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Warrior Kings: Battles Interview
(hx) 09:15 PM CEST - Apr,27 2003

GGMania got a chance to chat with Black Cactus's director Ian Turnbull to find out more about Warrior Kings: Battles, their just released 3D real-time strategy game. He did some extensive testing on the game and now graciously filled us in on many details in this Warrior Kings standalone-sequel.

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

Ian Turnbull: Hi, I'm Ian Turnbull and I did extensive testing on Warrior Kings: Battles. I am also a Director of the company but testing is more fun.

GGMania: Can you give us a little background on the development team working on Warrior Kings: Battles?

Ian Turnbull: The team is the same one that worked on the original Warrior Kings, so they could not be more suited to the role of developing the next game in the series.

GGMania:  Were you pleased with the reactions that the original Warrior Kings game received?

Ian Turnbull: Yes we were really pleased with the press and customer support we received, especially as Warrior Kings was our first product.

GGMania: I remember the initial release of Warrior Kings has some killer bugs. Did you an extended beta testing for the sequel?

Ian Turnbull: Empire have an excellent testing department and Warrior Kings: Battles has received a lot of testing. However, with a game like Warrior Kings: Battles it is very difficult to get all of the bugs out, it is just such a vast game and with all the permutations of tech tree paths combined with the ability to do anything anywhere, then it is just such a big job. But we are getting better and we think we got most of the bugs in Warrior Kings: Battles. What we can do is be very responsive to any bugs that are reported and we have already released a patch for the game that is available on

GGMania: What can you tell us about the actual plotline of Warrior Kings: Battles?

Ian Turnbull: Many years have passed since Artos brought unity and peace to the lands of Orbis, as told in the events of Warrior Kings. He founded a dynasty that lasted 100 years, but the last Artosian ruler was assassinated by a fanatical zealot, bringing to an end years of stability. The ensuing struggle for power destroyed the fabric of the Empire, and it has collapsed in on itself, wracked by civil war, famine and disease. The Empire's death throes sent shockwaves of instability across the world, sucking down neighbouring nations into a terrible whirlpool of cataclysmic ruin.
Orbis has been plunged into chaos, and war has raged across the land like the fires of hell. This anarchy has even spread like a plague across the seas to the Empires of the South and East. Everywhere, the Empires, Nations, Kaliphates and Kingdoms of Orbis have collapsed in on themselves, breaking down into Baronies, Provinces and City States, where each man's hand is set against his brothers in a terrible, bloody battle for survival and supremacy
You are the ruler of a small province, the last remnant of a once mighty nation. To survive, you will have to "Conquer or Die!"

GGMania: What are the biggest changes in Warrior Kings: Battles over the original Warrior Kings?

Ian Turnbull: The single biggest improvement is the introduction of a whole new AI system that does not cheat. In addition we have several new skirmish/multiplayer modes not seen in an RTS before.

GGMania: What AI improvements shall we see in Warrior Kings: Battles?

Ian Turnbull: The fundamental issue with the AI is that it does not cheat. It, like a human player, can only see what its own units can see. Most RTS games allow the computer opponent to see through the fog of war, giving them a significant advantage. So the computer opponent, or opponents, has to work out each time what to do and how to respond to you. I was talking with one player who loves Warrior Kings: Battles, he said that "What I normally do is play a level through one time to see what the computer opponent does, then I'll play it properly. But in Warrior Kings: Battles you can not do this as the computer opponent always responds to you, rather than using the same scripted AI routine each time". So, basically you are going to get a good game every time you play.

The other area that it does not cheat in is the control of its units and buildings. We became frustrated playing RTS games where the computer opponents was doing things far faster than a human player could, the game would then just turn into how fast you could move the mouse and click. This is no fun for a player, as they do not get a fair, fun game.

We have introduced diplomacy between all players, including the AI players, so anyone can join forces to defeat the others. But be careful whom you choose, as not everyone is trustworthy. In fact one of the AI generals strategies is based on how one of our artists plays, allies with everyone at the start, then slowly stabs everyone in the back!!

Oh, and there are a whopping 70 AI generals to fight against, as well as an editor that allows you to create and customize your own.

GGMania: How many missions are there?

Ian Turnbull: In the Campaign there are 22 territories, each one is controlled by 1-4 AI generals that you have to defeat. As well as picking up spoils of war from each territory you conquer the Map and AI generals become available to you in the skirmish and multiplayer games, this makes Warrior Kings: Battles one of the most replay able RTS's out there.

GGMania: Can gamers expect a huge improvement in graphics?

Ian Turnbull: The world is more alive, trees now blow in the wind and leaves fall from the branches when they are being chopped down. The landscape is now blended so you can get close without the annoyance of seeing the pixels. We also have lots of wonderful special effects and every character has a multitude of animations and actions. But basically the more powerful your PC the better the game looks, run it at a resolution of 1600 x 1600 on a serious machine and it looks so realistic it could be a film.

GGMania: Could you us a bit about the multiplayer in Warrior Kings: Battles?

Ian Turnbull: We wanted to give the players a lot of value for money and a brilliant gaming experience, so we now have 2 multiplayer modes, each with its own variants. But remember that in Warrior Kings: Battles the Skirmish and multiplayer game options are basically the same, so you do not have to go on-line to enjoy a game against other players, you just play against AI's instead. So, the options for Skirmish and Multiplayer are Standard, King Piece and Valhalla.

In standard mode you start off with a Manor and have to basically defeat all the opponents by destroying their Manors and Cities. The King Piece option is a variation where you also get a King on horseback; lose him and the game is lost. But don't think that you can just hide him in a building so your opponent cannot see him. As soon as you do, a big flag appears next to the building where he is.

Now the Valhalla mode has never been seen in an RTS before. This is points based battle in the extreme, no economy just big armies fighting. You decide how many points you are going to let each player have, they then pick their own custom army, they can even save and name their favourite ones. What happens next is really cool, when the game starts your units are placed next to your base, a number of flags appear on the map. It is now one big fight for control of as many flags as possible, the more flags you control the more points you get, the first person to a pre set number is the winner. Now the thing that really turns the pressure on is that as units die they are automatically re-spawned at the owners base, ready to be thrust into the fight again

In addition, as you may get carried away with the medieval slaughter, we allow you to save multiplayer games at any point, just in case you start to over run your lunch break.

GGMania: Which elements of Warrior Kings: Battles do you feel you are the most proud of?

Ian Turnbull: The branching tech tree was so successful in the original Warrior Kings that we decided to keep it. For those of you who do not know, every race starts neutral, and as you play you go down one of five paths; Pagan, Imperial, Renaissance, Pagan Renaissance & Imperial Renaissance. This means that you never know who you are going to be fighting against.

We have also introduced new characters that make you think about how you play more. You can turn wood, stone and gold into living elementals to attack your opponent, you can create ghost armies to fool them and conduct all sorts of espionage.

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

Ian Turnbull: No Problems, more than happy to answer your questions, all I can say is that the game is exactly like the screen shots, an exciting rich world where you never have the same game twice. Believe it or not we still play it here in the office, and love it.

Note: For more info & screenshots check this review

genre: 3D RTS
release: April 2003 (UK)
developer: Black Cactus
publisher: Empire Interactive

last 10 comments:

Benposted - Feb, 25 2006 - 19:06
Where Can I Find The Tech Tree???

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