Amanda Fitch is an important figure on the Casual RPG Games scene. Her Aveyond series has reached popular heights thanks to the balance of enthralling storylines, ease of play and endless entertainment. Mel and Edward are now returning in a new instalment: Aveyond 3: The Lost Orb for another adventure that may change the face of Aveyond forever! Amaranth Games, Amanda’s company, is also releasing A Gypsy’s Tale in March 2010. With two great games about to be unleashed we caught up with Amanda on her dreams, hopes and taking over the world!
Cat On The Wall: What’s the story behind the company’s name, Amaranth? How did you come up with the logo?
Amanda Fitch: In Greek, Amaranth represents a flower that does not wither. I figured it would be a good luck charm to name the company after an object that is sure to be around for a long, long, time.
COTW: When you started designing games, did you ever think it’d take off like it did? Did you have a business plan in mind or did everything happen to fall into place in a sort of snowball effect?
AF: I’d hoped, but no, I hadn’t expected it to take off. I’m insanely happy that it did. My life is so much different than it was four years ago, and it’s wonderful to have a job with a purpose that I enjoy. At the beginning, I didn’t have a business plan, but as the years have gone by and I’ve begun to hire folks to help me, the business plan has become a necessary yearly task to keep everyone on the same page.
AF: I hope so. I don’t think I’ve opened a new path, but I am attempting to widen an existing path that I found thorugh my inspiration, Roberta Williams.
COTW: Where do you draw your inspiration for storylines and characters, their backgrounds and their evolution (especially in Aveyond 3)? There are a lot of thoughts behind the dialogues, the cut screens, much more than a lot of RPG games out there. Having played a lot of RPG, I must say that Aveyond has spoilt me and I cannot stand for lesser quality stories even when the graphics look superb. Do you think having a degree in English has helped you write stories for games?
AF: I pretend I’m writing a novel. I first focus on an interesting place for my protagonist to start (quaint peaceful village) and then I decide how I want the protagonist to end up (firey demon dungeon). Then I draw up some polarizing figures and force them to work together. The whole process does not happen in one sweep. I usually write a quick outline and start filling things in here and there. As I fill things in, things start to click together into a complex picture.
The English degree helped, but it was my training as a technical writer that helped me the most. After completing dozens of software manuals, I’ve learned to structure and write books quickly.
COTW: You’ve mentioned before that you were thinking of moving to “books” type games, where the story would evolve in different chapters. Was this spurt on by Aveyond 3, which is split in two parts, called Book 1 Lord of Twilight and Book 2 Gates of Night, with Book 3 The Lost Orb soon to be released?
AF: The chapter idea has been on the back burner for a long time, but two things made me decide to persue it:
1) Even though Aveyond 3 was finished, there was room for a much larger, more exciting adventure.
2) 2009 was a VERY scary year for Amaranthia. Prices for casual games were plumeting all over the Internet. Our games were around 20-30 hours long while the most popular casual games were around 5 hours long. My production time was way out of scale with the rest of my industry. I had to change my strategy to keep Amaranth Games afloat.
COTW: How do you find and choose the artists who create the artwork seen of the first menu screen? Do you give them a brief of the story or do you specify a particular scene/atmosphere you want them to create?
AF: I write up a story around the scene. For example, for Aveyond: Lord of Twilight, I wrote something like this for Greg:
“It’s twilight and the sky is filled with stars. A menacing harvest moon hangs low. A vampress and her warlock stand on a cliff, peering across a valley at a dark castle in the distance. The castle is their final destination. They fear what they will find, but they have no choice, destiny has brought them here. Though they may die the final death, they must face the monster that awaits.”
Then I sent Greg some details about the characters. Te’ijal: tall, slender, elegant, dangerous, wicked grin, fangs. Spiky red hair with a silver streak, a magical bow on her back. Galahad: strong, solemn, stone, dirty blonde hair, scars from long fights, deadly grace, a sword in hand.
COTW: The music is an important part of the game, it sets the mood for each area, be it a village or city, battle scenes or cut scenes. It can enchant and terrorise, bringing the player straight into the action that takes place at the time. How did you come across Walz Music and how does your business relationship work?
AF: Aaron had a popular midi site on the Internet. We both love Final Fantasy and he recreated a midi-version of the early Final Fantasy songs. He had some custom midis and I loved them. I thought they were just as good as the Final Fantasy songs. I asked him to produce some music for me, he said yes, and the rest was history! I contact Aaron each time I finish the design document for a game. I give him a list of areas that need music. Like the cover art, I try to create an environment for Aaron to envision.
COTW: As well as creating and marketing your own games, you also offer indie games through your website. Some have become quite popular and have been picked up by other retailers such as BigFish and PlayFirst. This is an incredible thing to do to go out and discover those games and make them available to a wide community. What made you move in that direction?
AF: I LOVE watching talented people find their calling and flourish. I supose I’m a bit of a voyer, but it’s such a thrill for me to be part of the process. Like American Idol, it’s fun to watch unknown, talented individuals rise to become stars.
COTW: Your staff team seems to be growing by the minute! How do you see Amaranth Games expand? Are you planning on taking over the world?
AF: Ha ha ha! When I started, I thought I wanted to take over the world. Now, I just want to grow a nice apple tree, sit under it, watch the apples grow, feed the squirrels, and read. On a serious note, yes, I am slowly expanding Amaranth Games. There’s too much work for one person!
COTW: Finally a couple of games will be released this year: Aveyond 3: The Lost Orb and A Gypsy’s Tale. Can you tell us a little about them without divulging secrets? Pleeease!
The Lost Orb is the third book in the Orbs of Magic series. In this book, Mel discovers that the most dangerous orb, the Orb of Death exists, and that dark forces want it desperately. The Darkthrop Prophecy begins to unfold, and at the end of the book, Mel’s life takes a shocking turn in a new direction. She is not happy about this, put I think players are going to be excited!
Gypsy’s Tale is an adventure/HOG that takes place in a remote, magical kingdom. Reylin, a curse-breaker, comes to the kingdom to unravel a web of dark magic. Her quest takes her into a dark forest filled with strange creatures, and finally to a tower shroud in secrets. There is a twist in this game. Some secrets should never be revealed.
Interview by CB Lux