Battle Worlds:? ?Kronos Q&A with? ?Producer Colin Gilzean1 Apr 2013
Until recently, KING Art Games were probably best known for their work on adventure game series The Book of Unwritten Tales. Of late, however, the team has been making the news thanks to the success of its $120,000 USD Kickstarter campaign to fund a classic turn-based strategy title. Drawing on inspiration from games like Battle Isle and Panzer General, Battle Worlds: Kronos seeks to bring back that style of long-term tactical planning and hex-based movement in a brand new form.
IncGamers sent some telegrams to the front to find out more, and received a series of responses from Battle Worlds producer Colin Gilzean (with cameo appearance by software engineer Thomas Jahn.)
IncGamers: For anybody reading who isn?’?t aware of what Battle Worlds:? ?Kronos is or hasn?’?t seen the Kickstarter campaign yet,? ?what?’?s the game all about??
Colin Gilzean: BW:K is a turn-based strategy game,? ?inspired by Battle Isle,? ?Panzer General and Advanced Wars.?
The game takes place on the planet Kronos,? ?which has been the venue between the Telit and Yerla fractions to define the ruler of their home planet for eons.? 200? ?years ago the Telit won the war by using nuclear and bio-chemical weapons which made the planet an hazardous and? ?uninhabitable place.? ?All who could fled from the planet back? ?to their home world.? ?Now the Telit? ?Emperor is dying and a new war on Kronos has to erupt to define the new leading fraction.
IG: At the time of writing these questions,? ?the Kickstarter is over? ?$100,000? ?and three-quarters of the way to the? ?$120,000? ?goal with? ?33? ?days still to go.? ?Did you anticipate such a keen desire amongst players for a classic turn-based strategy game??
CG:? ?Since ?26th of March? ?2013? ?we have reached the goal just after? ?7? ?days?! ?We knew that there are many gamers out there,? ?who crave for a good old game like Battle Isle,? ?as we are upon them,? ?but to be honest we didn?’?t expected this?! ?It feels pretty awesome knowing that there are so many people out there believing in our project.? ?Now we can focus on the stretch goals.
IG: Your pitch video mentions that you had a working Battle Worlds prototype several years ago,? ?but couldn?’?t secure external funding to develop the game.? ?This must feel like a vindication.? ?Does the success of this Kickstarter prove those publishers wrong??
CG:? ?Partially yes.? ?We always said that there is a general interest for this kind of game.
One of the main reasons why no publisher wanted to sign the game was that there were no comparable titles.? ?They weren?’?t able to compare BW:K with game X and Y,? ?so they couldn?’?t predict any sales numbers. The lack of comparable games was a reason not to fund the title,? ?but on the contrary this was one of the main reasons why we wanted to develop this game.
IG: Are you able to name the publishers who turned down the chance to fund that first version of Battle Worlds?? ?What sort of reasons did they give for doing so??
CG:? ?In the past years we presented the game to probably every German publisher.? ?A lot of them had the opinion that TBS games are out-dated.? ?For them a strategy game had to be real-time,? ?as if real-time strategy was the next evolutionary of TBS.? ?Of course this is nonsense.?
The general skepticism against TBS combined with the lack of comparable figures was for most of them reason enough to not bother themselves with our project. But feedback like this isn?’?t just a thing from the past?! ?Just recently we were told by a publisher that our planed asynchronous multiplayer would be a dead concept,? ?because the modern player wants to be entertained for several hours in a row and doesn?’?t want to play a game in between or has to return to the game multiple time a day.?
IG: There?’?s a clear demand for turn-based titles of this nature out there.? ?Why do you think publishers have been so slow to realise this,? ?and so quick to write off certain genres in the past? (?adventure games among them?)?
CG:? ?I wouldn?’?t say they write them off,? ?they? ?mainly? ?focus on other genres.? ?For a publisher the return of investment? ?/? ?sale is what?’?s important.? An? “?AAA?”? production cost a lot of money,? ?but still has? ?a huge sale potential and as funds aren?’?t limitless? (?even for big publisher?) ?they go with such a game.? ?In general the? ?bigger,? ?louder and? ?shinier a game is the more money it will make as the mainstream-? ?and casual-? ?gamer will? ?buying it.?
IG: Your team appear to be big fans of the Battle Isle games by Blue Byte,? ?and you?’?re using the same hexagon-shaped map delineation.? ?What benefits does using hexagons bring to the design of the game,? ?and how does it influence tactical decisions??
CG:? ?I think it is best to pass this question to my colleague Thomas Jahn? (?Software Engineer?)
Thomas:? ?It?’?s not nostalgia or a nod towards games like Battle Isle that made us chose hexagonal grids.? ?Neither is it the path of least resistance:? ?square grids would be a lot easier to work with from an engineering perspective.? ?Instead we honestly believe that hexagons are the? ?best choice for the type of game we want to make.? ?Square grids always have this ambiguity in the definition of neighbourhood.? ?There are four neighbours that share an edge and four that only share a vertex.? ?That?’?s a problem.? ? If you allow? ?8? ?directions of movement the diagonal steps cover? ?40%? ?more distance than steps along the vertical or horizontal axis.? ?So,? ?do you make diagonal movement more costly?? ?Or do you just live with the distortion?? ?In a hexagonal grid each tile has six equidistant neighbours,? ?all of them sharing exactly one edge.? ?Using a grid is always an abstraction from reality,? ?so there?’?s always a price you pay.? ?But with hexagons,? ?having the smallest perimeter to area ratio of all shapes that tile the plane,? ?the aliasing effects are smallest.
Also visual appearance is an important benefit.? ?In hex grids parallel line-segments are never connected directly,? ?there are no right angles.? ?This makes the type of grid most suited for natural outdoor environments.? ?With square grids our maps would either look? ?far less organic or you?’?d feel a larger discrepancy between how the map is visualized and the grid based simulation.
IG: The two single player campaigns sound as though they?’?ll test quite different strategic skill-sets.? ?What kind of units will the Residents have at their disposal,? ?and what abilities do those units have to help them compete against the technology-based? “?Yerla?”? military??
CG:? ?In? ?general is the technology? ?of the Residents is not as advanced as the Yerla?’?s.? ?They don?’?t have heavy hitters like the? ?Cerberus tank or the Priest? ?artillery.? ?Due to this they have to rely on? ?guerrilla tactics.? ?Their units have the unique ability to repair themselves with the wreckages of enemy units.? ?Some units can? ?use a camouflage skill to hide form the enemy and then attack from behind.
IG: One of the great strengths of XCOM? (?particularly when playing on? ?‘Iron man?’? mode?) ?was the attachment players developed for their soldiers,? ?which added extra pressure to decision making.? ?Are Battle Worlds players likely to develop similar attachments to any of their units??
CG: Yes.? ?All units will gain experience by being involved and surviving confrontations within a level.? The units will be upgraded individually.? ?Each unit type has in general? ?2? ?offensive and? ?2? ?defensive upgrade options,? ?but only a maximum of? ?2? ?upgrades can be applied.? ?The first upgrade will classify the unit as a veteran?; ?the second upgrade as elite. The Cerberus will be able to either way extend his attack power or its armor so depending on your playing style you can upgrade him do a devastating attack unit or to be the last man successfully standing while defending your base.?
IG: You?’?ve placed particular emphasis on the asynchronous multiplayer mode that Battle Worlds will offer.? ?Tell us a little about how that works and why it was so important to include as a feature.
CG:? ?Basically it is play by mail.? ?As soon as you are done with your turn the data will be uploaded to our Server.? ?Then your friend? ?/? ?opponents,? ?receives a notification that it is his turn.
BW:K is a tactical game and sometimes it is important to take some time to figure out you next move?! ?Also it is a turn-based strategy game?…? would do you expect to do during your? ?opponents turn?? ?aaaand as we are looking into a mobile version of the game,? ?think about what this means for the user experience.? ?The player can seriously play the game anytime and anywhere,? ?no matter which OS or device he is using.
IG: The game will ship with a map editor so that people can create their own missions.? ?Will there be an easy way to share these with others,? ?and is the game open to further modding possibilities??
CG:? ?It is still too early to say something precise about this,? ?as the game is still in development. ?We are looking into different approaches,? ?but aren?’?t a? ?100%? ?sure yet how we want to do this.?
IG: Kickstarter has become a major platform for game funding over the past year or so? (?after Double Fine?’?s adventure game campaign proved so successful,?) ?to the extent that it?’?s attracting developers who already have access to traditional publishing methods or may even be able to afford to fund the game themselves.? ?How do you feel about that??
CG:? ?If someone has the money,? ?he shouldn?’?t be doing a crowd-funding? ?campaign.? ?Period. But if your project requires a third party funding,? ?Kickstarter should be available for every team that wants to create a great game,? ?even if there is a publisher willing to fund the game.? ?Because what does publisher funding mean?? ?You have to cede nearly all? ?rights of your own game,? ?you have to deal with compromises for the publisher and in the worst case scenario you?’?ll be dropped at the end of a project and don?’?t have any IP or money to start working on a new title.
Our opinion is that Kickstarter shouldn?’?t be viewed as an? “?indie-platform?,”? ?rather? ?a platform for developers,? ?no matter if small or big,? ?who require funding to create innovate games for fans.?
IG: One recent campaign that falls into the above category is Richard Garriott?’?s Shroud of the Avatar.? ?Is it ethical for a man who can afford to travel into space,? ?and who recently won a substantial sum? (?close to? ?$28? ?million USD?) ?in a lawsuit relating to Tabula Rasa,? ?to ask the general public for one million dollars in funding??
CG:? ?If someone is not in need of financial funding,? ?he shouldn?’?t use a platform like Kickstarter,? ?or any other crowd-funding tool.? ?There are enough developers out there who don?’?t have the money and with Kickstarter their great ideas have at least a chance.
IG: Who bears responsibility? ?for those? ?‘millionaire projects?’? getting funded?? ?Is it Kickstarter,? ?for allowing them a platform?; ?the developer themselves?; ?or the backers who contribute and encourage similar projects??
CG:? ?I think it?’?s the backer?’?s responsibility.? ?You shouldn?’?t back a project that does not deserve it. If a developer obviously didn?’?t invest a lot of time and effort into the project? ?/? ?pitch:? ?Don?’?t Back?! ?Why should you back if the developer does not have more to offer than a? “?vision?”? and some paper? ?sheets?? It all depends on the games:? ?back the good projects,? ?not just the big names?!
The media also has the task to define and support the? “?right?”? projects.? ?Unfortunately the? “?big names?”? receive bigger coverage than no-names. If the media would independently scan the projects to figure out which? ?the good ones are,? ?no matter who is involved,? ?we would all be a huge step ahead? ?in these things.?
IG: In terms of the PC version of the game,? ?which digital outlets are you hoping to sell the title through?? ?Do you have a stance on DRM??
CG:? ?We?’?ll certainly try to get on all major platforms and chances are good.? ?There will be DRM-free versions of the game.? ?Some platforms require DRM protection and that?’?s ok for us? (?people don?’?t have to buy there?)?.? ?But whenever possible we?’?ll skip the DRM.
The Battle Worlds: Kronos Kickstarter campaign is still ongoing, and can be found here.