In just a few months, we at Zen Studios will release Operencia: The Stolen Sun – nothing less than the single biggest production in our 16-year history. If your first thought upon reading that title is, “I wonder what kind of a pinball table that is?” I don’t blame you – after all, Zen has had an amazing relationship with Xbox players for more than a decade, continually releasing world-class digital pinball tables through the Pinball FX series (picked up any Williams tables yet?…).
Much of Pinball FX’s success stems from modernizing a classic gaming concept that we just don’t see much of any more, adapting it to appeal to gamers of today – and Operencia does that exact same thing. Except this time, rather than making you look at flippers and bumpers in a whole new way, we’re updating the classic first-person party-based dungeon-crawling RPG to a very 2019 gaming experience.
“Blobbers” like Operencia are perhaps most commonly thought of as PC releases, but we’ve recognized the importance of making this very specific style of RPG equally rewarding to console players – very specifically, Xbox One players – from the very start. That’s right…Xbox One is the only console where you’ll be able to play Operencia once the game releases this Spring. Better yet, it’s enhanced for Xbox One X – and yes, those of you with Xbox Game Pass can check it out in its entirety from day one.
I think my colleague Olivér Sándor put it best when summarizing why we decided to create Operencia: “We wanted to make something that we want to play.” Much of our development team grew up on classic RPG series like Wizardry, The Bard’s Tale, and Eye of the Beholder – and we’re just not seeing many games like those these days, especially on console. So not only would creating a CRPG for Xbox One be something we want to play – it would also fill a void. We know there are millions of others like us out there…and if you’ve read this far, there’s a very good chance you’re already one of them or you’re completely open to it.
It’s very important to us that you feel at home with Operencia, whether you conquered the proving grounds of the Mad Overlord back in 1981 or you didn’t even know that RPGs could be made in a tile-based, first-person fashion with turn-based combat. If you’re really hardcore, you can turn on the permadeath and turn off the automapping (you’ve got some spare graph paper lying around, right?). Or wuss out like me (i.e., a sane person), and enable autosaves and the onscreen minimap as you traverse everything from traditional tombs and dungeons to enchanted woods, a burned-down village, and the god of war’s own personal forest made of copper.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include something about my own personal focus – that being story, characters, and lore. When I joined the project about a year ago, I was fascinated by the team’s idea to delve deeply into Central European folklore – the name “Operencia” literally comes from a fictional faraway land referenced in countless centuries-old tales – and even to incorporate legendary versions of historical locations and figures. (You may not know places like the fortresses of Deva and Balvanyos off the top of your head – but I’m guessing the name Attila rings a bell.)
As an American, much of this – okay, almost all of this – was completely new to me, and researching the tales and characters to include in the game was one of the most enjoyable parts of my time in the games industry. Bringing all this Central European folklore and mythology together into one cohesive universe “where history meets legend” – something I don’t believe has ever been done before with this material – was even more fun.
The Operencia team did an amazing job designing characters and the world (you’ve gotta see those parallax cutscenes!), and I think the way we’ve brought them to life further speaks to our goal of modernizing this style of game. While there is an overarching story uniting all 13 maps, a number of unique smaller stories and character relationships shape the game throughout.
If you can’t tell, I’m very pleased with how it’s all turning out. I think I speak for the entire team when I say how truly thankful we are to Xbox for including us in the Xbox Game Pass program – we’re super proud of this game, and we want as many people as possible to play it. We can’t wait to hear what you think about it in just a few months.