Jennifer Hepler, the writer behind some of BioWare’s most memorable characters and storylines, may have left BioWare after being bombarded with death threats, but she’s looking to get back in the RPG game with a new Kickstarter project. Ambrov X is a “relationship-driven science fiction RPG”, and Hepler will be lead writer. Provided the project reaches its stretch goal, that is.
The project is looking for $500,000 to make the five-part episodic game based on the Sime~Gen universe, but will require $750,000 of funding to secure Hepler as lead writer.
“Over and over again, the majority of Bioware fans tell us that a large part of what draws them to a character is their involvement in the main plot of the game. Fans like to have the chance to put their lover/best buddy Alistair on the throne, or have Morrigan end the Blight by carrying their baby. In the writers’ rooms, we spent long hours trying to respond to this by giving every follower a shining moment in the plot, but it’s hard for a single story to support 8 or 9 equally important co-starring roles. And the reality is that on a large game, things change – followers get cut, or downgraded to non-romanceable, or gender-swapped. And in a party-based RPG, it has to be gameplay that guides such decisions – whether a follower is the much-needed mage or rogue is often more important than how well-written they are, or how much their personal arc might get under your skin.” wrote Hepler in a piece on the Kickstarter campaign’s site. She went on to discuss how she envisioned Ambrov X as a game intensely focused on a single relationship.
“While there is also a sprawling space opera plot that players will navigate and world-affecting decisions to be made, the key moments hinge on the tumultuous relationship between the two main characters. Though they may fight, make up, take opposite sides and love and hate each other in equal measure, they cannot survive without each other… and humanity cannot survive without their alliance. But this doesn’t mean the story is limited to a single playthrough with a single paired character. Our intent is to have a distinct paired character for each race/gender combination the player can choose. When combined with the choices the player makes in the plots, Ambrov X will be a deep story with extensive replayability. By producing the game episodically, we get the opportunity to develop these all-important characters in conjuction with the fans. By hearing fan feedback early and often, we can tailor the characters to players’ interests, so that by the final installment, any surprises in the ending should be the kind that make you gasp… not groan.”
Ambrov X will be exceptionally relationship and dialogue-based, but will also contain familiar RPG elements such as skill-based combat and bosses. Considering the focus on the relationship between the game’s core races – the Sime and the Gen – I expect combat will take a backseat. The relationship between the two races is something already established in the existing Sime~Gen universe, a fiction created by Star Trek authors Jacqueline Lictenberg and Jean Lorrah in the 1960s. The two races need each other to survive, with the Sime leeching life force from the Gen through tentacles sprouting from their wrists. This reliance leads to intense, meaningful relationships between Sime and Gen couples, and will form the basis of Ambrov X. Each new character build will be paired with an NPC of the opposite race. As with Hepler’s previous works, this relationship will include both opposite and same-sex couples. Relationships will evolve through dialogue choices, with nothing penned into binary ‘good’ and ‘evil’ camps.
Regardless of Hepler’s involvement, Ambrov X sounds an exceptionally exciting project. Its $500,000 target seems low for a fully-voiced, choice-driven RPG, but even if the technical ambitions held by developer Loreful are not met, the fresh idea of a relationship RPG is good enough for this to be worth at least curiosity. You can check out all the details on the project at the Kickstarter page, and back the project with cash if you think it deserves it. $25 or more will bag you all five episodes of the game when it launches in 2015.