Thomas: Short answer - A fourth tribe would have taken a lot of time and resources to design and implement and test carefully – time that we needed to make the game perfect using the three tribes that we do have. Longer answer: We have three separate playable tribes, each of them has 25 different types of Settlers which are fully animated in their jobs, 31 different animated buildings ... frankly, we had to consider how much time it takes to design, model, skin, animate and test each individual object in the game, and to discuss the project’s scope and time frame with our partner UbiSoft. We agreed that it would make more sense to have 'only' three tribes in the game and get them to be really perfect.
Thing is, ten years ago you had lower resolution, a lot less processing power, the game was entirely in 2D, and you needed a lot less manpower to create the relatively 'simple' art assets like buildings and models and animations. Now for the remake, we have a great-looking graphics engine that allows you to see every little detail – so we had to make sure that every little detail looks good.
Hooked Gamers: Does that also mean that the storyline has changed? Can you tell us a little bit about the story?
Thomas: The Campaign story puts you in the sandals of a Roman officer. All the women have suddenly disappeared from Rome, so you are sent on an expedition to try and find them. After a huge storm, you land ship-wrecked in a strange land ... The 'all the women are gone!' bit is a joking reference to the early Settlers games: Many people had commented on how there weren’t any women in Settlers II. So now you go and look for them ...
Thomas: The AI was completely re-written from scratch, just like all the other components of the software – there was no way we could have used ten-year-old code. We’ve added some things that the old AI couldn’t do, so the AI now can, for example, expand over water. The whole AI component is pretty much optimized and, at the higher difficulty settings, much more aggressive and competent than the old one ever was. To some extent the AI also evaluates what you’re doing and will dynamically decide on a counter-strategy – it watches how you react to its actions, and adapts itself to your style of playing.
Hooked Gamers: What was the biggest challenge that you encountered during the development, and how did you overcome it?
Thomas: We all knew we wanted to do a remake - but everyone had ideas that might make the game even better. The real challenge part was to keep the time-tested classical gameplay intact even though we had to change many details to make the game more user-friendly and modern. How did we manage to do that? Basically we developed the old game again, only with a modern engine, and then started adding in the many detail changes.
Hooked Gamers: Is there anything that we haven't asked but that you're dying to tell our readers about?
Thomas: Only one thing – we really, really love our fans :)
Hooked Gamers: Thanks for participating in this interview Thomas, we know a lot more now!