Arkeis – Meet Théo Rivière

Arkeis – Meet Théo Rivière

Hello! I’m sure you’ve heard of Arkeis. It’s a narrative game set in Egypt that
combines fantasy and steampunk. The game is played as a campaign
cooperatively among friends. In this video series, we’ll be talking
to the Kaedama authors to learn more about the game. I’m glad to start with Théo. – Hi, Théo.- Hello.
– How are you? – Great, you? Can you tell us what Arkeis
is in just a few words? Arkeis is a cooperative game created by
the 4 of us on team Kaedama: me, Corentin Lebrat,
Ludovic Maublanc, and Antoine Bauzat. The game is 100% cooperative,
scenario-based, with a tiny hint of permanency: things carry over
from one scenario to the next. The game has accessible rules,
but takes some commitment. Games take about 1 to 1.5 hours,
with a set number of players. It’s set in more-or-less-ancient
Egypt and in the 1920s and ’30s. How did you establish that
different time scale of what happens, what we find, and
when events take place? It’s story-based so we really
wanted to have a few surprises, mysterious events,
things players won’t expect. We even thought for a long time about – but it was a bit complicated when
talking about the game itself – hiding the whole steampunk
aspect for the campaign so people think it’s
a basic Egyptian game and then say,
“OMG, steam! That’s incredible!” We quickly saw that it wasn’t possible. As far as the scenarios went, we’d have to
hide everything, which wasn’t great. Very early on, we were determined
to really tell a story and we needed
this mix of genres. As far as the timeline goes,
we didn’t really hesitate. We like pulp culture, the
explorer with suspenders idea – something old-fashioned.
For us, the combination worked. If we’d done something modern,
the technological aspect of Egyptians and the steam notion
wasn’t all that great. We show up. Guys have steam
weapons but we have machine guns. We blow them away and keep going.
Not that great. But with this, we’ve got something
even more explosive. A contrast between our
player characters’ universe and steampunk Egypt,
with a real clash between the two. Cool. I’d like to talk a bit
about gameplay. The fight system is rather unique. I’m referring to the
monster profile cards. Can you tell us more about them? Very early on, we decided we wanted
a fight and fight management system – it was a bit of a challenge
and I’m happy with how it turned out – that wasn’t too unsettling for players
used to dungeon crawlers. So, we roll dice that have “success”
sides that usually hit enemies, “failure” sides that
usually hurt us, and 2 special sides
that I’ll get back to later. We didn’t want it too unsettling: show up,
hit an enemy, roll dice, see what happens. But at the same time, we didn’t want
it to be too classic either. We wanted something a bit new, with the idea of having
profile cards for monsters that come and attack our characters. In terms of the game, it’s simple: when a character is on the same spot as an
enemy, you get that enemy’s profile. It has a short description and says how
the character interacts with the enemy. Concretely, it will show an action the
enemy triggers at the start of the turn. It’s the enemies’
artificial intelligence. They do need to react, after all. We aren’t going fight a horrible enemy
while he waits patiently to die. And it provides management
based on the dice roll. Each die has 4 different sides: success, failure, a special side, and a
fate side, that I’ll explain at the end. It’s simple. When you attack,
roll your dice, and check the profile to see what happens. Success is usually a hit. Special means something else happens. With basic monsters, little scarabs,
you hit them but they counter-attack. A failure is something not nice. And then there’s the fate side – a
common thread in the Arkeis experience. You can choose to turn this side into
a success if you take a fate token. These tokens do several things. They bug you in the campaign and follow you from one scenario to another. No spoilers but there are
some rather nasty things… They are also the game-end counter. Since it’s a coop, there has to be a
way to lose, so we have these tokens. If the stock of tokens runs out, something
bad happens for the players. I know and so do you…
But we’re going to talk about it a little! These profiles are given to players. What’s interesting is that each
player will have a different version of the monsters, which
provides more replay value. I think that must be why you
designed it that way, right? No. At first, the profiles
were similar for the players and we realized that all the
info is written on the profile so it wasn’t a problem to tell players: “You have effect X at the
start of a turn, you have Y, you have something else.”
The info is right there. So, very quickly we figured
it would be fun to iterate a bit and make different profiles. When we tested all that,
we saw that it added replay value and very different decision-making
among players. “Wait. You’re next and you have
that start-of-turn effect.” If it hurts you or makes enemies appear,
you aren’t going to play the same. You have different ways of playing
and scenarios that play out differently. A few minutes ago you mentioned
the campaign system, when you were talking
about fate tokens. Arkeis is a game that is played as
a campaign of several scenarios. Is it something you wanted
to do from the start? Did you work on this “successive
scenario” system first, or more on a dungeon crawler that adapted
itself well to a campaign afterwards? Early on, we wanted to do something
with several scenarios. We focused for a long time
on the demo scenario to show to players at conventions, and our test scenario, the foundation
on which we built our mechanics, and made sure that
everything worked well. From there, and it was something
that was really good, we each took a scenario to
develop to have different experiences. With a story-based game, it’s important
that the scenarios make sense. Having a blurb that said
“This just happened, now now play exactly the same game,”
wasn’t interesting. So, by each taking one at the start, we tried to provide 4 very different game
experiences that we then multiplied. Let’s get back to the characters. In
Arkeis, they aren’t static. They evolve throughout the campaign
via items they find and their experience. Can you explain
the character evolution system? There are several things. First, there’s
the idea of a bit of legacy: What you do in the first game will have
an impact on the second, and so on. Each character has a backpack. It’s a small box. I just saw the
first roughs and they’re really cool. Players use them to store their
equipment between games. So, if I found a rope in scenario 1
and it’s useful again in scenario 3, it’s in my backpack and I can use it. So, little by little, characters will
build and keep their equipment. Obviously, items can break, and things
don’t always go as planned, otherwise it wouldn’t be fun! There’s another system: experience. It’s hard to earn it in the game. It’s a fairly valuable resource that
players have to decide together how to spend and that can unlock
additional skills for characters. There’s a real RPG aspect to it: “I’ve just spent 3 scenarios
out of so much game time exploring a pyramid; it’s logical to have earned XP and know things,
so I’m stronger and stronger.” It also lets us, for the campaign and
how the scenarios unfold, have a crescendo effect where
enemies in the final scenario are more complicated and harder to beat
than the enemies in the 1st scenario. For that to be possible, players need
to have experience themselves. We’re smarter because we’ve already seen
game twists, and know how to play better. Our characters have evolved,
have more equipment and experience, and can beat these enemies more easily. You mentioned the players’
decisions about these items. You can trade them in the game. Let’s get back to cooperation because
cooperation is central to Arkeis. It’s very visible in the characters’
profiles as they have support actions. Can you explain how
cooperation shows up in Arkeis? Of course. There’s the notion of
exploring things, of mystery, of do I want to open this door
or not and when? That creates nice discussion
among players: “Ok, wait. Don’t open the door right away,
we should search or fight enemies first.” That creates real cooperation. Plus, each character has a support
action centered on other players. And that changes how you play. One character fights better,
one is better at searching, etc. All that creates reactions like: “Ok, I’m in this zone, this room,
there are enemies to fight but it’s not my
specialty. You do it.” All these little decisions, plus certain support actions
that focus directly on other players necessarily cause discussion
and reflection around the table. It’s also a game where each
player has specific information: character, equipment,
specific actions, and possibly fighting an enemy with
the profile in front of them. It’s impossible for a player
to see everything and say, “Ok, you
do this, you do that, etc.” There’s too much information. So there’s necessarily a moment
when you have to say: “Watch out for the scarab near me. I’ll get a second on my next turn.
Someone needs to help me.” All these details create
beautiful cooperation because players talk to find
the best way to complete a scenario. They’ll watch their characters evolve,
have adventures, keep stuff in their backpacks, and on their experience sheets. Will these support actions evolve
over the course of the campaign? The other actions – fighting
and exploring – are set. Do support actions evolve in the game? Yes. It’s one action that
is influenced by XP. Fighting, searching and movement are improved more by objects you find. If you’re fighting and find
a gigantic antique machete, of course you fight better. Logical.
But there’s not much in terms of objects that let me be
more altruistic for others. Or it was a bit artificial.
So, we went with experience. “My character heals
others during the campaign. After doing it X number of times,
I heal better, so I’m more badass at the end.” Since you play the same character
for all the rather long campaign with several games, you need to be drawn
to your character, and like them. For that, a good solution is to watch
them evolve throughout the game. If I look at my character in the
first scenario, I wasn’t that hot. I didn’t have weapons;
I struggled to heal others. At the end,
I’ve got great armor and am ultra badass,
great at healing. It’s a great feeling for players. Right, so we’ve seen the evolution
of characters and the whole group. We’ve seen that it’s played as a campaign,
with a save system using backpacks. There is also a legacy aspect
in the game that is fairly important with an expedition logbook that
materializes all those elements. Can you talk about the choices we’ll have
to make, what we do with the logbook? Sure. The logbook came
rather late in development. We started with a dungeon crawler,
wrote our scenarios, and saw that the impact of events from
one scenario to the next was a bit weak. We tell a great story, collect
objects in the backpack. But we found it a bit light with the
playing X scenarios in order aspect. If it’s just to hold a flashlight
between scenario 1 and 2… Well… that’s rather blah. So we wanted something extra,
which ended up being the logbook. It has several uses.
First, it’s a game element itself. During scenarios, you tick
boxes in different ways. There’s some gameplay in the scenarios
checking off boxes in the logbook, which unlocks XP, and
money to improve camp, etc. – I’ll get back to that later – and possibly rarer, magical
objects, neat things. And that’s one of the
aspects that will normally be very different from
one campaign to another. You can rarely check off everything
in the logbook and unlock it all, so maybe later we’ll say: “We’re at scenario 5, did you see the
super-strong three-headed chain saw?!” There isn’t a three-headed chainsaw…
– Bummer. You might say: “Wow,
what a chain saw! I never got one!” And that was deliberate, for us. We wanted scenarios,
games and campaigns to go differently for
different groups of players. The other interest is that it brings
extra narrative content. At the end of each scenario,
there’s a short outro, a different ending depending on
if you did well or very well. With, possibly, gameplay events
based on that as well. There is also interstitial management
of what happens between games. For that there’s camp management,
with a 2-page spread in the logbook that represents our camp when we
aren’t exploring the pyramids. We’ll put stickers of tents
on it that we unlock in the campaign and that unlock
additional powers for the group. Here too we wanted evolution. At the start, camp is a bit shoddy –
3 tents so we can just sleep and eat. At the end of the campaign, it’s a super
camp with tons of great choices. The heroes travel by zeppelin,
so they have a tiny camp at first. They get these new tents with
what they recover as they go along. But how are they going to get them? That’s closely linked to success
or not in scenarios, how things went. We unlock things more or less
quickly, and we can buy them. To buy tents, we have several ways
of getting money during the game: by searching and sometimes finding
things that earn us money, or, with most objects there’s
a choice for players to make: do I keep this super cool item
that looks really good or that does nothing now but might be
useful later in the campaign, or do I sell it to get some money and
improve my camp progressively? Thank you, Théo, for all these
fascinating answers about Arkeis. Before you go, we’ve got a
few bonus questions for you. But it’s up to you to pick them. Please open the chest, and take 2
at random. Your pick. And then answer however you like. Do I close it? That’s up to you, it’s your chest! At least in this video.
We’ll take it back after! This one first. “To explore an ancient pyramid,
what do you want in your backpack?” Good question. What would
I take from Arkeis? You can take 3 objects from Arkeis.
– 3 objects from Arkeis! Spoilers are allowed! No, I don’t like spoilers.
It’d be a shame. Discovering things in the
game is a lot of the fun. Among the objects… We’ve played the campaign
countless times, all 4 of us or in various groups. So, there are a few items
that really stuck with me. When I had them, it was really cool. There’s a great whip
you unlock early. Thinking more about gameplay –
because if I was really in a pyramid, I think I’d be too scared to do anything. There’s a whip that works well,
and beautiful armor that in real life would
be good protection against all the horrible creatures
in Arkeis’s pyramids. And third, I think I’d take
something altruistic, like a med kit or something like that. It could help me, you never know… It should help you. If the others are in trouble,
I’ll have something to save them. A whip, armor and a med kit –
I can go to the ends of the Earth. I think it’s a good start,
but I’d still suggest a canteen, maybe, but there
might not be one in Arkeis, and a light source,
that could be good! Oh, no, everything’s shiny in Arkeis, there’s an odd luminous aura. With your armor, you could
reflect light – good idea! And the 2nd question
that I’ll discover with you. Oh, this is a hard one, the hardest ever! “Which mini do you like best?” It’s going to sound like
flattery but I love the minis in Arkeis.
They’re really superb. As a game author, it’s one of
the things I cling to when asked if I’m happy with my game. I don’t want to brag and
I’m often uncomfortable saying: “In Arkeis, the gameplay is spot-on great,
I’m very happy with it.” That’s often the case,
but it’s hard to say. So, I often fall back on
“The production is marvelous!” With Arkeis, production quality
is fantastic and the minis are really insane. Of course, it’s my first game with this
many minis and such detailed minis. We were kept in the loop, and each time we got a new sketch, 3D model, 3D print
of the minis, all four of us went nuts. If I had to pick just one, I think this golem is one of the ones
that wowed me the most when we got it. In part because it’s huge, massive,
it’s a very, very big mini. And because the creature’s design
is one of the ones we discussed the most. We talked a lot and it’s
one that really set the tone we wanted,
mechanical steampunk, but at the same time was solid. There was lots of discussion,
some back-and-forth too, so when we got it and saw it
was exactly what we wanted, it was a great feeling as authors. Our message and our talks with Romain,
who did all the artistic direction, went well, we’re on the same page
and it’s awesome. So, I’ll pick the golem! It’s one of the first we modeled,
and it set the overall tone for the rest, so it’s good we
agreed rapidly on the golem. Totally. Anyway, thank you again for your time
and very interesting answers. My pleasure! Plus, we’ll be seeing more Arkeis
in the next days and weeks. So, we’ll see and maybe talk again
after the campaign. Why not? That could be good. You don’t see
many post-campaign videos… I’ll put this out there.
We can do something cool, I think. It’d be interesting to have
the before, after, and during. Yes, clearly. What’s nice
about Kickstarter is that people can comment and
share their impressions… We hope they do. And it’s interesting for us to have more
direct feedback. I’m eager for it. I’ll let you have
the final word if you want. You don’t have to,
I just sprung this on you. You can say, “whip” if you want… I’m going to say, “Plethora.”
– Plethora, very good! Thank you again.
See you soon for the next video!

9 thoughts on “Arkeis – Meet Théo Rivière

  1. Super vidéo, bien réalisé, bon fond sonore, des questions intéressantes et des réponses qui donnent envie de voir le matériel et le gameplay ! 🙂

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