Zoltan Varga, producer of Lionheart: Kings' Crusade, discusses the development process and shares some thoughts on Neocore Games’ previous effort, King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame.
With Neocore Games’ Lionheart: Kings’ Crusade having recently gone gold, I had the opportunity to ask Zoltan Varga, producer of the game, a few questions. He was kind enough to discuss Lionheart and its development process and share some thoughts on Neocore Games’ previous effort, King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame.
Hooked Gamers: It’s been almost a year since you released King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame. How do you feel about the response from critics and the community?
Zoltan Varga: King Arthur garnered a very favourable reception worldwide. The graphics, the depth, and the spirit of the game amused almost everybody. People loved the music, the smart battle AI, and the written quests very much. We’re happy they were impressed by this powerful RTS-RPG mixture. Some reviews also highlighted the changing seasons on the campaign map and the Victory Locations on the battlefields as being some of the nicest features in the game.
Hooked Gamers: Assuming development on Lionheart: Kings’ Crusade started after King Arthur’s release, how have you been able to develop and release a new game in less than one year? Were any features dropped or shortcuts taken during the development process?
Zoltan Varga: Actually, we’ve been working on this title since Q1 2009! It has been almost two years since we started the development process, we’re always working on additional projects simultaneously.
Basically, the features we omitted from the final version were features that seemed to be a great idea at first but simply didn’t work out as planned during the gameplay tests— they weren’t good enough by our standards, didn’t fit into the gameplay, or we weren’t able to develop the features according to our plans. Fortunately, the schedule was not a problem as we were able to implement all the possible ideas we wanted to for the final release.
Hooked Gamers: What lessons did you learn in the development and release of King Arthur, and how have those been applied to Lionheart?
Zoltan Varga: Our aim is to create titles that are appealing to our gamers so we made some changes after receiving considerable feedback, like the overpowered archers in King Arthur for example. We learned that it’s crucial to have our ears and eyes open to the opinions of the community. To tell the truth, the core of the overpowered archers problem was rather a design choice than a balance issue: we intentionally planned the archers to be quite strong in the first part of the game where most armies usually had to rely on lightly armoured units. However, as soon as we realized that the gamers had other thoughts on the matter, we decided to change this in Lionheart.
We also changed our attitude to difficulty settings. On Easy difficulty level, you’ll be able to win the battles even if you don’t spare too much time for tactical actions. Playing on Very Hard though demands you to really take advantage of your tactical skills.
We also learned to balance the management part, keeping players from getting into dead-ends in the campaign and providing them goals to spend their money on.
Hooked Gamers: King Arthur was often compared to the Total War series. What do you feel sets Lionheart: Kings’ Crusade apart from other grand real-time tactical games?
Zoltan Varga: There are lots of unique elements in Lionheart: Kings’ Crusade that set it apart from other RTS games. First of all, Lionheart: Kings’ Crusade has a very detailed army management system that is still quite easy to handle. Every unit and hero gains experience in battles and you decide what abilities and skills you improve after levelling up, so you are able to shape your units the way you want. Take two swordsman units for example: you can make a defensive unit out of the first one, which will protect your archers from enemy attack, and you can turn the other unit into a “killing machine” by training it to deal more damage. Afterwards, you just send them forward and let them cut your foes into pieces. Surely they’ll lose many soldiers so maybe it’s a good idea to hire them a healer to help minimize casualties. With this management system in place, you can have considerably different units even from the same unit types that will require the player to use very different tactics in battles. Your heroes can carry relics, you can equip your units with different weapons and armours, hire them healers, priests/imams or captains as well, and more! There’s a lot of customization available here and plenty of strategy to go along with it.