Kingdom Games’ goal is to deliver approachable titles that tell great stories and don’t alienate the family from enjoying the experience. The story of David is a complex story with a lot of content that could offend sensibilities. It’s a story of war; it’s a story of being human. We knew at the outset of the project that there had to be a balance between the story of David and a target-rating for our audience. In FIVE’s design we made decisions that aimed for a Teen (T) Rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
At Kingdom Games, we are strive to be a trusted brand gamers and parents can consistently rely upon for fantastic games all generations can enjoy. We love the games that are targeted for Mature (M) rating, but we’re also parents. We wanted to create games that we could enjoy, our kids could enjoy, and ultimately games we could enjoy together.
Reviewing the ESRB guidelines and our marketing strategy, we came to the conclusion that T-rating guidelines allowed for realistic, but not gratuitous scenarios, and gave fair and trusted criteria that parents could embrace.
Player-Enemy Interaction Feedback
Combat is prevalent in FIVE; it’s set in a world of warring tribes and nations. Designing combat is difficult in that there is a constant interaction between the player and the enemy non-playable characters (NPC). How do you let the player know they’ve made a successful attack? Many games will use blood to signify a specific critical hit. Hit-triggered sound effects accompanying the visuals are also very common. CounterStrike players often refer to the “dink” sound for headshots
It can be tough to balance a game-system with a design philosophy. An easier route may very well have been to use traditional methods like blood. However, in lieu of blood splatter, we opted to have pieces of the enemy armor break off to signify a hit. The result gives the same player-feedback, but it allows us to not result to gratuitous depictions of blood or viscera. We can give players feedback via visuals and sound that don’t cross the boundaries of a T-rating.
Realism v. Cartoon/Fantasy
It’s important to distinguish realism and stylized depictions one violence. There is a distinct difference between the violence depicted by Tom and Jerry or Looney Tunes and Saving Private Ryan. Though both depict violence, the cartoon tends to use hyperbolic mechanisms and overly-elaborate traps to create ridiculous violence, whereas a war movie aims to depict real wartime violence.
At the outset, depicting the story of David and the Mighty Men as historically accurate as possible was the goal. Boundless amounts of research went into the discovery and development phase, resulting in the different peoples and their designs throughout FIVE.
While our artstyle is influenced by realism, we didn’t emphasize gratuitous Saving Private Ryan real-war like gore and violence. Instead we opted for realistic environments and characters, while allowing the combat to be more arcade and fluid. The result are beautiful landscapes and super fun combat scenarios.
The ESRB distinguishes between close-up combat such as a First-Person game and isometric-view combat like FIVE. The distance between the combat changes the visceral nature of it. More importantly, with an isometric viewpoint enemies are depicted less personal, more removed and fantastical.
While not the only consideration, the camera viewpoint was an influencing factor in choosing the action-RPG genre. We didn’t want violence to be the focus, but rather the epic nature of the story and lands. We wanted to emphasize the vastness instead of the physical combat. The camera is a critical tool in video game story-telling. When telling an epic, it just makes sense to not be up-close. Rather, allow the player to see the scope of the world they’ve been taken to.
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