Long Gone Days Interview: Literary Inspirations and International Barriers
Long Gone Days is a long-awaited RPG by This I Dreamt. Crowdfunded in 2016, and then put into early access in 2018, it's been some time coming. With the release soon approaching I talked to Camila Gormaz, the project's creator, about the overall process and mechanics of the full release.
RPG Site: This game has been in the works for a while, once the game was announced how much change has it seen?
Camila Gormaz: The most important part of this release will be the addition of the final part of our story. We will finally see if our heroes are able to stop The Core once and for all. The player will also meet new allies in Poland, including a new interpreter that will help the party navigate this new environment.
Thanks to the feedback provided by the players during Early Access, we’ve made several changes and improvements. The most notable change is probably to our Morale mechanic. Originally it was integrated tightly into combat, but now it’s a bit decoupled and plays a bigger role in the story: your party’s morale can actually change the outcome of certain plotlines and unlock new quests.
Another major area of growth has been centered on characters and story. Based on all the love some characters got from the community, we also made sure to give them more screen time and more opportunities to get to know them better. We even added some additional scenes to the already released content, improved several levels and made plenty of quality-of-life changes.
RPG Site: It's my understanding that this was originally a solo project. As more people were added to work on this game, did anyone influence aspects of the game outside their roles?
Gormaz: Yes, Long Gone Days was originally my (Camila Gormaz) solo project. I started writing the story and the characters when I was about 12 years old, and growing up it was always at the back of my mind. In 2016 I released the prototype demo and then launched a crowdfunding campaign. After reaching its goal, the game had gotten too big to handle on my own, so I was going to need help. Since this game is so dear to me, I only wanted to work with people I fully trusted, and that’s where Camilo Valderrama and Pablo Videla come in.
All 3 of us share the same vision and values, and their input made the game way better than what I had in mind. Pablo has a lot of knowledge regarding history, storytelling and game design which made the world and lore of Long Gone Days feel more cohesive. Camilo’s the one who has more experience in this industry and he’s an amazing programmer as well, so thanks to him we improved a lot of the mechanics, performance and the quality of the game.
RPG Site: Were there any particular inspirations for this game?
Gormaz: Back when I started thinking of Long Gone Days, my inspirations were some older “Squaresoft” titles like Threads of Fate and Final Fantasy, together with lots of Spanish RPGMaker projects like The Observer. Then, as a teenager, my main inspiration was several Shin Megami Tensei games. As an adult, the game that truly inspired me to actually begin the development was Lucas Pope’s Papers Please, because of how it depicts real world conflicts and other serious topics.
RPG Site: Was the morale system first created for combat or the side quests?
Gormaz: The Morale System was initially created as a narrative device, similar to the alignment mechanic in Shin Megami Tensei games. During development we noticed that its relevance was barely visible, so we decided to integrate it with the combat system as a replacement for each character’s SP/Magic. In theory, it meant that when a character needed more effort to fight, it affected them mentally and so their morale went down. In practice, it meant that players never used skills, so the battle system felt more monotonous.
In the full version, Morale is now independent of SP, but it influences the characters' motivation, their willingness to help others and even the outcome of each boss battle.
RPG Site: What was the reasoning behind it being possible to "fail" side quests?
Gormaz: You can miss some side quests if you progress with the main story, but you can’t really “fail” them. Some side quests have different outcomes, and in some of them you might lose a bit of Morale, while in others you might get bigger rewards if you do things in a certain way. We did this to make choices truly matter.
RPG Site: The combat system is turn-based with the option to aim at different weak points of each enemy. I've only seen a similar system once outside of tactics games. Where did the idea come from?
Gormaz: When researching about snipers, I learned about different kinds of tactics they use. In games, you usually associate snipers with headshots, but non-lethal shots to reduce the mobility of an individual, or to disarm them are less common. As I was using RPGMaker back then, I wanted to add something that could stand out from the default battle system. Without knowing how to code, this was something I could easily do. Later, as we had to remake the game from scratch in Unity, Camilo and Pablo improved it tremendously, like the idea to make certain weapons like shotguns more inaccurate, so they can’t aim at a specific point.
RPG Site: Was the idea to create a support only party member influenced by his character, or gameplay?
Gormaz: Ivan is a character that was inspired by the main character of Dostoevsky's Humiliated and Insulted. In this novel, the protagonist is a very sensitive Russian novelist with a heart of gold, who takes care of an orphan girl. Growing up in the West, where Russians were usually depicted as intimidating veterans in movies, I wanted to create a character that defied the stereotypes and felt more like the highly perceptive characters in Dostoevsky’s stories.
RPG Site: After a battle you can choose between a set reward, or some SP recovery, and it's pretty hard to recover SP otherwise. What was the reasoning behind the resource management in this game? And does it come in part from having set encounters?
Gormaz: The initial reason we used set encounters is that we didn’t want to add grinding into the game, as we felt the narrative was the most meaningful part of the experience we were creating.
Taking that into account, we still wanted to make the dungeons and enemy encounters feel challenging, and one of the ways we implemented that was with skill usage in battles resource management.
Skills are a very important tool in our game, as they offer a clear advantage over regular attacks (both in terms of damage and accuracy), so we wanted to make using them a meaningful choice for the player. As said earlier, our first implementation of that intention was linking the Morale System to the usage of skills, where you lose a percentage of your morale each time you used one, but sometimes that felt a bit too punishing and difficult to balance, and it ended up encouraging players to just skip using them.
Now, on the release of the full game we separated both systems in a way we felt it still added a challenge, without punishing the narrative side of gameplay. Right now, even though it's still a bit difficult to recover SP, it's way easier than before with a new set of items that help with it, and we’ve also rebalanced a great number of older items and the location where they’re found to accommodate these changes.
RPG Site: Who did the street art in the game? Were any of them inspired by something in particular?
Gormaz: All of the art in the game was made by me (Camila), but there’s one particular graffiti in Kiel that was done by a dear friend, Diego Ramirez, based on an illustration from the Bardo Thodol:
These blood-drinking flesh-eating animal-headed entities are called Piśācī.
RPG Site: There's a lot of political themes in this game, were the countries represented in the game deliberately chosen because of their histories?
Gormaz: A lot of the political themes in this game were inspired by our own country, Chile, but it didn’t feel like the right place to set the story in. Our first motivation to set the game in Europe was the language barrier mechanic. It offered us the opportunity to set the story in a culturally diverse place with different languages to explore. Russia was only chosen as the first country to be shown due to my love for Dostoyevsky’s novels. Plus, back in 2015 I was also learning Russian, so that allowed me to experiment with the language barrier mechanic without needing too much assistance. Later, while we were deciding where else to set the game we were between a lot of different places, but we finally set the game in Kaliningrad, Germany and Poland because of their geographic locations and because we wanted to deviate a bit to what it’s usually presented in western media. And Poland in particular was a special choice because we also love a bunch of musicians from there, haha.
RPG Site: Did you choose a modern setting to tie into that or was it more to do with the combat system and enemies you wanted to use?
Gormaz: I chose a modern setting because most of the RPGs I played back then were set in either fantasy worlds or medieval times, and I wanted it to feel more like the anime shows I used to watch. Because I didn’t want magic or supernatural elements to be present, going for a military-theme seemed like the obvious choice. Please note I was about 12 years old when I decided this, so that’s why the thinking process is so simple, haha.
RPG Site: As you make your way around, the language barriers can only be overcome with interpreters. How did you go about working on the translations?
Gormaz: As mentioned before, I was learning Russian back in 2015, so as a beginner, whenever I saw a paragraph written in Cyrillic, it reminded me of those hacking mechanics in games where you decipher an encrypted message.
Also, as a non-native English speaker, it always struck me when in the movies they traveled to another country and suddenly everyone spoke English. I wanted to subvert that trope.
For the translations and more accurate depiction of different cultures, friends and people from the community acted as consultors.
RPG Site: Is there anything else the team wants to bring up?
Gormaz: We hope everyone enjoys Long Gone Days! It was a labor of love and respect for human emotions, cultures and solidarity in times of crisis.
Long Gone Days is releasing on October 10th for PC and Console.