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Rising Kingdoms Q&A
(hx) 04:57 PM CET - Mar,22 2005

GGMania got a chance to chat with Ivko Stanilov of Haemimont Games (Celtic Kings makers), the lead programmer and designer on Rising Kingdoms, their upcoming real-time strategy game which focuses on empire development and dynamic tactical battles. He provided us with both pretty interesting information and three exclusive screenshots. Rising Kingdoms will be released on the European market on May 27th (there's no word on whether the game will be released in North America).

GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about what you do on Rising Kingdoms?

Ivko Stanilov:
Hi, everyone, I'm Ivko Stanilov and I have the honour (and of course the trouble) of being both the Lead Programmer and one (thankfully no the only) of the Lead Designers for the Rising Kingdoms title. My schedule, as you can guess, is very tight, as I work on the game engine, create tasks for the developer team, resolve design and game balance issues, play the game, and in the meantime fix bugs, work with the publisher and give guidelines to the art team.
And if someone cares about that, I'm 26 years old, weird-looking and I have a newborn son.

GGMania: Can you give us an overview of Rising Kingdoms, telling us what the game is all about?

Ivko Stanilov: Rising Kingdoms is a real-time strategy game, focusing on empire development and dynamic tactical battles. The game stays true to the basic principles of traditional RTS games, so it's really easy to start playing, but we have added new twists and features that provide the player with a unique gaming experience. For example, throughout an average game, the player will be capturing 3-4 independent colonies from the game's five secondary races, thus obtaining numerous strategic options. Each of the secondary races has a choice of three powerful special abilities and several special units, which can really turn the game in your favor.
Rising Kingdoms has all the features a player would come to expect from a modern title, adding to that a great diversity of gameplay elements and a rich fantasy setting with 3 primary and 5 secondary races, each having its own environment and gameplay value.

GGMania: Were you pleased with the reactions that the Punic Wars (Nemesis of the Roman Empire in US) game received?

Ivko Stanilov: I am not directly involved in the making of Punic Wars, but we are really content of the results we had - it did very well on the market.

GGMania: From where did you get the inspiration to make Rising Kingdoms?

Ivko Stanilov: Actually, this could turn out to be an interesting story. Back in 2001, when we were working on Celtic Kings - Rage of War, I and a colleague of mine - Dimo Zaprianov - weren't satisfied with the results, mainly speaking of gameplay. We met several times at my place, and we came up with the concept about different hero classes that could be developed in different ways like in an RPG. We even designed the hero classes and proposed them to the Celtic Kings designer Gabriel Dobrev.
Gabriel is a brilliant guy, and he solved the gameplay problems of the time all by himself (as you can see from the game's success), but these hero classes remained and were the foundation on which we built the Rising Kingdoms design with Dimo. Of course they are completely different now, but there are still several skills that remained.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the actual plotline of Rising Kingdoms?

Ivko Stanilov: How can you tell something about a plotline in a couple of paragraphs? It is a story about the creation and history of a whole fantasy realm that is unveiled piece by piece uncovering surprising twists and unexpected events as it unfolds. One thing is for sure - you will be surprised when you play the campaigns, but I won't tell you anything specific yet as I don't want to spoil your experience. I will only say that we tried an unconventional way to tell the story, and I anticipate seeing the player's reactions.

GGMania: What are the biggest changes in Rising Kingdoms over the strategy games you made previously?

Ivko Stanilov: In the technical aspect, we tried to push the 2D technology upon which the game functions to the limit. Rising Kingdoms uses 3D terrain, TrueColor video, alpha blending, fog effects and fully 3D particle systems to create graphics rich in detail and quality. It's also the first game we made, which is so complex that it required a change in the whole process of programming the units, which are now implemented 100% in a script language.
From the game's point of view this is really the richest game we've made in terms of game mechanics and thus the most complex for development. There is a whopping quantity of more than 80 different champion skills, not to mention the unit and colony specials. The whole game is designed around the concept of diversity, with the idea to make each game different from the last. It's a game of exploration, I have to say; there are so many things and combinations to try and see.

GGMania: How many different kinds of units are there and how will they differ if we compare different races?

Ivko Stanilov: I actually may be having some problems answering that question. As I just said, the game is very diverse. We have 3 primary (playable) races - Humans, Foresters and Darklings. Each primary race offers a choice of four Champions as well as between 8 and 11 different units, not counting the ones that can be summoned by spells. We also have 5 secondary races with colonies that you can capture and then use to train new types of units. Each secondary race has between 2 and 4 such units available, with four of them being very powerful legendary creatures. If you want to calculate the total figure, go ahead, I already lost the count.

As for the units of each race, Humans generally have weaker units that help each other very well, Foresters have more powerful, but slower units and Darklings have average units that regenerate their health with time. The gameplay of each race is also largely determined by the Champions available: Humans have leader champions that help their weak units, Foresters have a lot of tricks available to compensate their lack of speed and Darklings - champions with raw power capable of dealing tons of damage quickly.

GGMania: How will resource management be handled in the game?

Ivko Stanilov: We kept the resource management very simple, as the game focuses more on tactical combat and expansion through colony conquest. Workers or buildings collect the two basic resources - gold and gems. The third and most important resource - glory - is obtained by capturing the independent colonies on the map. In addition, once you capture a colony it provides you with a new way of obtaining glory, depending on the race of the colony. More often than not the winner is that player who manages to gather the most glory points, while also keeping up with the other resources.

GGMania: I've noticed the game features two modes - "strategy mode" and "adventure mode". What's the difference between them?

Ivko Stanilov: This is just the terminology we use in all our RTS games with role-playing elements. The "strategy" mode represents games played against other human or computer players, starting on equal terms on a single map with the goal of eliminating all opponents (or all opposing teams in a team game).
The "adventure" mode is only available in single player. In this mode the player experiences the story, going through a number of maps each with its own mission objectives.

GGMania: Can you reveal a bit more about the heroes in the game?

Ivko Stanilov: Heroes (they're called Champions in the game) are very powerful and play a key role in the game. The Champions you choose and the way you develop their skills are very important for your strategy. A Champion has seven skills to choose from - 4 basic, 2 advanced and 1 ultimate skill. From these only 4 can be learned. The Champion development system is extremely flexible allowing the player to develop the skills of each champion in 12 different ways.
Another interesting feature is that Champions don't learn their skills by gaining experience, but require Glory.

GGMania: How is combat handled in Rising Kingdoms? In terms of scale, are we looking at massive numbers of units engaging in combat, or will it be more of a skirmish affair?

Ivko Stanilov: Rising Kingdoms is a game in which the armies are relatively small and decisions made in combat are very important. We tried to create tactical battles that are easy to control while requiring the player to act and micromanage her units. Warcraft III for example requires clicking like crazy in combat and this really frustrates many players (myself included). In Rising Kingdoms there are no units other than the Champions that have special actions in battle, or if they have any, they use them automatically. This leaves the player with enough time to move her units and select targets while also using Champion skills and the battles are still very interesting.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the engine that is being used for the game?

Ivko Stanilov: I already partially answered this question above and all I can add is that we used our existing engine from Celtic Kings and brought it to a whole new level with the numerous improvements we made. The engine is now being implemented anew, using the same proven concepts, but this time in 3D for our next games.

GGMania: What type of music will be played during the missions?

Ivko Stanilov: The music, like most soundtracks for films or games, combines many different styles. It is made to capture the spirit of the various races in the game and the mood of battle. The soundtrack will be available on the second of the game's CDs.

GGMania: Could you tell us a bit about the multiplayer in Rising Kingdoms?

Ivko Stanilov: The game supports multiplayer custom games over LAN and also over Internet. In addition, you can try your hand at the Online Battles, where you can compete with players from all around the world for a place in the global rankings. The Online Battle system gathers statistics from all games you've played and matches you against players with a similar ranking in order to make the games interesting for all participants.

GGMania: What are some of your favorite aspects of Rising Kingdoms?

Ivko Stanilov: One of my favorite aspects is how all games you play are very different. With the random secondary race colonies around your initial base and their powerful special abilities, you have to adjust your strategy for each game. And I really enjoy the graphics. The game is not fully 3D, but I think our art team managed to prove that this doesn't necessarily mean it can't look great.

GGMania: What's the current status of the project, and what remains to be done? When will it be released?

Ivko Stanilov: We don't have much programming left to do; we're currently working on the last Online features and on the main interface. Rising Kingdoms is currently in Beta stage and will be released on the European market on May 27th. We will also release a public demo on April 18th, try it out!

GGMania:Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything you want to add that we didn't cover?

Ivko Stanilov: Well, thank you for this interview, and to all the gamers - I will be expecting you in the Rising Kingdoms Online Battles! Just look for "ivkost".

genre: real-time strategy
release: May 2005 (EU)
developer: Haemimont Games
publisher: Black Bean (EU publisher)

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