Simon: “I’m the one who throws in ideas and Eric is great at sifting out what is good and what is crap. I put them into the game and he will then play it and tweak the idea until it works or tell me to scrap it. The design process is very much a dual act in that way.”
Crusader 2 is about more than just changing the setting from medieval England to the Middle-East. In which areas should fans expect to see the main differences?
Simon: “In skirmish mode, the Arabic units can be hired from the mercenary post. They are quicker to procure than units on the side of the crusaders and they are light on their feet.
Assassin’s also make a return. Adding those in the original game was very complicated because of all sudden you had units that just ignore the walls which makes new demands on how you design the rest of the game.
We’re trying to push Crusader 2 forward in this area, changing the Arabic forces to something of a guerilla forces which matches history a bit better.
We’re not really talking about new units yet, but one new unit we will have is the dervish. Nick will kill me if I say too much, but not only is he fast and he attacks fast as well. We’re slowly dipping our toes in the world of recharging power-ups, like we started in Stronghold 2 where spearmen would throw their spear and then would go into hand-to-hand combat. We loved that mechanic as you can make it visual, you can see the spear, you can see them being thrown and then change their attack mode. The dervish will be like that too and you’ll see other units with similar power-ups.”
As the team can take as much time as they require for Stronghold Crusader 2, a lot of time is spent working on things that did not quite work in Stronghold 3. The implementation of the geo-location system for ladder rankings may well make a more polished return for example, and the user interface is being tweaked as well.
Simon: “If you have a big screen, we pin all the controls in the four corners. We’ve got a little widget that you can pin on your screen and you can customize yourself to track specific stockpiles and resources. It’s a small thing, but it’s just one of many examples of the changes that we’re making to the engine.”
Nick: “The widget is especially handy when you’re on a mission that requires you to gather a particular resource within a set amount of time. Being able to customize the widget to match the requirements of the mission makes the game much more accessible.”
Simon: “Another example is the wall system which is changing completely. In Stronghold 3 we wanted an easy way to drag out walls. It was a good idea but it proved difficult to make it work right, especially in terms of handling damage that is done to the walls by siege engines.
We’re going back to a more tile-based system. It’s still fully 3D but the walls will be 8-directional so that we have more control over the damage system and it will be easier to build a good castle. Building walls, you will get a good sense of the smallest pieces you will be able to knock out of your enemy’s castle too.”
With the interview almost at an end, I thanked Simon and Nick for their time, but not before I offered them the chance to say one more thing they really wanted their fans to know.
Nick: “If there is one thing we want everyone to know, it is that we are making Stronghold Crusader 2 to feel like Crusader 1 but that we also want to improve on it in every way possible. In truth, we’ve made that our mission for the game.”
Simon: “We’re very passionate about Crusader. It’s our favorite Stronghold game and we still play it to this date. We’ve had some hiccups with Dungeon Hero and Stronghold 3, but as a company we’re in a very good place right now. The success of Stronghold Kingdoms has made the company healthy and independent from publishers. If we are healthy, I think our games will be healthy.