Building a Modern Classic – Infinity Knights: Xross Developer Interview

Building a Modern Classic - Infinity Knights: Xross Interview Graphic

We covered the reveal of Infinity Knights: Xross from Timesea Studio a couple weeks ago. This up-and-coming Australian studio is run by three brothers who grew up on video games and decided to harness that passion and knowledge to build their own action RPG. Infinity Knights: Xross aims to deliver something familiar to fans of classic RPGs like Dark Cloud and Secret of Mana with modern quality of life features, and a soundtrack by esteemed composer Hiroki Kikuta (Secret of Mana).

Timesea Studio is launching their Kickstarter today, and the developers — Saxon, Michael, and Tyrone Goodrick — were kind enough to answer a series of questions about the project. Check out the full interview below and learn more on the campaign page!

RPGFan: How did you get into game development? What challenges have you faced, and do you have any words for aspiring developers?

Michael: Game development was always on our mind. As kids we thought it would be cool to make games. So, we applied a lot of what we learnt growing up with respect to video games. How to program, to write, to create. Then one day, we realised we could use all our knowledge/experience to finally start developing them together, so we just did!

We have faced a few hurdles like every person who tries their hand at game development. Working full-time while juggling game development, the time needed to develop skills from scratch – many of these were overcome through supporting each other throughout the process, as well as it just being a lot of fun! Having a clear, shared goal has really helped.

We have had more challenges in some particular areas (e.g. concept art, music), but we’ve had a tremendous amount of support to equip us with the skills and knowledge we needed. There is a lot of talent out there, and we’re very grateful that there are some really talented people on board with us.

Saxon: It’s really important to give yourself time and develop trust among your fans. Games take a lot of time, and you must always learn and be open; you have to love it. Pour your energy into the quality of your work. Even if you make something small, make it as best you can. The quality of your work, with what you had to work with at the time, will reflect on your audience. It has successive effects on your next projects. It’s really important to develop that long-term trust and consistent quality. We think this is best achieved by just believing in yourself, not giving up on your passion, and committing to your own vision. You know, believe in yourself, embrace your dreams. The rest will follow.

RPGFan: You’ve cited some inspirations, and while the Mana inspirations are clear, what should Dark Cloud and Final Fantasy XI players know about in your game? We know you have crafting, for instance.

Saxon: Great question! We guess these are harder to see because of the graphical level this game operates on. While Mana and SNES vibes are indeed clear, the game is very mechanically similar to both Dark Cloud and Final Fantasy XI.

Firstly, Dark Cloud’s inspiration comes from the way dungeons and our ‘Georama’-like town are implemented. The town isn’t quite Georama, but it is something that you build up after leaving for adventures and collecting materials and goodies. Things like improving shops, smithies, growing herbs, making healing food, so on. The Kingdom itself is built up over time, and while it isn’t a cookie-cutter version of Georama, you very much have to venture out for supplies, return to the Kingdom, and improve it bit by bit. Dungeons have floor conditions, some are randomly generated, there are secrets, maps, items to find, puzzles to solve… that kind of thing. We even have a healing pool in one of the dungeons as a random artefact that can spawn. Heaps of stuff.

Final Fantasy XI’s inspiration features in pretty much the rest of the overworld. We’re working on the large sense of adventure that FFXI seems to deliver, along with its immersion. The world is filled with things like Notorious Monster spawns. Some enemies drop items that you use to summon bigger bosses in the overworld, and so on. A lot of environmental story telling. We are also very fond of the skill progression and systems like Trials of the Magian and Abyssea’s gear system. Similar customisation and progression can be found in the equipment and skills in Infinity Knights: Xross. That, and skill chaining with different weapons and elements.

RPGFan: As a followup, those of us who love the classics are often fond of throwback games with modern sensibilities. And while we know this is your goal, can you tell us some ways that Infinity Knights: Xross differs from these inspirations?

Tyrone: We’re expanding upon old systems from the classics as well as creating engaging new ones. Many games these days are fantastic throwbacks but offer little new mechanics. It’s the same system just on a modern console, so it has some quality-of-life improvements. We’re looking to style our game in this classic way, but make the game completely its own. Unique ability systems, exploration… You name it.

Saxon: Take combat for example. Instead of just being the same few animated attacks repeatedly, we’ve created a dynamic system that gives us the creative freedom to implement things like the elemental/weapon changes mid-combo. This adds varying levels of complexity and difficulty, and when combined with your cooperators, you’ll make a playstyle that’s truly unique.

We like to talk about how we’ve kept a list of all the little quality of life fixes we would have implemented in games we’ve played, to make them better versions of themselves. This list is super valuable, and it helps us integrate those improved features into our own games, and we’re hoping to make a very smooth and painless experience for others, that’s also just generally new and engaging. ‘Modern sensibilities’ is a great phrase.

RPGFan: We like the idea of having various elements and weapons available. Do you have an estimate of how many options each character will have in these regards?

Saxon: Short answer? Up to 16 weapons and 8 elements, but this all depends on a few things. Each character wields an Armament — a weapon that can take on the forms of multiple weapons at the wielder’s discretion — so you’ll actually get access to all weapons and elements with each character. We don’t want any permanent restrictions in combat, but rather have it be a bit like job classes. That being said, some characters are initially more talented in certain areas — like Fate is really strong with halberds/fire, whereas Alessia is proficient with shields/light.

We have at least 8 elements we’re working with, but we’re considering dividing those further. E.g. We have ‘Fire’, ‘Light’, ‘Water’, but we want to explore things like ‘Blood’ and ‘Poison,’ which would effectively be… sort of like a subclass to ‘Water.’ It would carry over its elemental effects (monsters weak to water), whilst having specialised abilities (e.g. poison would reduce an enemy’s strength, maybe its ability to flee, so on). This is something we’re currently working on. You would then compound these effects onto certain abilities to create ‘Lightning Mortal Strike’ for instance — a devastating blow that stuns opponents and delays their attacks.

Some keen-eyed followers have seen Xross wielding 6 different weapons so far, with his allies wielding additional weapons too… and that’s not even all of them. So, there are quite a few options, especially when combined with the elements. Creating animations for each character in each direction is enormously time-consuming, and one of the biggest parts of the project. We’re planning to include 16 weapons in our ultimate version of the game, but it depends a bit on the how big the Kickstarter is. We’ll throw in more with additional support! It is a big part of the game, so we will try our best.

Now, mix all these weapons and elements with a Trials of the Magian type system from FFXI and you have… an enormous amount of customisation and variation. Our goal with this is to give cooperators a chance to see how they might create a unique strategy together — we want variation to be big in this game.

RPGFan: How did Hiroki Kikuta get involved with Infinity Knights: Xross to compose the soundtrack?

Saxon: We asked him. Originally, we got in contact with Jayson from Scarlet Moon about doing PR in the U.S. (and generally) for us. He was the first person we showed our trailer to, and we think he really liked it. He got in touch with Kikuta-san for us, and he was onboard! We still can’t believe it. Dream come true!

RPGFan: Whether it’s variable difficulty and/or accessibility features, we love it when developers make their games as approachable as possible for a wide range of players. You mention a “different approach” to difficulty and immersion where “anyone can play,” so can you tell us what this means for your game?

Michael: We aren’t aware of all the accessibility features that exist — which is why we are so heavily promoting community feedback. Through our socials, we’ve learnt about some extraordinary stories! Things like compatibility with arcade sticks is something we wouldn’t have considered until one person on social media explained their situation. These types of features are not too hard to implement, it’s just that we are unaware of them, and we want to include them. Please, get in touch with us about this!

Saxon: There are also accessibility features that exist that we are aware of but require a bit of innovation to implement. We’ve been talking to some accessibility consultants about a range of things (e.g. gaming for blindness). From a development perspective, we’re trying to make this game as accessible as possible. Whether that means talking to more consultants, making guides to mod the game, implementing accessibility features… these are all things we’re thinking about.

We’ve disliked the way some games approach difficulty. Some people we know who’ve started gaming later in life can sometimes struggle with getting into games. They’re either too easy or too difficult, and there isn’t much in between. We’re hoping to reach out to new gamers, or people who don’t think they have the skill to pick up a game, whilst still catering to those that like immense challenges, by breaking difficulty up into adjustable pieces — some automatic, some preferential.

RPGFan: Many of us have siblings and have sometimes worked with them, so we need to know: What has been the “most sibling” moment when developing the game?

Tyrone: Obviously growing up together we are subject to the same influences, and not just with games. Movies, TV shows, books. etc. So, when discussing backstory, lore, or character designs, it’s nice that we just ‘get it.’ We think ‘Oh, that’d be cool’ and generally we always agree. It’s not until we are discussing ideas with people outside our family that we realise just how similar us brothers think and behave. And I think that is the ‘most sibling’ moment when developing the game.

Michael: Besides the usual sibling shenanigans and non-business emails sent to each other, all our decisions about game ideas, artistic directions, or business agendas must be unanimous — which gives rise to funny situations.

One of the most ‘sibling‘ moments we had was when we were deciding on our name. This is something we previously had discussed a lot, so to end it once and for all, we all stood on our wheely chairs. There was no getting down until we had made a decision… and it took over an hour. It was hilarious.

That and trying to keep a straight face on camera for our trailer… while the other two were being classic sibling distractions in the background.

Saxon: We also do things like creating fake weapons out of cardboard and jumping around with them to see how those weapons would really be used. All for research, of course! We’re just brothers being brothers. 😊

RPGFan: We saw a mention that part of Timesea Studio’s goal “begins” with Infinity Knights: Xross, so can you tell us a little about your larger aspirations?

Saxon: Truly, it begins with Infinity Knights: Xross. Infinity Knights is a whole universe we’ve been writing for some time, but Xross is just one of the many games/books/shows we would like to make.

Michael: Think Kingdom Hearts. Great as its own game, but plenty of opportunity to expand upon its universe and its characters. They ended up making many games! Infinity Knights: Xross is an anthology, and we have some big ideas in store for story development — too many ideas! But our aspirations are many.

Tyrone: SNES-era RPGs aren’t the only games we grew up on so it would be nice to delve into not only different eras of RPGs (they are our favourite), but different genres too. It would also be great to go beyond video games and create an animated show. When three brothers write down all their ideas for over a decade, you end up with quite a goldmine of content.

We’re aware that those goals come with time and trust, but we want everyone to know that’s our intention. We want to make amazing experiences for everyone to enjoy, and it all starts with this. Let us prove we can create compelling gameplay and story now, so we can be trusted to make even greater projects and maintain/develop this vision we have over the years to come.

RPGFan: To close out, do you have any final thoughts or comments to share with our readers? Was there anything you wished we had asked that you want to share?

Saxon: There has been a bit of speculation as to how to pronounce the main character’s name. His name (Xross) is pronounced ‘cross.’ Also, there are a lot of plot, easter eggs, and details in the trailer — do keep a keen eye!

Team: As much as we’d like to drop a billion names, inspirations, lore, and so on… We think this is a perfect time to thank you and everyone else for reading this. So, from the three of us brothers here, thank you so much RPGFan for hosting us today. Thank you to everyone who has read this, supported, and followed along. Thank you! As budding developers, exposure like this means so much to us, and we really are humbled that people have even taken an interest. We are trying our very best to create a fantastical experience for you all to enjoy, and your trust makes us immensely grateful.

We hope you are excited to play our game. Please support our grand vision by backing us on Kickstarter and be part of the journey as we bring this game to life. Thank you!

RPGFan wishes to thank Saxon Goodrick, Michael Goodrick, and Tyrone Goodrick for taking the time during their pre-campaign phase to provide such detailed and thoughtful answers to our questions. Finally, thank you to Jayson Napolitano from Scarlet Moon Productions for facilitating.

The Infinity Knights: Xross Kickstarter campaign is live now, and you can learn more on the game’s official website.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Mike Salbato

Mike Salbato

Mike has been with RPGFan nearly since its inception, and in that time has worn a surprising number of hats for someone who doesn't own a hatstand. Today he attempts to balance his Creative Director role with his Editor-in-Chief status. Despite the amount of coffee in his veins, he bleeds emerald green.