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Tacticular Cancer Interview: Eador: Masters of the Broken World

Tacticular Cancer Interview: Eador: Masters of the Broken World

Interview - posted by Trash on Thu 20 September 2012, 07:38:15

Tags: Eador: Masters of the Broken World; Snowbird Game Studios; Tacticular Cancer Interview

We've got to talk to Vladimir Tortsov from Snowbird Game Studios about their upcoming turn-based strategy game, Eador: Masters of the Broken World.

Could you tell us a little bit about Eador: Masters of the Broken World, its back story, inspirations and gameplay elements?

Eador. Masters of the Broken World is a 3D-remake of an earlier 2D-game, originally released in Russia in 2010. The game looked nice and the press ratings were great, but, of course, these days you can’t expect too much in terms of sales from a 2D turn-based strategy not even featuring any animations. Development of the 3D Eador was started in 2011 by newly established Snowbird Game Studios.

The original 2D prototype of Eador was developed by one person (with a little help of his friends) – Alexey Bokulev. Alexey has worked on that game for 3 years; it was his ‘dream game’ combining many cool features from his favorite strategy titles – Sid Meier’s Civilization, HoMM III and Master of Magic.

Alexey has joined Snowbird to work on the international release of Eador. Masters of the Broken World as lead game designer. Our goal with this game is to preserve the best features of the original while improving the gameplay experience by introducing new elements and adjusting game mechanics.​

What is the role and ultimate goal of the player in Eador? Will the player have different outcomes depending on for instance morale choices? Will there be an alignment system in the game?

The player acts as an immortal demigod-like entity, the Master. You’re not alone in this world – there are 15 other Masters, whom you have to defeat or ally yourself with. Your ultimate goal is to unify the shattered fragments of Eador under your rule. Through invading and conquering other shards, your alter-ego, the Master, becomes more powerful and better able to shape the world as he pleases.

There are 12 different game endings in total, and some of them aren’t exactly optimistic. They depend greatly on actions and decisions of the player. For instance, the player can ally himself with an evil Master and assist him in the ultimate destruction of the world; or he can choose an opposite path and try to restore the order and ancient greatness of Eador with a help of likeminded Masters.

Thus, the Master’s alignment (or ‘Karma’, as we call it) plays an enormous role in gameplay. Not only it affects the game’s outcome, it influences our Master’s daily routine greatly as well. Every decision the player makes during the game will have its consequences, sometimes pleasant, sometimes not so much. For instance, an evil Master will suffer from unrest and constant rebellions; yet benefit from lower upkeep costs for his army and increased income from bleeding his provinces dry. His good counterpart will most probably suffer from budget deficiency and higher military expenses, but his units will be better motivated, and his citizens happy.​

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Is Eador a turn-based game in the we-go style or do you have a different system in place?

In combat, we have IGOUGO ‘ranked’ system, meaning the players are taking turns one after another in the same order. The Initiative attribute of the hero leading an army determines which player starts first in a battle. On strategic level, however, the system is phase-based, with the player first giving his heroes their orders, then proceeding to the execution phase where the heroes carry out his commands simultaneously with the opposition.​

There seems to be quite a distinction between the overland, strategic and combat portions of the game. What exactly will you be doing in each of them?

On the Astral level, you decide the direction for your empire to follow in general. You choose a shard you want to conquer, see what technologies and benefits you get if it falls to you, and converse with other Masters. This is where you discover more about the world of Eador and advance the plot of campaign.

On the strategic map, consisting of numerous provinces, your main goal is to capture the enemy capitals while trying to preserve yours. Here you handle the global issues of this particular shard, including politics, economy, diplomacy and province management. You control the progress of your heroes and their armies on this level as well. This is where you have to make decisions during random events, too. Sometimes it can become head-scratching indeed.

Finally, there is tactical level where your armies face your adversaries in battle. You’ll be giving orders to your units and trying to outmaneuver an enemy.​

Will you be improving and expanding a home base or shard or will you have to build up forces in every shard you invade? Will you for instance have a castle you'll expand or a standing army that stays with you through the campaign?

You start anew with every shard, but the technologies you’ve collected stay with you for the rest of the game, while various benefits you’ve acquired can be enabled in further conquests at the cost of some Energy - the resource your own shard generates every turn on the Astral level.

We understand it’s easy to become attached to your experienced heroes and their army, but on the other hand, the game offers enough ways to try out any strategy you like during the campaign, instead of sticking to the same setup for the entire duration of it.​

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How is combat handled and how many units will you be fighting with? Will you have different armies?

Combat takes place on a tactical map made of hexes. Some important notes to make: your hero fights in battles directly, alongside his troops; and units do not stack - every unit in your army is a single creature. In total, the largest army you may field is 16 units - that’s two complete rows.

You can have any army you like. There are about 70 units you can hire. They are divided into four ranks by their basic stats, in every rank there are ‘good’ and ‘evil’ units (their karma), ranged and melee ones, those who rely on magic, flying units, etc. A hero can only lead a limited number of units of each rank, so the puny 1st rank levies never really go out of fashion - a couple of mighty minotaurs cannot replace half a dozen of pikemen, only compliment them.​

Could you explain the different kinds of heroes that lead your armies? Will they level up during the game? Can you equip them?

There are four basic hero classes. A Warrior is pretty straight-forward class, he specializes in brute force approach and has the most hit points and best melee stats. A Commander can lead a much bigger army than any other hero of comparable level, his attributes mainly focus on improving the units under his command. A Scout focuses on ranged combat and utility skills; he can explore provinces quickly and gather resources efficiently. Finally, a Wizard is all magic, unable to use any kind of armor and shields, so you have to be very careful with him in the first stages of your game.

Naturally, your heroes gain levels as they earn experience, and can equip a plenty of items, from basic swords and chainmails to bracers, necklaces and war banners. As the heroes grow in levels, they get better at fighting, leading troops and spellcasting, and you are given a choice which of their special abilities to develop. Once they reach level 10, they are eligible for one of 4 (per each basic class) prestige classes, allowing them to hone their native abilities to perfection or to gain access to the abilities of another basic class - and a host of unique benefits as well.​

Do the other units in your armies gather experience and levels? What other stats affect them? Will you be able to customize your units?

Yes, the rank and file units level up too. Often, a veteran trooper of a lower rank can easily surpass a rookie unit of a higher rank, so normally you don’t want to use them as expendable cannon-fodder (or devil-fodder, so to speak...). When the unit gets a new level, you can upgrade one of his characteristics or pick some new skill or ability.

If you’ll appoint a Commander as a general for your army, his abilities will contribute to the stats of your units. The army morale is also affected by the units’ alignment – a company of all-good or all-evil troops will receive a morale bonus, while a mismatched band of units who hate one another suffers from a penalty.

Sometimes, you get to award your units for outstanding combat performance. This improves their attributes, but their upkeep cost increases as well.​

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There seem to be quite some rpg aspects to Eador, could you elaborate on these? Will there be apart from leveling up for instance also quests? Shall we be able to send our heroes into dungeons for loot and experience?

Role-playing element lies in almost everything you do in the game - the way you conduct politics, economics, how you approach to dealing with other Masters. Your individual strategy will personalize your presence in the world of Eador, and will eventually lead you to an ending that befits your behavior.

That being said, nothing is fully predictable and each play can be unique.

There are no specific quests for you as a Master, but you are always able to order your heroes to explore the provinces you control. Eventually they’ll discover different places of interest, such as ancient crypts, forgotten temples and monster lairs. By commanding your heroes to enter these locations, you trigger a battle between their armies and the guardians of the place. If your heroes triumph, they’ll gain some experience and often find some hidden treasure.

Then there are monasteries of the Lord of Light, always hell-bent on mass genocide of those poor zombies or imps, magic shop owners ever looking for rare and grisly ingredients for their craft, non-human races demanding some kind of service before they consider joining you in your struggle - your heroes will have little rest between all these tasks.​

Random events always bring life and color to a strategical game. Will they play a role in Eador?

Yes, they play a great role in Eador. The system of event generation is not unlike the Paradox Interactive games (such as Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings) – there are different chances of triggering any particular event, depending on the current situation in your kingdom. Once something is happening in one of your provinces, you will instantly get a report asking to make your decision out of a number of options. Your choice will affect the daily life of your citizens, the overreaching plot (through influencing your karma), economics, and even some tactical aspects. Sometimes it will even come back to haunt you many turns after.​

When on a shard, how do the economics work? Will you be building up settlements or finding and conquering buildings and areas like mines that give you resources? How many resources will Eador have?

Economics make an important part of the game. You’ll have to watch over your provinces and the well-being of their denizens for them to be effective taxpayers. There are 2 primary resources in the game: gold and magic gems, plus 9 strategic resources such as mandrake root, horses or black lotus. Every province you’ll conquer will provide you with a number of gold and gems each turn, and some may host a hidden source of some rare resource that will make certain units and buildings significantly cheaper to purchase.

The majority of construction happens in your home province, where you develop your capital from a grand total of over 200 buildings. These buildings provide you with troops, spells and items for purchase, grant a variety of bonuses, unlock access to new provincial buildings and guards (static garrisons hired to protect the provinces). You can develop conquered provinces as well, but at much smaller scope. Mines you’ll have to construct yourself, but certain more esoteric provincial buildings may indeed be discovered via exploration.​

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Could you tell us a bit more about the magic system Eador uses? How does it work exactly?

There are 2 ways of spellcasting in Eador. Some spells are cast in strategic mode and affect entire province – they’re called ‘rituals’. The second type is regular spells, used only during battles.

There are about 100 spells in total, divided between 6 different schools and 4 circles of power, so the variety of magic is massive. Spellcasting is built around memorization system; every hero has a number of spell-slots for each circle he can fill in a library (or from a scroll with some spell your library lacks). The casting itself consumes magic gems, but some nastier schools of magic may claim a portion of hero’s health, a corpse of a slain, or even a life of a loyal trooper as a cost of their spells. Many incantations affect your karma as well - you won’t stay a paragon of goodness for long if you go around raising ghouls and summoning fiends all over the place.​

Shards seem to be quite distinct from each other with for instance lush green ones looking quite different from some nearly lifeless shards. Are these differences mostly cosmetic or do they have an impact on gameplay as well?

Yes, these differences affect the strategic map, its size, terrain types and provinces. We also plan to add some new special kinds of shards, such as a desert or a frozen waste. This feature is yet to be implemented, but we’re really excited about it.​

Presumably you're not the only demi-god in the Eador universe. How will you interact with other Masters? Does diplomacy play a big role in Eador?

Yes, it does. You can make pacts with other Masters on the Astral level, which can either benefit or stab you in the back in the long run. You have to be careful who do you do business with, just like in real life :) Some diplomatic choices even determine the eventual outcome of the game.

On the strategic level, diplomacy is important as well, though it affects the game on a smaller scale. A timely war pact with another Master during the conquest of a particular shard could help you turn the tide and use the strategic advantage.​

When you invade a shard will you have to fight it out with other masters there or will you have to do other things to conquer it? Can shards you already conquered revolt against you?

There will always be some kind of local resistance on a shard you try to conquer. Sometimes we’ll only be fighting against some local rulers, providing no other Masters are present on that particular shard.

At the moment, there is only one way to win the war over the shard – you need to capture the capitals of your enemies and protect yours from being taken. We’re experimenting with alternative victory conditions and hopefully we’ll be able to implement some of them into the game.

The conquered shards literally become attached to your ‘homeworld’ shard, so a revolt would be quite a meaningless endeavor. :) So, the answer is ‘no’ - once the shard is yours, you don’t have to worry about its population anymore. This is a small relief after having to suffer through endless province-level revolts during its initial conquest.​

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Will the player be able to build his forces from several of the races in Eador? Will you also be able to field fantastical units like for instance gryphons and dragons?

Yes... sort of. In the course of a campaign for a given shard, you can only ally yourself with one of eight races of Eador, gaining ability to recruit their soldiers. However, you can still sometimes acquire the troops of other races, as mercenaries for example. There are significant penalties to the unit morale if you, for instance, try to field orcs and elves in the same army, but you still can do it if you wish.

And of course, there are many mythic and fantastic creatures available for hire (or should we say ‘for tame’ when it comes to dragons, gryphons, slugs or manticores?). Some can be acquired in the lairs discovered during province exploration, some spawned from eggs and other similar items found as treasures, and some are part of the regular roster of troops for hire.​

The original Eador had a huge campaign. Is the campaign for this sequel comparable to that one? How long should the campaign take for new players? Will you be able to play random games or skirmish ones as well?

One of the goals we originally had when we started this project was to condense the campaign, making it shorter but more interesting and involving. We didn’t want to see the players getting burned out barely midway through the campaign. So, comparing to the first game, Masters of the Broken World proceeds faster but still feels epic in scope. Our rough estimation is that it would take about 60 hours for a new player to complete the campaign successfully. To fail it though, he would need significantly less time :)

And sure, you’ll be able to play skirmish games too. The random map generator is able to build shards of immense size unheard of in the campaign, pitting all 16 Masters against one another.​

Modding provides a two edged sword in that it often lends extra life to a game or even popularity but can also drain developer resources with the need of for example modding tools. What are your thoughts on this? Will Eador be moddable?

Yes, we’re going to release a set of modding tools for the community. Games like Eador tend to have a long life cycle, so it’s crucial for us to support and encourage modders.​

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There was talk of releasing the original Eador game on GOG with an english translation. Are you still looking into this?

Yes, we’d love to do it and we hope to reach the agreement on this with GOG in the near future. In my personal opinion the original game is a perfect fit for their lineup.​

Speaking of translations, many Russian and East European games have suffered from horrible english translations in their releases. How will you deal with this?

Yeah, we understand what you’re talking about :) Our solution is simple enough: we’re using the services of a professional localization team, then double-check all materials ourselves. Bad localization is one of the certain ways to damage your project’s success, so we’re pretty serious about keeping it tight.​

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Are you still aiming at a 2012 release?

Yes, so far it’s still 2012.​

Thank you for your time and good luck with the further development of Eador: Masters of the Broken World.

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