Lead Writer Peter Castle and Lead Artist Peter Simpson sat down with the fine folks at Final Round Gaming to talk about Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire. You can read the full interview here.

Tell us the basics of your game world? Where are we?

Peter Castle (Writer):  The game is set in a far-flung future, roughly a thousand years after the collapse of the Astral Empire.  The Empire spanned a large part of the universe and represented the peak of humanity’s technological innovations.

On the planet that our story takes place, civilisation is still reeling from the Empire’s disintegration, and most of the population lives in isolated medieval kingdoms. A huge amount of knowledge has been lost, including the ability to use Empire technology.  Its use required a particular genetic trait that was added artificially. Very few people still have this trait, rendering what remains of the Empire’s technology largely useless and the people who can use it valuable.

Who is Tahira? What is her influence on the story?

Peter Castle (Writer):  Tahira is the very reluctant princess of a small and fairly unimportant kingdom called Avestan, which she runs away from before we pick up her story in the game. She returns home to find Avestan besieged by a mysterious army who are claiming to be descendants of the Astral Empire.  Left without a choice the situation pushes her into a leadership role she doesn’t want, as she attempts to lead and protect what is left of her people.

Read the Full interview here.

Lead Writer on Tahira, Peter Castle, was interviewed by the Academy of Interactive Entertainment about the game. Read the full interview here.

Would you be able to let us know more about your upcoming game?

One of the graduates from my screen class, a friend who studied at the ANU and I started our own independent game studio called Whale Hammer Games. We’re currently working on our first game called Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire.

The elevator pitch would be – It’s a turn-based tactics game for the PC, in which you play as Princess Tahira leading her people across a dying planet.

As you traverse the world, you’re being chased by the enemy who destroyed your kingdom and who seem hell bent on reclaiming the lost technologies of the past.

The world you’re travelling across is set after the fall of an advanced human civilization, so your technology at the time of playing is more in line with medieval weaponry. As you play you’ll find relics of the advanced civilisation all over the place, crashed battleships in the sand, abandoned cities and other things, I want to keep under wraps for now.  It’s been a really interesting challenge to bring that world to life in the art and the writing.

The game draws a lot of gameplay inspiration from games like Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, X-COM and other turn-based tactics games we played when we were kids. One of the things I always thought could be improved was the story and setting. We want people to be emotionally invested in the characters in Tahira and that will hopefully mean they care even more about winning the battles.

When will people be able to get their hands on Tahira?

Internally we’re playtesting at the moment. We are aiming to have the first playable demo available late this year or early 2015.

We have a very big story that draws a lot of inspiration from movies like Nausica of The Valley of the Wind and a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels I read when I was younger. To do justice to the world and the characters we decided to split the game into smaller parts. We’re hesitant to call it episodic at this point because until all the parts are in and fleshed out we’re not sure how long each game will be.  At this stage we’re thinking around 10 hours for each game, with the emphasis being placed on the combat, setting and characters.

It’s been really great to scope the game into these smaller pieces. For example, I’m the one writing the game and it has allowed me to write a very distinct character arc for Tahira (our main character) for part one. When you finish part one you won’t have resolved the whole plot, but you will have experienced a complete narrative arc for Tahira and that’s really exciting to me. It would be much more challenging to have written the game that way if it was just me trying to write this epic 30 hour RPG.

We hit a milestone recently when we finished animating our first character for Tahira. The Claw animations consist of 480 drawn key frames, which took our dedicated artist Peter Simpson a month to do. I’ll be detailing the process in another update at some point in the future, but for now enjoy some rotoscoped 2D animation.

We dressed our friend Matt up as our barbarian character and asked him to act out the different moves we needed. He did a fantastic job, but we had a bit of trouble getting the death animation right, as you can see in the video below. But on the upside, I was given the perfect footage to score with some of the beautiful and frantic music from Amelie.

Watch on for hilarity.

Welcome to 2014 everyone! We’re back in the office and working hard. To start the year off we’ve got a new animation for you.

Watch Peter C hamming it up for one the Claw’s death animations.