Friday, March 18, 2016

An interview with Warhorse Studios!

                I’m continuing my series of interviews following a subject which is in vogue right now, Kingdom Come: Deliverance. The recent announcement that Warhorse Studios might team up with a publisher which will lead to the postponement of the PC version triggered a lot of discussions. I contacted Tobias Stolz-Zwilling, Warhorse Studios PR Manager, for an interview on this topic and this is what I found out:

As an introduction, for those who don’t know yet, who are the Warhorse Studios and what are you working on?

“We are currently working on Kingdom Come: Deliverance a realistic and historically accurate RPG which takes place in 1403 Bohemia. You are the incarnate Henry, a young son of a blacksmith who lives his ordinary life in Bohemia until his home city gets attacked by a foreign army. Not many survive and driven by vengeance you are about to investigate these crimes and bring the culprits to justice.  However you are no chosen one and there is no ancient prophecy, you are just an ordinary guy and will never become a king or command an army. You can’t change history, but all your decisions and actions will have an impact on the world – and maybe you will emerge a hero. “

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an indie AAA game that was partially funded through Kickstarter. Can you tell me a little about how the game’s concept came to be and what drove you to use crowdfunding?

“The idea formed over some beers by two guys in a pub.– pretty much the usual approach for genius Czech ideas. They wanted to create the story of their European ancestors in a way that no one ever tried it before – the realistic way. So the idea of Dungeons & Magic in the form of Kingdom Come: Deliverance was born. The problem was that publishers refused to support us. Not because that this game won’t be successful but because they weren’t eager into taking risks by abandoning the main stream. They wanted us to change the concept which we refused – so now we had a problem. Luckily we found an investor, only he wanted proof that there is a demand. So together we decided to go on Kickstarter with the goal of 300000 British Pounds. This would motivate the investor to put the rest on the table.  It was sink or swim after that.  Failure to make our goal would mean the end of Warhorse Studios and KC:D –luckily we swam!  After 29 days in February 2014 we ended the project with an awesome amount of 1.1 million British Pounds. We were the 3rd most successful Kickstarter Campaign in 2014 and the real development of KCD started. In October 2014 we released the first Alpha and in March 2016 the Beta… with the great support of our community we are on track! “

With Hitman changing its delivering method from launching as a full game to an episodic release, players are afraid that more and more games will release in an incomplete state. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a three acts series with each act being released separately and having its own price tag. It sounds a bit pricey and something that some of the gamers surely don’t agree with, but your business model is not exactly the same.
Can you explain how Kingdom Come model is different from Hitman or any other game that will attempt to use something similar in the future?

“The Acts behave like different but connected games. Every game is a part of the overall Kingdom Come Story each with around 20-50 hours of gameplay new maps features etc. So imagine it more like we are splitting the Hussite Wars (which we are talking about in Kingdom Come) in logical sections. Just and only because it’s impossible to cover the entire story in one single game. So don’t be afraid of the Act system.. it is more like Kingdom Come 1, Kingdom Come 2 and so on. We might do time jumps, show other aspects of the war. Add new features and mechanics and so on.”

Recently there has been talking that the PC release might be held back to line up with the console version of the game as part of the negotiations with a potential publisher. The PC community is very sensitive to this matter and frankly I’m a little sensitive as well. There is a certain skepticism that comes with years of letdowns that drove gamers like me to a state of insecurity and a fear of being betrayed. I’m sure you are aware of the false advertisement, the postpones and various other problems that the PC community had to endure leading some of its members to even despise the consoles. And now, because of the latest news, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is heading into a direction that could upset the PC gamers.
What’s your take on this matter and are there any reassurances that Kingdom Come will be different than the games I’m doing my best not to name?

“What we want is, and was the plan from the beginning, is to create the best graphical and gameplay experience for all platforms! So PC gamers don’t have to fear any kind of downgrade or similar things. We will push each platform to its limits. And postponing releases has of course negative aspects like… well… postponing :), but on the other hand it gives us more time to polish the game and to make it even more beautiful. In general there is nothing you need to be afraid of. There are many factors we are currently dealing with, but we’ll announce all release dates and final decisions in June on E3 Los Angeles.“

I don’t have access to the Beta version of the game but I have been reading a lot of the feedback and watched some of the videos on YouTube and it seems that there are some performance issues. Poor optimization is an ever present issue with high tech PC games. I know the game is currently in Beta and that the optimization is usually part of the late development process but players get worried nevertheless.
Are there any plans to make the Beta run smoother and what should we expect in terms of performance from the final product?

“Of course there are. We are working on patches as we speak. But you also need to understand what Beta means for us. This is not a Benchmark for the final game quality but a new testing ground for us to test most core elements, features and mechanics. Most of them are in the first stages and we did that on purpose to generate feedback from the community. We are still in a time frame where we can work on it, change it and tweak many things, but in order to do that we need to show our ideas and visions. I would rather call it a Tech Beta. The game is far away from being finished and we didn’t even start to optimize yet. Once we do that it will run much smoother even on less powerful devices.”

Both the PC and console version of Kingdom Come: Deliverance are developed together, neither being a port of the other. As a PC gamer I feel obligated to ask: are there any visual differences between the two versions aside from what an adjustable resolution and the usual settings like anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering bring to the table?

“ANSWERED IN QUESTION 4. PC Version will look fantastic of course :).”

As an ending note, what can we expect from the final version of Kingdom Come: Deliverance and what is the earliest release estimate?

“What you can expect from Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the best depiction of medieval life, medieval combat and medieval settings ever to be shown in a game. You will have to face an epic story that is based on actual historical events, every fight will push you to your limits and can be your last one if not properly prepared. You need to think about every choice you’ll have. Every decision will have a proper reaction and can change the outcome of the game. You are on an epic quest to unveil the horrible future 1403 Bohemia must face. The final release dates will be revealed on E3 2016.”

                I want to thank you once again for taking some time off from your busy schedule to answer my questions. I’m looking forward to Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s release and I’m really hoping that when it’s released I won’t have any reason to say anything bad about the game’s technical state as I felt compelled to do lately with many of the AAA titles.

                I feel that the interview clarified a lot of the doubts around this subject reaffirming Warhorse Studios stand on their game in conjunction with the PC platform. For those interested, you can find more information about Kingdom Come: Deliverance and its current Beta Test here.


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