Interview with Video Game Fables: Momiji Studios about the development of a witty role-playing game with a unique meta-history

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Individual developer Matt Sharp founded his game studio Momiji Studios to create turn-based role-playing games. After his first two games, which followed the concept of a classic dark turn-based RPG called Lucid Awakening, he went into the unknown. Video Game Fables was his first creation as a full-time independent developer and offers a lighthearted and funny storyline, an intriguing setting, unorthodox combat mechanics and character creation with the help of special resources.

Players enter the world of a seemingly ordinary role-playing game. However, the script fails because the princess decides she doesn’t want to put on a regular show. The game follows the adventures of Princess Aru and his two companions in a suspended RPG world. The battle is turn-based and includes fun special attacks, for example, Nate beats enemies with a frying pan. However, the game also has more serious improvements, including a new approach to the round timer, improved status effects and completely rethought critical hits. The same goes for character creation, it has been redesigned to make it more accessible and offer better customization on the fly. Game Rant talked to Sharp about his roots in game development, meta-history, the revival of turn-based RPGs, a complex experience system and much more. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: Let’s start with you and Momiji Studios. Can you tell us about your game development history?

A: Yes. I’ve been playing games since I was a kid. My parents told me I was playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES when I was three years old. So, I’ve always been a gamer, and what really makes a good game developer is a person who loves games and is passionate about them. I like to say that my game development started with games when I was a little kid.

Eventually I found RPG Maker. I stumbled upon it somehow by accident. I found RPG Maker and realized that you can just make games. Being a game developer wasn’t really an unrealistic goal, but there was so much attached to it. It’s like you had to go to college, you had to learn programming, you had to learn so many things. But when I found RPG Maker, I realized that making games is not so difficult. There are tools there.

So I started messing around with it and made a game called Lucid Awakening that never went beyond the RPG Maker community. But I was just proud that I went through the game from start to finish. I think it was a big milestone. I always tell people that. I said this to my students when I was teaching game development. Just go do something. Do the most bullshit little game, just finish something. So I started working on it and eventually made a sequel, Lucid Awakening 2. And it was my first game on Steam. So it was a big milestone for me.

I was messing around with mobile development and eventually started teaching game development at Wilmington University in Delaware. I worked there for about four and a half years and about the middle of that time I started working on the Video Game Fables. I would say it’s kind of a concept for at least four or five years now. I started developing it only 2-3 years ago. Then I started full-fledged development.

Q: Let’s go straight to the fables about video games. Can you describe what kind of game it is?

A: Yes, it’s a carefree role-playing game with a unique setting. The action takes place in an abandoned RPG game world in which there have been no players for several decades. So, the game has its share of parody and satire, but it does not rely solely on parody and satire. I feel like the problem with some satirical and parody games is that they kind of throw you a link and don’t have a climax. So this game is like another game, and that’s it. So I wanted to do something light-hearted and fun, because Lucid Awakening was a pretty dark, traditional Japanese role-playing game.

So, my idea from the very beginning was, what are these characters that are placed in the script of this role-playing game? If you think of each game as a scenario that these real characters inside the world put on for the player, and the player is treated like some kind of deity. What are these characters besides that? For example, what happens if a player stops playing. Will the world continue to exist, will the characters have other lives, will they have hobbies, will they grow old, will they continue to live on? That was the concept from the very beginning. Yes, the action takes place inside a cliche RPG, but that’s not what you’re playing. You see what these real characters look like. That was the concept.

I think it’s a very exciting concept that hasn’t really been implemented. There were similar things, for example, some people compared it to Wreck-It Ralph, where you see how these game characters live their lives a little bit.

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