Re:Legend checks every box for a certain kind of gamer: It’s got monster raising, farming, crafting, and fishing. It smashed through a bevy of goals on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, pulling in $630,700 in Singapore dollars (that’s $463,967.25 U.S.). The original goal? $70,000. The enthusiasm was more than enough to eclipse the platform goals: It’s coming to PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and the Xbox One.
Not a bad start for Magnus Games, a two-person studio in Malaysia.
A few weeks ago, I dialed up Magnus cofounder Dong Chee Gan — “DC” as many know him — and chatted about Re:Legend. In addition to running the studio, DC works on storyboards, environment backgrounds, and game design for Re:Legend. We dove into what inspired this enticing mix of Monster Rancher and Digimon, Stardew Valley and Rune Factory, and, well, anything that ever had a fishing minigame.
Here is an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: Why are you making Re:Legend?
Dong Chee “DC” Gan: We’re gamers since we were young. We have a lot of ideas, and we’ve tried to make those fit in the game. We do everything, from sketches to storyline, everything. We don’t really rest. If we’re having dinner, if we’re in the shower, we’ll run out and say, “Hey, I had this idea. I think we can implement this.” We’ll start writing it down.
GamesBeat: How big is your team?
Gan: We started as the two of us. Now we have six, and we’re still expanding. We hope to get more people because we really don’t want to underdeliver on the game and the promises we have for our audience.
GamesBeat: One of my favorite old games is called Mail Order Monsters….
Gan: Yeah, the dinosaurs?
GamesBeat: You take giant monsters and buy items for them and fight them in an arena. And I never played Pokémon. I played Monster Rancher instead.
Gan: Yeah, Monster Rancher is one of the big inspirations for us.
GamesBeat: I know that games like Rune Factory and Digimon also play a role here. Did you play Stardew Valley?
Gan: Stardew Valley wasn’t as much of an influence. We played Harvest Moon a lot, Rune Factory, Monster Rancher, stuff like that. Those were the main inspirations.
GamesBeat: How long have you been working on Re:Legend?
Gan: We started two years ago. We faced some financial issues because our investors have their own problems, and they backed out. We were left helpless. We had a lot of problems. People were asking us what we should do next. My brother and I had to stand up and tell the team that we would find a way to solve these problems.
After a few months of dilemma, we decided to start a new company together with the same team and the same idea we have in mind, Magnus Games. We started developing the game from scratch. We changed the whole direction of the art starting last year.
GamesBeat: One of the little monsters is called Magnus. Is there a connection there since the company is named Magnus, and your brother’s named Magnus?
Gan: Magnus is a Latin word that means “strong, great.” We were thinking that naming the monsters as something that’s good and strong and can help you along your journey. That’s why we picked the name. We googled a lot and looked at a lot of different names and how they came up with them — Pokémon from Pocket Monsters, Digimon from Digital Monsters. We did a lot of brainstorming, and we were thinking, “OK, the company is called Magnus Games, so we’ll just call it Magnus.”
GamesBeat: You have investors, and you have your Kickstarter backers? Did you go to Kickstarter to gauge interest and see if people would want to buy a game like this?
Gan: We do need the funding because before this, we used to have investors, but they pulled out due to their own financial issues. We didn’t want to give up on the project, so we continued, and that’s why we turned to Kickstarter. We finished our Square Enix Collective campaign in April. We’d gone too far to stop, so we wanted to continue the project, and we thought that Kickstarter would be a good place to get funding and build an audience that’s interested and get back some confidence for the team. The world is waiting, so we won’t give up. We’ll believe in what we’re doing and keep going.
Magnus spokesperson: Did we tell you about the Square Enix Collective campaign?
GamesBeat: No, what was that?
Spokesperson: That was the first step in engaging reception and interest. It did so well there that it was an early sign of interest in the game.
Gan: We were trying to get some proof of concept earlier on. We were showcasing it on the Square Enix — it’s an indie platform for indie companies. We tried it out there and got a really good response. We got 99 percent upvotes. Basically, we broke every record for the history of Square Enix Collective. So we knew we had to make the game. We’d gone too far to back out and stop development.
GamesBeat: Are you looking for more funding after this, as your Kickstarter money seems like only so much for a game of this scope?
Gan: Because we’re from Malaysia — there are different exchange rates and different wages for different countries. It might be all right. But we’re still open to working with different publishers. We’ve been approached by some publishers, but we’re still negotiating and talking about some of the deals they’re offering with the team.
GamesBeat: When Re:Legend launches, will it be on Steam first or another platform?
Gan: We’ll start on Steam, but luckily enough, we just hit our stretch goal for Nintendo Switch, and we have a few thousand left for PS4. We’ll start on Steam and continue to porting it over to Switch. If we hit the stretch goal for other platforms, we’re definitely porting it to other consoles as well.
GamesBeat: Considering how hard it is to get found on Steam, I’ve noticed that some indies are going to Switch first and then to Steam. The Switch has a smaller player base, but it’s much easier to find things.
Gan: Yeah, we did think about that, but our team is not so much in the business. We’re not looking for money. We’re looking to complete the game first on PC. It’ll be easier for us to port it to consoles later. We just want to finish the game and share what we’ve played in our younger days. The quality of the game is what we want to produce. That’s our main point.
Spokesperson: It’ll depend on future publisher deals and whatnot, too. It’s worth saying that they’ve gotten tremendous support from the Switch community. A bunch of Nintendo fan sites have been all over this.
GamesBeat: How important is fishing to this game? I see fishing stuff all over the place.
Gan: Fishing is really, really important because in fishing, you’re not only fishing, but you have to put them in your own fish farm. They’re different sizes, and you need them to travel around. It’s an island, so to travel to some other places, some mysterious places, you need to breed and cultivate your own fish that are large enough — L size or XL size — so that you can ride them and off you go to explore the ocean, places like other islands. That’s very important to the game.
GamesBeat: Why did you decide fishing would be about both catching and raising fish?
Gan: We love simulation games from when we were young. We were thinking, everyone’s doing fishing. Harvest Moon had a fish farm, but you’d just get a fish and dump it in your well. I can’t remember which title it was, but it was definitely one of the Harvest Moons. You’d breed the fish in your well, but you couldn’t see them. There were just more fish. We wanted to take that to another level, where you could catch fish and breed different sizes and cultivate them. Maybe you could find a mystery egg that would hatch into a Magnus underwater.
Spokesperson: It helps bridge into a bunch of features because it’s also a game where you can go out and explore a lot. Having this fish-raising mechanic allows you to use those fish and explore the islands. I’ve been describing this game as a sort of all-encompassing simulation RPG because it does so much, but I think it’s really fitting that raising these fish then allows you to engage in so many more features. There’s a screenshot I love where the character is surfing on the manta ray.
GamesBeat: Do you fish yourself? Is that something you and your brothers like to do?
Gan: We love fish, and we love animals. I wanted to become a veterinarian, but my parents said no. We go to aquariums a lot and go fishing. We love nature.
We’re from Malaysia, a tropical country, so the seaside, the oceans, there’s a lot of things for us to explore in nature. We wanted to bring that into the game, want to put simulation on top of RPG. Sometimes, when we’re really tired of life, we want to go home and play something casual. When you feel like doing something casual, you can go fishing. You can go cultivate your farm, raise your Magnus, something simple. Talk to the NPCs, give them a gift, do your daily routine. But when you feel like it’s time to be a hero, you can hop back into your main story quest.
Since it’s an RPG, it’s definitely going to be important. The main quest will be an important part of the gameplay. We want to have a combination of both, a balance, so when you want to go through the storyline, you can play through the RPG elements, and when you want to sit back and relax, you can go for the simulation side of the game.
We’re trying to get a balance of both, so some people can just play as a farmer while others go for something different. We want to focus on the multiplayer we’re offering, too, the four-player co-op. The reason we wanted to make it multiplayer — we were always playing these kinds of games in single-player. When we’d get an achievement or something special, we’d just cheer ourselves on. There wasn’t anyone to share it with. If we have a small community, something like in Monster Hunter — when you kill a big monster there, you and your friends are yelling, “Hey, we got the first one! we did it!” We just wanted to have that kind of involvement in the game, with a small group of people, family or friends — people you can share the game with in real life, instead of just chatting with your online friends. We wanted to achieve that because family and friends are important as well.
GamesBeat: We’re seeing fewer backers for video game projects on Kickstarter, but so far, you guys are very successful. Why do you think your game has succeeded on Kickstarter now where others have failed?
Gan: First of all, we were really lucky. [Laughs] But to be honest, we really didn’t think about the results. What we wanted to do is just make a game that we developed ourselves and that we want to play. This is a business, and this is a product, but developing a game just to milk players — players aren’t so stupid nowadays. They can do a lot of research and reach out to other people. It’s easy to get information through the internet. Our focus is mainly on the features themselves. We want to implement as many good features that we developed ourselves as we can and that we want to play. Making a game is a creative business. If we’re creating things that we ourselves feel like playing, the community will enjoy it, too. If we’re building a game just with business in mind — we want to make X money in a year — then maybe the game will move toward that monetization rate, but for us, we want to keep things simple. We want to make this game. It’s fun. You can play it together. That’s the result we’ve gotten so far.
GamesBeat: You have a lot of crafting and a lot of cooking in Re:Legend. Did you sneak in any of your favorite foods?
Gan: Oh, definitely. We love food. In Malaysia, food is very important because it’s part of our culture. We have a mixed culture in Malaysia. We have Indians, Chinese, people from the US, local Malays. Food is a big part of culture. One of our friends was a designer on Final Fantasy XV. … He’s from Malaysia. That’s why, in Final Fantasy, in one of the towns you see, the people look Malaysian, and the food is Malaysian, too. It’s cool to implement something from real life into the game, so we tried to do lots of combinations of food and armor and aspects of the setting in the game that give a tropical feeling to the island. But there are still a lot of different biomes in the game. We have a total of five, and we just hit a stretch goal so that there’s an underwater biome. That’s a hidden biome, so there will be six, and a few more are in planning right now. There will be some totally different biomes and a lot of different Magnus you can collect.
Spokesperson: Will there be some things that you can only make using underwater crops?
Gan: Yeah and you’ll have to cultivate your underwater crops in your underwater farm. We have two kinds of farms. There’s your normal on-land farm, and then, you’ll have an underwater farm. You can have kelp and different kinds of special underwater plants, which you’ll need to feed to certain Magnus to make them evolve. The underwater biome, the underwater farm is going to get an update soon on our Kickstarter page so stay tuned.
GamesBeat: Is there a monster you’ve made that you have a particular affinity for?
Gan: It’s gotta be the Dragonue. It’s the blue dragon that we have in the trailer. Because we put a lot of effort into it, and it can evolve into something that hasn’t been announced now. But it’s definitely something really cool. It’s going to be a totally different kind of evolution path, which is really cool. Our team is talking about it almost every day. The way it evolves and the things you need to prepare for it to evolve are going to be really hard, but it’s going to be really fun.
Spokesperson: Is it kind of like the mascot of the game, do you think? I know you’ve been using it in a bunch of artwork.
Gan: Yeah, Dragonue, Momochi….
Spokesperson: Yeah, the Momochi is the sweet little hamster unicorn thing?
Gan: That’s right. They’re the mascots for the game. They’re going to branch into really awesome looking cool monsters in the future.
GamesBeat: Is that the cute one that looks like a Dedenne from Pokémon?
Gan: Yeah, yeah. … For Dragonue, there’s something special that you really need to take care of. It’s going to be different from other Magnus — the way you care for it, the way you raise it. … Some of them will have a linear path, just A evolving to B evolving to C. But most of them will have different forms of evolutions. So far, we’re only revealing the babies, the first stage of the Magnus. They’re going to grow bigger, and some of them are going to be as big as your house in the game.