PixelCount Studios is a recently founded team funded by the ex Lionhead developers Neal Whitehead (Co-Founder and Technical Director) and Charlton Edwards (Design Director), known for their work on both Fable and Black & White series, amongst others. After a few months of keeping it in the dark, the studio finally introduced their first project to the world: Kynseed. Looking as a merge between Fable and Stardew Valley, we decided to ask the team about its development process.
Introduced as “A Whimsical Sandbox RPG Adventure”, Kynseed presents an entirely new world called Quill. In this reign, we will have the duty to live a normal farm life alongside our family. We will have to do daily tasks such as feeding the animals, fishing and taking jobs in the village. That is, until you meet Mr Fairweather, who offers you the Kynseed in exchange for 5 years of your life.
As found in the Kickstarter campaign: “Then, on your 60th birthday, your life will end and you will go with him to Eldrytch. At or before he comes to collect you on your 60th birthday you will be able to uproot the Kynseed to pass it on to any of your children.” This is only one of many of the new elements that Kynseed is looking to achieve, alongside hundreds of details that will make for an unique experience.
- What were your inspirations when thinking about Kynseed? When did the idea came up? How long was the period from the idea to its execution?
“Kynseed is inspired by all the experiences we’ve had to date. Definitely Fable is a big part of that seeing as we had been working on that series for so long. But there’s so many other games that inspired us and make us felt like trying to make our own interpretation of them. Perhaps the biggest inspiration comes from Ultima 7 which to be honest still sets the bar in some ways for detailed simulated life, and in the way it lets you do what you want.
Showing our age, we still remember nostalgically the old days where games dreamed big and weren’t perhaps so formulaic in every detail. When there were no tutorials or Gamefaqs and it was just about natural discovery for the player. Games like Fantasy Life, Fable, Reccetear and Stardew (though Stardew’s influence is mainly the chill out vibe) all have an influence on this game too. Outside of games we were fascinated by the quirkiness of ye olden days where there were a lot more superstitions and rituals, this seemed an interesting area to explore further in games…”
2D RPG’s just rarely have a sim that feels like they are living there with you and their own entities
- How much of Fable is in there, and which were the elements that you knew from the beginning they wouldn’t fit on Kynseed?
“We didn’t want to clone Fable, but there were elements of Fable’s original form, Project Ego, that we had always been interested in seeing properly developed, like aging. The one thing we really wanted from Fable though, was the NPC reactions and the humour that can bring. 2D RPG’s just rarely have a sim that feels like they are living there with you and their own entities.”
- Would you be willing to return on an AAA project if the opportunity rises? Is there any game you would like to contribute for?
“I think our passion is Kynseed and seeing the reaction of those backing us on Kickstarter has made us feel motivated to carry it through and create a game players will love. If it ever came to it, Fable 4 or The Legend of Zelda: Farts in the Wilderness (the sequel Nintendo is keeping secret).”
- Could you expand a bit on how the player’s decisions will affect their surroundings and the story? Will this system be entitled to cities as reputation or be wider than that? As for the character itself: will be able to see changes in the appearance?
“We won’t have a morphing character in areas like fatness and good/evil, as we are avoiding a morality system changing your looks. Age will affect you but as we are pixel art, in simple ways depending on your bloodline’s traits. You might go grey over time, or you may go bald!”
We are looking at Early Access in around 6 months
“The player has a sandbox to work with so can mess with the NPC’s by trying out various things. An example would be that the player discovers an NPC is terrified of cats. They gift that NPC food with a laxative trait to make them go to the toilet. Then, using a magic flute, leads a horde of village cats to the toilet and leave them there. The NPC is now trapped screaming in the toilet until the cats bugger off.”
- Kynseed sounds really ambitious for an experienced but small team. Is there any roadmap planned? When could we see the game in Early Access?
“We are looking at Early Access in around 6 months. We have a good chunk of the design done upfront and know what we are making to a large extent. With funding, we want to get in more people; one to take on solely sim duties for example. All excess funds we can scrape will be on art and hires; any spare will be to get legendary Fable composer Russell Shaw in to do the music.”
- How much focus will be put into the combat system? Can we expect abilities, any sort of special movements such as dashing/rolling?
“At first you will be pretty basic in your move set, but there will definitely be a levelling system of sorts. One thing we are interested in is that hunger plays a role in daily life. Hunger will dictate power and speed. It will be a little like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in the way that a good preparation beforehand will help you in combat. A good breakfast will really help! By creating meals and growing better ingredients, you will be able to better cope with the combat situations and varying creatures, especially if you utilise the traits in food.”
It will be a little like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in the way that a good preparation beforehand will help you in combat. A good breakfast will really help!
“The forests are all named by difficulty…so Simplewood is very easy, right the way through to Evilwood and Nightmare Hallow which will be Dark Souls levels of intensity. Great prep needed!”
- You mention that characters will be able to carry a melee weapon, a ranged weapon and items. How will items play out in the game? Will they replace magic, or just be entitled for tools?
“Some items that Mr Fairweather sells have magical abilities and some are mechanical. He gets his items from various dimensions. You may find he sells anything from a fire staff to a WW2 gas mask…handy for poisonous swamps! You can assign melee, ranged and tools to your X, B and Y buttons and when in combat mode, switch from your village toolset to your combat toolset.”
- Can the main character become a Hero of Quill, the reign in which the game takes place?
“With enough skill and reputation you can become a Master of the professions, but you won’t be a hero as such. You will be famous, but you are never really saving the world. You might help individuals out and get a village adoring you though, and your pies may be renowned through the land and talked of in whispered tones in remote taverns.”
- Is there any chance that its child could turn against the main character?
“Your child, as anyone, has an opinion of you. They can come to despise you yes, but they will never harm you while at home. We want you to be able to play as any of your children as it develops that generational story.”
- Was it always the plan to be only the three of you as the main members of the team? If you would have to choose a former Lionhead’s partner to join the team, who would that be?
“We gathered a few Lionhead pals during the last month there, and had about 8 interested. We were going to make it 3rd person using Unreal Engine 4. Sadly, people got edgy and needed security, or found other jobs naturally, so we diminished. They gave us great help though and amazing assets.”
We want you to be able to play as any of your children as it develops that generational story
“The one person I would love to have that was not in that original set (and not including Russ Shaw) would be Sam Swain, who is a genius, a very nice guy and does procedural and tools work that is world class. His foliage systems on Fable were amazing.”
Alongside Edwards and Whitehead, Matt Allen is the Production Manager for the team, known by his work with the Fable community for over a decade. Russell Shaw, composer for the Fable series, left his mark on the title screen music, and PixelCount also received additional support from Matthew Weekes (Pixel art with animation assistance from Georgio Ser), Matthijs den Daas (Music), Deborah Saez (Current UI), Ian Faichnie (Kynseed and PixelCount logos) and Mike McCarthy (Concept art).