Alchemy Stars interview: Tourdog and 577 discuss the game's character design, combat system and more

Alchemy Stars interview: Tourdog and 577 discuss the game's character design, combat system and more

Alchemy Stars is Level Infinite and TourDog Studio's hit JRPG on mobile that lets players engage in a thrilling narrative while battling foes on a unique grid-based battlefield during combat. As the popular title celebrates its first anniversary, we had a chance to chat with Tourdog (Art Director) and 577 (Lead Designer) to share some insights on the game's development, the Aurorians and the Caelestites, and what players can expect about the game further down the line.

Q: Can you introduce yourself and your role at TourDog?

From Tourdog, Art Director: Hi, I’m Tourdog, Art director from Tourdog studio and currently in charge of Alchemy Stars' visuals and event planning.

Q: Right off the bat, we get introduced to the world of Alchemy Stars with an intro sequence born out of tragedy. What was the inspiration for the lush world of Astra and its inhabitants? Can you tell us more about the Aurorians and the Caelestites?

From Tourdog, Art Director: The characters were all outlined and put together by several creators of the studio. In fact, the earliest concept we came up with was the "Colossus". After conceiving this huge flying creature that's both mechanical and organic, we thought that there should also be an earthbound colossus like Lepidoz. And step by step we conceived the world of Alchemy Stars and its various Factions.

When the overall setting of the Factions was gradually established, and the geographical, political, and human characteristics of each Faction became clearer, the group of characters belonging to each Faction also emerged naturally, and all that remained was to determine typical and atypical characters. For example, if Illumina is full of warriors who place high importance on military discipline and honor, then it's bound to have leaders who are highly passionate and charismatic, as well as combat fanatics and rebels who are highly resistant towards discipline.

Another example would be Rediesel Wrench which consists of a bunch of bandits who are lawless, simple and unrefined, yet more humane. While thinking of this, the image of Sinsa came to me immediately. At the same time, sensitive and considerate characters were also included to make Rediesel Wrench an interesting Faction.

Q: The Eclipsites look absolutely terrifying yet totally cool at the same time. Can you talk about the thought process that went into designing these creatures?

From Tourdog, Art Director: The early conceptual design of the Eclipsites was handed to a designer I really liked. The part I really like is that it's beyond both humans and creatures, yet uniquely beautiful, which was what I wanted to convey to everyone through the Eclipse and Eclipsites. While designing them later on, we wanted to add something fresh and exciting to the Eclipsites, so we did our best to leave a strong impression with high-level Eclipsites.

Q: One of the things I love about the game is how unique its battle mechanics are. How did this idea for Alchemy Stars' combat system come to be?

From 577, Lead designer: The integration of "tile-matching" and "role-playing" forms the main theme of our battle system. What do these two genres translate to in terms of gameplay? There are loads of predecessors in the game industry, such as Pocoro Dungeons, Ticket to Earth, Puzzle and Dragons, and many more. Having experienced so many games, we got to thinking: How should we interpret and express all of this? In the end, we chose to design an SRPG, while digging deeper into the strategy aspect of this genre, and so the battle system of Alchemy Stars was born.

Our initial intention was to create a strategy game that's easy enough to play, but with enough freedom to form unique strategies. So, though the rules of the "One Stroke" mode are simple, there's also enough depth for more experienced players to explore. The tide on the battlefield can change at any moment with Aurorian skills such as drawing routes, selecting destinations, amplifying damage multipliers, and casting skills. We want players to engage in critical thinking and yet enjoy the combat thrill of a strategy game.

Q: How do you think Alchemy Stars sets itself apart from other anime-themed gacha games on mobile?

From 577, Lead designer: We do not deliberately seek to be different. We just refused to use second-hand content, and we hoped to add the self-expression of the team to the design. That will quite naturally make the game unique and personalized. Everyone will get a new experience from the game, whether it's the art style, gameplay, or storytelling.

I think all the team members of this project have been doing their jobs with heart and soul. Our entire team encourages and emphasizes personal expression. No one in the team likes things that lack originality. We firmly believe that only when developers are fully dedicated and pay more attention to thinking and personal expression in their design, can they convey their message to the players and create a product that resonates with them.

Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced during development, and how did you overcome them?

From 577, Lead designer: The biggest challenge is to determine the core gameplay. You must convince others that you are making the right choice about choosing this gameplay, especially when there are different voices telling you otherwise. I overcame this challenge with two methods. The first one is to have a sense of belief. I believed in my original aspiration and stuck to it. The second is to constantly think and understand the fundamental pleasure and advantage of this gameplay. You can only convince others after you have thought it through yourself.

Q: What aspects of Alchemy Stars' first anniversary are you most excited to share with players?

From Tourdog, Art Director: We've added a relatively impactful gameplay—Home where everyone can now fish and grow crops!

From 577, Lead designer: Our main story has a new development! There will be some surprising plot twists (smiles). Hurry up with your main story! Have you received all the Lumamber rewards?!

Another brand new way to play is the Cloud Gardens. Yes, we will start an idyllic life, where we can farm and harvest vegetables. Experience the daily lives of Aurorians, sunshine and beautiful scenery, and live with our husbands and wives without shame... (turn off the camera)

Q: There are so many interesting characters to collect, level up, and see in action during combat. Do you have a personal favourite among them?

From Tourdog, Art Director: Definitely Carleen! Her nobility and abstinence, and the inner conflict between her innate sense of responsibility and her doubts about the system and the social class she's in! Ahh! I just love it! (dragged away)

From 577, Lead designer: Nikinis, I even had someone handcraft an ultralight clay figurine of her.

Q: What is your message to players who might be hesitant or intimidated to try out the game?

From Tourdog, Art Director: Stop hesitating! Now's the time! Alchemy Stars is a game that stands out strongly in all aspects, and you'll know in the blink of an eye whether you like it or not once you get the hang of it. Either way, you've got nothing to lose! (laughs)

Q: Now that the first year is done, what can players look forward to in terms of new characters, events, and story in the future?

From Tourdog, Art Director: The first thing will have to be our summer event! It's refreshing! Exciting! And it'll have crazy adventures!

We want to keep releasing high-quality updates and make efforts both inside and outside the game to make Alchemy Stars a more well-known and enjoyable IP through both online and IRL channels. We have a new event theme and gameplay that I personally really like coming up soon, and some merch and events that can hopefully bring everyone more joy are also being planned.

From 577, Lead designer: Well, the world pattern will undergo some very interesting changes. With the gradual establishment of the protagonist's self-identity, it will be a wonderful drama about how he sees the new world, how he accepts the secrets of the past, and how he reacts to the new contradictions and conflicts.