Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Frayed Knights Update: News from the Front, and The Reason Why…

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 1, 2011

Time for an update on Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon, that dumb little humorous indie RPG that was supposed to be knocked out in a hurry, and ended up becoming a big ol’ epic project.

News from the Front:

Our first beta release has gone pretty well, and did what it was supposed to do. Which is to say, it generated a lot of bug reports which I still haven’t managed to completely address.  I could blame crunch mode at the day job for the last two weeks, but… well, okay, yeah, that’s a main culprit. It’s just not really possible for me to put in a 12+ hour day and then another 6+ hour evening working on FK. I’m lucky if I get two.

The beta has been very limited so far, but the non-bug feedback has been extremely positive. I’m beginning to think this game might not have been a waste of four years of my life after all.

Brian “Skavenhorde” Critser managed to be the first player to finish the full game without needed (or even possessing) developer codes and cheat menus. He proved it could be done, and also demonstrated that I’d spent so much time trying to make the first part of the game not *too* tough that I neglected to balance the latter half of the game very well. I had “boss” enemies that were weaker than rank-and-file enemies in the same area, and high-level magic-using threats that were actually quite low-level and severely lacking in magic. And by “severely lacking” I mean I forgot to give them spells to use. But they died so fast that Brian hadn’t actually noticed.


There are a couple of quests that have confused players and have caused extra backtracking and hunting for something that might have been missed. While that theoretically extends play-time, that’s not fun gameplay, so I’m trying to fix those. I’ve taken those as work items, adding additional hints in conversations, journal pages, or environmental clues to make sure other players don’t find themselves getting too lost. I love throwing adventure-game style puzzles into the game, but I don’t want them to be too difficult. One interesting tidbit is that DGM (my other epic-tester) found the minotaur maze to be frustrating, whereas Skavenhorde (who maybe is used to being run through a maze, I dunno…) thought it was pretty easy and not very maze-like. (Neither of them were playing with auto-maps, since those haven’t worked since the pilot. I know, they are on my “to do” list…)

There have been a several significant changes to the game that have either evolved or been deliberately put in place as a result of feedback. Most will be meaningless to you, but a few I’ve talked about here. Spellstones are gaining importance. You will want to make sure your party has an ample supply spread among the casters. Most group-based spells will require them.  At least one of the merchants has an unlimited supply, and they are frequently found as treasure, so they aren’t exactly hard to come by. But putting an entire opposing force to sleep is going to require some cash expenditure.

Upgraded spells are becoming a bigger and bigger element in the game. For a while, I didn’t have enemies using spell upgrades.  As with spellstones, if you ignore that aspect of casting, you are really limiting your party’s potential. I realized this applied just as well to enemies, and they are definitely more effective for it.

The Reason Why

And finally, there’s a question I’ve answered a few times, but the answer bears repeating. I’ve had several people ask me why I’ve bothered working so hard to provide a hard-core, old-school, serious game system as the foundation for what is a fairly light-hearted, comic, story-heavy game.  It seems like a waste, right? All this work into something that people are going to play because it’s kinda funny and stuff. Or something that hard-core gamers won’t play because it’s kinda funny and stuff.

The answer is that, fundamentally, I want to have Frayed Knights stand on its own as a game (series), even if the humor fell completely flat. I want it to be a great game that happens to be funny. I mean, it’s a low-budget indie title, so it’s not going to win any beauty contests with the latest Unreal 3 Engine – powered extravaganza. But a solid, entertaining game doesn’t need a big budget, and so that’s where I’m focusing my effort. And for me, while a “great RPG” can mean a lot of things, in this case I wanted a game that captured the feel of the old games that made me fall in love with the genre in the first place.  I wanted a game that made me feel like I was only seeing a piece of a really deep, “crunchy” world with lots and lots of detail, and that I was only scratching the surface.  I wanted that detail to be as much on the system level, to appeal to me intellectually, as it was at the world level to appeal to me emotionally.

Maybe it’s a bad combination, but I really don’t think I would be satisfied with a “lite” RPG. Not at this time. Sure, someday in the future I’d enjoy tossing out a jRPG-style game with simple mechanics that are mostly there just to make you work for the story, but not today. Frayed Knights is kind of a hard-core game with old-school sensibilities that just happens to have its tongue planted in its cheek much of the time. But for all that it doesn’t take itself (or the genre) seriously, it has a serious game under the hood. I hope you’ll like it.

Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 15 Comments to Read

  • skavenhorde said,

    About the maze, you’ve got to take into account that I’ve always been good with mazes. If it isn’t that complex I can figure them out rather quickly. I won’t say what the key to that maze was, but I will say that if you use the environment to keep track of where you are then it should be relatively simple.

    Also I replay a lot of old games where there were no automap or the automap sucked big time. So I’m pretty used to them still.

    Personally I loved the writing the most about the game. Even when the combat was as simple as throwing a few spells and they’re dead, the character interaction between the party kept the game interesting.

    As for why you’re making it well all I can say is that I’m glad you are. I’m not sure how many Quest for Glory fans there are out there, but I’m a huge one. I never understood why other developers didn’t expand on what that game started. I’m getting a very Discworld feel to this game and I hope that it will be just as popular as that beloved series.

  • Jeff Sullins said,

    I am intensely interested in this game, and can’t wait for its delivery 🙂

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    @Jeff – I hope you find your patience is well rewarded!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    @Skavenhorde – You know, I never thought of it before, but I think the Discworld comparison as far as style of humor sounds about right. I haven’t read many of Pratchett’s books, but from what I’ve read I’d say he’s much better at the humorous deconstruction of fantasy worlds than I am. But in trying to compare something like Mark Leung’s humor and mine, they are pretty far apart. I don’t go for the absurdism much. I like my comedy to still be about characters and situations I can care about. Pratchett does that masterfully in spite of the situations sometimes being pretty ridiculous.

  • skavenhorde said,

    You really should read a few of his books. I have a feeling you would love them as much as me. The man has a way with words and with seeing things that it made me an instant fan after I read the first one.

    Maybe check out the TV movies they made for his books as well. They were a lot better than I thought.

  • Fumarole said,

    “You really should read a few all of his books.”

    Fixed. 🙂

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I’ve seen at least one of the TV movies (Hogfather) , and I’ve read maybe 4 or 5 of the books (which sounds like a lot, but based on the number of books he’s got out there, it’s not many…)

    But unfortunately there are a lot of book series and TV shows I actively avoid these days because I *KNOW* they will be good and I’ll enjoy them and they’ll probably tempt me too much. It’s totally weird, I know, but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. 🙂

  • GhanBuriGhan said,

    “I haven’t read many of Pratchett’s books, but from what I’ve read I’d say he’s much better at the humorous deconstruction of fantasy worlds than I am.”

    No sweat, nobody is. (AFAIK).
    Glad to hear the beta is going well!

  • Menigal said,

    You should definitely read through the entire Discworld collection. They change quite a lot over time, but they’re all good in their way. 😀

  • skavenhorde said,

    Gotta agree with Ghan, Pratchet is the master. Even Douglas Adams comes in a close second when compared to Pratchet, imo of course.

    That said I loved your imagination with this game and the way the characters come to life. The game makes me want to know more about these four adventures. What was their past, why are they the whipping boys/girls of the adventurer community, etc.

    I would also be very interested if you ever decided to write a book. Just some food for thought. I hear that you can self-publish through Amazon. I have no idea how, I just saw a Daily Show episode where the former mayor of New Orleans self-published his book through Amazon.

  • Calibrator said,

    While I agree on the assessment of Sir Pratchett and his art/craftmanship (it’s terrible that he’s got Alzheimer’s disease) my advice is:

    You should read NONE of his books!

    At least not before you finish your games! 😉

  • Menigal said,

    Now that’s just mean, Calibrator! Let him read one or two to get a taste for it, first. 😉

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Like I said, I’ve read a few. Just not many.

  • Delve said,

    Game first, leisure later. Where’s my whip…

    Seriously, glad to hear beta is going well. Looking forward to the finished product

  • Tesh said,

    I’m all for a light-hearted game built on serious game design. I’d go so far as to say that such is my favorite type of game.