An interview with our Studio Head, James Parkman
As FIVE: Guardians of David’s launch draws closer. We thought it was important to reflect back on our beginnings. Where did Kingdom Games begin, and how did FIVE become our first PC title. So this week, we sat down with our Studio Head and Founder, James Parkman, to learn more about the origins of Kingdom Games and FIVE: Guardians of David.
On Kingdom’s Origin:
When creating Kingdom Games (KG), what was missing from gaming, and what is KG offering as a solution?
At Kingdom, we do not believe that anything is ‘missing’ from gaming. Almost everyone here is an avid gamer and has been for most of their life. We love games, and just like any medium, there are many wonderful examples of art, and many particular efforts we might not appreciate as an individual. We are proud to be telling this particular story in a way not before attempted, and we believe that casual gamers as well as people who want to learn this story in more depth will appreciate it greatly.
What inspired the lion element of the logo for Kingdom?
The lion’s silhouette is a universal symbol that people relate to. It felt very appropriate. Beside the more obvious association of the lion as “King of the Jungle”, is the nobility and regality of the animal. The lion as a trope has been used throughout history to represent the nobility, often etched on shields and armor.
How does history influence the vision of Kingdom?
We’re innovating a new way to tell the great stories. We’re talking about thousands of years of history told via programs and technology that have barely existed for decades. Chess has survived hundreds of years; it’s even used to create competitions between man and machine. The chess piece bridges the gap between technology history and gaming.
What about the Mighty Men captured your attention?
It is an epic story with many of the elements which I feel makes for a great video game – action and adventure, adversity, large scale military strategy, as well as the very ‘human’ stories, such as that of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah. It is a classic story of boys growing into mighty warriors, which allows for a natural and compelling progression in the game design sense.
Does the epic’s length lend itself to better story telling?
I do tend to believe that the length of the tale lends itself toward character growth and development, which is essential to an RPG. The story also spans well beyond the initial 11 act game’s story, so there is plenty of room to expand upon and grow the saga.
We are also developing further expansion elements that span multiple generations, which is exciting, and we believe will offer a unique twist on typical RPG character creation and development.
Other developers might focus on the David V. Goliath paradigm. Is it a risk to have a hero that goes down a darker path?
I don’t believe it is a risk; it is the kind of story that appeals to us as human beings. Much like many of our favorite modern characters – the human character is a complex combination of both good and evil.
David’s story is perhaps one of the oldest tales that shows this dichotomy of human nature. David vs. Goliath is really just the beginning of David’s story, and as we researched and read deeper, we realized that this story that everyone has heard is really just the start of a long life full of ups and downs.
At what point was 5 on-the-fly swapping a must-have gameplay feature?
For me, the party management and on-the-fly swapping was an imperative feature that had to be maintained from the start. Even our prototype demo had this feature. There were times when the complexity and uniqueness of this element came under question, but me and the other Directors stood our ground that we wanted to maintain this as a defining feature of FIVE. For me, this is all about brotherhood. It is comradery and teamwork, which are elements we want to drive home as predominant themes of the game.
From a game-play point of view, it hearkens back to some of our favorite games – Baldur’s Gate comes to mind for me – where you build and manage a team, not just a single character. I also feel that this is a unique experience for the top-down action RPG genre, and we want to explore it fully. We have many plans for additions to this feature in the single player story mode, as well as in exploring potential co-op modes in FIVE.
What are the biggest challenges with telling a 3,000+ year old story?
The biggest challenges from a story point of view are finding the necessary details about cultures and historical elements that are largely lost to time. For example, not much is known about peoples such as the Edomites. On the flip side, this gave us ample opportunity to be creative with missing details. But, we are trying to maintain accuracy or the source material, history, and overall realism.
Another challenge is time-line. Many of the stories we are trying to tell are told in very vague snippets in the source material. For example, one of the only specific passages about one of our main heroes, Benaiah, simply states, Benaiah went into a pit on a snowy day and slew a lion. We had to interpret when this might have occurred in his life, and where, and integrate this key moment into the story. It’s challenging, but fun and rewarding when all of the pieces fit together.
What core ideas of FIVE maintained throughout the development process?
First, we wanted an experience that is friendly to younger gamers and families, but doesn’t shy away from the ‘darker’ elements of the story. Some examples would be the entire story arc surrounding David and Bathsheba, which has very ‘adult’ themes.
Another key element we wanted to stress and integrate into the game is charity over personal greed, which we are beginning to develop in the form of our donation system, and plan to expand upon in the Saga in other ways. We want players to think about their actions in terms of their ethics and not simply what their personal gain might be.
Lastly, we have maintained and fostered the idea that a biblical story can be told with the highest production values, modern game design knowledge and techniques, and an experienced team. FIVE is a full-scale game production that we hope exposes people to this story in a fun and immersive way like no title has before ours.
Any final comments?
We are all very proud to release FIVE to the world on November 24 and continue building the FIVE Saga well into the future. I look forward to talking with our players and the community about all of the awesome things we have planned!