Deadly Sin Arrives on Steam: Talking Games with Creator Phil Hamilton

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Deadly Sin marks the third Steam release for Dancing Dragon Games, the studio behind the previously released Deadly Sin 2 and the sleeper hit Skyborn. Originally completed in 2009 on RPG Maker VX, the original Deadly Sin is actually arriving on Steam after its predecessor. Dancing Dragon Games developer Phil Hamilton agreed to discuss that and some other game-related points here on the blog. Read on to find advice on finishing a worthy commercial game, commentary on balancing old-school and innovation and news of what’s next for Dancing Dragon Games.

How did you feel about the response to Deadly Sin 2’s release? Was its reception on Steam the reason you decided to release the original?

I was actually a tad disappointed by Deadly Sin 2’s release, both its original release back in 2010, and its Steam release. I feel it is much better-designed than Deadly Sin 1, and even better than Skyborn in some ways, but it seemed to lack that “magic” that makes a game really come together. Deadly Sin 1 was my first commercial game, and I’ve had quite a few requests to get all of my work on Steam, and thus, here we are!

How much continuity is there between Deadly Sin and Deadly Sin 2? Do any issues arise from releasing them in reverse order?

There’s actually no continuity, other than perhaps some similar design choices and names. Narratively, the two games are completely independent. Releasing them in reverse order might strike people as odd, but it shouldn’t be an issue.

When working on a classic-style RPG, how do you find a balance between evoking an old-school feel and innovating enough to make the game feel like a fresh experience?

I will admit, I got better at this balancing act as I built up to Skyborn. But even in Deadly Sin 1 and 2, I made great efforts to leave behind some of the outdated RPG mechanics of the past, while still maintaining the core feel of a JRPG. I think the long and short of it is to simply go with what you know – lay the groundwork of an old-school JRPG, and pick apart its individual components. Are things like MP, save points, and game overs really necessary for modern gamers? These are examples of, in my opinion, outdated aspects of traditional JRPGs that would only serve to slow down and annoy players. JRPGs live and die on their narrative – no need to slow players down with mechanics that serve only as filler or delay.

What part of the game-making process comes easiest? What part is the toughest?

The easiest is almost certainly the building of the weapons and armor database. Coming from MMORPGs, it is definitely nice to be able to make your own gear, rather than waste away on WoW trying to grind someone else’s gear. 🙂 The most difficult part, only by virtue of its paramount importance, is the narrative. This is one aspect that no JRPG can afford to put in 2nd place in terms of priority. I’ll be the first to admit, narrative design does not come naturally to me. I have to slog through it, erase days of progress and start over, basically dig through a mountain with a tiny chisel. But in the end, it’s enormously rewarding. In Deadly Sin 1, and much moreso in Skyborn, the narrative managed to come together pretty well.

The difficulty of actually finishing a game in the RM community has been well-documented. You’ve now had three full games that have been commercially released. What’s your secret?

When you’re young, you think you can go it alone. You think you can improvise, coast, and get by just on your talent. Once you learn that no successful person has ever gotten by just on their talent, that’s when you finally start to flourish. You’ve got to remind yourself of your purpose every day, maybe even every hour. You must never rest on your laurels – never think, “well, this is good enough.” Don’t settle for good enough. Only settle for your best. Delete “good enough”, start over, and make it better. Make yourself better, all the time. Be open to harsh criticism. Be open to failure. Beg for it, absorb it and use it to your advantage. It’s purpose that drives me, and perhaps, that would drive others as well.

What’s next for Dancing Dragon Games?

Skyborn’s popularity has really floored us and humbled us. We didn’t expect it, but now we want to build on that success. Echoes of Aetheria is coming soon, probably in May 2015. It builds on what we believe to be the succeeding factors of Skyborn, and makes it much bigger, much better, and much higher-tech. We think players who loved Skyborn’s whimsical high adventure will love Echoes of Aetheria just the same. We also think players who may have found Skyborn’s underlying systems primitive will be pleased to see the massive tech upgrades we will show off with Echoes of Aetheria.

Oh, and Skyborn 2’s probably coming after that. 🙂

Deadly Sin is available on Steam here
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