Gakumerasara interviewed The Brotherhood about their game Final Fantasy: The Hunting Grounds quite some time ago, it's been years since this interview and I'm sure that the game has seen massive updates. I know very little about the actual game, but I'm sure it's about time I get Gakumerasara to put his writers cap back on to give them another round.

BYOND Fantasy Gazette Exclusive: Interview with The Brotherhood (FF:THG)
Moments ago, I sat down with members of The Brotherhood for an interview about Final Fantasy: The Hunting Grounds. During the process, I received a crash course in all things relating to Darlow, the world of FF:THG. We discussed the history and development of the game, as well as specific aspects of both the current version and the major upcoming update, version 8.

Note: Minor changes have been made to this transcript. Small typos and grammatical errors have been corrected in many (but not necessarily all) cases. Some messages have been reordered for the sake of continuity, and others have been removed where unnecessary. No content was added.

Gakumerasara: Hello, and welcome. This is Gakumerasara of BYOND Fantasy, here with several members of The Brotherhood, the development team behind Final Fantasy: The Hunting Grounds (THG). Thank you all for agreeing to meet with me this afternoon. Before we move on, could you each please give me a brief summary of your individual roles within The Brotherhood?
Mahn: My primary job is hosting the 24/7 server. Secondary job I guess, is the forums.
Rand: My primary job is balancing the game in terms of stats, as well as creating new formulas for things or editing that which already exists if the need arises. I also server monitor in the game itself, as do the rest of us.
Kija: My main role is programming, but I also jump around between other things, such as graphics, design, maps, and other.
Tral: I've been working on creating new and original music for the game.
Gakumerasara: There is one other member who hasn't shown up yet?
Mahn: Two.
Kija: There is Kain, who is currently working on the new area. And Constantine, who is currently working on graphics for the new area.

Gakumerasara: It seems you have one person for each major aspect of game production. Have you run into any problems because of this?
Rand: To be honest, there are areas that many of us tend to blend into somewhat, and if anyone DOES have a problem, none of us are hesitant to attempt to help. It's why we're a team, after all.
Kija: It can sometimes be difficult to get the work done fast enough. It has taken a lot longer than I would hope. But, even though there is one person for each area, we still work together in each area to help pull through.
Mahn: What they said. 0.o

Gakumerasara: Managing a team of this size must be daunting. Does everyone have equal say or is someone actually in charge of The Brotherhood?
Kija: Everyone has an equal say. We are a team and work together in most things. But, our visions are very similar, so we rarely come into any major problems because of it.
Rand: We decide anything big on a vote. And, we do mostly think very similarly on matters.
Mahn: People have many opinions on how it is managed. Everyone has equal say. Discussions, debating, and voting help play into that role.

Gakumerasara: - a democratic system, quite unusual in game development, yet seems very effective in this case. Now before we get too far into this, there's one question I've been wondering for quite a while: The Hunting Grounds... Exactly who's hunting whom?
Kija: The creatures are hunting you. You are an investigator investigating why they have appeared.
Rand: And the extent of the damage done to the world and its people's nations.
Gakumerasara: That's an interesting twist. Could you briefly summarize the plot for our readers?
Rand: Basically, you begin your investigations in the Country of Dainan. Once you outfit yourself for the journey, you set off to discover what you can in your travels of the outlying areas, and later on the rest of the world. You also meet other investigators in your travels.
Rand: There are many odd, unexpected an overtaken cathedral that holds a dark power. Once you are able to enter the area, it is up to you to find out why it was sealed off from you, and what awaits inside.

Gakumerasara: I read something about a "Nexus". Is this related to the cathedral somehow?
Kija: In parts of the world, there are areas called the Hunting Grounds. They are unsure how they came to be, but many creatures inside of them have become twisted and evil. The once loving beings now gather to kill you. It is a dangerous place, and you must find out what is causing it. Nexus is the being people worship as their god.
Rand: a being which came to the planet of Darlow long before the storyline of the game takes place. He is somewhat the catalyst for the population's advancing evolution, and the entrance of magic. He eventually even links with the land itself, and is revered as a god amongst the mortal folk.
Gakumerasara: So is Nexus responsible for the monster attacks?
Kija: I would like to leave that for the players to discover for themselves.

Gakumerasara: Ah, fair enough. I'd also like to know, what is Skure?
Kija: Skure, now called Skyre is one of the continents of Darlow.
Gakumerasara: Wasn't there a role-play only THG2/Skure planned at some point? What happened to the project?
Rand: The main developer had to put it on hold for a time due to personal reasons.
Kija: Yes, there was. It took place in the future, after the age of the Hunting Grounds. It is put on hold right now and has changed several times.
Gakumerasara: There are plans to revive the project at some point?
Mahn: I wouldn't see why not.
Kija: I hope so. It had a lot of neat ideas and helped continue the story line.
Rand: No one can say what the future may bring...but I'd not discount the possibility.

Gakumerasara: Going back to THG's beginnings: If I'm not mistaken, THG started as a project under Dagolar. What was it like during the early years of development?
Kija: None of us were part of the Brotherhood then. But, from when we did start, it was a bit different. It was still only version four, with no abilities for the classes and plenty of bugs to fix. But, after the majority of the other Brotherhood had quit then, we started up and helped finish it. It was a big step in the game, and I am glad it was finally done.
Mahn: Well, it is quite different than it is now. Especially, in terms of design.

Gakumerasara: What happened to the original Brotherhood, and what has changed in terms of design?
Kija: They quit for whatever reasons they had. Some has disagreements with the direction of the game, and with others, their lives were too greatly affected. A lot of the original members went to college.
Mahn: A small example of a change in designs, is the battle system is new and improved for the turn based battles. Monsters now have spells and skills. Investigators can now use skills, not valid in the previous versions before Version 5 and area spells.

Gakumerasara: Did the story evolve with the game, or was it planned out from the beginning?
Kija: The story was written long before the BYOND version was ever thought up.
Gakumerasara: Who was responsible for the story, then?
Mahn: Dagolar himself is writing a novel on it.
Kija: There have been changes along the way though. But the main part of the story is still the same.

Gakumerasara: What prompted the recent Hub-swap? It's now listed under The Brotherhood. Was this simply for convenience?
Mahn: We can now freely edit the hub for various changes we need without having to wait when Dagolar is online and not busy to edit the hub.

Gakumerasara: Getting back to the game itself, what would you say are THG's defining characteristics? What sets it apart from other games on BYOND?
Rand: Largely the community, I would say, as well as the fine-tuning of our coders. Everything is tested by and large before being added to the game server.
Kija: The battles are also much different, and are also evolving even more. For instance, the new bosses battles. I have been really happy with them.
Rand: Yes. You are now required to use your brain as well as your brawn to come out alive. Many [other] games are simply "hack the beastie until you get its treasure hoard".
Kija: The world itself is also something I really like. Many others games I have seen have no storyline. But, this one is really interesting, and with the new versions, is becoming [an] even greater part of the world, as we make it more alive [with] more interaction.

Gakumerasara: I've noticed when playing THG in the past that there were a ton of NPCs scattered around, most of which couldn't be interacted with. Is this still the case, and did new players often find this confusing? And what was the reasoning behind the extra NPCs?
Kija: Most of them still do not talk, but we will be changing that. They are there currently just for atmosphere.
Rand: The NPCs are not extras. Players DID find this confusing occasionally, but most took it in stride. However, NPCs will soon be fixed up with text of their own to add to the game's flavour and experience.
Rand: There may also be a few little surprises in store for day-to-day goings...
Gakumerasara: Day-to-day goings?
Rand: Yes. Such as when you need to travel into town for whatever reason.

Gakumerasara: What can you tell us about the custom music? What is your inspiration, or what are you trying to emulate?
Tral: I've always like music from the old RPGs and such. The music from Crystal Chronicles left an impression.

Gakumerasara: For the benefit of those who have never played THG before, what is the most common problem players encounter when joining for the first time?
Mahn: "How do I talk to NPCs?" and "Where are the battles?"
Kija: The biggest problem we have right now is that it can be very hard to play by yourself. If you are not in a party, you will probably die a lot if you are new to the game. This is something that will be changing in the new version and is probably one the biggest turn offs.
Rand: The most common problem I've noticed is that they do not bother to attempt learning the controls and just ask people in-game. There are text bubbles which pop up whenever you create a new character to tell you of the game, and what you do to navigate the world.
Kija: Actually, they are no longer text bubbles. That was changed a long time ago. It is just text now, so they can even scroll up.
Kija: I do want to get a better instructions guide eventually though, so new players who do want information will be able to find it easier. We do have an online guide, but it is just a scroll text. There is also the instructions command, but that is just as bad in some aspects.
Gakumerasara: So, note to new players: Read the instructions and join a party if possible.
Kija: Yes, that is good advice.

Gakumerasara: I read over the website briefly and had some questions for you about various topics and issues:

Gakumerasara: "Some monsters have the ability to eat their target." This really stuck out to me. Care to explain?
Rand: Sure. Some large monsters have the ability to swallow you whole in battle.
Kija: Some large creatures can eat you. The new version of eat is much less annoying though. In the original version, it killed you, and you had a small chance to be recovered that lessened over time.
Rand: You gradually lose Hit Points until you die. However, you have a chance to make the monster spit you out, or it can be killed while you are alive and you are recovered.
Kija: When eaten, you can always be recovered and do not die. Once eaten, each round the creature will digest you. This digestion causes you damage as the creature gains it. If you are dead inside the creature for four rounds, you are considered to be completely digested and cannot be recovered. Within the creature, there are three options: Attack, irritate, resist. When using attack, you will do damage of one weak hit. Irritate allows you to irritate the creature to vomit you up. There is a base chance of irritate to be successful; however, if your level is higher than the creatures, the difference increases the chance. This difference does not work for the creature's if his level is higher than yours. If you resist the creature, the damage done from digestion is reduced.
Mahn: You can now resist his digestion system, irritate to get thrown back up, even attack from inside.

Gakumerasara: THG has a monster called a "Vampire Zombie". How does that work, exactly? Does (undead X undead) = living?
Kija: No. It just means that a zombified creature was turned into a vampire. In that area, the people there would mummify their dead.
Gakumerasara: By "that area" I assume you mean in terms of race and culture. THG features four different races (Daines, Hassites, Anarans, and Lireans). Are players able to create characters of different races?
Kija: Yes, there are four kingdoms, all of which are selectable [for characters].
Gakumerasara: How can one distinguish characters of the different races from each other?
Kija: Each one has their own culture, appearance, and location in the world. But you always start in Dainan.
Gakumerasara: Do characters of different races progress differently or have different experiences?
Kija: No. The primary difference is the colour of their clothes. It is just for looks and for people who like to roleplay.
Rand: Those are actually different nationalities rather than races, per se. Everyone has the same progression level.
Gakumerasara: Ah, I see. Is there any relationship between the Daines nationality of THG and Danes of Denmark?
Rand: Hahaha....not particularly, if memory serves.

Gakumerasara: THG has some bosses with interesting names. In terms of a Super Smash Brothers-esque brawl, with all other things being equal, who would win in a fight between the bosses: Vallatio, Kaug, Magora, Grygasz, and Geyzer?
Rand: It is hard to say. They each have their own merits.
Kija: Magora is the strongest being. She is quite evil and powerful.
Gakumerasara: Who would you choose as your own character and why?
Rand: Vallatio. His power stems not only from his physical ability, but from his cunning slyness, and his very decent grasp of magic. As for attacks, I cannot rightly say what he would be capable of in such a situation.
Mahn: I would choose Kaug as he is formidable foe. His rage is his superior form of damage. Brute strength, if you will.
Kija: Yes, Vallatio is my favourite as well. He is smart, powerful, and can drain the blood of anyone of who dares to face him. I am also a fan of magic, which Vallatio is a master of.
Tral: I like Geyzer. He’s tough and has the greatness of the cold, the ice..

Gakumerasara: a frigid adversary. Looking over the classes + descriptions at What is your favorite class + build?
Kija: I am big fan of magic. Primarly destruction magic. The blackmage is my favourite class, with pure willpower for that extra power boost.
Mahn: My Favorite class is the Fighter. He can dish out a massive amount of damage an can endure quite alot of pain. As for the build, I haven't told anyone it.
Rand: Technically, I enjoy all of the classes, due to their various uses in battle and their contribution abilities. However, I am mostly using a Redmage. I utilize a build of Willpower and Agility.
Tral: I prefer the thief.

Gakumerasara: Which builds do you recommend and which would you advise against for beginners?
Mahn: I would recommend any of the builds on the website. They are good, "generic" builds.
Kija: Any build can work well. It mostly depends on how you want to play.
Rand: I wouldn't particularly advise against any build. Any build at all can have benefits in one form or another, and it is for a player to customize their character and their fighting ability.
Gakumerasara: So new players would do well to read over and decide on a build beforehand.
Kija: It is not necessary, but it can help to plan ahead.
Rand: They can, but they're more than welcome to try things out and see what they like, of course.
Mahn: or, just wing it.
Gakumerasara: I also noticed that for builds, you have "Melee Ranger". Keeping with the build-naming convention for other classes, shouldn't that be "Power Ranger"?
Mahn: Well, PR is known for his

Gakumerasara: Now, I read something that concerns me slightly… "Defonce" the Knight skill... According to my sometimes-reliable source, Babblefish, that means "drug abuse" in French. Is this an attempt by a member of the Brotherhood to reach out in some way? Is an intervention in order? =P
Rand: Gakumerasara...people act strange daily. Zoning out is what we do with each other.
Mahn: Can we really say, if they were, it was our fault? Not really.
Mahn: Tral seems to zone out 24/7, though..
Mahn: :P
Rand: This is true. Heh heh.

Gakumerasara: What's the current development status of THG? Are you presently working on another major update?
Rand: Yes, we are.
Kija: Version eight is a very big update.
Mahn: Very big, indeed.
Kija: Version five was big, and this is even bigger.

Gakumerasara: What can players expect to see in version 8?
Rand: to not give out spoilers...haha!
Gakumerasara: That was my next question actually. =P
Kija: The biggest changes are the new level system and new area.
Gakumerasara: How will leveling change, and what does the new area involve?
Rand: Leveling itself won't be very different. It will be how you develop your character in the leveling that will be so very different.
Kija: The new level system will incorporate more choice for the classes. A character of the same class can be even more different and have different styles. It will also have changes to make other abilities more useful. Such as right now, status spells are mostly useless. The abilities will also be centered around more team work, where players will be able to help setup attacks for each other and help encourage working together rather than just being together.

Gakumerasara: That should make the game even more enjoyable. What about the new map?
Kija: The new area is much different than the other areas. It is the first step in many things. It includes original graphics, for the area, creatures, and other. We also want to make the area more explorable. Right now, most of the areas are very linear, and there are no good reasons to explore. With this new area, we want to change that. There will be more interaction and things to discover as an investigator.

Gakumerasara: Are there plans to change any of the existing areas?
Mahn: Most definantly.
Kija: Yes. The entire game will eventually be replaced with original graphics and redone maps.
Gakumerasara: That's quite an undertaking; THG has a huge map.
Rand: It will be a very long and arduous process. But anything worthwhile is.
Kija: Yes, it is a very big change, but I want it to happen. It needs to happen. The world will be much more enjoyable, and you will feel much more like an investigator. Right now, it is mostly just a grind. But with the changes, it will not be.

Gakumerasara: Are there any spoilers or teasers you'd like to share?
Kija: Well, there are some preview images of some of the new creatures found here
Kija: We will also be making another update post about the level system details in the future.

Gakumerasara: Excellent. Is there anything else you'd like to share with the readers at BYOND Fantasy?
Mahn: I'd like to mention one thing to anybody. Whatever you wish to do as a job or a hobby, never give it up. Alot of people have big dreams of becoming astronauts, game creators, publishers and whatever else. Don't give it up. :P Anything is possible.
Rand: Not that I can think of. Though I'll love to answer any questions a reader may have personally :)
Kija: Well, I can go over a bit about interaction. In version eight, it is the first step in this interaction. The example given was item interaction, using Dainaria as a location. In Dainaria, you may find a journal describing the life a person there, and the eventual fleeing and destruction of the town. Beyond just the areas, we want to expand this to other parts of the world. For instance, we want libraries to have books too. This interaction will not [only] be for books though. As the world expands and the new area comes together, you as investigator will be able to discover new things, discovering the past, the present, and the hopeful future. We want the culture of the world to come more alive, and people to feel a part of it.

Gakumerasara: All right; it's been a pleasure. Thank you for your time, and please keep us informed of any updates on the BYOND Fantasy forums. I'm looking forward to doing this again when you start on version 9. =)
Kija: Thank you for your time as well. It has been fun and hopefully people will be able to learn more about the game and its future.
They make the game sound interesting, but for the past few years... I've attempted to try it off and on. It just doesn't interest me at all, and I don't know why. It's designed well, but perhaps they need to get rid of all those verbs and such.
I don't think it's designed well at all. It looks absolutely hideous to me. I dunno, I could never really get into the game. Regardless, it's great to get this stuff on BYOND RPG. I love the recent spike in activity.
The game itself is absolutely hideous, and horribly re-sizes the graphics improperly. It also bit mixes, it still uses BYOND prompt interfaces, there's not much to do in the actual game aside from grind. It's boring.