RPGamer Feature - Cthulhu Saves the World Interview
Cthulhu Saves the World
Developer: Zeboyd Entertainment
Publisher: Zeboyd Entertainment
Release Date:

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People can't seem to get enough of Cthulhu. Not only is he the monstrousity created by the late H.P Lovecraft, but he a figure that has become an icon in popular geek culture. Whether you are familiar with Lovecraft's work or not, Cthulhu is almost everywhere –- other novels, table-top role playing games, and even video games. This lovable tentacle monster is also now starring in a new Xbox Live Indie title. With the success of Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, Zeboyd Games is at again with their hit Cthulhu Saves the World. In this interview, RPGamer talks once again with the delightful Robert Boyd on this upcoming project.

Hello again. First, allow us to congratulate you on the success of your previous Xbox Live Indie RPG, Breath of Death VII: The Beginning. How does it feel to know that over 20,000 people played your game? Did you ever expect to have this level of success?
Robert Boyd: We really had no idea what to expect as far as sales go when we released it since Breath of Death VII was the first good full-fledged console-style RPG to hit the service. The fact that it's sold over 20,000 copies so far and continues to sell at a solid rate over two months after release is just wonderful and really makes me think that we can turn this into a full time profession by the end of the year.

Breath of Death VII took a lot of us by surprise, so what were some of the biggest points you wanted to address when making a sequel?
RB: The response to Breath of Death VII was very positive, but there are always ways to improve so we've been looking at the feedback we've received and tried to make adjustments accordingly. For example, people wanted more save points, so we've added save notebooks that players can use to save wherever they like. Getting massacred from a random battle is never fun so we've given the player 1-Ups that they can use to retry a failed battle. A few people complained that the dungeon designs were too straightforward, so we're adding some puzzles, a greater variety of dungeon types, and various other elements to make exploring the dungeons more interesting this time around.

Although I think Breath of Death VII is very well balanced compared to most indie RPGs, in retrospect, there are places where we could have improved balance, like the beginning of the game (too easy) or the dungeon where you get your final party member (too hard) or the magic (some spells should have been more useful, others were perhaps too useful). Well balanced for an indie game isn't good enough, so with Cthulhu we're trying to achieve the same high level of gameplay balance you would expect in a Dragon Quest or Shin Megami Tensei title, where every spell and ability has a purpose, many character builds and setups are viable, and the difficulty progression from start to end is very smooth.

And of course, we're looking to improve the presentation of the game as well. William Stiernberg is putting the experience he gained with Breath of Death VII to good work, making some fantastic new monster and map graphics for Cthulhu. The music was one of the aspects of Breath of Death VII that people liked the most so we're going all out with Cthulhu – Gordon McNeil is doing the entire soundtrack (he did the battle theme & final dungeon theme in BoDVII) and not only is the quality much improved, but the quantity of songs is also drastically greater as well.

Cthulhu Saves the World is your next XBLIG project, so we have to ask the question that's been begging on our minds: Why Cthulhu? It's easy to recognize there's a big love for that not-so-huggable monster in geek-fandom, but at the end of the day – HE'S A TENTICLE MONSTER. So tell us, what's the love here and how familiar do gamers need to be with H.P Lovecraft's work to enjoy this game?
RB: I've always wanted to make a game based on Lovecraft's works, but I tend to make comedies, not horror games. I'm also a big fan of games that subvert genre standards like Okage: Shadow King, Earthbound, Disgaea, or our own Breath of Death VII. The two desires combined, and Cthulhu Saves the World was the result.

There will be various nods to Lovecraft's work in Cthulhu Saves the World (especially in the bestiary), but you don't need to be familiar with H.P. Lovecraft to enjoy the game.

Tell us a bit more about the plot premise. Who are the eclectic cast of characters this time around? Is Paws the Cat really named after our very own Paws the Admin? And if so, does Paws have a Ban Hammer attack? Any Breath of Death cameos?
RB: There are 7 main playable characters in the game – Cthulhu, Umi (a girl who is fanatical about the ocean and has a crush on Cthulhu), Sharpe (a sentient sword with a noble heart), October (goth necromancer girl), Paws (alien cat), Dacre (a senile old man with secrets of his own), and Ember (a demonic dragon that also doubles as a mode of transportation once you get him). In addition to those 7 characters, there's also an eighth playable character that is only useable in an unlockable game mode called Cthulhu's Angels.

Paws' name is indeed a reference to RPGamer's Paws. was one of the first major websites to give Breath of Death VII any attention and as chance would have it, I had a cat character in the game that needed a name, so I thought naming our alien cat, "Paws," would make for a nice in-joke. Paws doesn't have a Ban Hammer attack, but she does have the highly useful Meow spell that switches the sanity/insanity state of all enemies. Oh and gunclaws and the ability to call in Tactical Strikes as well.

Regarding cameos, as Xellos from Slayers would say, "Sore wa himitsu desu!" (That's a secret!)

How did the development of Cthulhu Saves the World differ from Breath of Death VII in terms of the creative process?
RB: I think the biggest difference between the development for Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII is that we're not starting from scratch. Whereas before, most of our energies were focused on just making things work, we already had the basics figured out going into Cthulhu, so now, most of our focus is on making improvements.

What are some of the key combat system upgrades? What are some of the other key tweaks that have been made to this title?
RB: Besides the obvious visual changes, the biggest combat system change with Cthulhu Saves the World is the addition of the Insanity status. Insanity is a condition that you can inflict on enemies that makes the more vulnerable and bestows benefits to your party (like boosting Cthulhu's stats based on how many enemies are insane), but can also make enemies more dangerous if you get too careless. We thought this was a nice risk/reward mechanism that adds a new level of depth to combat while also fitting in well with the theme of the game. Plus, the appearance of monsters change when they're insane, so we think players will have fun seeing the difference between the sane and insane versions of monsters.

Other improvements to the combat system are the addition of monsters of various sizes (which lets us increase the maximum number of enemies in a single battle), more playable characters, and a higher meaningful LV-Up maximum with a corresponding increase in the number of spells and abilities. Beyond all that, we've tried to make combat more meaningful so that even with the random battles, there's still a great variety of combat situations and viable strategies to discover.

What are some of the limitations you’ve run into with the XBLIG development process? What kind of things would you like to do in terms of design, but just haven’t been able to do?
RB: One big limitation is the size restriction. If you want to release an 80 MS point game ($1 USD) XBox Live Indie Game, you're restricted to 50MBs. 240 MS & 400 MS point games have a higher size cap of 150MBs, but it's still a far cry from XBLA games (which have been as big as 2GBs) or retail games (which can be pretty much any size the developer wants).

However, the biggest limitation to XBLIGs is the audience size. The audience is bigger now than it was a year ago, but it's still a lot smaller than the audience for XBLA games. As a result, making any sort of big scale production for the service is a huge risk. I have a few ideas that I think would make for some awesome games, but since these game ideas would take much longer to create than the 3-4 month timeframe that we've been working with, they're on the backburner for now.

When can we expect Cthulhu Saves the World to appear on Xbox Live Indie Games? Still looking like an August release?
RB: We're currently still aiming for a late August release. Wish us luck that we can get everything done and polished by then!

For other wannabe developers out there, do you have any suggestions for how to turn a gaming dream into a reality?
RB: Develop a practical skill like programming or art, find a talented person or two to team up with, and get working! If you just want to make games for fun, that's pretty much all you need, but if you want to make a living at it, you need to treat it like a business. Analyze the market, decide on a game that you'd like to make that you think could be popular, and market, market, market! Even without an advertising budget, there are a ton of ways to get the word out for your indie game – create a website, post trailers on Youtube and, use social networking sites like twitter and facebook, and contact websites and reviewers that you think would be interested in covering your games.

Is there anything else in the works for Zeboyd after Cthulhu? Is Xbox Live Indie Games the ultimate goal or do you have grander aspirations?
RB:Of course! We have several ideas for future RPGs that we're planning out, but we're not sure what we'll do next. Everything from the highly improbable (talk Sega and GameArts into giving us the licenses to Phantasy Star and Lunar) to the no-duh (make the cyber-punk zombie infestation RPG that people have been dying for), to the just plain bizarre. We'll have to wait and see how Cthulhu Saves the World does before we decide what to do next.

XBox Live Indie Games lets us do our own thing with few restrictions and a minimum of overhead, however we have also considered the possibility of producing games for XBox Live Arcade or one of the other big distribution channels like Steam, PSN, or WiiWare. Nothing's decided yet, but if we do decide to expand to other platforms, the PC (via Steam) would probably be our first choice. XNA is designed to make porting from 360 to PC and vice versa easy, whereas something like a PSN port would require a complete rewrite of all the code.

RPGamer would like to thank Robert Boyd for all of his insight. Check out the official website for more information. Cthulhu Saves the World is set to release late August.

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