This could encourage potential backers to let others weather the risk. What reassurance can you offer these people?
ML: We've been working on this for a while, and we know this team is going to stick with each other until the end. So far, we have a third of our assets completed and just need this funding boost to make it to 100%.

Z: What’s the story behind SNES salad? It's a very high-level reward. Is it a secret family recipe?
ML: Yes it is.

Z: What kind of manga would John Adams read?
ML: Haha, I'm not sure. Maybe Rose of Versailles?

We would like to thank Max Lam once again for talking to us about Americana Dawn. Thanks! If you're interested in listening to the soundtrack and learning more, check out the Kickstarter campaign or pay a visit to our message boards.

Discuss on Message Board

© 1998-2017 RPGamer All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy