A thorough interview with Louis Agoglia, the dedicated developer of Dusk Tactics, a love letter to retro tactics games.
We caught up with Louis Agoglia, the intrepid indie developer behind Dusk Tactics. A glimpse at Dusk Tactics reveals its deep-seated admiration for classic tactics games like Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Disgaea.
The game is approaching its alpha release, so it seemed like a good time to dig a little deeper and get a bit of insight into the development process, and what to expect in the future.
Little did I know just how deep this rabbit hole would go, and it turns out Louis has a whole lot in store for Dusk Tactics. Like, a whole lot.
I have copied our interview here in its entirety for those of you interested in all the details Louis shared. He’s clearly passionate about making this game and had a lot to say. But for those of you with shorter attention spans, I’ll include a TL;DR here at the top.
- Dusk Tactics is a solo-dev project that draws on the great tactics games that have come before. It has an isometric retro-pixel aesthetic that will look instantly familiar to fans of old-school tactics games.
- Louis is building this game to include a wagonload of features that other tactics games have neglected, like a weather system and a night/day cycle (hence Dusk Tactics).
- Characters will have a wide variety of jobs to choose from (shooting for 35+)
- Dusk Tactics will be rich with lore. Louis is writing a screenplay set in the game’s universe concurrently.
- The game will contain around 40 main story battles with a target length of 60-80 hours. Is that enough?
- There’s currently no release date, but a demo should be coming this year.
- You can learn a whooooole lot more at the Dusk Tactics website.
The game certainly looks promising, and Louis is definitely passionate about his project. I’ll be excited to see it develop.
If you’re interested, settle in for a long read and let Louis weave the tale of Dusk Tactics in his own words…
Ghetto Gamer: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I saw some posts by you of Dusk Tactics on Twitter and really wanted to get in touch. Tell us a bit about who you are, and what your role is in the game’s development.
Louis Agoglia: Thank you so much for your interest in this project! I’m just a guy who decided one day that the tactics genre as a whole was not getting enough love, especially in North America.
This was back in 2011, after the PSP remake of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together was released. I had been a fan of it back on the Super Nintendo, so this was one of my all-time favorite tactics games ever. After putting countless hours into this game yet again, I wanted more! Not just a new Tactics Ogre game (which would be awesome), but something new in general. That’s when I figured I might as well make it.
My role is pretty much everything which is not a good sign, haha. Solo development is beyond insane and you really do need a team for something of this magnitude.
I began work in earnest back in 2017 or so on the actual engine. This is something I felt at the time I had to do to ensure I could create the game exactly as I saw it and possibly create something that would allow me (or others) to make tactics games as some of the tools replace the programming part to make it easier. This took about 18 months, and it is now in the final stage where it requires bug testing and user feedback. I’ve been working on the game itself since 2011 in terms of writing the story, dialog, characters etc.
As of this year I will be announcing (or have announced) some artists who will work on the project with me. We have the awesome @NixPix, who will be the lead artist. I am still in the process of writing up some documents for him and I appreciate his patience, haha. Then we have a composer who I will be announcing soon. Both will work with me on the upcoming crowdfunding campaign.
GG: Tell us some basics about Dusk Tactics. What’s the pitch?
Louis: Ok, so it’s a tactics role-playing game. Also known as an SRPG (Strategy Role Playing Game) or turn-based strategy game. If you’ve played Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vandal Hearts, Fire Emblem, etc, then you get the basic idea. If not, you basically control a team of units and move them around a “battlefield”, one at a time. Sort of like chess but with a heavier focus on unit stats.
My personal focus has been a list of things I always wanted to see in Tactics Game, or had seen and wanted to expand upon. This includes an active weather system, battlefields where the terrain actually matters, and a night and day system that ties into the title “Dusk”.
I find it easiest to explain by giving examples:
Is there a river in your way? Freeze it using a spell and simply walk across. Or maybe you have special shoes equipped that allow you to walk on the water’s surface. Some units are even able to swim allowing them to enter the water but will leave them somewhat vulnerable.
It goes pretty deep, but the main thing I want to emphasize is being able to use the environment, unit positioning, and abilities to come up with the battle tactics that suit your style.
Outside of gameplay, I am currently writing an entire screenplay for the game which will hopefully end up creating a compelling story with characters you actually care about.
GG: Do you have a release date? And for what platforms? We’re all hoping you’ll say Nintendo Switch.
Louis: I wish I could say a date and have confidence in it, but for right now, no there’s no release date. If I can get it out in 2021 I’d consider that a success. Currently I do have a soft release date for the first demo, which will include the first few battles of the game allowing you to experience basic gameplay (unit management, combat, moving around the world map). That should be done before Q2 2020. When it first releases it will be extremely rough, so I don’t consider this a beta or even an official demo. It’s more of an initial alpha release demo that will help iron out the more obvious bugs.
As for release platform, currently PC is my main goal. In order, Windows, Linux, and Mac will all be supported. As for consoles, when I first started my target was the PS Vita and that instantly switched to the Switch (no pun intended heh) when that came out. I love the Nintendo Switch and that’s probably my biggest focus for things when it comes to consoles. Whether I’ll be able to do it or not will depend on the success of the crowd-funding as well as the success of the PC version.
GG: I think I know the answer, but tell me what your biggest inspiration was?
Louis: There’s a lot of inspiration that comes from various media. Specific to video games it would have to be Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Tactics Ogre: Knights of Lodis, Jeanne D’arc (PSP), Final Fantasy Tactics (including FFTA & FFTA2) and some hundred games I’ve played in the tactics genre. Each one has had a little bit of influence on the project as a whole.
As far as the story goes, I am really big into fantasy and science fiction. I mean you can’t not mention Tolkien when talking fantasy, so he’s a big influence. As far as Sci-Fi goes, I love the 90s era shows such as Babylon 5, Stargate, etc.
When it comes to inspiring literature, it would have to be the writing style of Joseph Heller, and my favorite book Catch 22. His absurdist style seems to come out when I am writing no matter what I do, so I decided to stick with it giving a layer of (sometimes dark) humor to the story.
Lastly and probably most importantly is the influence of Japanese Anime and Manga, with a dash of American Comics. These thousands of stories I’ve watched, or read, have given me a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t…hopefully!
All of the above have heavily influenced my writing, art direction, characters, and overall game design.
GG: Are you working solo on this project? Are there any artists or developers you want to shout out?
Louis: Yes, this is a solo project currently. The creation of the engine, idea for the game, story, coding, etc has all been me…and has all been exhausting! I have had help from OpenGameArt.org which is a great community of free to use art resources for indie devs, as well as some contract work from Peter (https://www.deviantart.com/simulyaton) which includes the games current sprites and some 2D character art. As I mentioned above this year I will be welcoming @NixPix (https://twitter.com/NixPixGames) into the fold and he will be creating more tilesets for the game.
While I am the only developer working on my project, there are so many developers I’d like to shout out in general just for their support. (I know I am going to forget people and I’m really sorry if I did). HUGE thanks to @IndieDevWorldOrder, a sub-community of indie devs started by @LabsSkull, @MikiMortis, @designerflex and others.
Some other awesome devs out there with amazing games I am looking forward to: @EAtkin @bluegoogames @LawmageA @ArkanyaGame @bluegoogames, and the official IDWO streamer @HourADayGamer! There’s literally hundreds more, and you’re all worthy of a hundred shout outs!
GG: Tactics games require a certain level of depth in order to be fulfilling. What approaches are you taking to the gameplay to ensure there’s enough variety and strategy to keep players interested?
Louis: This is an excellent question and something I use as a metric as to whether I am on the right path or not. I constantly ask myself if the gameplay includes proper variety, actual levels of strategy and tactics, and whether or not the combat itself is fulfilling/fun.
Basically what I am doing is creating the game I always wanted, and from doing research early on I found I wasn’t alone in wanting this. Something people enjoy in this genre is the Job/Class system and that’s something that I specifically put a lot of time into. It’s actually involved in the story and the world itself, so it’s completely integral to the game as a whole. You’ll have characters actively discussing roles such as Warrior, Paladin, Mage, and how they feel about them as groups. Through the story, you’ll actually get to know these groups (I call them Orders in the game) on a social and even political level as they form various factions that sometimes influence the course of history.
When it comes to Jobs, I wanted a largely diverse but recognizable amount. I have a humongous master list of over 120 Jobs, it’s more of a chart than a list, as it actually goes through the various tiers and has each allocated in a diagram. Of course I can’t come near having this many in the game, realistically if I get 1/3 of them in that would be absolutely amazing.
If everything goes as planned it should be more than 35, but for right now we’re at about 10 + some unique Jobs. Once I get these going and see how they work with each other I can expand them, but these 10 represent, in my opinion, the base archetypes of RPG Jobs.
Another thing I noticed with tactics games, and RPGs in general is how often you end up drowning in various abilities and skills while only using a few of them. So another goal of mine was to actually limit the number of abilities a unit can have during battle. It’s currently set to four (4) abilities and four (4) passive abilities. This will be adjusted over time, but basically you can learn as many as you want, but before you go into battle, you equip the four you think you’ll need and that’s all you will have access to during combat.
So to sum this up, a unit will often start with a single Job, gaining points, SP and JP, via combat.
With JP they can purchase specific Job related abilities, and passives.
With SP, which isn’t Job-based so it builds up no matter what Job you have, they can purchase new jobs.
Once you know a Job, you can then learn various abilities and passives by playing as it, and in the end when you find a Job you like you can set it as your main job, then equip the abilities and passives you learned from anywhere to match your play-style.
The specifics are still being ironed out, as to what works and what doesn’t, but the idea is to give players the most flexibility possible while still maintaining some Job/Class restrictions.
GG: How long do you think the single-player campaign will be, and do you have plans for multiplayer battles?
Louis: When it comes to this genre, and specifically this game, single player is first and foremost. If there is multiplayer it will be added on after the game is done as an extra feature.
The single-player campaign will be the main focus and is currently divided into 4 Acts, with each Act consisting of 8-12 or so Chapters. Each chapter is basically some scenes and a “battle”, so that puts us at about 36-48 main story battles. Realistically, I would like the battles themselves to be a bit shorter than the average as I find sometimes battles in FFT or TO can take hours. It’s hard to put a number on it this early, but I’d like to reach the standard of 60-80 hours for just the main story.
GG: How is the story coming along? Anything you want to tease about it?
Louis: The story is coming along really well and is actually something I’ve been using to break things up between programming sessions as it’s very common to get burned out after weeks and months of doing the same thing.
I have a pretty big idea for what the story will hold and it’s something I’ve been thinking about since I was playing games as a kid. In the past I thought about going into writing and I kept a salt and pepper notebook that I would write ideas in, so I have enough for a damn novel haha.
For now I can say that one of the more interesting things about the world the game takes place in is the apparent lack of recorded history. The country the protagonists come from is Acedia, a mid-sized nation on the Northern Continent that was formed a few hundred years, about the same time many of the other major nations came into existence. Anything older than 200 years is not only hard to find, but is sorely lacking in details we take for granted in the modern day. Going back even further to more than 500 years ago consists of as little as a few pages of records with very little in the way of oral traditions or stories. This is something that exists all over this world and there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it. Nobody seems to be actively suppressing anything and there are various agencies looking into this phenomena, but ultimately it’s something that “just is” to most people since it’s all they’ve ever known. Just like in real life, people are focused on providing for themselves and their families while the curious find their own mysteries to investigate, often never learning the real truth but moving us ever closer to it.
Overall, as a society, their grasp on science and technology is akin to the early industrial revolution with some differences due to the existence of magick. The story itself will mostly take place after a recent war between Acedia and neighboring country Superbia. It’s focus will be on the aftermath of the horrors war brings as well as the impact it has on society at various levels. It deals with the politics of the nobility, the trials of the impoverished, and everyone caught in between. We’ll get to see some of the reasons behind what makes people do certain things, whether we label them as good or evil, and how these events are perceived over time by different populations.
One thing that’s important to me in telling this story is to make sure the narrative stays as neutral as possible and lets the players decide how they feel about what is going on. I am still deciding on whether or not to have different story paths that are based on the player’s input, but due to the scope, that will most likely be added in later if at all.
…Told you it was long.–GG