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Firefly Studios on Stronghold Crusader 2 feature

Firefly Studios on Stronghold Crusader 2

  • Firefly Studios on Stronghold Crusader 2
  • The Editor-in-Chief himself sat down with Firefly Studios and picked their brains about their upcoming game Stronghold Crusader 2.
The last time I met the Stronghold franchise’s lead designer, Simon Bradbury, was at Gamescom in 2010. The setting was a rather sterile looking booth, hastily put together with thin, white pre-fab walls and a bar stool set up in the middle. From that stool, surrounded by an attentive crowd of journalists, both Simon and Firefly co-founder Eric Ouellette spoke about Stronghold 3. They were brimming with ideas for their new game and their enthusiasm was infectious, regardless of the hospital-like environment.

Our online meeting last Wednesday could not have contrasted any more than it did. Joined by Firefly’s PR Manager Nick Tannahill, there were just three of us. Sipping a cup of coffee in my office, I watched the two Firefly buffs behind a desk in their ‘natural environment’, a life-sized model of a knight standing in the back as a reminder of the topic at hand; Stronghold Crusader 2.

The less than stellar launch of Stronghold 3 back in 2011 not forgotten, Firely is self-publishing Crusader 2 and this time around, have full control over when the game will be released.

Sergio: “You’ve taken the brunt of fan criticism while the decision to launch was solely the publisher’s. Most people did not even know who the publisher was.”

Nick: “Before I joined the industry, I would have pointed at the studio as well. It is not always clear who is responsible for selling the game, who is responsible for making the game and who decides when it has to launch. I don’t blame consumers for blaming us at all.”

Simon: “Yeah, we could have come down quite hard on the publisher and they are to blame to some degree. But at the same time, we made the game and we would rather take the criticism, engage the community and fix the game. For Crusader 2, we don’t have a publisher, give or take a few months, we’ll get it right.”

With all the fixes in place for the Stronghold 3 engine, Firefly has a solid base to build Crusader 2 upon, but for Crusader 2, Firefly is not just going to settle for a straight copy of Stronghold 3 with new graphics.

Simon: “Crusader 1 has always been a fan favorite and that was based on the original Stronghold. We’re doing the same with Crusader 2 but we are still going to go back and redo some systems from the ground up. We’re at the point where we are starting to play the game now and already feel we’re in a much stronger position than we were with Stronghold 3 when it was released”.

Crusader 2 is going to stay as close to the original as possible, mostly improving where improvement is required but leaving the original feel intact.

Simon: “Crusader 1 was very successful and I think if we stray too far from the original game fans will really come down on us. We want the pacing of the original game and make it about building castles, running economies and breaking other people’s down. We look at every area of the game and see if we can make it better. For example, we’re not going to suddenly put a Total War-like diplomacy system in, but we do want you to get to know the AI players and some of them will do your bidding.”

We’ll get to know these AI players playing the game’s planned campaign mode. Rather than do a huge campaign the studio is aiming for something smaller, adding more polish to the missions than they would otherwise be able to.

Simon: “We’ve always been guilty of doing too much, spreading ourselves too thinly. We don’t want to do that with Crusader 2. We ‘d rather do 25 missions and add a lot of polish to those than have the number 50 on the box just for the sake of it.

Whereas Stronghold has always been based in an imaginary medieval world, we are aiming for Crusader 2 to have a campaign that is more historically based. There is a lot of history to draw from, a lot to sink our teeth into.

The crusaders aren’t necessarily the good guys either. Most people will obviously think that we were, but we did go in there and steal their land. We’re trying to position that. It’s a two-way street at the very least and we’ll try and get you to play the Arabic side a bit as well.”

Most fans preferred Crusader 1 over Stronghold 1 primarily because it included a skirmish mode. They’ll be glad to hear that skirmish will again be the beating heart of Crusader 2.

Simon: “Skirmish has always been the apogee of Stronghold. The campaign is important to people like myself who worry about going multiplayer and being crushed by some teenage kid with an army five times the size of my own who destroys my base in minutes”.

Nick: “Yeah, we’d love to do community matches with fans but we’re slightly scared that we’d get annihilated!”.

Simon: “Crusader 2 will be a little more complex and have a few more options than your average RTS. There will be a lot to keep track of, but also a lot to take advantage of for those who like deep strategy.”