Interview: Janice of JENBO Productions

Who are you and what are you working on?

 

My name is Janice, I’m a (musical)theatre actress and a singer, majored in university in both Theatre and Mediastudies. Growing up as a kid with the SNES and the Playstation, one of my dreams has always been making my own game(s). Some of my favorite games include Star Ocean, Xenogears, Suikoden, Breath of Fire, FF7/FF8/FFT, Lufia and Seiken Densetsu.
I’m currently working on a polished-up version of Escalia. Before that, I was working on Startide.

 

JENB Productions

Janice – President of JENBO Productions

Why did you want to become a game developer?

I grew up with playing RPGs and sometimes I caught myself while I was thinking up new storylines for a game that I had played, or thinking about ways a game that I enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) could’ve improved itself or which features would’ve made it even better.  This eventually grew out in something bigger: I wanted to create rpgs I would’ve loved to play myself. Eventually I  found RPG Maker 2000, but back then I was only 13 and nowhere near serious or mature enough to finish anything worthwhile.

Is there anyone you look up to in the industry?

Hmm not anyone in particular, it’s more certain art styles or certain RPGs that I just really admire. I’m a big fan of the 2D look that the SNES  (and even some playstation games, although it was a mix of 2x/3d like Suikoden) used to have. Don’t get me wrong, some of the later generation games are amazing (For example I really love the Witcher series and the Suikoden series, Dragon Age, Skies of Arcadia, Star Ocean 4, Mass Effect etcetera) but it’s just that the 2D style has some kind of charm, some pull towards me.

 

Startide_Characters

Startide – JENBO Productions

What’s your favorite part about being a game developer?


My favourite part is basically designing everything. I love designing the world, the features, the characters, their traits, flaws, personalities, and I especially love making maps and everything that comes with it.  

What advice would you give to someone wanting to be in the industry?

If making games is your dream, just go for it. Don’t let anyone or yourself get you down, just work hard and you’ll achieve it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you will. Just never give up on your dreams.

 

Escalia

Escalia Title Screen

 

What are some of your goals as a developer?

Making engaging, compelling and challenging games, games that grip the player and leave them wanting for more. Games that I would’ve loved to play myself, if I had been an unknown and someone else had made them.

You founded JENBO Productions, what does JENBO stand for and why the ship for a logo?

JENBO is sort of a combination of my first name and my last name. I chose a ship because it stands for adventure, travelling into the unknown and never really knowing what you will encounter. Sort of like a symbol, for my games. I have to say that it’s likely to change in the future, as I noticed the name was already taken by someone else, and I’d prefer to stand out a bit.

 

It’s never as easy as just crossing a bridge is it? (Escalia)

 

What are Escalia and Startide?

 

Escalia is a Fantasy/Steampunkish J-RPG, which follows Fayhe Corin, Olivia’s magically gifted daughter, and her friends Lumia Flac and Seyfer Foltes as they find themselves in a series of unfortunate events that could spiral out of control quickly and will decide the fate of the whole continent.

Startide is Fantasy/Steampunk J-RPG, which follows Lyna Aldis, a thief from the town of Alvon, and Skylar Gale, a mysterious gunslinger whom was found unconscious in a forest nearby Alvon which Lyna ends up nursing back to health. Little did she know that their meeting would soon change the fate of the world, but is it for better, or worse?

 

You entered Escalia into IGMC 2015, tell more about it.  Why did you choose that particular game and what did you hope to accomplish with it?  Did you accomplish what you set out to do?

 

Shortly before the contest started I had some storyline ideas floating around in my head that wouldn’t fit any of my characters in Startide. So I decided to implement them into Escalia. And as I was writing them down, I thought, why not make it a sort of prequel for Startide? In that way, I could already do some world building for Startide. So during the contest I thought up the continent of Escalia and some places and started world building on it, in hopes of being able to use the lore that I had created right now, in Startide as well. Because I literally hadn’t done a lot of world building yet for Startide, other than thinking up characters, their backstories, their living places etcetera.
Another thing is that people say that you need to have some experience with making games before you decide to go commercial. So this was sort of both a test to myself as for the people out there, to show that I could deliver a good quality game in the time allotted. And I do very much believe that I have succeeded,  Escalia has been very well received so far. I’m very, very proud of all the work that I managed to pull off in such a short time.

 

Water outside but no horse? What’s up with that guy? (Escalia)

 

The combat system at first glance seems like your typical side view, turn based, battle system, but the mechanics like the “block” system seem to set Escalia apart.  Care to explain what they are and how you went about designing them?


I’m a big fan of battle systems that try to do something different than just the normal side-view battlesystem. Considering I found the normal guard/defend skill rather boring, I decided to add some extra challenges: guard now only works once per battle, but it does have additional effects depending on whom uses it.

-Fayhe’s skill is Energize, when she uses this skill she recovers a percentage of PP (this is needed to cast magic and certain skills), adds PP Regeneration for 2 turns,  raises Vigor (Magic Attack) for 2 turns and halves damage for 1 turn.

fayhe

– Seyfer’s skill is Enrage. When he uses this skill he recovers a percentage of HP,  raises Attack for 2 turns, generates Threat (he is a “tank”) and halves damage for 1 turn.

lumia

-Lumia’s skill is Evasion. If she uses Evasion she recovers a percentage of PP,  adds Evasion (raises dodge) for 2 turns and halves damage for 1 turn.

seyfer

 

The art in the game is quite pretty, from the character art, to the sprites, and the user interface.  Who’s behind the art in Escalia and why did you choose this particular art style?

 

The art-style is a bit of a mix 😉 I’m a big fan of taller, Mack-style characters, most of the sprites I’ve used are from Japanese artists, some sprites were also created by me. The character art/portraits were nearly all made by my artist because I simply love his style and I worked with him prior on creating some characters from Startide (Zack/Yamina), he really captures the characters very well.
I made the menu and the battlehud myself, which were partially inspired by the menu’s of Tales of Vesperia, except I wanted mine to be a bit more clean and sleek.
And last but not least, the maps were made with the “Ancient Dungeon Tiles” from Celianna, although I have made quite some modifications as well.
I think coherency in style is a very important aspect of game-making and I found everything to blend together very well.

 

Escalia combat

 

Escalia Battle System – Design by Janice of JENBO Productions

 

Who else is on the team and what is your role in particular?

 

There’s one other person helping me out and that’s my artist. He’s the one who made all the gorgeous busts in Escalia, with the exception of Yael/Young Olivia/Maximillian/Caelmor. Those are from Japanese artists. He’s been doing a lot more than just my portraits though, we regularly talked about the storylines, which he gave me some ideas for too.
He knows a lot more about certain genres (e.g. Steampunk) than I do, so he’s a massive help. He also loves designing skills so he thought up several of the skills I ended up implementing into the game. He’s been such a big help, couldn’t have done it without him.
As for me, I basically did all the rest, I’ve done all the database work, the general storyline and characters were my ideas, I did the mapping, some of the spriting, implemented all storylines, sidequests, scripts by myself. My artist supplied art and ideas and I implemented it all.

 

Escalia_Characters

Escalia User Interface – Designed by Janice of JENBO Productions

 

The IGMC version of the game ends with two of the main characters, Fayhe and Lumia, preparing to go on an adventure together.  Do you plan to continue working on the game past the contest and what do you plan to do differently if so?

 

Yes, I would love to! When I first read about the contest I actually had a different ending in mind, some sort of cliff-hanger. But after making some inquiries it was stated that your game needed a proper beginning, middle and end, but you were allowed to have loose ends into it in case if you wanted to continue on it further. So I did. There are a lot of things I’m going to change, one of the comments I’ve received a lot is that the intro felt disconnected to the rest of the game. I understand why people feel that way, however, it is really connected. So I’m going to make that more clear. Another point that’s brought up a lot is that the last boss currently is too hard so she’s going to get a little overhaul. Other than that I’m adding more features, for example a hp-bar to enemies, and a way to show their (de)buffs. I’m going to add more flavour text as well as to help with the world building and fleshing out the characters more. I have some storylines already thought out, even for some of the “bad guys”, including Caelmor. I don’t like it when the world is portrayed as white/black, I prefer some shades of grey in between as well, also for the bad guys. I’d also like to add at least one fourth character, so that’s something I’ll be working on as well.

 

Makas_new

In an earlier build Makas was going to be one [of the team members], but I simply didn’t have time to flesh out another character in the time allotted.

You only had thirty days to make the game, what did you find most challenging and do you feel like you’ve learned anything new from our experience?


I think there were several parts quite challenging. One of the things I was struggling with quite a bit was making the sprites, I’m no spriter at all, so some of them took me a lot of time. It’s also why I scrapped some ideas (I wanted more mutants for example) because spriting simply took away too much time, Other than that, I had never really worked with the database before, I had never made skills, enemies, damage formulae, did battle balancing etcetera. Those are all things I’ve learned in those thirty days (except for spriting, still bad at it, haha) so it’s been a really valuable time. All in all I made a pretty strict timeschedule so I could send my game over to my testers on the 28 july, and I could work on any issues they found. Which in turn I could weed out until it was time to hand the game in.

old_vs_new

 

Original Makas Design (left), New Makas Design (right)

 

How are Escalia and your other project, Startide related?  Is there any cross between them be it in characters or gameplay?

 

Oh there’s definitely a cross. Escalia will be one of the continents of the world depicted in Startide, same for Nertos (which is named in the intro of Escalia). Startide will play several years after Escalia. Whereas in Escalia, steampunk is up and coming, in Startide steampunk will play a central role. [In Startide] The player definitely will be able to visit Escalia, and maybe even Lumia/Fayhe and Seyfer and several other characters [of Escalia]. A lot of features will be the same, while some other features will receive an overhaul and of course Startide will have some new features as well.

 

BanditLeader_New

More character bust to be in the polished version of Escalia

 

How long have you been working on Startide and what sets it apart from other games like it?

 

I basically started working on it shortly after I bought RPG Maker VX Ace on a humble bundle in 2014. I already had some general storyline ideas so I first set out to create some of the characters and wrote down the storylines and started gathering scripts I wanted to use for my game. Basically, I looked at some of the RPGs which I enjoyed, looked at features I liked very much and I brainstormed about how I could implement them into my own game and make them even better. Some features I’d love to implement into Startide (some already are, partially):

– A grid style (4×4) battle system, with formation bonuses and also bonuses for putting characters on certain grids.
– A split-up system when your party reaches a town your party splits up and you can interact with your characters in order to get to know them better. You can increase affection between your main character (Lyna) and the other characters, or you can increase affection between other characters which in turn will unlock more scenes, different responses and will also have an effect in battle.

-I’m a big, big fan of minigames in games, for example I was very addicted to Triple Triad from FF8, so I decided to create my own version of it for Startide, which will be Cresta. In Cresta you’ll have diagonal numbers as well, as well as elements (Red (fire) > Green (air) > Blue (Water) >  Red (Fire)), meaning, Water will receive a +1 bonus to Fire, but a -1 debuff to Air.

LynaAldis2Sierra1Darius1Cresta_Elements
– A license board allowing you to develop your characters in a way you deem fit.

And I haven’t yet decided on which one of the two but Startide will either have parallel universes, or time travelling.

Other than that, I think my characters will also be quite different. You immediately start off with a character in your party whom you don’t really know that well (Skylar), he was found unconscious, is wanted by the what seems to be the imperial guard and seems to suffer from amnesia, but does he really? Or is he hiding something? There’s a lot of mystery going on there for the player to unravel and I think that’s really exciting.

However, my focus will be on Escalia first and polishing that one up and possibly even expanding it, after that I’ll get back to Startide. I’m very excited to work on both!

 

What is the world of Startide like?  What can players expect from the gameplay?

The world of Startide is going to be a bit different from the one created in Escalia, because we’ve entered an era of Steampunk. While some towns (like Alvon, the town of the main character Lyna Aldis) will still look like they belonged in the same period as Escalia’s Aldwyn, a lot of towns will have a distinct Steampunk look. People who can use magic are still rare, and being able to use magic is seen as an abomination by most people. The characters in Startide are also a tad older than the ones in Escalia, while in Escalia the main characters were 17-20, in Startide they’ll be in their mid twenties. The general tone is also a lot more serious, but there’s still humor in the game. There’s definitely going to be comic relief.

Gameplaywise, it’s going to have a lot more features, some features of Escalia will be playing a role in Startide as well, but I’m adding a lot more than that. One example is minigames with their own storylines, for example Cresta (a heavily modified version of Triple Triad) will be a pretty big thing in the world of Startide. But it’s purely optional, so people can completely skip it if they wish to. Another feature I’d like to add is to have your own base/house, or even your own town for you to expand and recruit people for to help you out.

 

So no evil, laughing, wizard, tyrant dudes in Startide? (Escalia)

 

Startide seems to focus a bit more on the tactical side in contrast to Escalia, why did you choose to go that route and what differentiates the two games?

Aside from RPG Games I’m also a very big fan of Strategy games, and some of the games I admire mix Strategy/RPG really well (example: Suikoden), so I wanted to mix those two up as well. But instead of having a normal battle system with strategic battles on the side, I wanted to combine them into one. Escalia has a normal battle system with some extra challenges mixed in (skill cooldowns, guard only works once), Startide is going to be even more challenging in that regard.

 

More challenging eh?  Bring it! (Escalia Combat shown above)

 

You chose to make both Escalia and Startide in RPG Maker, more specifically RPGM VX Ace.  Why did you choose that particular engine and how do you plan on making your games stand out from the sea of cheap, poorly made RPGM games?

 

It was more for practical reasons, really. I don’t know any programming language, so it was nice to be able to use a programme to create a rpg with, without needing to know any programming language myself. By now I’ve learned how to edit RGGS a bit, but not a lot.
Well, one of the things that makes my game stand out is the art-style and the custom music. I’m not a big fan of the standard assets (the music and the standard sprites, map assets and so on). In due time I’d also love to have my own custom sound effects and/or custom animations, but that depends entirely on my budget, haha.

 

Where can people find you and your work?

People can find me on my Twitter @JenboProduction

And I also have a topic about Escalia here.

Currently there is no topic on Startide and I do not have my own website or Facebook yet, but those are things I’m looking into for the future.

 

Is there anything you want to say to the GamerBolt Community?

Chase after your dreams and don’t give up.

Dakota B.

Dakota Barrett is an indie game developer and journalist. His goals are to create high quality experiences and supports those that do as well.

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