Pirate Software founder, Jason Thor Hall has a long background in breaking (i.e. hacking) games for Blizzard, but decided it was time to venture forth and create one instead. Thor, as he is more widely known, began work on an RPG—Heartbound—that hearkens back to the video games of his youth, while changing the rules entirely. We caught up with Thor at Denver Comic Con, where we got to see Heartbound in action, alongside an arcade shooter called Champions of Breakfast.
You’ve said that Heartbound was the reason you wanted to make indie games. What was the inspiration behind the game?
I was also heavily influenced by a lot of the RPGs of the SNES period—games like Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Illusion of Gaia and Earthbound. For more recent games, I turn to things like OneShot, Off and Undertale because of the unique qualities each one brought to the table.
For films, I would say A Boy and His Dog. It’s a pretty rough film and not really kid friendly, but definitely something you should watch.
If you have ever played the Fallout series, that’s where Dogmeat got his name.
You’ve played a lot of RPGs – what sets Heartbound apart from other RPGs gamers might have played before?
Combat: In Heartbound there are no levels, experience, random battles, or stats beyond your health. Progression is based entirely on the player’s skill and combat changes objectives and controls between enemies and within fights. The battles are made up of mini-games where the offensive and defensive actions take place at the same time. The better you do in these mini-games, the less damage you will take and the more damage you will deal.
Depending on who or what you are fighting, it’s not always a good thing to hurt them as much as you can. If you have ever played and enjoyed Wario Ware, then the shifting objectives and mini-games of Heartbound might be right up your alley.
Exploration: In a lot of games today, exploration awards achievements or minor bonuses. In Heartbound, exploring the world can entirely change the story line, game mechanics of combat encounters or accessible areas. Every small thing you interact with changes something somewhere in the game. Because of this, your experience may be vastly different from a friends.
Champions of Breakfast was a popular demo at Denver Comic Con—what kind of feedback did you receive?
We actually didn’t receive any negative feedback on Champions of Breakfast during Denver Comic Con. Everyone just seems to enjoy playing our difficult, yet silly shmup.
Do you really like breakfast foods, haha, or why did you go with this theme for the game?
Honestly, Champions of Breakfast started as an inside joke within the team. That inside joke became our first title after only 24 days of development.
Heartbound was 385 percent funded from its Kickstarter campaign and the demo is available now through Steam or the official website. The finished game is tentatively scheduled for December 2017. Champions of Breakfast is available now on Steam.