Developer Interview: Swords & Soldiers
Announced last week for PSN, Swords & Soldiers is trying break the stereotype that console RTS games are lackluster. We had the chance to ask Jasper Koning from Ronimo Games some questions on what it takes to make a console RTS work.
Q: Strategy games rarely work on consoles. How have you made the interface in the game friendly in this respect.
Jasper Koning: The side-scrolling aspect already helps in making it a bit more clear and manageable for the console. As for the controls, they were easy for the Wii version, since a pointer and icons are really easy to understand and work with, but the dual analog controls were quite a challenge. We’ve come up with radial menus that open using the shoulder buttons. One for units and one for spells. The selection process is now even faster, since you don’t have to move a cursor across the screen to get to your unit or spell. The selection of units to cast your spell on required a bit of auto-targeting magic to make it fast enough. Nowadays a lot of us in the office prefer the dual analog control scheme because you no longer have to track the pointer as well as keep an eye on the battlefield. Now you can just focus on the battle itself.
Q: As you stated already the game originally came out for the WiiWare service, what made you want to bring it to PSN?
JK: Basically to get more people to play our game, of course! And PSN is the download service to go to if you want to try something fresh and a bit more different. The service has already seen a lot of great innovative games doing really well, so we figured we’d fit right in.
Q: What changes are being made to bring the game to PSN?
JK: The graphics have been redone for HD which really makes the game shine. The controls have been reworked, as I explained earlier, but the biggest improvement has been the online components. We now have leaderboards for highscores based challenge modes, and we have a really nicely integrated system for online multiplayer.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit out the online multiplayer?
JK: Sure! It’s really nice. We knew that playing against each other is already tons of fun, so our focus was to make sure that people are able to find an opponent, no matter the size of the community. What we’ve come up with is to get rid of the waiting screen. The problem with a lot of online games is that you have to sit in a waiting screen or lobby, and wait for the game to find opponents. If this doesn’t happen quickly enough, players leave. So the actual window for players finding each other is very small.
In our game, you can turn on and off the Matchmaking mode at any time. You don’t have to wait, you can just play the game, turn on Matchmaking mode, and play some more until the game finds an opponent. And since you’re not waiting but playing, the game has a more time to find an opponent. When you’re done playing online you’ll be put back into your single player content right where you left off.
Now that we’ve made finding opponents a far less tedious process, we think players will start using the online mode more and more and people will find each other faster and faster.
Q: After seeing users feedback from the original game, will there be any tweaks or changes made to the difficulty? One of our readers thought shamans were a bit too powerful.
JK: We made quite a lot of tweaks actually. The difficulty curve of the campaigns has been smoothed a bit and the final levels are shorter and less tedious. We’ve made a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle improvements to the game balance, especially to make the overall balance a bit more fun and fair.
As for the shamans, or Necromancers, we haven’t nerfed them, if that’s what you hoped. What we did do, though, was improve the Viking counters to them because that faction had the biggest trouble in getting rid of them. We moved the Lightning spell upwards in the skill tree, so you can start zapping the shamans earlier and cheaper and we’ve buffed the Freezehammer guys since they’re the ones to get if you want to smack through that Skeleton army built by the shamans. All in all, we’ve put a lot of effort in making sure the game feels more fair and is even more fun in general.
I’m also happy to announce that casting the Boulder spell as an Aztec player will no longer kill any of your workers.
Q: Right now there are three factions in the game. Are there any plans down the line for additional factions? We happen to like wizards.
JK: Sorry, we have no plans for additional factions. We also have lots of ideas for factions ourselves, like Pirates or Romans, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we did a sequel someday, but we have no real plans at the moment.
Q: Swords and Soldiers seems like the perfect game for Move Support, being that it was already on the Wii. Though it hasn’t been announced as a feature, are there any plans to support the device?
JK: We have a Move controller in the office and though the game won’t support it out of the gate, we are looking into patching Move support in. However, we’re still not sure about that, because of possible balancing issues. Each control scheme has different advantages. So nothing official, at the moment.
Q: Will there be a demo at launch and can we expect the game to be priced similarly to the WiiWare version?
JK: These are details we’re still working out at the moment.
I would like to thank Jasper for answering our questions. For more info on the game, you know we will be covering it, but Ronimo also has a Facebook page for the game.