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Telladar Chronicles: Decline Q&A
(hx) 08:44 PM CEST - Sep,09 2004

GGMania got a chance to talk with Andrew Beletsky of MindLink Studio, as he answers a few questions regarding to Telladar Chronicles: Decline, their upcoming real-time tactical wargame in a fantasy setting. He provided us with extensive information and four exclusive screenshots. The game is slated for release in fall 2006.

GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about what you do on Telladar Chronicles: Decline?
Andrew Beletsky: Hi! My name is Andrew Beletsky. I'm the game-designer of TC: Decline and one of the co-founders of MindLink Studio.

GGMania: Can you give us a little background on the development team working on Telladar Chronicles: Decline?
Andrew Beletsky: MindLink Studio was found in spring 2003 by Maxim Dyachenko, our team-leader, and me. Our team is young, but experienced enough - the most of members worked previously on many Ukrainian and Russian titles. Moreover, we're mostly hard core gamers here, cuz, to be honest, we don't believe in creating good games without playing.

GGMania:  From where did you get the inspiration to make this game?
Andrew Beletsky: It's hard to specify all things that inspirated us. Lots of fiction, table-top and computer games, support and help of our friends - ah, too many reasons gonna be listed here, so let me stop on it.:). But I still want to specify two main things that maybe were the most important. I'm talking bout games, "Master of Magic" and "Warhammer: Dark Omen". These games were primary the driving force beyond the concepts of Telladar Chronicles's universe and TC: Decline.
And we've been greatly inspired by several recent movies. The epic scale, thousands of combatants, mighty heroes leading their armies in battles - this is exactly type of feeling we wanna deliver to our players.

GGMania: Can you give us an overview of Telladar Chronicles: Decline, telling us what the game is all about?
Andrew Beletsky: Telladar Chronicles: Decline is a real-time tactical war game with some role-playing elements. The game takes place in the world of Miere, original self-developed fantasy world. Miere has a long history, about twenty thousands years - from the ancient elven kingdoms through several cataclysms, appearance of other nations, countless wars, rise of human states, and up to the present time.
The storyline is based on events of the War of the Seven Nations. This great, nearly a world-wide conflict engulfs all major and many minor nations and races on Miere in desperate struggle for survival. The game shows the destiny of four heroes - two humans, one Horchi orc and one elf, who unexpectedly become important pieces on a chessboard in the course of war and take a leading positions in their corresponding fractions.
The gameplot is non-linear, although we here prefer in MindLink the term ‘story with branches'. The player moves over the selected branch until a crotch, where he must select a new branch and so on, up to the final. Some branches could merge with each other, but anyway in the end they get the player to one of the finals. We have planned three final variants, but we could add one more. We'll see it closer to release time.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the storyline of the game?
Andrew Beletsky: Telladar Chronicles: Decline is a strongly story-driven game and we prefer keep the whole plot in secret from everyone, except publisher, of course. So I could reveal just the very beginning of storyline.
Well, let's start from short excursus to the history of the Telladarian Empire. It was founded nearly a thousand years ago on the ruins of Kemmor - legendary kingdom of old. According to the legends, wrathful Gods hurl a huge meteor to punish its people for the lust for forbidden arcane knowledge. Nobody knows is it truth or not, but after more then six centuries from Kemmor's destruction, king Rene III of Telladar has subdued many neighboring lands by the spell and sword and becomes the first Emperor of a newly born power. His progeny at first manage to expand the Empire and on the top its territory stretches nearly all over civilized lands. Since then there was dynasty change, century-long Civil War, loss of huge territories - but nevertheless the Empire made it through.
But times have changed. Struggle for power and intrigues between the current Emperor and members of the Empire State Council have placed once a great country to the verge of political and economical ruin.
The tension between confronting sides reach it apogee when the Emperor ordered to transfer about twenty thousands Imperial Guards from their camps to capital's suburb. It becomes obvious to Council members that Emperor will try to depose them by force in a few days. The future of the Empire was decided during short conversation between two of the Counselors and the High Priest of Ælnor, the most influential cleric of the Empire. The next day the crusade against the nomadic Horchi tribes was proclaimed.
It should be short and victorious war which was supposed to ease the situation in the country and raise the authority of the Empire in the eyes of neighboring states. But most part of conspirators didn't realize who was a real force beyond the beginning of the conflict and what this war would bring in the nearest future…
From this point the game begins. The player will drive four main characters through many battles of The War of the Seven Nations, through victories and losses, faith and betrayal, love and treachery - up to the Battle of Igna River, where the fate of Telladar will be resolved.

GGMania: Could you describe the game's mission structure?
Andrew Beletsky: The game is divided to six consecutive chapters, each containing about thirty plot missions overall plus some additional bonus missions as awards for great performance in the game. But in campaign we'll include a bit less missions, about 20, I quess. Many missions will contain different types of side-quests. They will represent optional mini-missions, which could reveal for you a previously hidden mission, or even give an ancient magical artifact in the case you'll carry the quest out successfully.
All missions could in terms of location sizes (reaching 4 square kilometers in epic battles) and terrains - from endless Urdaj-Nagh steppe, rough and old Holdmunt mountains and deep murky forests of Skel Ganned to paradise-like coastlines of southern Empire's provinces.

GGMania: Can you give us an example of specific missions in the game?
Andrew Beletsky: I don't think that it is a good idea to reveal detail of one or more missions, so I'd prefer to give more general information about mission design in the game, but with some short samples.
From the very beginning we try to exclude any "take all your forces and crush some enemy skulls" designs. Each mission has its unique goals and a broad range of ways to achieve them. What do you think about storming the enemy fortifications, situated beyond the bottomless ravine with only one relatively thin bridge across, while overwhelming enemy forces are right behind you? Or, for example, bringing a prisoner for interrogation from the ranks of marching horde using several dozens of chosen warriors? Surely, such tasks are particlular enough in comparison to field battles or city assaults, which are also designed originally instead of primitive hack'n'slash method.

GGMania: What playable sides/races will the player get to use in the game?
Andrew Beletsky: As I've sad before, the plot is based on the events of the War of the Seven Nations. So, the player can command units belonging to seven various parties - three human states (Telladarian Empire, Counties of Ormir and Vestian Princedoms, also known as The Borderlands), two kinds of orcs (settled Urrgs and nomadic Horchi), Dwarfs, Elves and Centaurs. Some minor races are also presented - for example Goblins and Ogres, who are the allies of Orcs.
Each nation has its own set of racial traits and abilities modifiers. For example Urrgs are in general stronger then the humans and their smaller brethrens, Horchi; citizens of the Empire are more disciplined and will better fight in cohesive formations, than people of The Borderlands and so on.

GGMania: How many different kinds of units are there and do they gain experience, abilities or skills over time?
Andrew Beletsky: Actually there no "units" in the game if we'll talk bout units like we usually understand this term. Player controls thousands of soldiers, organized in fully customizable units. That means you could use available soldiers to change strenght of any force unit freely before battle. There is a cap - 1 000 soldiers for infantry or skirmishers and 500 soldiers for cavalry units. Every soldier has his own set of abilities, skills and traits, and will accumulate experience thus improving over the course of the game.
Moreover, you could re-equip your warriors with nearly thirty types of armor, from padded armors to full-plate mails, all of them with racial variations and distinguish look, about fifty weapons - various swords, axes, maces, lances, halberds, spears, pikes etc, and score of various shields. All equipment is divided to parties, so equipping your units is not as scary as it seems.
Also there are a lot of ground and mashine equipment of fantasy warfare in the game - various ballistae, catapults, trebuchets, assault ladders and towers, battering rams and even golems. All those machinery must be manned to operate properly. It's very important part of your forces for siege any type of fortification. There is no other way to breach the wall except with one of those toys, except magic, of course! :)

GGMania: Can you tell us a bit about the RPG elements in the game?
Andrew Beletsky: We've developed our own RPG system, called M.A.S.S (abbreviation of 4 main character attributes - Mind, Agility, Strength, and Stamina). It is not completely suitable for a full-scale RPG, but perfectly fits the needs of the game. Each soldier in the game, including main heroes, has 4 parameters of M.A.S.S., and besides has a range of skills (such as Close Combat or Discipline) and traits (for example, Brave, Irresistible Charge or Divine Inspiration). Heroes and their lieutenants have their own distinguish skill and trait lists.
When you recruit a soldier into your army, he starts his career in one of for branchs: infantry, skirmisher, cavalry or spell caster. These careers have additional internal subdivisions, called classes, which mirror differences between various nations and races in terms of ingame mechanic. Once selected the career could not be changed. It is still possible to dismount your best heavy cavalry unit and use it as front-line infantry, but don't expect him to be great in this. It's are cavalry, after all, and got used to fight from the horseback, not on foot.
When the character accumulates enough experience, he could advance his career, starting from Recruit and possibly ending as Epic. Your hero abilities could improve the starting point of his newly acquired warriors' career. All warriors in unit have similar career level and equipment, but their class or experience could differ.
All units, except special types like magic-users or heroes, will advance their career automatically. It is not very fun to upgrade every single soldier from several thousands, isn't it? Special units are quite another matter and so you will advance such characters manually, to make their abilities more suited for your playing style.

GGMania: May be you're having some favorite units - which are those?
Andrew Beletsky: As I've sad, we haven't any units in the game, so it is difficult to have a favorite one! :) But favorite nation is quite another matter. Personally I love Urrgs. They are tough guys with stylish look and great combat abilities. Imagine four hundred pounds of muscle and steel with yataghan or axe raised above the head, roaring and charging on you! That's quite impressive thing to see… and to outlast to tell the tale!

GGMania: How will resource management be handled in the game?
Andrew Beletsky: Actually, on this stage of development we have only one type of resources - the reputation of the each hero. It's presented as reputation points that could be spent on recruiting new soldiers, purchasing spells, equipment and horses. Reputation points are awarded for each mission for primary and secondary goals and for completion of sub-quests. Their quantity is strongly depends on your performance on the battlefield, for example huge losses could greatly decrease obtained reward. It's not our final decision, though - it is possible that this system will be modified on later stages.

GGMania: Will be there a research tree?
Andrew Beletsky: No, there will not be it. The player will obtain new equipment as he progress through the game. Some characters, like spell casters, heroes and some of their lieutenants, will obtain new abilities and spells when they become experienced enough. Although the player could choose those abilities and some of them even could form consecutive chains, which resemble research trees, we nevertheless consider them skill or spell trees, not researches.

GGMania: How will combat be handled in the game?
Andrew Beletsky: All battles are played in real-time on highly-detailed huge 3D-maps, reaching 4 sq. km. in size. The combat is set on military unit-to-unit basis, with the exception of magic-users and especially huge and powerful monsters, which are single units in the game. You can field up 10 000 warriors in exceptionally epic battles, not counting the reserves of literally limitless size.
TC: Decline is a war game, and that's why our combat system supports nearly all kinds of combat maneuvers and techniques available in pseudo-medieval setting. Various unit formations, morale factors, maneuvers, ambushes, false routes and line breaches can be used on the battlefield and play very important role in the game. Moreover, the ability to equip manually your units and freely change your army composition gives the player access to nearly infinite number of tactical moves, so we are sure that everyone will find the proper mixture of troops and strategies to suite his or her play style.
We are about to release a new trailer soon to better show the gameplay of the final version of the game. Stay tuned!

GGMania: How does the magic system work? What are some of the spells and creatures we can expect?
Andrew Beletsky: The primary source of magic in the world of Miere is called The Eye. It is a place where three basic forces of the Universe - Spirits of Destruction, Creation and Balance - have met in endless battle in the beginning of Time. The Eye emits raw energy that fuels everything in the Universe, even the Gods themselves. This energy can be transformed by anyone who has enough skill, talent and courage to do it.
There are two main techniques of such transformation - spells and rituals. Spell is a relatively quick incantation with relatively limited power, area of effect and duration. Some spells could be cast in more complex manner, using might of several spell casters. They have much greater effects, but enormous casting time; the most powerful of them may take up to several days to cast. They are known as rituals.
The player could use his spell casters to cast spells on the battlefield or prepare rituals between missions. Spell casters could channel limited amount of energy through their minds, depending on their experience and mental attributes. This energy can be used to cast spells or to ruin spells of enemy casters. The player could choose spells available to each of his casters before the mission to achieve some specific goals or to support the rest of his forces with firepower.
There are more then 100 spells in the game, ranged from simple direct damage-dealing spells (such as Fireball, Rain of Fire, Lighting Storm and so on) to much more complex and tricky (for example, Projectile Shield, Hallucinations, or Control Mind). High-level casters are really powerfull and in the case of good operating they can totally change the course of battle.
Oh, almost forgot - the heroes are able to use and wield various magical items, including potions, weapons, armors and banners etc, hidden on maps. All these advantages could became available dependently on your success in missions or submissions.

GGMania: Will A.I. have enough power to put the veteran players into a decent challenge? How strong will it be?
Andrew Beletsky: Well, I'll just quote our AI-programmer Dmitry Pshenichny, if you don't mind.
The AI system has three levels of tactical hierarchy - entire army, tactical group (division) and unit. It makes decisions on each level and generates optimal plan for chosen one. In basics, our AI is a priority-based trigger system, oriented by reactional agents such as army, division or unit commanders. Decisions are made as normal reactions on trigger abrasions.
Decision-making is based on fuzzy-set theory with original purposeful non-deterministic Defuzzification method, where knowledge base is represented as sets of production rules with defined weights.
Each abstract decision must be implemented in continuous environment (in this case in our game world). This feature is realized by optimization theory algorithms, such as Hungarian method for assignment problem, Gross algorithm for assignment problem on weak place and simplex-method for linear programming problem'
Uh, scary, isn't it? In short, your enemies would use all variety of their resources and every tactical opportunity to make a tough time for you - maneuvering, stratagems, brute-force, artillery and magic. We promise that AI will be very, very challenging opponent. Consider yourself warned! :)

GGMania: What other gameplay elements in the game do you consider to be important and/or unique? Will there be anything new that we've never seen before?
Andrew Beletsky: Due to army's sizes in our game, it is very important to give a player a proper mixture of tools to control such huge forces, and I think we've successfully dealt with this task.
Firstly, we give you the possibility to divide your army to much smaller and flexible divisions, called tactical groups. Each tactical group consists of up to 21 units under control of one of your hero's lieutenants (AI-controlled NPCs). Any army can include up to seven such groups, one of them under your direct command. Actual number of units in any given tactical group depends on leadership score of its commander or your hero.
Each lieutenant has a distinct personality and set of skills and parameters of his abilities and tactical style. You may control behavior of any of your lieutenants or give high-level commands to them, for example ‘attack', ‘defend', ‘beware of' etc. It's possible to issue multiple simultaneous commands and give low, medium or high priority rating to them. And your lieutenant executes your orders, but also he will react on situation on the battlefield and command units using maximum of his abilities. Nevertheless he'll never overcome your high-priority orders. The player could easily gain control over any tactical group when he need, excluding some plot exceptions.
Another important thing is ability to activate pause mode or alter the game speed anytime during the combat. It's really useful if you want to issue complex or multiple orders or evaluate current situation on the field. The game also shows various necessary tactical data (units' paths, condition, behavior etc) in pause mode.
And the game has an informative, user friendly full-screen tactical map where you could set orders both to units and tactical groups, activate pause, obtain various information about your and enemy forces and instantly move camera to any point of battlefield.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the engine that is being used for the game?
Andrew Beletsky: We call our in-house engine "Battalist" (a calque of Russian word that means "painter of battle-pieces"). From the very early stage of development our goal was to create the engine capable to realistically draw huge scenes with dozens of thousands creatures, hundreds of thousands static objects, dynamic lightning and weather. And we hope, we're achieving or ambitious goals. ‘Battalist' is a very powerful engine with compelling feature set. We've implemented precomputed radiance transfer, parallax bump mapping, all types of shadows (including our own advanced shadowing technology) and other modern features.

GGMania: What kind of hardware should players have in order to experience good game performance?
Andrew Beletsky: Currently the game runs smoothly on P-IV 2.0 with Radeon 9600 and 512 Mb of RAM. It's not a final word though - our programmers have told me that requirements will be lowered before release due to various optimizations. And I can say that minimal graphics card required for the game will be GeForce4 Ti, but it will show only subset of effects our engine is capable of.

GGMania: Will the game have a multiplayer mode? If so, what will it include?
Andrew Beletsky: Yes, we plan to include multiplayer mode in TC: Decline. It will be possible to play for every fraction presented in the game or create mixed forces. In multiplayer warring sides could consist of both player and AI-controlled armies. Also there can be multiple human and AI commanders inside one army (so players could assume the roles not only of army commander, but also of his lieutenants). Just now it's hard to say how many players will the multiplayer mode support, but not less than eight, including AI generals.

GGMania: What's the current status of the project, and what remains to be done? When will it be released?
Andrew Beletsky: The engine is almost finished as well as all essential tools. We're on very interesting and creative stage of development. Our artists actively work over content, creating nation by nation. The programmers work on AI. We can see and play our game already. And that inspires!
We need about a year for finishing this project.

GGMania: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Telladar Chronicles: Decline?
Andrew Beletsky: Thank you too! We'll do our best to make a great game, bring to our players everything that we've promised and even more. Moreover, we don't want to stick to ‘Telladar Chronicles' series only. We've a plenty great ideas and more than enough creativity to bring them to life. Watch out our future announcements! Bye!

genre: fantasy RTS
release: 2005/Q4
developer: MindLink Studio
publisher: Game Factory Interactive

last 10 comments:

maga(09:07 PM CEST - Sep,10 2004 )
Pic 1: Those are the best looking Knights-In-Shinig-Armor I've ever saw !

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