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RPGFan Exclusive Interview: Michael Schiestl, CEO, ClockStone
Recently, a small-time game developer arose in a very unlikely place: Austria. Dubbed "ClockStone," the development studio has been hard at work on their first title, an Action RPG for PCs entitled Avencast: Rise of the Mage. ClockStone CEO and lead programmer Michael Schiestl was kind enough to talk to RPGFan in-depth about Avencast, as well as their plans for the future.

Q: ClockStone is a relatively new developer to the industry. Who are the key members of this development studio, and what previous projects have you been involved in before beginning work on Avencast?
A: ClockStone is an up-and-coming company with Avencast being its first large scale project. Key members include:

Michael Schiestl: CEO, lead programming
Stephan Sossau: lead artist
Minh Tri Do Dinh: lead designer, animation, AI
Matthias Hilke: management, game design
Marcel Ritter: level design, 3d modelling

Q: How long has it taken to develop Avencast, from beginning to end? What obstacles did you hit along the way?
A: It is unknown when exactly it all began, but I think we'll easily pass the 4 year mark at the end of development. The thing is that it started as a pure hobby project, something that you work on in your spare time, and nobody could foresee that the game would eventually develop a will of its own and grow to its present size and scope. As for hitting obstacles along the way, none of us had any prior experience in game development, so the first years were a period of exactly hitting all sorts of obstacles you could possibly hit as a rookie developer, from bad design decisions to insufficient management. With time we have learned from our mistakes and grown to meet the challenge of making a game, but when you look at it, it's still pretty baffling how much work this project turned out to be.

Q: Fans of RPGs, particularly those who play PC-based RPGs, have seen dozens of fantasy Action RPGs, many with the same basic gameplay. What is it about Avencast, in your opinion, that will catch the gamers' attention? What makes this game different from all the others?
A: With Avencast, there's a clear emphasis on the action, so we made efforts to create a combat system that makes the whole endeavour of fighting hordes of monsters as dynamic and exhilarating as possible. The combat mechanics the way you move, the way you cast spells and the way your enemies behave - are much closer to a beat 'em up rather than a typical hack and slay Action RPG. Plenty of comments have been [made], but it's safe to say that Avencast is decidedly different in terms of combat.

Q: Your web site mentions the storyline spanning 3 chapters. What is the estimated time that it would take the average gamer to complete Avencast?
A: It should take the average player something around 20 hours to finish Avenca st.

Q: The Avencast web site puts a lot of emphasis on the graphics, and the gameplay trailers show very smooth animation. What are the required/recommended specifications for a users' PC?
A: Minimum: 2Ghz CPU, 64 MB shader v2.0 compatible video card
Recommended: 3 Ghz CPU, 256 MB shader v2.0 compatible video card

Q: Will the game be compatible with Windows Vista?
A: Yes.

Q: Will there be any online or multiplayer features for Avencast?
A: There are ideas about making a multiplayer add-on for Avencast, right now there's only single player.

Q: At RPGFan, we're always interested in a game's music, as it is an integral part to any gamers' experience with the game. Who will be composing the music for Avencast? What previous experience does the composer have? Will there be any sort of soundtrack released, either with the game or separately?
A: Our high quality music is specially composed by Lüder Lindau from "mischling audio productions," a renowned German audio studio. There will probably be a few tracks to download for Avencast fans.

Q: Avencast will be released worldwide (with the exception of Russia) through publisher Lighthouse Interactive. Where do you hope the game sees the most success? Europe, America, elsewhere? Do you feel you have the support of gamers in your home country of Austria?
A: Avencast will be available in Russia as well, but from a different publishing company.

Of course we would be particularly happy to see Avencast become a success in Austria and Germany, but we get a lot of positive feedback from English speaking countries too! Thanks for all the support from our fans!

Q: Pending the success of Avencast, are there any plans at this point for a sequel, or does ClockStone have any other ideas in mind for other games in the next year?
A: Yes, there exist plans, yet it's too early to talk about them in public - but expect something exciting! So don't forget to check out what's coming next from ClockStone!

RPGFan would like to thank Michael Schiestl and everyone at ClockStone for their cooperation and support in enabling us to present this exclusive interview to our readers.
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