Fallen Legion – Interview with Spencer Yip

Fallen Legion is the debut game from YummyYummyTummy, a studio founded by Spencer Yip, best known in the industry for his international games news site Siliconera. Inspired by Yip’s love for JRPGs and fighting games, Fallen Legion was unveiled at PlayStation Experience 2015 and stood out because of its impressive features: hand drawn visuals, a melodic JRPG inspired soundtrack, and a fast paced, combo centric combat system. There’s two versions of the game, Sins of an Empire on the PlayStation 4 and Flames of Rebellion on the Vita. Each version features its own unique protagonists, battles, and events, telling the main story from different perspectives. In Sins of an Empire you are Princess Cecille of Fenumia as she attempts to reclaim her empire while in Flames of Rebellion you play as her rebellious rival, Legatus Laendur.

Similar to Valkyrie Profile, where you summon einherjar soldiers, Cecille and Laendur can summon legendary heroes to fight alongside them. Each character’s attack is assigned to a specific button and is able to act when their action bar is filled. While it’s tempting to button mash your way through combat, the game rewards well timed defense and offensive coordination between your units. Each stage in the game is comprised of several battles; in between battles you may be forced to make story altering decisions that not only affects your immediate party, but perhaps the fate of the Fenumia itself. For example, will you blackmail a prince to gain a strength buff or tax a starving village to revive one of your characters?

CFG Games had an opportunity to chat with Spencer about the inspiration behind Fallen Legion and more. 

 

Why did you decide to transition from video game journalism to video game development?

I’ve always wanted to create new things. When I founded Siliconera, there was nothing else like it. I actually started programming when I was 13. I used to code games on my TI-82 graphing calculator when I was bored in Algebra class. [laughs] I thought it’d be a really opportunity to make a new type of game. That’s why I decided to transition out.

 

So you founded YummyYummyTummy? I see that it’s also an educational company.

Yeah, I’m the founder. I think educational games are important. We actually just talked about this. When you make an educational game, you can create something that makes a difference in children’s lives. As hardcore gamers, we play a lot of games. I remember so many patterns from Mega Man and combo techniques from Street Fighter. I rehearsed them all the time, so I got better at gaming. One of the things I’d love to do with educational gaming is to transition that and make a game where people can actually learn a life skill.

 

So how do you go from educational software to a game like Fallen Legion which is obviously a bit more of a hardcore JRPG style game?

[laughs] Yeah! We’ve always had two sides of YYT. We want to create educational games, but the market is totally different with a game like Fallen Legion. When it comes to making software in general, like if you’re making an app, you want to be on time, on spec, on budget. When you make a game, you need the X factor of fun. When you make an education game, you have to teach someone and make it fun…it’s really difficult to nail all of those. With Fallen Legion I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to make. Since we have experience with making difficult educational games, we were able to make Fallen Legion much faster.

Fallen Legion

Never would have expected that since they both seem so different.

Gameplay wise, they’re really different, but speaking as a programmer and designer, when you program the loops they aren’t that much different. Like when you make an RPG, there are certain loops you can use. Once you have them in mind, it’s easy to go from one RPG to another.

 

Did your experience at Siliconera help you with the game’s development?

Absolutely. Probably the most fortunate part of that was getting to meet so many excellent mentors and famous designers. I met Tabata-san, the director of Final Fantasy XV, when he was first starting out. I got to talk to him about design. He’s a luminary designer not just because of Final Fantasy XV, but before that. He’s very game play focused, so I was glad to have talked with him. I was also able to chat with Morishita-san, now the CEO of GungHo Online Entertainment. He’s given me LOTS of advice. We always joke and I always ask him “When are you going to make a new Lunar?” because GungHo was Game Arts. He’s like “We’re never making an RPG, people are going to die from being tired of work if we make an RPG.” Now he teases me because now I’m making an RPG. [laughs] Talking to all these great developers has given me insight on what’s it’s going to take to make a cool game.

 

So why is Fallen Legion a PlayStation exclusive? Did you reach out to Sony or vice versa?

We’ve shown the game to Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. We felt it really fits the PlayStation fan base because it’s an RPG. It was definitely going to be a game that uses a controller. I typically play games on consoles more than PC, so when I designed it I was thinking about how it was going to feel with a controller in your hand. We’re a really small team making this, we’re just eight people making this game. So we really needed to focus on one platform at a time.

 

You are bringing this to the Vita, which makes a lot fans happy because it has been largely abandoned by Sony. What were the challenges of bringing Fallen Legion to the Vita?

Oh my God. [laughs] In one word? Many. Just to be clear, the Vita version isn’t a port. It’s its own game. At PlayStation Experience 2015 everyone kept asking if it was coming to the Vita. When I got back home I was like “Alright, let’s see if this is actually possible before we say anything.” We started experimenting with the hardware and had some version running on it. So I was like “I think we can do this.” Granted, this version wasn’t running very well AT ALL. Through a telescope, very far away, I could see that we could arrive at this destination. While designing the game, we thought it’d be really cool to tell the other side of the story. I also believe a lot of Vita owners have PS4s, so we wanted to give them something special.

 

It’s been tough. I could bore you with a lot of technical details…I do believe a lot developers do want to bring content to Vita, but it’s not an easy thing to do for a small developer. It’s really challenging to do, especially when PS4 is our main platform.

Fallen Legion

Will there be any connectivity between the two games?

The stories are connected. It’s not like a digital type of connectivity, but these games are more connected than most PS4 and Vita games. You’re going to see a whole other side of the story, you’re going to see events and how they connect with each other, you’re going to fight completely different bosses, and playing as a completely different protagonist.

 

Any plans for DLC content for either game?

I don’t want to make any promises for anything. When people asked for a Vita version, we did it. When they asked for a physical copy, we did it. Now the most important thing is to finish the game and get it gold. If there’s going to be any DLC, it’ll be done after the game is finished.

 

Visually, the game resembles a Vanillaware title, but plays like a Tri-Ace game like Valkyrie Profile.  Were you inspired by particular game?

Wow, that’s some esteemed pedigree! That’s a huge honor to be compared to both Vanillaware and Tri-Ace. I was actually really lucky to meet Tri-Ace a few times. I last spoke to them at Anime Expo [2016] where I showed them Fallen Legion. I showed the Star Ocean 5 team that.  The character designer for the game and Street Fighter, Akiman, drew one of our characters. That was really cool. When it comes to the battle system, while talking with Tri-Ace, they told me about something I’ll never forget. They wanted Star Ocean to have a real-time battle system with turn based outputs. Valkyrie Profile is the exact opposite, a turned based battle system with real time outputs. Fallen Legion is in a very strange intersection between these two. I think having a good battle system is paramount to having an engaging RPG. I wanted to combine RPG and fighting games together but in a way where people don’t have to remember a lot of different combinations. The priority is for those who’ve played RPGs but haven’t really played fighting games. That’s kind of the soul for the combat system.

 


Were there any games I was inspired by? So many. When it comes down to the combat system, Marvel vs Capcom was a huge inspiration. It has that kind of craziness going on at all times. Valkyrie Profile was definitely an inspiration and a game that I love. I hope one day we see more Valkyrie Profile. Xenogears is another game that I love that made me think about the multi hit combo system.

 

I can see the influence since players can rack up some crazy combos in the Fallen Legion.

That’s what we want to see! When we showed it at Anime Expo we had a combo tournament. Every time we showed the game we showed one level that was only at that convention. PlayStation Experience had a level we’re never showing again and Anime Expo the same thing. I played through each like three or four dozen times while making the level. My top combo is like 110. When I saw that someone got a 170 hit combo at the tournament, I was like “Wow!” During the tournament we had people discuss which characters to pick. They asked me really intelligent questions on design and things I hadn’t revealed. It made me really happy to see people analyze the depth in the game. We want to make the game really easy to play, but behind it there’s a lot to learn.

Fallen Legion

The game also has an intuitive guard and counter system. It gives the game a very interesting and rhythm between offense and defense.  

We wanted to make that part feel very powerful when you nail it. I hope people find it fun.

 

Can you gives us an indication how many stages the game will have?

I want to say the game will have a lot of middles. We’re telling a lot of story. Our writer is Ben Bateman, he was the editor of the Zero Escape series in the US. So you know this will be a dark story. It’ll have a beginning, middle, and end, but we like to say that there are different middles that’ll play out. I want to make as many levels as I can, so that’s all I’ll say.

 

Since the players will be making potential life and death decisions on the fly, will the game have multiple endings? A lot of games offer the illusion of choice, but actually have little impact on the final outcome.

That would be a huge spoiler to talk about that! Like I said, there’ll be a lot of middles. There is story we’re trying to tell for both of these characters.I think of the choices you make will be in the middle of the game. In the PSX demo there’s this village called Iria. This village is caught between a prince who wants the village to defect the princess’ country. The citizens are torn by this decision to defect or not, since some of them want their independence and some don’t. There’s a point in the game where you can choose the fate of this village. You can choose to help them or not. You can negotiate with barbarians to crush the prince’s growing army, which is another alternative to fighting the army or defending the village.  That option will give the village to the barbarians forever, there’s no do overs since it’ll be baked in the game. The villagers will not be happy.

Fallen Legion

So everything in the game is auto-saved?

We autosave everything. Namely because when we were testing it, we saw a lot of people were reloading their saves. So now there’s only one save file.

 

The game has a very nostalgic look and sound to it. Can you tell us more about the artist and composer?

There are two main artists that are working on it, Leon and Wilson, who are drawing the characters. We actually created the characters based on game play first. Like what cool combos they have and how they act in a battle. Like the Hydra we showed before, it’ll be a fight with a lot of heads, so it’ll be chaotic. Fandry, the other programmer that works with me, is directing the music. He had the idea to have an awesome rock soundtrack. I have musical ideas at all, so it was all Fandry’s initiative. He really nailed it because it fits with the pace of the game so well.

Fallen Legion

Will be there a lot of voice acting in this game?

I wouldn’t say there’s a lot, but there is voice acting in this game. Xanthe Huynh, who’s in Persona 5, Trails of Cold Steel, and anime like Love Live, is the lead actress in the PS4 version. Darrel Delfin, who was in Sword Art Online, is the lead voice actor in the PS Vita version. I can’t say too much without spoiling the game, but there’s some voice acting in specific parts of the game like in the JRPG style call out attacks. The other characters that fight with you are weapons that are brought to life, so both protagonists have the ability to do that given to them by this mysterious talking grimoire. So there won’t be as much dialogue between the characters and their makers.  

 

Did you ever consider making this a KickStarter project? A lot of indie RPGs are going that route.

Absolutely not. The main reason is because I don’t believe in taking other people’s money until I have something out there to prove. I’m not against any Kickstarter projects, but this is just me personally. I don’t want to promise something and under deliver.  It should be my responsibility to do it right or wrong. If the game does well, great! If it doesn’t, I wouldn’t have taken other people’s money based on promises I made whether I could deliver them or not. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I did that.

 

Any plans on releasing this game in Japan? It’s a game inspired by Japanese RPGs, so it would be cool to see it released there.

I don’t want to make any more promises until we get this game out in English. If we did release in Japan, we’d definitely localize it. I don’t want to delay the game anymore, so it a Japanese release happens, it’ll be after the US release. One thing that was really could was we had a pretty big Japanese site called 4Gamers come by to check out the game at PSX. They wrote a really awesome article about it. So I guess if there’s a demand, sure.

 

Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire and Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion are available in North America on PSN on July 18th.

 

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William Hong

William Hong

I'm CFG's editor in chief. I also like cats.



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