APGNation previously covered the announcement trailer for Orcish Inn, a tavern simulator game being developed by Steven Colling, an independent indie game developer out of Germany. Orcish Inn has now been Greenlit on Steam and a pre-alpha release is planned in December.
Orcish Inn serves a relatively under served niche in PC gaming. Other Platforms have had their Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon style games and PC already has its “realistic” management games (Faming Simulator). What we haven’t had much of is a management game with a unique and colorful art style in a peaceful setting where your only goal is to do your job well. The closest I can think of is Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale and even that had combat in it. Though it did have a rather awesome anime art style and I say that as someone who isn’t really a fan of anime. Also new for this style of game is the focus on Orcs. Usually these types of games put you in the shoes of an average guy and not the typical “bad guy” race for so many games and literature.
After Orcish Inn was Greenlit I reached out to Steven Colling for an interview. He was kind enough to take the time out of his day to answer my questions regarding Orcish Inn and even to provide some exclusive screenshots and details about the game.
Interview with Orcish Inn Developer Steven Colling
APGNation: Orcish Inn, I’d call an Orc themed tavern/inn simulator and you’ve said it is similar to Harvest Moon. I’m curious as to why you chose Orcs and not Humans or even Dwarves? What sort of impact does being an Orc have in on the game?
Steven Colling: Yes, it’s similar to Harvest Moon in terms of keeping a farm, but extended with building and maintaining a tavern. I try to find a proper balance of the calm flow from Harvest Moon and challenging gameplay with complex mechanics and where losing is actually possible and part of the game.
Choosing orcs was primary a matter of setting and atmosphere. I think being rough and fighting against the cruel nature is part of what I call typical for orcs. I also want to play with how orcs are mostly perceived and treated in common fantasy literature and films: cruel and dumb. In Orcish Inn, you are maintaining a business of more or less civilized, social and even smart orcs. While the player takes the role of an inn keeper, he can’t fight, yet he is confronted with orcish war culture all the time by paying war taxes or listening to the brutal experiences your tavern visitors made and talk about. Beyond that, it’s a matter of personal preference: I thought lots of beer, brawls, dull jokes and with shaman magic invoked beer selling barrels are more fitting to orcs than to boring humans. And to be honest: creating an orcish inn sounds like an unusual and crazy idea.
APGNation: I’ve not seen any lodging features mentioned for Orcish Inn. Will guests staying the night at your establishment be in the game or would be be more apt to call Orcish Inn, Orcish Tavern?
Steven: Lodging features are planned, but won’t be part of the public pre-alpha I will release coming December. I’m still in the designing phase regarding this feature and I thought about letting the player set up rooms with beds and maintaining a room’s comfort so it meets the guests’ desire, for example by placing a friendly looking pile of skulls in the corner or fueling the room’s furnace with wood. Visitors could also stay for a day, if the weather is bad, which could be problematic if the player didn’t make sure that enough beer is available.
APGNation: Is there any sort of reputation system for the players establishment? How will players know they are doing well?
Steven: There are three metrics in the game to keep track of how well you are doing in the orcish society: satisfaction, social rank and reputation.
Orcs are organized in clans and every clan has a special taste for beer the player has to meet as well as a requested comfort of the rooms they drink their beer in. Later (and not part of the pre-alpha), there will be also cooking and dishes which have to be made for the hungry visitors. If the visitors enjoy the player’s beer, they increase in satisfaction and if the satisfaction is high enough, the player increases in his social rank. New clans will arrive by word of mouth and with them, new tastes the player has to keep in mind. Given the clans current satisfaction, the player gains reputation over time, which can be used as a currency to buy upgrades of all sort, including better deals regarding the flying trader, unlocking new seeds or a better hammer to smash through rocks to uncover new areas. Which level the upgrades can increased to depends on the mentioned social rank.
Increasing satisfaction, social rank and reputation is the player’s main goal and the gameplay cycle of a typical session consists of raising crops, brewing beer, creating/extending the inn and serving the orcs, which results in new visitors, new tastes and finally in new crops to plant, beer to brew and tastes to meet. Mini games like fishing or challenging events like bad weather or catastrophes affect this cycle with benefits to gain or obstacles to overcome. The following screenshot shows a work-in-progress interface of the satisfaction of one of the clans.
APGNation: What are some of the challenges players must contend with in Orcish Inn? Is there a quest system of some sort?
Steven: Quests are already part of the game and are given through the flying trader or visitors. They challenge the player, for example, by providing a lot of barley as a kind of war tax or by fulfilling a visitor’s special wish of a baked fish. In return, the player is rewarded with resources like money, items like construction plans for unlockable objects, or an increase of reputation.
The real challenge is nature, especially the weather. As a kind of business survival simulation, the hard winter is a serious threat to the player. He has to keep enough resources to stay healthy and running the business and therefore he needs to operate efficiently. Beyond seasons, weather plays a major role in Orcish Inn and is one of the parts I’m currently working on. In the future, the player has to cope with all kind of catastrophes, like a crop crushing hail or an aridity which makes it harder to raise quality crops. Such events will induce a bit of randomness into the game and make it even harder to manage the time until winter.
APGNation: Is there a weather system in the game? If there isn’t a weather system how is precipitation handled in regards to raising crops?
Steven: Like just mentioned, weather is part of the game and affects the plants the player has to grow for his business. There are four properties he has to keep in mind: wetness, eutrophy, windbreak and plant density. The harvested crop’s quality depends on how well these properties of the ground met the seed’s demands, which is important, because the crop’s quality determines the beer’s quality and therefore the satisfaction of the clans and finally the player’s overall progress in the context of social rank and reputation.
The wetness gets higher near water, but the player can use a bucket to increase wetness manually per tile. There are wetness loving plants like hop and a plant called dryroot, which obviously wants to stay away from water.
Eutrophy is generated per map and the player has to find the right spots for his seeds. Fortunately, he can increase the eutrophy manually with dung, which has to be produced by throwing crops on a compost.
Windbreak is also defined per tile and gets higher near objects like walls or trees. The player can build wooden or stone fences to increase windbreak. If a plant loves wind, he has to search for glades.
The plant density increases the more plants are placed nearby. If plants require a low plant density, the player has to weigh up if the additionally required space between single crops is worth the higher quality.
In the end, farming is a space and quality management task and requires asking oneself about a lot of factors beyond available space and the crop’s quality. Does this plant compete with another plant for this spot? Do I have to extend the land later on with more crops of this type? How many manual work do I have to do (like watering)? How far is this place from my beer production and/or inn? And can I cope with a slightly worse quality? What’s about weather or catastrophes?
Some weather is already in the game, like raining. It increases the wetness everywhere, which can be helpful by letting you skip the daily watering or bad, because a dry plant could get too wet.
APGNation: What sort of animals can players tame and breed and what purpose do they serve in the game?
Steven: Right now there are no animals in the game and they will be likely not in the public pre-alpha for December. Anyway, I want to bring them step by step into the game and with the help of community game feature votes. It’s about letting interested players participate in the design respectively development of the game. In this regularly vote, two animals are presented and the community decides which one gets definitely part of the game. This time, the vote is about pigeons versus chickens.
Pigeons make exploration tours and sometimes can bring you interesting things they picked up. Chickens stay at home instead, increasing the seed drop chances of your plants. They are also sensitive for bad weather changes and can alert you.
In general, the player will be able to feed, breed and eat animals, while I’m still not sure if they can be found in the wild and tamed or just bought from the flying trader, as eggs for example. I try to make each animal unique and relevant for gameplay, like the pigeons and chickens I presented.
Lovely reader: if you want to participate, you can inform yourself under the following link and if subscribing to the newsletter is too much, you can leave your choice in the comment section below or tell me your favorite animal via mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
APGNation: The process for brewing is detailed on your features page and it seems rather robust but it only mentioned beer as the final product. Can you brew different types of beverages (wine, mead, etc.) or are you limited to beer? Are there different variations of beer, for example grog, ale, lagers stouts and porters?
Steven: For the release of Orcish Inn, no other types of alcoholic drinks like wine are planned, but I want to leave this open. In Orcish Inn, beer has different characteristics, including taste, tint darkness, full body, acerbity, alcoholic strength and an additional but optional flavor. Every characteristic has a rating from 0 to 5, except taste and flavor.
The taste is defined by the used crop, so a beer can be based on barley or on spelt as an example. The flavor brings a bunch of other crops like Belladonna to the table and let the player spice up the beer.
The overall production process starts with creating malt out of the crop by putting the crop and some water into the malt box. The amount of water determines the tint darkness of the malt. Afterwards, malt and further water are placed in a wort boiler to produce wort. While the wort’s tint darkness is defined by the used malt, the amount of water determines the full body characteristic of the wort. Finally, the wort is put in a beer brewing kettle, together with hop, yeast and an additional flavor. The amount of hop determines the beer’s acerbity while the amount of yeast the alcoholic strength. The beer inherits the tint darkness and full body characteristics from the used wort.
Part of this beer brewing is setting up a semi-automated production by placing chests, barrels and – important – pipes. The player will configure the malt boxes, boilers and kettles, fill the storage with the required resources and lay out a pipe system to transport the materials and products. As new clans arrive, the player has to adapt to the new tastes by extending the beer production where he has to weigh up if meeting the clan’s taste perfectly is justified by the cost of the new and required beer infrastructure.
I’m still thinking about how to include the various beer types within this beer characteristic model. A possibility would be to display special beer icons and beer names along certain characteristics, so there is more background about beer included.
APGNation: How does furnishing impact gameplay or is it strictly an aesthetic and visual decision on the players part?
Steven: That’s a very interesting question and I’m happy you are asking for this. There are some building games (like city builders or restaurant management games) which allow players to decorate their place, but I always regret decoration itself wasn’t reflected in the game itself, for example as part of a game mechanic. It always felt arbitrary and decreased the overall fun of decorating.
For Orcish Inn I try to embed decoration in the gameplay while letting the player decide on his own, how he uses the decoration elements. Every room in the game has a comfort bar from 0% up to 100%. The comfort is increased by objects placed by the player, which differ in space they occupy, comfort they add, resources they cost and if they are already unlocked through construction plans rewarded from quests or fishing. The player can then choose which elements he uses to increase the room’s comfort to met the incoming clan’s preferences, because the clans’ satisfaction isn’t only determined by the beer taste like described above, but also by the room’s comfort: every clan has a requirement of minimal comfort. The following screenshot shows the comfort level of two rooms.
APGNation: Bar brawls, can they happen and what are the consequences or even rewards for such a thing happening in the players establishment?
Steven: Brawls between visiting orcs will be definitely part of the final game, but I’m still in the phase of designing them and thinking about how they work, mostly because Orcish Inn misses other gameplay features which are required to implement brawls in a meaningful way.
My current idea is, that visitors fill up an aggression bar while getting too drunk, which mainly depends on the alcoholic strength of the beer or how long the visitors are in the inn. Risk-averse players could lessen the alcoholic strength of their beer and accept the satisfaction loss of clans preferring a strong drink. One of the Orcish Inn followers had an idea about shouting out a drink to reduce overall aggression. If aggression gets too high, orcs start to brawl and fight, damaging the interior and the player has to fix that at the cost of money. Perhaps orcs get K.O.’ed and you can steal their carried items?
As I don’t want to add player fighting to the game, I’m thinking how an inn keeper could handle the worst case of a drunken, brawling pack. Perhaps he could push them towards the doors (or at least away from the expensive interior…) or calm them down by throwing a bucket of water at them (the water, not the bucket). I see me running from inn to lake and lake to inn, panic-fueled and hoping to calm down this one mad orc who makes his way to the barrels full of beer.
APGNation: What sort of things can players do other than the management of the Inn and growing or animals? I know I saw fishing mentioned previously.
Steven: Beyond the daily tasks and challenges the player has to met, he can participate in other activities, like fishing. In the future, I also want to add small tavern games, for example rolling dices.
Fishing is a cool activity in Orcish Inn. After throwing out the floater, the player can move it within the water area and therefore actually hunt. If a fish gets in range, it starts to bump. The fish is caught, if the player presses fast enough. Beyond fishes of different sizes, there are also junk pieces, treasure chests and even construction plans for new decoration objects to get. If I finished the season and weather mechanics, they will influence together with the current daytime, what fishes the player is able to catch. He will also be able to control their population by feeding them. Like the video shows, fish are actually swimming within the water and are not just a probability when the bumping occurs. Therefore, the player can even empty a lake!
APGNation: As a solo indie developer what is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone hoping to break into the indie scene with a game of their own? Something that you wish someone had told you prior to starting a project like Orcish Inn.
Steven: Marketing. It’s a full-time job and not easy, but as much important as the other parts of indie game development. I also don’t know if I’m doing it right, because Orcish Inn isn’t released yet. For the developers reading this: I’m working on a public marketing log, where I write down my expectations and experiences with indie game marketing, including the Greenlight statistics before Orcish Inn got greenlit. Another tip for developers starting out: go to Twitter and create a network of developers, journalists and other gaming relevant people. It’s important to have people to talk to and it’s fun and interesting to see and talk about other people’s projects.
APGNation: Where can our readers go to keep up to date on the development of Orcish Inn?
Steven: First and foremost: Orcish Inn has a newsletter you can subscribe to. I will write only if special events occur, like the release of the public pre-alpha or a major update, the final release and so on and it’s also limited to maximal 1 newsletter per month. You can inform and subscribe right here:
Other ways to stay updated are to visit the Greenlight page of Orcish Inn, because I post news as announcements over there. You can also follow me on Twitter, where I post game and game development related information.
Orcish Inn on Greenlight: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=320951828
Steven Colling on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/StevenColling
I also try to engage with interested players, for example by the mentioned community game feature vote, by a contest where the winning idea about a piece of treasure (obtainable by fishing) gets implemented in the game or via Patreon with Orcish Inn related rewards.
Game Feature Voting: http://orcish-inn.stevencolling.com/hub.php?content=voting
Beyond that, there is the landing page of Orcish Inn as well as the community hub. You can also write me a mail.
Community Hub: http://orcish-inn.stevencolling.com/hub.php
Many thanks to Steven Colling for taking to the time to share so much about his game with our readers. I hope that this interview shed some light on a rather interesting game coming up through the Steam Greenlight system. We intend to have continuing coverage of Orcish Inn through out its development cycle and are interested in seeing how this rather ambitious one man project turns out.
If you enjoyed this interview and want to see more like it follow @APGnation on Twitter, not only will you get more great interviews but our latest gaming news and reviews. Also feel free to like us on what ever your preferred social media platform.