We have conducted an interview with Raymond Thompson, director of "The Tribe" drama series and “The Tribe Game”. We asked him about the inspiration for creating the RPG Maker game based on the cult favorite drama series, as well as some of the game's highlights!
What is "The Tribe"?
“The Tribe" is a science fiction drama series (260 episodes in total) produced by the New Zealand-based Cloud9 Screen Entertainment Group. It was broadcasted mainly in the UK from 1999 to 2003. It is a grand story set in a dystopia, where adults are gone due to an unknown virus, and the remaining children and teenagers are fighting for survival.
Question 1) What got you interested in creating a game version of "The Tribe"?
The Tribe has a very loyal and committed fan base who enjoy our canon infrastructure associated with such a well-loved franchise. From music to novel tie-ins and other forms of merchandising.
Our fans have consistently been very keen to have a Tribe game and I've always been looking for an appropriate vehicle to be able to accommodate this and arrived at a situation approximately two years ago after extensive market research whereby I believed we could structure a Tribe game which would work for me creatively (my prime concern) maintaining the integrity of the series (also very important to me) in terms of themes and aspirations. Above all though, the right game engine.
Question 2) What are some of the highlights you are most proud of in this game and why?
I'm very proud of the game for the (almost) same reason I am proud of the series in the context that the series explores very strong stories and character interplay based upon a theme of building a better world for successive generations which interweaves all manner of elements which emotionally connect with an audience (in whatever form) from social justice to self-reliance, hope to despair, and even environmental issues including sustainability and caring for mother earth.
The Tribe provides a player with a need to belong and an ability to hang out with various characters whereby they are almost spending time with friends. There is a great combat system but the game isn't confined to just battles for the sake of it - but all manner of elements drive the game from planting to cooking, other professions such as crafting, gathering, and farming. And although the theme is not exactly post-apocalyptic - the game is 'blue sky dystopia' and filled with hope whereby triumph overcomes adversity. And our player evolves, where their abilities and skills (and possibly even outlook) will be different at the end, rather than it is at the beginning.
Playing the game is very much a journey of not only discovery but possibly even self-discovery and is primarily positive and aspirational which mirrors the hope of humanity in building a better and more sustainable world for the future - for all successive generations.
Question 3) Now the drama is turned into a game, how do you envision fans would react to the characters?
I believe that fans of the series will really love spending time and hanging out with their favorite characters. They may even go on dates with a few of them :).
But the game is almost like a porthole whereby the fans can 'live with' their favorite characters and spend time in the world their favorite characters inhabit. Whereby the player of the game will face all the collective dangers, challenges, obstacles, dreams, and desires - but as well as being collective will also tap into the individual emotional responses.
Question 4) Would someone unfamiliar with "The Tribe" be able to enjoy the game?
Our market research has shown that consumers who are unfamiliar with the series can really enjoy The Tribe Game. Simply because knowing the series is not a prerequisite and requirement to playing and understanding what it's all about. The game reflects in a very realistic way the world every individual inhabits in whatever culture and whatever country and provides a framework for them to emotionally connect on a human level with how their character interacts with the other characters in the game. But also through experiencing the various themes and storylines as well as the quests and professions that the game features.
Question 5) Why did you choose RPG Maker MV for the game engine?
Throughout our original research, we found that there was a huge market segment who enjoys almost a 'retro' vibe. Iconic titles such as Zelda and Pokemon are still enjoyed and of course, Stardew Valley is a good example of consumers enjoying alternatives to the mega triple-a game titles. Also, we had members of the team who are huge fans of RPG Maker as an aspiration in making gaming accessible and inclusive (as opposed to being exclusive to those being highly technical). So we thought that the ethos was an ideal fit to what we aspired (and I especially did creatively) to achieve.
RPG Maker respects stories and characters within what it makes available to creators and it was important for me to retain the creative integrity to offer a player an ability to interact with characters, participate in a strong story, enjoy an exciting and challenging journey within that story, as well as participating in all manner of elements from professions to farming and of course enjoying the thrills of combat and battle - but counterbalancing all that, with some more gentle moments associated with human conflict and drama. And all driven by the core thematic of hope always being prevalent and to build a better sustainable and meaningful world from the ashes of the old for future generations.
Question 6) What are some of the obstacles in development? How are they resolved?
Cloud 9 is a company I founded as a vehicle for my creative endeavors. Our core business revolves around television and motion pictures and this game is the very first foray into 'the world of gaming'. We are not a multinational media conglomerate. But a small artesian and independent who operate truly as a boutique with passion and commitment. So having no track record or experience in the gaming industry, it is true to say that we have had a 'baptism of fire'.
It has taken time to recruit the right team of people who share our ethos and ethics. Also to basically understand who, why, what, where, when, how. How everything works. What is possible. And what is impossible. And being a very persistent artesian operation who pushes the boundaries, we needed to learn the wisdom of accepting what is impossible and balancing that with the realization that something is only impossible until it is possible.
So many people thought that we were crazy to attempt to do some elements and that the scope was simply too high. But through trial and error, we actually managed to succeed where some experts thought we would never. So sometimes ignorance is bliss because often in the creative process, when one doesn't know the limitations, everything is possible. So the biggest obstacle has been to try and balance for us to accept what might be impossible (due to technical or budget constraints) but to seek for other ways to achieve a similar result. But always to be mindful that something which might feel impossible can actually be made possible with nothing succeeding like patience and persistence.
Having been brand new to the gaming world in terms of development, I have personally discovered that in reality, developing and bringing into existence a game is not dissimilar to doing the same for a television series or a motion picture. It's all about pushing the boundaries creatively and technically and trying to get the very best one can achieve in line with whatever vision one has and cutting one's cloth accordingly. Our theme of The Tribe is 'keeping the dream alive'.
So in short, one really must have a dream. Otherwise, one can never achieve it. I think if one has a vision for a game, then the same can apply. And given that there can be no triumph without adversity - the problems we experienced in development are simply the price we pay for chasing our dream and persistence is the key to achieving the dream or vision which has been what has occurred in The Tribe game.
I have achieved my vision and am very proud of the end result and especially the great team that have been with me shoulder to shoulder on the journey with passion and care. Whereby collectively, we have pushed the envelope where we did the very best we could with what we had and have never compromised on the creative integrity and have remained true to the original vision.
Question 7) How do you wish the engine could be improved?
Overall, the team (in addition to myself) applauds and admires the aspiration of the brand of RPG Maker MV in the context of making gaming accessible to all (as opposed to an elitist type of situation requiring a high level of expertise in technical aspects and programming).
To caricature it, music is mainstream and available to all. A symphony conductor, to Beethoven, to a child composing music with one hand in the aftermath of sitting down at a piano which differs considerably to an acclaimed concert pianist.
So we really loved that RPG Maker is a vehicle for whatever level whereby people can express themselves creatively and be inclusive and able to 'make a game'.
However, we have recognized (and please accept these comments in the spirit in which they are intended - being to be constructive), it would be very helpful to consider the following:
1) The ability to open for example the database window and the plugin manager simultaneously (rather than just having one thing open at a time).
2) A clearer facility to search through databases.
3) The facility of plugins being integrated into the database.
Question 8) Are you already planning for a sequel? If yes, do you expect the development cycle to get a lot faster?
Yes we have just touched the tip in this first game. There were almost 300 episodes in the Tribe series and there is so much material we can cover in subsequent versions (the first game hasn't even featured storyline material in the first 6 episodes out of almost 300). Having some assets to build and terrific artwork, then we can amortize this in future games which should accelerate the ability to bring future add-ons and new stories in a compelling way.
Question 9) As a game dev who now successfully released an amazing game, do you have any suggestions to young developers who are also looking to get into the field?
You might think I am partisan being a writer by profession (for all that I also produce and direct) and I think as with anything creative, the key is to start with a blank page and get the stories and characters in the right shape. That is the pebble in the pond and everything else is really the ripples via a domino effect whereby the blueprints really are the story and script. And if that's right, then it is possible to work out how everything else can come together and the first solution to any problem (is normally to identify what the problem is) then you've taken the first step to solving the problem. So my advice to anyone creating anything (being a game, music, a movie, a television series, novel) is to try and be definitive in what your project will be about. Not what happens initially, but what is it all about. The underlying themes. Which will then evolve into identifying your vision.
And once you have that vision - and dream - then stay focused on achieving that goal to bring your vision and dream to fruition, not allowing anything else to get in the way. To not allow anything to detract on the creative integrity and the reason you were compelled to give birth to whatever it is you want to do. It's not easy. But it can be very rewarding and fulfilling to have triumph overcome any adversity and I wish anyone embarking upon that journey my very best wishes as a kindred spirit.
Thank you very much for your answer!