We got the opportunity to talk with Luther Patenge, game designer for Joy Manufacturing Co. about their new game on Kickstarter Ambition: A Minuet In Power.
That looks good, right? Here is a link to the Kickstarter page if you can’t wait to back the game.
We talked for like 45 minutes; so yeah, you will learn a lot about this game.
Also, I asked Luther to wear his PJs so he would be more comfortable and he actually did it, so thanks, Luther you’re a real team player.
Patenge: “Hey bro what’s up?”
The game looks good.
Patenge: “Thank you very much, our team’s been working very hard on that for a while, and it’s really gratifying to see how a lot of the time has been paying off.”
So tell us a little something about your game.
Patenge: “So I’ll tell you about Ambition. I remember before you asked me to keep it brief, so the best way I can is: Have you ever watched a Disney movie and while you were watching you kinda realized that the villainess was the most interesting person of the entire thing? What if there was a game where you could play as that person? Going around pre-revolutionary France ruining people’s lives at parties.”
Patenge: “That is the short and sweet version of the game. From a gameplay perspective it’s half way between a Japanese dating sim and a role play where you have these social elements, but wrapped up in this procedurally generated system. So that even though the player probably knows the answer to what’s about to go down in the game, that can be different in every playthrough so they sort of have to feel it out, just like a person in that time period would have.”
How did you decide what kind of music to use?
Patenge: “We wanted to be about as period accurate with the music as possible, so that is exactly why we picked up our particular composer John Robert Matz. 18th century or late 18th century is a transitionary period where you go in between the baroque and the rococo style of music, and you’ve gone from the super ornate style and you got the harpsichords and tons of instruments, and then suddenly everything trims down to like the string quartets and things like that, and that’s what became popular.
We wanted to actually use the music to illustrate the difference between the different factions of the game, so if you’re in a crown party you have that late baroque music, but if (you’re in) a party held by a church then it would be closer to choir and gospel, or the military is doing something and you have that steady march in that drum beat; we wanted to just get it where you always hear that audio queue so you can pop in and go “Oh yeah! I know what all these people are all about” that’s what we were going with, and I always think there is something to be said for authenticity. Even if people are familiar with the setting something just feels right when you play it.”
In the trailer you can see some timers and cards, how will that play out?
Patenge: “That’s the conversation system. Most conversations in a game are not played out, in most games you have what is sometimes called a dialogue tree where you have lots of different options. You’re conversing with people at this party and you’re not really trying to learn about these people you are choosing (I laugh), and we wanted to make that play as a mechanic instead. With the cards, you have your remarks at the bottom and you have the little indicators on the screen, that tells you what that person likes, so you’re trying to match your remarks with those people. Everyone has things that they like and they don’t like and you’re trying to involve all of them, but if you leave someone out of the conversation for too long they grow bored and start to think you’re crappy.”
“You want to match up with people, but you can’t leave someone alone for too long. So much like in one of those classic rings of people conversations, you’re constantly bouncing between people to try to keep things alive.”
Will there be any romance options?
Patenge: “There will be romantic options within the game and that will actually form one of the core mechanics of the game. The player will meet notable characters, some of whom are historical people. Like I really want to put John Alexander Dumas in there, Mirabeau, but I wanted there to be people that you could actually engage with, we call them liaisons because they might not be a relationship, but a very short-term thing.”
“And this is also a time where some people in power also have very short lifespans, so that relationship might get cut short, but not by something you get to control.”
Oh, so that’s going to happen?
Patenge: “Yeah, we want to keep people on their toes.”
Will you also be able to date women?
Patenge: “Yes, that will be an option in the game.”
Nice (Tumblr will like that).
Patenge: “You know people of all sexualities have been around since forever even if they don’t get written down in the history books, so we figured why would that not happen in the game?”
So will the game contain dialogue trees?
Patenge: “There will be some in certain events during the game, we just simply prefer those where special things happen and it’s up to the player to make those kinds of decisions. We just wanted to pare down the dialogue tree thing, because sometimes it gets really overwhelming, where you’re just reading and clicking, reading and clicking, over and over again. We wanted something a little more dynamic.”
So this is more of a game and less of a visual novel?
Patenge: “We wanted to sort of straddle a place between visual novel and rogue-like, see if we could make something that felt completely different to people.”
About how long will a play session be?
Patenge: “We’re in the phase where we’re experimenting with that. We want to refine the core mechanics before we start saying “What feels like a comfortable place?” we want the gameplay through to be satisfying, but we don’t want it to overstay its welcome. You know, I think we’ve all played games where you’re on hour 80 or so where you start thinking to yourself “is this ever going to end?”.
Will the player be able to choose a side of the Revolution?
Patenge: “You’re able to help either side, the victory of the revolution in this game is not assured, the revolution might win, they might not. It’s up to the player to watch the political whims. For example, well the taking of The Bastille didn’t happen this time, the soldiers were actually getting paid on time, and other things like that happen, so they stood strong and the people don’t get access to a fortress and then watch what happens in a major political rally at one point. You have to look at that and say “Are these people going to pull through? Should I start throwing my lot with the revolutionaries, or with the Crown?” Because this uprising is going to happen, and there is going to be a lot of executions afterward because that’s just how the time period works out. You want to make sure that they understand that you have sympathized with the winning team the entire time.”
Will the Revolution be more of a background mechanic?
Patenge: “The revolution is a thing that starts in the background and starts moving to the foreground over time much like in real life as if it were getting closer and closer and then it starts becoming a thing. When you’re with liaisons, the various powerful figures, one thing you can do is you can start influencing their decisions, so they’re saying “well who am I going to side with?” because these were very powerful figures in history who could sway large groups of people. You could start saying “you know what? it’s in my best interest if this guy or girl throws their hat in with the revolutionaries” or the monarchists, or one of the other factions. You can have a subtle influence on things but you won’t get to decide which side wins, no one ever had that much power and certainly not your character.”
Will there be any kind of supernatural things during the game?
Patenge: “Nope, there will be no magic, no time travel, no science fiction, no laser guns.”
Patenge: “No zombies. The more we read about the time period, the more absolutely crazy everything comes across. You do not need to insert the supernatural to make some of the events that went down utterly unbelievable.”
Will this be anything like Doki Doki Literature Club?
Patenge: “You know? I haven’t played it yet, but you are the third person to recommend it to me today, just today. It’s on my list and I have a huge backlog, the great big joke is that the second you start making games, you don’t have time to play them anymore, but I swear I will get around to it, because I hear so many great things all of a sudden, so they gotta be doing something right.”
Will there be nudity?
Patenge: “We want to keep the game in like 16 plus territory, so while there will be heavy romantic and seductive elements, we are not going to go straight into that territory. We think that would actually end up being more limiting than anything else.”
Will there be any kind of puzzles?
Patenge: “I guess, we probably got a little bit of that. While we’re not including match-three puzzles in the game, you can definitely see it that way with the conversation mechanic, the outfits system, and the liaison. We have more things that I would call explicitly game like and we wanted to include those so the player can go through a variety of things and variety of systems that sort of feed into each other. For example, when you are moving through a party, we’re actually rogue-like style generative map system, that we hope to show off at some point in time before the Kickstarter ends.”
Will there be demos at some time?
Patenge: “There will not be a demo during the course of the Kickstarter campaign, the game is trailer ready, but it’s not polished at a point where we feel comfortable showing the demos to the general public yet, but we do want to have one out before the game is released.”
Will the game include voicework?
Patenge: “The game will not be fully voiced, I’m just going to say that out of the gate; it is prohibitively expensive, getting proper actors you know. Great voice work is what can elevate a script; good voice work can keep it medium length; medium voice work is bad, and bad voice work is unbearable. We want to keep the voice work relegated to cutscenes, and major story events, we want to have something that will punctuate those moments. We’re just not seeing the level of budget necessary because if we’re going to do it we’re going to do it right.”
So will we get like grunts, and noises when we’re talking to the characters, like mhmm, ahh, haha, stuff like that?
Patenge: “That’s actually one of the things I was really hoping for as we want to have that kind of full voice marks extra in the conversations. I think it would just keep things lively and it could be funny if done right.”
Who decided the outfits in the game?
Patenge: “That’s between me and the art director Alexandria Kairis, one of the ways we’ve been working through the outfits is we’ve just been looking at tons and tons of paintings and fashion plates of the periods, thankfully we’ve got a lot of material to work with. I’m not joking when I say new fashion magazines came out in that time period, every ten days.”
What are the different factions?
Patenge: “So the five major factions of the game are the Crown, the Church, the Military, the Bourgeoisie, and the Revolutionaries. While the Crown and the Revolution will always know where they stand, the other three factions are weighted but can change. The Church is generally weighted towards the Crown, there’s all that stuff with divine right tied up in it. You have the super wealthy urban priest, but you also have a priest in the countryside who won’t like watching the country fall apart, and were very sympathetic toward the common people and push toward major reforms, but just back then they were kind of ignored.”
“Then you have the Military who’s kind of a middle neutral faction, because the entire officer core is made of people from the noble class, the entire enlisted section, the vast majority number wise, are the common people, who at this point have not been paid in a long time, and the last few major wars have really left them totally exhausted and they’re not really willing to put up with the system anymore.”
“Then you have the Bourgeoisie who aren’t nobles, and got lots of money, and are sick of having to pay for everything, so they’re very grumpy with the people up top. They’re sympathetic toward the revolutionaries, but they don’t want to lose all they’re money either.”
“Those three middle factions can swing in different directions, it’s just about how the factors in the game play out.”
Will knowing the history of France help me beat the game?
Patenge: “It might help. I would recommend if you want the most fun, a primer to the French Revolution. Have you ever seen the anime Rose of Versaille?”
“It’s from the late 70s, it is an utter classic, and when you watch it, you will realize how much this anime pulls from this one moment of history. It is all about the fictitious bodyguards of Marie Antoinette, and it’s just watching the events of the French Revolution unfold, from the point of view of these characters. It’s super melodramatic. there’s like dramatic harpsichord stings everywhere. It plays out really well, it’s obviously not 100% accurate but a lot of it is really well researched, and if not anything else, you’ll have a quick primer on who’s important, why, who was Marie Antoinette, and what are the reasons that people are pissed off at her?”
Was this a particular place and time in history that you liked, and then you decided to make a game on it, or the more you were researching places for the game, the more you liked it and decided “that’s the place I want to make my game”?
Patenge: “It was more the second one. I only wanted to do it in France because I liked the way some of the social rules played out. If you look at the way society was structured it was so rules-based, it felt like a game already, and that felt like a very natural thing to move into. The more I was doing research, the more I liked the idea of the French Revolution because it was such a high stakes period, you were looking at the future of an entire country and the lives of thousands and thousands of people were on the line, and it was all being played out on a broad social scale, so everyone was a part of it.”
I think that about covers all my questions, did you want to add something?
Patenge: “Just a reminder for people, the game will come out for PC and Mac. While initially, it’s going to be an English release, one of our stretch goals is to be able to transfer the game into three languages chosen by the backers. And at our highest Kickstarter tier, you will be able to be in the game, which is pretty rad, our art director will illustrate you and we will put you in the game.”
All right, well that concludes this interview, thanks for meeting with me.
Patenge: “Thank you very much, I’ll talk to you later.”
The campaign ends very soon and it’s already reached its goal! Here is the link to the Kickstarter that way you can go and back the game for yourself!
Update: Due to some unforeseen circumstances this article came out later than intended but I hope it proves informative, especially to those already backing the game.