March 10, 2021
Throwing a small curveball at you today: our Thursday interview is coming out one day earlier. Today you get the chance to know one of our team members that came from the community: Toastrz. You’ll also learn why he chose such a crispy IGN.
IGN and Nationality?
My IGN is Toastrz, although you may see me on my work account of DecaToast from time to time. I’m from the eastern US, proudly representing almost the entirety of Deca’s American “branch!”
What is your job? Tell us about it.
I’m on the design team alongside Kiddforce, Mrunibro, Menichko, and a growing list of other talented people helping make RotMG’s content. This most often relates to tangible gameplay content like new dungeons or minibosses for events, but designers are also responsible for the creative side of systems design for things like vital combat, item forge, and miscellaneous item/class balancing. More specifically to me, I’m also usually responsible for a lot of Realm’s lore, however sparse it may be for a game of this structure.
Any hidden talents or hobbies?
Admittedly a lot of my hobbies circle back to video games one way or another, but I also work to stay fit and active in my spare time. Even a light exercise like a 30 minute walk can be refreshing on a busy day and help with focus and energy. As for hidden talents… well, calling it a talent is maybe a bit generous, but I do some super amateur video editing from time to time. A certain joke video I made for Kiddforce might be a good example.
How did you end-up on DECA?
The short answer is a series of very fortunate opportunities. To go into a little more detail, I was added to the closed testing group at the tail end of the Kabam era by recommendation of a friend, and that testing group was kept together when Deca took over. As UGC became a thing, I took part in it first by working with Kidd on the Lost Halls (he did all the heavy lifting) and then started work on my own projects like Magic Woods, Secluded Thicket, The Machine, and the Cursed Library. A little while after Kiddforce got an offer for a position, I was approached as well and eagerly agreed. Sometimes all that butterfly effect stuff really gets on my mind, thinking of how one small thing going differently along the way (such as never being recommended to the testing group) could have totally changed what opportunities I had. It’s a real pleasure getting to work on Realm and I try not to take it for granted.
Did you play RotMG before?
Oh yeah, long before! I started playing over 8 years ago. Not quite long enough to be in that super-veteran territory for legendary names like OtherBill and BMJ, but long enough to have seen how much the game has evolved. I think playing pre-pets has been an especially valuable perspective since that’s often (and rightfully) seen as a landmark change that marks a clear change in eras.
Favorite Class, Dungeon and Item?
Favorite class has gotta be archer, no doubt. Super straightforward in its design, but it never stops being satisfying to land quiver shots. Favorite dungeon is a tough one, not just because I’m clearly biased but also because there’s a lot of dungeons I love for different reasons. Just for the sake of giving a unique answer that probably no one else will have, I’m gonna say the Cave of a Thousand Treasures. It’s visually boring and could use a reconstruction of its own, but the emphasis on environmental hazards over enemies always stuck with me. It’s probably not ACTUALLY my favorite dungeon, but perhaps the one I appreciate the most. Favorite item… I don’t think I’ve been too shy about what it is in the past, but it’s a special scepter that drops from the Hive.
What other games do you play?
At the moment I’m playing through Hollow Knight (Mrunibro has enjoyed my tales of pain so far). Some other favorites include Horizon: Zero Dawn, Breath of the Wild, and the LittleBigPlanet series, the latter of which was a big part of my life in my early teens and gave me a lot of early experience in game design. I owe a lot to those games, so they’ll always be special to me!
What makes RotMG unique?
What doesn’t? RotMG is absolutely a game with flaws, and that presents a lot of unique challenges on the design side, but those flaws come from the game’s reckless yet respectable determination to break the norm. There have been lots of copycats of Realm, but something about this game’s special blend of an MMO RPG bullet hell with permadeath mechanics… well, in the immortal words of a much more accomplished designer, it just works.
What are the things you love the most in the game?
It’s tough to pinpoint specific things, because RotMG really is a game that’s greater than the sum of its parts. If I had to pick something less tangible, I’d say the sense of discovery and wonder as a newer player is really special. Stumbling into a dungeon portal you’ve never seen before, risking your life, and managing to beat a never-before-seen boss for the first time was an incredible feeling. Nowadays I’m in a position where I obviously can’t be surprised by any new content releases, but I’ll never forget those early days of playing. There’s an insane amount of content in the game compared to when I first started, and although the early game could still use some work on guiding players post-level 20, I hope new players still get those same cool experiences I did years ago.
What would you change?
The realm itself is the most outdated part of the game. I’m sure anyone reading this already knows the main problems: Realm closing doesn’t give you engaging tasks, 80% of the realm’s big open space is spent on content that very quickly becomes irrelevant, and almost nothing poses an interesting challenge to maxed character, even most event bosses. We’ve been doing lots of dungeon reconstruction, and I’m extremely happy with how much of the game’s most ancient content has been revived, but I think a rework to the core system and balancing of the realm itself is the next big thing to really usher in a new era for the game.
Where does the IGN Toastrz come from?
The username comes from the greatest cutscene in video game history:
How do you see the game in 10 years?
A whole lot can happen in 10 years, if the past 10 years are anything to go by! I’d say the one big thing that should hopefully happen within that time is some kind of advanced version of the game, not entirely separate like Rifts but something you’d access through the nexus. Whether it’s called by the fabled “Elder Realms” moniker or not, I think it’ll be important for the game to have a place to expand on core game mechanics in a way we can’t realistically change on the base game without a complete rebalance. A variety of damage types, a rebalanced way of inflicting status effects based on levels of resistance and sequential hits, new dodging mechanics, that sort of thing. When the game takes that next hugely innovative step one way or another, it’ll let us make so much fresh and interesting content in ways that were never before possible.