Tag Archives: RTS

Q&A With Igor Tanzil

Following my trip to London for the EGX Rezzed conference, I was given the opportunity to ask questions about yet another indie game for the blog; the subject of this in particular session is a game called Forged of Blood. Set in a morally ambiguous fantasy world reminiscent of ary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons series, Forged of Blood is a tactical RPG, similar to the likes of Tactics Ogre & XCOM, complete with a variety of different weapons and magic to do battle with and a morality system similar to Fable or Mass Effect. I managed to send across some further questions about the game I had to the creative director of Critical Forge Games, Igor Tanzil, and amidst the game’s ongoing Kickstarter campaign, these are the answers he gave;

What were the influences behind your game?

Forged of Blood is really the love child of the different personalities and gaming preferences of the studio’s founders. Mechanically, it’s heavily influenced by the tabletop RPGs we’ve played along with the old-school TRPGS and RPGs that a lot of us grew up playing. Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, X-Com (both old and new) and of course Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder, you name it, we’ve played it and loved it – and so we set out to the make the game that took the best parts of all the games we’ve loved and merged it with modern graphics we can get with Unreal Engine 4. I’ll let Milo our Game Designer take the reigns on the mechanical side below while I cover the world at large.

For the setting of the game we really wanted to set it in a hard fantasy world that is really grounded in the reality of that world. That means coming up with a world and coming up with the rulesets that would govern that world. We asked ourselves, ok so how would small unit tactics make sense in our fantasy world? How did magic permeate society and perhaps more importantly what is possible and not possible with the magic in our world? My partners are huge Brandon Sanderson fans and I personally loved the old Stargate SG-1 worlds and Roman cultures and so I kind of took all that in when I started with the world building. What we end up with is Attiras: A world that is heavily inspired by Roman culture and one where there we have an older ruling species giving way to a new species before getting supplanted.

Attiras is something very near and dear to my heart – it is basically the world upon which I’ve really imprinted my own personal thoughts and feelings of morality. Growing up I’ve always felt out of place, being a minority in my own country (Indonesia) and then growing up in two other countries wherein I was just as much an outcast there as I was in my own home. So I really wanted to explore the themes of race and the tensions that come with a ruling minority and how a smaller population might come to power. Of course, at the end of the day Forged of Blood is still a video game, and that means that a lot of these things might be relegated into the depths of our lore books, but my partners and I definitely felt that we needed to have a fully fleshed out world for us to then create within. The challenge now falls to us to pick and highlight the stories within our world that is fun for a game and makes for the compelling story to drive the narrative forward.

What has the developmental process been like?

The short answer? A thrill ride.

The more realistic and complicated answer is that is has been – and continues to be – a process that teaches, humbles, and excites us. As a brand new studio, the onus fell on us to remove as much doubt and risk from our future consumers as possible, and to that end we’ve taken a very pragmatic approach to our development process. To us that means making sure from the very beginning that we are able to make the things that we set out to make before committing to it, and that led us to initially launch the studio with a small team of six to prototype and worldbuild the game we had in mind. During this time we split the team into two, with the programmers

testing and building upon a toolkit in Unreal Engine 4 and the rest of us testing out the base mechanics on tabletop before implementing it in-engine to test.

From there we iterated repeatedly until we had something that we felt was fun to play before expanding the team to include the art side of the studio. We’ve since hit a few big milestones in just a under a year, from our first fully rendered tactical map to implementing the strategic and tactical layers together, the progress we’ve made here at the studio has just been a wonder to behold.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Oh boy, everyone will probably have a different answer to this question for I personally have two favourites. I think the first thing that really got me excited for Forged of Blood was the worldbuilding. It was and continues to be a creative process unlike any other that I’ve done. Being given the freedom to create an entire world, and then working with the team to bring that world to life and seeing how others interpreted the world and the rules I’ve created has been just an absolute treat for me. However, what I think the most exciting aspect of the development for all of us has been seeing it all come together right before PAX. Our pre-alpha PAX build was the first time we’ve seen it all start to come together, and being able to catch a glimpse of the game both on the Strategic Layer and Tactical Layer was a huge morale boost for everyone.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The most challenging aspect of the development process so far is finding the balance between our own dreams and ambitions and the limitations we have as a small studio. When we started the studio we focused our efforts almost entirely on finding the right team and luckily for us we’ve all worked together on a larger project before and it just came down to picking the right person for each role. That said, ours is still a very small team and our budget basically dictated the production time we’d have to work on Forged of Blood and that in turn dictates just how much we can actually do. It’s tough on all of us when we have to forego a good idea or limit the amount of assets we can have, but finding compromise is ultimately the only way forward.

How well has the game been received so far?

This is really interesting to experience as new indie studio. The hard truth is that for the most part we are ignored. We’re the “nobodies” from a third-world country that just isn’t known for video games, and we’re working on a very deep game with a rather small market segment – and that has seriously affected just how far word of our game has reached.

However, it has been extremely gratifying to experience the reaction of people who actually gave us a minute to hear our spiel and actually checked out the game. The people that stopped by our little booth at PAX East kept coming back, and they brought their friends time and time again. The more we engaged with people who found the idea of a Fantasy Tactical RPG interesting, the more they loved the project and we’ve even gotten some fans who are helping us spread the word out.

I think we’ve really hit the nail on the head in creating a game that appeals to our market – the fans we’ve made in the last few weeks is a testament to that – but we’re still hindered by a lot of the fatigue that comes from other failed Kickstarter projects and our studio’s relative anonymity. However, we knew that going in and we’ve taken the steps mentioned before in removing as much risk from the consumer as we can even though it is at great expense to ourselves.

What were the influences behind the combat system?

To quote Milo, our game designer:

Before, we began designing the game, we discussed what type of game we wanted to make. We wanted a game based on meaningful choices, dark/hard fantasy, and set in a believable world. This lead to decisions about the spell crafting and Magurite to create a more hard fantasy feel in which you draw the energy in from the environment before expelling it back out, combining with the Magurite to provide a power source for the spells. We also drew heavily from games we are all fans of, such as X-Com, Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and other turn based tactical and RPG games. Our Standard Action, Move Action, and Quick Action structure is quite similar to something you would see in Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons. We also wanted to provide as much freedom for the players as we could, which lead us to having classless character builds that focus more on how the characters will play rather than what their role will be.

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

While the PC is our primary platform, we will be looking into releasing on other platforms once the PC version has been released. We have also had a lot of people asking for Linux and Mac from our fanbase and that is certainly something that is feasible with Unreal Engine 4, but we’ll confirm everything once the game is further along.

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

The biggest advice we can give to aspiring devs right now is just: make the game you can finish. It’s always great to shoot for the stars – in a way that’s what we’re doing – but it’s even more important that you end production with a game that ships. For us, that means approaching the mechanics and art in a very iterative way that allows us to learn, execute, iterate, and streamline the different production threads in the studio. It also means being able to acquiesce the very real limitations of time, money, and ability when approaching some of our more grandiose ideas for the game. We are ultimately judged on the work we show, and if the game never ships we have nothing upon which to build on.

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

While we have a website and blog, we are also very active in a few gaming communities that I’ll include below. In fact the majority of our fanbase game from these gaming communities – mostly gamers who are really into the sort of game we are developing that they are willing to hear us out and check out the game.

Game Website: http://forgedofblood.com/

Studio Website: http://criticalforge.com/

Kickstarter Campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/criticalforge/forged-of-blood

Neogaf Thread:

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?p=233027883#post233027883

RPGCodex Thread: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/forged-of-blood-turn-based-tactical-rpg-kickstarter-live.111536/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fobthegame

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ForgedOfBlood

Do you have anything else to add?

I think we’d like to take this time to just express our gratitude at the amount of love we’ve gotten from our fans so far. We’d also like take the time to plead our case to the many skeptics out there.

Forged of Blood is an ambitious project for us – for anyone really – but we’ve approached it every step of the way with the sort of pragmatism that we truly believe will result in a game many will enjoy. We’ve taken a huge risk in trying to alleviate the risks to the consumer and we hope that that you will judge us by the work we show. We’ve put everything we have into this game and we will see it through, though we are on Kickstarter for a reason. We need those funds to truly elevate the game to be what we know it can be, but no matter the outcome Forged of Blood will be completed.

Thank you so much for this interview, and please never hesitate to reach out to us!

I would also like to take the time to thank Igor for providing such an in-dept insight into the game, and to wish him and the team best of luck with the title, and the Kickstarter campaign. Forged of Blood looks very much on par, if not better than, many of the other RTS games I saw at EGX Rezzed, and I would recommend any readers check out their Kickstarter page.

Worms (Amiga, CD32, Jaguar, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, MS DOS, PlayStation & PC)

Developer(s) – Team17

Publisher(s) – Ocean Software

Designer – Andy Davidson

Starting out as an entry for a programming competition called Total Wormage, Worms went on to become not only a hugely popular game, but a hugely popular franchise. A by-product of the 90s, a strange time for the industry in its own right, Worms combines some concepts which may sound ridiculous on paper, but make for something very entertaining on either CD or cartridge format.

Graphics – 6.5/10

The designs of the in-game battlefield in particular are quite unique compared to typical video game settings for not only its times, but for video games in general, taking place in settings varying from glaciers and scrap yards. The FMVs that play out before the beginning of each battle were also pretty well done for the time and add quite a bit of entertainment to the game, which I will elaborate on further into the review. The aspect that I think lets the visuals down, however, is how poorly detailed the character sprites stand out among the in-game scenery. I think by that token, the game hasn’t aged particularly well from a visual perspective. After a while, the sound bytes of the character voices could get a little annoying after a while in the first instalment.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

I find that this game’s fairly strong level of addiction can be attributed to how much challenge can be involved at times, and for how much strategy and variety in gameplay was surprisingly included in a game like this, which I personally commend it for. At the time, there was something strangely wonderful about determining the best way to take out each of the opposing teams worms before they take the player’s team out, and it’s a unique gameplay novelty, which I believe still hold up to this very day.

Controls – 9/10

The only gripe I have about this game’s control scheme is the system of having to measure up wind resistance against trajectory in order to take the most accurate shot possible with the bazooka or grenades. In my opinion, that can make the game unnecessarily difficult at times, given the most awkward of circumstances and unit positions. To my dismay, this system would feature in future Worms titles. However, there are no problems otherwise.

Lifespan – N/A (10/10)

As a game with no fixed lifespan, it only lasts as long as player interest. Like games such as Mario Kart, Worms is a game that cam simply be picked up and played without players having to worry about making progress in the conventional sense or having to worry about how fleeting the experience may feel like after they’ve finished playing.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

As like many video games before and after the release of Worms, this game has no properly established storyline, but rather a mere basic premise; worms warring with each other. The best thing about the premise of Worms is the entertaining comedic element portrayed in the many FMVs of the game, which play out before each fight. This would become a stable in the series, much to my personal approval.

Originality – 7/10

In the 90’s in particular, when most players were primarily used to 2D side scrolling and first person shooting, a real-time strategy game about worms at war and using a wide variety of weapons and gadgets to subdue each other was a breath of fresh air on both a conceptual level, and in terms of gameplay. Indeed, these are the kinds of seemingly nonsensical ideas, which have been the very foundations for some of the greatest video game franchises ever conceived.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Worms is a very unique and compelling game, which whilst not holding up on a graphical point of view, definitely holds up in terms of both gameplay and originality. In my opinion, it’s a must-have for any fan of the real-time strategy genre.

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Kaiju Panic (PC)

Developer(s) – Mechabit Games

Developed by Mechabit Games, a small development company based in Liverpool, England, Kaiju Panic is a tower defence game heavily influenced by Japanese culture in terms of conceptual design, and encouraging players to adopt an extremely heavy tactical approach in order to progress. As I said in my Play Manchester Article, this was my favourite indie game to be displayed at the show, and after having played the finished product, it has become my favourite indie game to have been released this year too.

Graphics –9/10

Visually, the game seems to be somewhat of a love letter to the SNES classic, EarthBound, featuring a wide variety of vibrant and colourful modern-day environments, and containing an even wider variety of monsters to have to fend off, and characters to have to rescue along the way. I was particularly impressed by what I saw throughout, since not only is it’s core conceptual design extremely creative, but that there is certainly scope for the developers to build upon the mythology of the game even more, making me extremely excited for the future of what could potentially be a very distinct and very successful franchise.

Gameplay – 10/10

The gameplay is also just as creative, as well as being insanely addictive. Plays must work to protect cities from attack carried out by sinister monsters called Kaiju. Players do this by gathering civilians, mining for resources and building gun turrets of different varieties in order to battle different types of Kaiju that have distinct weaknesses. For example, certain Kaiju may be weak against corrosive attacks, whilst other may be weak against laser-based attacks. The game demands that players try out different methods, forcing them to adopt different tactics to suit different levels and progress through the game. There are also unlockable perks and upgrades to be obtained, adding even more replay value to it.

Controls – 9.5/10

Personally, it took me a little bit of time to get used to the game’s control scheme, since not only does the player have to use the mouse to look around each level and observe what activity occurs, but they must also use the keyboard to move the character around; often at the same time. But once players get used to it, there are no issues to be experienced, and therefore, the game plays out as well as any other PC-based tower defence game or real-time strategy game. I of course have to commend the developers for daring to try something different, and making it work very well overall.

Lifespan – 7/10

Taking everything into account, the game can be made to last at least 20-25 hours, which whilst quite impressive, ultimately left me wanting more. In turn, however, that again made me excited for what kind of directions the developers could take a potential sequel in. In my opinion, there is a great amount of possibility to not only expand on the lore and mythology of the game, but to expand on the core concept gameplay, and the amount of different gameplay modes too.

Storyline – 7/10

Simplistic in general concept, the story follows a general, whom with the help of Earth’s citizens, must fend of a planetary invasion orchestrated by the Kaiju. Although the game’s story can be viewed as straightforward in scope, it is kept interesting by the series of cutscenes that occur between each level, and how events unfold that depict distinct events that happen around the core plot. Some of them also provide the game with a small comedic element, which I found gave it a pretty distinct charm.

Originality – 8/10

Although there have been many games of it’s kind to have come and gone over many years, I think the developers did a particularly good job of making this one stand out among a vast majority of them. Employing unique conceptual design, along with a distinct style of play, and control scheme, I’ve come across very few indie games so far incorporate such a great deal of originality, and to me, it has been instrumental in showing exactly what indie developers are capable of if they truly believe that what they have created can work, and extremely well. And in my opinion, this title certainly works extremely well indeed.

Deliirious

Deliirious

Overall, Kaiju Panic is the best indie game I have played this year. It’s charming, addictive, creative, and if a franchise will ever be born from this title, it certainly has a great deal of potential for the future. I highly recommend it.

Score

50.5

8/10 (Very Good)

Hogs of War (PC & PlayStation)

Developer(s) – Infogrames Studios & Sheffield House

Publisher(s) – Infogrames Europe & Sony

Set in the First World War Era, and featuring armies of anthropomorphic pigs, Hogs of War was a different take on the genre of games perpetuated by the hit title Worms, which had players fighting across 3D environments as opposed to 2D ones. I spent a lot of time playing this game when I was a kid, and it still holds up to this day as an enjoyable experience.

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals of the game were fairly well handled for the time. The various different environments presented players with a range of different atmospheres, but I think in those environments when the weather is much murkier are when the theme of the game is portrayed better; such as the last stage, The Isle of Swill. The biggest visible issue with how the graphics are rendered is that there is a great deal of disproportion between the size of both the stages and the characters.

Gameplay – 7/10

Playing out almost identically to worms, the objective is to kill all the pigs on the opposing team before they kill all the player’s pigs. It’s pretty enjoyable, with a fair few weapons to use and strategic techniques to take advantage of. The best thing about it is that unlike in Worms, there is no wind resistance factor to effect the direction in which a bazooka missile might land, thus aiming is a lot easier. It’s biggest downfall, however, is that there isn’t anywhere near as much variety as there is in Worms, since player’s choice of weapons is considerably more limited

Controls – 9/10

In terms of its control scheme, though it relies on a structure similar to how 3D platformers play out, and it inevitable came with the same issues that many other early 3D platformers on the original PlayStation came with, it isn’t anywhere near as much of a hindrance as it was in the like of Croc: Legend of the Gobbos or Bubsy 3D. It could be a reason why the stages are disproportionate to the character, so that less movement was required. In any case, it can be seen as a possible turning point for the quality of the genre on the system before the analogue stick was added to the PlayStation controller.

Lifespan – 6/10

Though the main campaign mode will take about 4 to 5 hours to complete, the player will then unlock another, yet harder, campaign mode, which has them, fighting on the opposite side to before. So in all, the main story will take about 10 to 15 hours to finish completely. Not only that, but like in Worms, players can also have exhibition matches, as well as 2-player matches.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of the game revolves round armies of pigs warring upon the island of Saustralasia, seeking control over it’s most valuable asset; the isle of Swill. According to the lore of the game whoever controls this island controls the rest of the world. Though the basic premise of the plot is quite straightforward, it does have a small element of comedic value to it, as the late Rik Mayall lent his voice talents to the game. Also, when the player completes both story campaigns, another cutscene takes place, portraying the events of the game more closely to how WWI itself would have actually been like, which gives the game much more substance than a player may have first thought.

Originality – 8/10

Though the game may obviously be a modification of an already existing idea, it can also be a lesson learnt to many PlayStation developers on how to create a decent 3D platformer, or at least a possible starting point. A sequel had been in development, but it is now presumed cancelled after Infogrames was absorbed into Atari, SA, though no formal announcement has since been made. It’s a shame, because I believe there could have been ways in which the formula could have been modified for the better.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Hogs of War is nowadays a fairly obscure game, which isn’t deservedly so, since it’s definitely one of the most memorable gaming experiences on the original PlayStation in my opinion. It is available on the PlayStation Store, and I would recommend it to any fan of the strategy genre.

Score

44/60

7/10 (Fair)