Coming to Early Access on the 19th April, The Black Death is a multiplayer survival game that allows you to choose your own path in this dark, medieval land, complete with a diverse population of villagers, wildlife, and plague victims. Create your own story from a range of different play styles – become a blacksmith; defend the weak as a knight; or earn your living as a merchant. The wealthier, the richer, the stronger you become, the better your chance of survival.
We’ve had to the chance to ask the developers a few questions ahead of the games release.
Would you be able to tell us a little bit about yourselves and your backgrounds?
We are Syrin Studios / Small Impact Games, a small developer with a passion for multiplayer games! We really enjoy playing online multiplayer survival games and we wanted to take that experience in a new direction. We saw a great opportunity to create a unique experience using Unreal Engine 4; a sandbox game that facilitates realistic role-playing in a dark medieval period allowing the players to live their life through a wide range of professions.
The Black Death has seemingly appeared out of nowhere. With the release to early access being fairly close, and it looking as good as it does, how long have you been working on it?
We have been working on the title for 8 months now. We are a team of 7 and have been heavily focused on the development of The Black Death, leaving little time for marketing and promotion. However, Green Man Gaming have been really good at helping us plan and push the marketing side of things.
What inspired you to make a game based around The Black Death and that era?
We chose the time of the Black Death because it is such an important part of our history, when the human race was the closest it’s ever been to extinction. This era is largely untapped when it comes to games and a moody depiction of the medieval ages in Western Europe felt like the perfect fit. We took cultural reference from films (Ironclad), TV series (Vikings, Game of Thrones) and ‘life’ mod games such as Dark RP and Arma-3-Life. While knights stereotypically dominate modern ideas of medieval life, the reality is that they were only a small part of a very rich culture. We wanted The Black Death to reflect this by giving players multiple professions to explore.
How big a part does the plague play in the game – how do the mechanics of it work?
The plague is an integral part of the game; sickness can be gained through consuming rotten food, entering a plague-ridden area or coming into contact with a heavily infected NPC or player. Once you become sick it is a permanent affliction, meaning that it is something that all players will need be wary of. Monks can can craft preventative remedies, but nothing can cure you. As you become more ill you will begin to cough, sneeze and, when heavily sick, throw up. Your hunger rate increases and stamina recharge rate decreases and reaching full infection results in a slow and painful death.
What happens when you die in the game? Do you start completely again or are you able to retain certain things?
Currently when you die you lose everything except your house, which is passed on as inheritance to your next character. However as we progress through Early Access we plan to release our full inheritance system, which would allow players the chance to inherit a portion of their previous character’s items and wealth!
How many players can we expect to see on a server?
Initially we are aiming for approximately 100 players per server, but this is something we will be testing during Early Access.
With the buying of houses, how will that work across servers – assuming there are multiple servers?
At the beginning of Early Access there will only be official servers but we will be adding support for players to create their own in the future. Currently items, houses and characters are tied to a specific instance, so you will only own the house in that server.
Will the purchases remain persistent to the server?
Yes, purchases such as houses and items are persistent within your chosen server.
We know that the world will be large at 8Km2, how many large cities or smaller towns can we expect to see in that?
The major city is Capital City, which you can see a small snippet of in the Merchant profession trailer. As players venture further away from this settlement, things become less well guarded and more dangerous, but offer greater rewards and more rare materials. There are other settlements and locations scattered across the playable area for players to explore, including a militia camp, old ruins, castles, mining colonies, farms, harbours and caves.
This type of game feels perfect for Roleplay and Roleplay servers, was that something you had in mind when making it?
Absolutely! We’re actively trying to build in systems and gameplay mechanics that support this type of play. It was one of the main reasons we came up with the profession system, providing unique skills and animations that allow players to interact in a roleplaying manner. We are looking forward to getting feedback while in Early Access on how players feel we could improve our roleplaying mechanics.
Could I (in theory) kill anyone I want, whenever I want, wherever I want? If so what are the repercussions of this?
Sure, if you feel that way inclined you could attack whoever you like! However, you really need to be aware of your situation and surroundings, the guards in more populated areas are on constant lookout for anyone breaking the law and will be ruthless in dishing out punishments. We really want the decision of whether or not to take someone’s life to be one that’s not taken lightly. We have systems in mind that could be added during Early Access that we’re not quite ready to talk about yet!
Following on from this, is there any kind of crime system that could potentially allow someone to become a vigilante/bounty hunter?
We’re still discussing what we can do with these systems internally but it’s too early to say anything for certain.
If I started life as a farmer and got sick of people stealing my crops, how easy is it to have a change of direction and become a sword for hire as an example?
All professions are able to take part in combat and specialise in different themed weaponry, for example the Peasant can become pretty deadly in dealing damage with tools such as sickles and wood-axes, which enable you to fight back. Additionally Peasants can unlock the Hunter profession, which provides greater offensive abilities. Balancing these mechanics is a delicate act; during Early Access we’ll be monitoring player’s behaviour and fine tuning the professions to ensure you get the best possible experience.
It seems like the game is set in a more realistic imagining of a medieval world, is that something we can expect or will there be some elements of Fantasy to it?
The world of The Black Death aims to be a historically accurate depiction of a bleak and plague-ravaged medieval Europe and contains no fantasy elements. Of course to keep the game enjoyable we do have to take a little artistic license in some areas. For example, the real plagues of the Black Death would normally take between 1 and 8 days to kill you, not so fun! We draw our inspiration from a combination of history, real life places and events and certain TV shows and films.
How in depth is player creation?
Just like with our pre-built housing system, we wanted to limit the options for character creation to ensure the stylistic integrity of the world. Players can however choose between different professions (Militia, Merchant, Peasant etc), choose their own name and select a gender. Based on these criteria they will take on a random appearance that suits their profession.
During gameplay, players are free to create and wear all sorts of clothing; hats, tunics, trousers, armour, helmets and gloves. Some professions also have the ability to colour these items with dyes for extra customisation.
Will players be able to band together and form any sort of factions or groups or even a company/business?
This is something we feel would add a great deal to the game and that we’re definitely interested in implementing, however it would be a feature that is introduced during the Early Access stage.
What exciting new features can we expect to see in the future?
You can be sure to see numerous new professions, new locations, an expansion to the housing mechanic and a fuller item library with additional craftables, weapons, food and clothing. We are also looking to add the ability to ride horses. There’s a lot of scope for the game to grow!
Everything I’m hearing about this game sounds brilliant and I can’t wait to give it a go.
You can pre-purchase The Black Death through Green Man Gaming here. They should also be at this years EGX Rezzed, so if you’re going along take the time to go and check out the game – I know I will be.
If you want to keep up to date with all the latest trailers for the game, keep an eye on the Green Man Loaded YouTube channel.
Finally I would just like to thank the people from Syrin Studios and Small Impact Games for taking the time to answer our questions.