Original Interview given at www.obskures.de
Translation: Andreas Mecker
Degenesis: Rebirth Edition – Interview with Marko Djurdjevic
Almost one month ago, Degenesis: Rebirth Edition was released more or less surprisingly.
SIXMOREVODKA hereby launches a comprehensive overhaul of their well known post-apocalyptic RPG from 2004, which had been released by Sighpress at that time.
Fans of the original version quickly discovered that hardly one stone had remained unturned.
Over a total of 700 pages within two hardcover-books delivered in a slipcase are waiting to be discovered.
The first book, Primal Punk, portraits the detailed world of Degenesis whereas the second book
-Katharsys- comes along with a completely renewed set of rules including a start-up adventure.
The following interview with Marko Djurdjevic grants a glimpse behind the scenes of one of the most ambitious German RPG-Outputs this year.
French, Spanish and of course English translations of the new Degenesis: Rebirth Edition are already in the making.
Additionally, the announced comic-adaptation gives a slight hint of the potentials behind the considerable creation of Christian Günther and Marko Djurdjevic.
Despite a tight schedule in the middle of the release, Designer Marko Djurdjevic shared some of his time to answer some (very well) critical questions.
On the 10th of October 2014, Degenesis: Rebirth Edition was released in German language. What is this roleplaying-game about basically? Was does Primal Punk mean?
Primal Punk- in one term- summarizes, how we understand the evolution of a world and its inhabitants after the collapse of their civilization, when primal ferocity replaces mindful planning and the strongest claims the throne.
The age of reason and political correctness is over, violence becomes a viable option again. Humans are like a scattered bunch of dogs, blending together into new packs, choosing their Alphas and fight for shelter and prey.
Primal Punk is kind of a red line for us, which we followed creating the post-apocalyptic scenario of Degenesis. On first sight this point of view seems negative, the resulting world being chaotic and cruel. And that’s right in some places. But in fact, the whole spectrum of human emotions, not only the negative ones, becomes apparent: ideologies are being defended passionately, great pain is being met with great courage.
The atmosphere of Degenesis is dominated by the Cults.
Cults are groups that extend across cultures either wielding great influence on an economic, military or religious basis.
As a Player you follow the ideologies of one of those cults. What all cults have in common is their intention to lead humanity towards greater deeds and to make the world a little better. Every cult claims the right to this heritage on its very own way. Different ideologies or ways of life then become obstacles.
But then, the environmental dangers in the world of Degenesis have grown so strong – Psychonauts, Sleepers, Sporefields, the rise of the Clans – that the cults cannot conduct conflicts among themselves anymore but have to cooperate to throw back those dangers.
Clans diverge from Cults as they only wield very regional influence, where they can still become serious threats and problems.
Players can also choose Clanners and take the role of a Clan. The Clans have been pushed towards the outskirts of society for centuries. They have been denied artifacts and culture, were chased away from their holy places or had to subordinate to the Cults. But that is now over! Everywhere in the Wastelands a wind of change is rising and the Clans suddenly become a threat because they intend to reclaim what once was theirs.
While playing in a group, players are encouraged to take part in the world´s evolution, do extraordinary deeds for their Cult or Clan and to push forward the vision of a better life against all odds.
The big question in Degenesis is if man has what it takes to bring back that civilization that he has lost five centuries ago and if it is all worth it in the face of such enemies or if egoism, recklessness and the will for power show their ugly faces over and over again, destroying all hope for better times.
All that is being spiced through reduction of resources, a hostile environment and the overpowering enemy, Homo Degenesis, who seeks to tear Homo Sapiens from his throne.
It was pretty silent around Degenesis for a long time. To be honest, the announcement of the new edition really came by surprise, especially as the release lies very short ahead and the already shown materials (trailer, artworks) are pretty impressive. On top of that, there must be some changes in comparison to the old material. Foremost the old set of rules in the game was viewed upon quite critically.
So, what are the most essential features of this new edition concerning the background-world and the rules-system Katharsys? What is to be considered in terms of downgrade-compatibility?
We have spent two whole years with the Rebirth Edition. Our goal was to maintain absolute silence and to present the product to the public only when it would be fully done. We originally had estimated a lot less time but we came to the conclusion very quickly that we needed a lot more time at the backend to get it done just the way we wanted.
Immersion and quality of the product where of utmost importance to us. Another main goal of the redesigning process was the complete overhaul of the game rules to improve the playing experience.
We decided to do the redesigning in full isolation of the public because we didn´t want to let the RPG-scene have tranquilizing effects on us. It needs focus and tight collaboration to realize such an ambitious project. External influences can have a negative effect quite easily because they tend to distort your visions.
As an example, we had already shot and produced the trailer a whole year before publication, simply because we wanted to make everyone on the team give his best but also to point the direction where we wanted this all to go.
Not only to tell a story via one single medium but to incorporate all media to introduce the trademark as diverse as possible.
So the essential features of that new edition are a complete overhaul of the background which now takes place ten years after the original edition. We intended to downgrade the intensity of conflicts between the Cults (which we never saw as intense as some of our fans did) and to further advance the background-story of Degenesis. Chris and me have been working on this material for years and we have created a load of loose ends that we were never able to link together in the past.
With the Rebirth Edition we now press on. You could say that we had kind of a “Unfinished Business”-feeling towards the product, something that haunted us as we didn´t have the possibility to bring it to an end.
How long have you been working on Degenesis: Rebirth Edition respectively how did the process of creation come to be?
As mentioned above, about two years. Everything started when my employees in the studio persuaded me to run a RPG-campaign in April 2012. After some discussions about what game to play, somebody asked: “Why don’t we try your old game, Degenesis? You might know your way around with that best, do you?”
The campaign was a huge success and my employees, all but awesome illustrators, started drawing their characters or developing scenes and landscapes for that setting to catch certain moments in the game they considered special.
Shortly after one of my employees stumbled across that website, www.fraktal-endzeit.com, and we were in absolute awe about our LARP-community that had grown in the background over the years and kept the spirit of the game alive. So I hastily called Chris and asked him to do a complete reboot and overhaul of that whole Degenesis with me. Chris then told me that he was working on new rules-mechanisms anyway and we could as well use them for the relaunch.
Initially there were only plans for a new edition with minor editing and complete new illustrations. But when Chris and me come together on a new project it usually culminates into quality-marathons.
It also became clear to us soon that we needed Malik onboard again, he who sits right in the between of us two like Buddha to keep our ambitions clear and sometimes to shave our heads.
The principal work started in August 2012, reviewing stuff, sorting it out, discussing it, rethinking and replacing it. For four months into January 2013 we pretty much turned every stone in the world of Degenesis upside down, reviewing it from a ten years distance. Which Cults went badly in the first edition, where did we need stronger concepts for certain cultures, how could we link the background together in a better way. With the complete overhaul finally done, we started rewriting the contents and visual redesign was initiated. And now, 20 months of pure work are available as bookblock!
What is a typical Degenesis-campaign about? What are the characteristic enemies and conflicts the player has to face?
This question is almost impossible to answer in just a few lines minding the depth and width of this setting.
Wherever man appears there is trouble, even five centuries after a global disaster.
Conflicts arise from different points of view, ways of life, humiliations – and the player is always in the thick of it. In a typical campaign you do best to make the different members of the group ambassadors of their certain Cults, to make them face dangers for their Cults together. The genre can differ enormously depending on the culture the campaign takes place in.
Borca is the best place for political intrigues, fighting back Clans on the rise or Cult-based campaigns.
Pollen is more a place of horror – Biokinetics, twisted woods, an uncontainable wall of spores, they all evoke atmosphere. Franka with its swamps and unapproachable terrain is all about resistance against the Pheromancers but also about securing passageways, guarding caravans and merchants to ensure the flow of goods towards Borca.
Hybrispania is a psycho-thriller-warzone with absurd time-aberrations going on, a place where past, present and future collide and interweave.
Balkhan gives us an untamable place, where local rulers come and go just as the seasons do and where secrets centuries old lie buried beneath the ground.
Purgare is all religious insanity, zealots and fanatics, but also Psychokinetics that devastate the lands with their plagues, an apocalyptic crusade taking place in a mystery-setting basically.
When it comes to Africa then, things look a little different. There is trade, the world is being split into pieces, expeditions are being set out and every corner of the world is being explored. But at the same time, strange plants slowly seep into the consciousness of that whole culture to influence its course of action.
What do you like best on the new Degenesis: Rebirth Edition?
The final product itself. There has been such love and effort put into every detail. We treated every part of the product equally, giving meaning and importance to every aspect. There is virtually no other RPG-product, where illustration, graphics design, layout and written text do correspond on such a high level . You can see a lot of RPGs where illustration comes seconds at best, not to mention typography. Seldom does the art-director take care of illustrations and design as well as development of the world itself at the same time.
Chris and me work on every single part together and we do not hold back with feedback towards one another. We try to see as much ideas as possible from two perspectives, be it the written or the visual side. Things being described must also work visually and in return, design has to harmonize with the written parts because otherwise there will only be a haywire of concepts.
According to that there must be a visual and narrative line that has to be followed, a line that opens up to the reader after a while and that he can fall back to when going through the books looking for inspiration.
One essential trademark of Degenesis has always been the spirit of community. The rules were available as a free download and there was great activity in the Degenesis-forum. What can we expect on this side?
We take great efforts to reanimate our forum and, as developers, always present a helping hand. We hope to see the forum coming to live again as back in the good days. But release is now 20 days past, so there is still some way to go until we can say the community has grown active again. We are happy about every single new fan and we try to answer the most important questions at least once a day.
You are right, there was this free PDF-download back then, but we won´t have it this way again. This is simply because we came to the conclusion that something, that is free, has no actual value for its owner. Yes, we heard it quite often like: “I could download the PDF for free back then and everyone who had the PDF also bought the books”. But as a matter of fact, that´s not true. We had about 40.000 downloads of the old core-rulebook but had only sold about 3.000 printed. The discrepancy between those who want to grab something for free and those who are willing to pay real money is so big that we just can´t come up with this again. Even more, I would judge this as scam towards those fans that paid real money for the books to support the project while others could simply get it all for free. To be honest, that´s not my interpretation of fairness.
What are your further plans for the Degenesis: Rebirth Edition? Will there be additional gaming materials (adventures, rules, supplements)? What about an English version or even projects that add up to already existing material?
We are already working on follow-ups for the RPG. Yesterday, we announced Degenesis: Black Atlantic via our newsletter. We have a two-year-agenda set and we know, what we want to do: products on the highest level possible. We will not release one-shots or irrelevant books with no actual use. The Degenesis –trademark is made for different media at the same time. Not all following products will automatically have something to do with the RPG but very well with the story of Degenesis itself. For example, we already announced a graphic-novel , in our last newsletter. And that is just the beginning. We will come up with more news one by one.
Just now, cooperation with Edge Entertainment was announced. They will deliver a Spanish and French version of the game. But even here there is more to come at its given time.
Besides the Premium-Edition (4000 printed: 99,-), there is a Limited Edition (555 printed: 146,-) and even an Artist Edition (100 printed: 499,-). That´s pretty ambitious, is it? Why should the old or new fan support Degenesis: Rebirth Edition( just now)?
Many of our pre-orders are fans from the first days. They stayed true to us, know the level of our concepts and products and can estimate the quality delivered to them. You can say what you want about those fees, even that they are ambitious. But when I look at people paying 99,-EUR for a pair of shoes hastily stitched together by kids in Bangladesh or see them paying 600,-EUR for a new smartphone, assembled within a couple of ours, then I don’t see the point of this discussion.
Degenesis demanded two years of energy, handworking and free time of about 20 people. Every texture found on the background pages was handmade, every logo was created by hand, every single illustration took about 3-5 days of work, endless conceptual discussions and workings on texts not even included.
I know of no other RPG that hits the market with epic trailers, state-of-the-art homepages and such huge expectations towards the quality of the final product.
That all was pre-funded by ourselves, no crowdfunding was included. As a publisher, I have to be able to measure the actual value of the product considering production-budget and the amount of time put into the project. At the end of the day, the numbers have to fit in order to refund such a financial demanding and time-intense product. Considering the amount of work put into this all I would judge our fees pretty harmless all in all.
Thanks a lot for this interview. The last lines are all yours!
Foremost a big thank you to all our true and wonderful fans, be it at the the table or at LARP, that have stayed true to our product. Also our gratitude goes out to our friends that have helped us during launch-phase. We wouldn´t have made it without you.