Legends of Eisenwald: Exclusive interview with the CEO of Aterdux Entertainment
RPG strategy mix Legends of Eisenwald is creating some buzz on crowd funding website Kickstarter. We talked to the CEO of Aterdux Entertainment, Alexander Dergay, about the role of Kickstarter and the engine that Eisenwald uses.
A new Kickstarter project from small Belarus developer team Aterdux Entertainment, Legends of Eisenwald, is trying to get support from fans of the RPG strategy genre. The project is on course to achieve the minimum goal so we talked with
Aterdux CEO Alexander Dergay about Kickstarter, the team and the engine. Thanks @ Alexander for answering the questions.
PCGH: When was Aterdux Entertainment founded and how did the current team find together?
Alexander Dergay: Aterdux Entertainment started in 2004 and back then it was just 2 people who were working on a game in their spare time. Nikolay Armonik programmed graphics engine and gameplay mechanics and created almost all graphics art. Denis Lomako created AI and Map Editor. At that moment their goal was to revive King's Bounty – a classic game from 1990 which mechanics were unjustly forgotten. But since the process of making that game involved creativity the game started looking completely different unlike King's Bounty. So, in 2004 Discord Times was released – a game with rather original and complicated gameplay that inherited some features of old school RPG/strategies but at the same time that didn't copy any single one of them.
The game didn't become widely popular mostly because of very simple graphics but due to its unique gameplay it gathered a group of active fans. I (Alexander) was one of them who first helped with re-releasing it in 2007 and then after many months of planning and discussion and I gathered everyone in 2010 to start working on Legends of Eisenwald. Dmitry Goncharov, former senior animator from Wargaming.net assumed a role of our art director (he was doing some rendering work for Discord Times). Also we were joined by Victor Armonik who had some experience in casual games industry and a composer Ressa Schwarzwald.
PCGH: Have you talked to game publishers before Kickstarter? If so, did they reject the game? What was the reason to go for Kickstarter?
Alexander Dergay: Yes we talked to several publishers in the past, it was quite a while before going to Kickstarter. It's not that they didn't like our game but they wanted to see more – "get back to us when you are close to alpha". Then we show a close to alpha version and they say "we would like to see a little more". At the same time we didn't like many conditions that were offered to us, so when we had a chance not to go to publishers, we decided to use it.
We have to say we didn't talk to many of them. After receiving these responses we felt a bit discouraged and once we found out about Kickstarter we started preparing our launch.
PCGH: Did you develop the graphics engine inhouse? What kind of neat techniques do you use? Who is helping out with textures and art?
Alexander Dergay: Nikolay developed the engine from scratch within a year.
From the very start it was developed keeping in mind many successful technological decisions that were found for DirectX9 in the last years and that are freely available on Internet. But we also did some innovative things including global illumination, multi materials, tonemapping. Also what we think is interesting is almost physically correct model of lighting open spaces, its effects you can see on our screen shots.
Almost entire game art was done for us by outsourcers but since we know them for a long time and since we have competent art direction, our world has visual integrity. Concept art of almost all characters was done by Pavel Romanov who is now working on our art book and game poster.
PCGH: If the game succeeds at Kickstarter, what are the plans for digital distribution?
Alexander Dergay: All of us use Steam and we really like it. We are not that far yet to submit our game to Steam as they require beta version for their submission process but we really hope that our game will be accepted. Because steam is the largest digital distributor and it's user base is very big we think our game can find a good audience there. We will look at other digital distributors too as Steam contracts are not exclusive, another good thing about them.
PCGH: You often mention KB The Legend or Disciples as kind of inspiration for Eisenwald. It seems that this genre is dominated by Russian developers. Coincidence or not?
Alexander Dergay: As strange as it might seem we were not inspired by Russian variations of King's Bounty and Disciples. Discord Times was released 4 years before King's Bounty: The Legend. We already mentioned that our inspiration was King's Bounty of 1990 that was created by John Van Caneghem. When we talk about Disciples, our favorite game from that series is Disciples 2 that was developed by the Canadian studio Strategy First. To be honest, "Russian" Disciples 3 rather disappointed us since its developers discarded an original combat system.
PCGH: Which games do you play in your spare time?
Alexander Dergay: To be honest, in the recent time we almost don't have any time to play. Denis and myself [Alexander] for example decided not to start Skyrim because we felt it could interfere with our development process. Of course, we look at all new games in RPG strategy genre like HoMM 6 and Disciples 3 but only a few of such games are getting released now. Some of is like global strategies like Crusader's Kings and Civilization, others like the universe of Warhammer. Sometimes we like to go to play older games and dive into Jagged Aliance or HoMM 3. And of course our interests are not limited by RPG and strategies, Nikolay as graphics programmer follows with interest Crysis series and Victor likes unusual non mainstream games like The Path.
At Kickstarter, the project still runs for 16 days. So far, almost 36.000 dollars of the required 50,000 have been signed by backers. Some way to go.
In summary, Legends of Eisenwald incorporates the following features:
- Mix of RPG and strategy, turn-based tactical combat with a simple economic system
- Three "professions": Knight, Mystic, Baroness, each with slightly different story
- Tactical battles without boredom: No movement without attack, very small battlefield, low round figures in the fight, no random strikes, no unit "stacking"
- Game is single player only, at least 30 hours of gameplay, Campaign with side missions
- Many units with skill tree. Each unit can be improved through upgrades and equipment
- Lots of weapons and magic
- Castles may be take to strengthen the army, defense units may be placed inside
- Legends of Eisenwald is DRM-free.
- Gameplay on the world map is similar to King's Bounty, while the story is rather towards Heroes of Might and Magic. The fight resembles in many areas Disciples 1 and 2 (not Disciples 3). Also, upgrading of characters is similar to Discples, but with the accessories, and even war horses.
- The development started over two years ago. They have an alpha version, technical aspects of gameplay, battle AI, etc. are 90 percent finished.
- If more money than the estimated 50 000 dollars that are required for the basic version come in, they can to offer more non-linear scenarios, more troops, more special effects in battle, more languages (except English and Russian), more enemy heroes and support for Mac OS and Linux alongside Windows PCs.