The developers of the upcoming third-person multiplayer ‘Persistent Medieval War’ Of Kings and Men have taken time out of their very busy schedules to answer a few questions for us!
Of Kings And Men is an independently developed, third-person multiplayer ‘Persistent Medieval War’ game.
Set in 13th century with both European and Eastern influences, you play as a character in a vast open world full of alliances and conflict, with an emphasis on player-driven experiences.
The game promises a mix of game modes from the more traditional Team Deathmatch and Conquest modes to the intriguing sounding ‘The Epic’ – A persistent open world where players can construct outposts that can turn in to towns, start factions and ultimately go to war in the hopes of going down in history.
A huge thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!
I’m Florian “chadz” Hofreither, Project Lead of OKAM, and very happy to answer your questions.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you came to be Donkey Crew.
It all started in 2010, when I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to be able to have a persistent character in Warband multiplayer” – I discussed it with some people experienced in modding Warband, but was told that it’s not possible. Technically, they were correct, but in the most hacky way I managed to get it to work somehow, and from there on the Warband developers helped out by adding some features to their engine that made it easier and smoother. More people started joining and helping me out, and we became larger and larger.
As for the name Donkey Crew, that really emerged by itself. In 2010, a moderator on the Warband forum gave me the title “The man that does Donkey Shows on Thursdays” – up to this day I don’t know why, I swear there are no kinky hidden secrets that lead up to this. I just went with it, and changed my avatar to the most irritating close up of a smiling donkey picture I could find. And then people just called us the donkeycrew, and we went with that as well.
Being behind the Mount & Blade: Warband cRPG mod, you’ve clearly taken some inspiration from that for Of Kings and Men, but have any other games been behind the inspiration for this project?
Both “not really” and “too many to count”. In terms of game mechanics, Warbands multiplayer combat system is the only one I consciously took elements from. The other gameplay elements are an idea I had for years, getting more and more frustrated when no one else did it, because I thought it’s such an obvious idea. I can’t pinpoint the individual influences, but the games that definitely affected me are, in no particular order, “The Ancient Art of War” as my first video game when I was 6, “The Settlers” for it’s peacefulness, “Tribes” for the teamplay aspects, “Battlezone” (1998) for combining an individual character with strategy elements, “The Guild” for medieval economy, “Haven & Hearth” for it’s harsh but fair world, “Lords of the Realm” for the immersion, “Total War” for huge battles, “Ultima Online” for being an actual MMO and not a coop game in disguise, “Panzer General” for the hexagon strategy, “Eve Online” for stories created by players… The list could go on, but they did not really affect the game design directly, rather than influence me as a gamer.
You’ve decided to split the game in to a more traditional competitive multiplayer style and then the open world “The Epic”, what was the reasoning for doing this?
That’s an important aspect. The Epic requires phases of peace, so the phases of War matter even more. So “The Battlegrounds”, the arena-type gameplay part, allows people to hone their skills, and get that bloodthirst out of their system. The Epic would be not so epic if a player would break off a war every time he wants to smash some skulls. Wars in The Epic take preparation, planning, and commitment.
However, “The Epic” is not the same as “Open World”. In general, I see a big problem with many open world games – too often I see it being abused as a gameplay feature, when it should only be used as a tool.
In OKAM, the Open World is necessary for some gameplay features to work. It’s required for elements like exploration, assassinations and murder – but all of those elements have specific rules as well, tied seamlessly into the existing gameplay rules that are put in place. Just giving people swords and dropping them into a world results in anarchic deathmatch that becomes boring quickly, not a believable medieval world.
Speaking of “The Epic”, to me this sounds like the most intriguing part. How soon after the launch of Early Access can we expect to see this mode?
We intentionally focused on the elements that set us apart from the other games first – which is battles with 200 players and warfare. So the Epic will launch one week after Early Access on the 1st of September, allowing players to team up in the first week and get used to the fighting system before they are thrown into the world of strategy, diplomacy and backstabbing that The Epic will be.
The first version, however, is also an abstraction of the final game. Some mechanics that are simply not ready yet are abstracted, like building a castle or recruiting troops. The reason is that we need to test the war mechanics with our community, make sure that they actually play like the idea I have in my head.
The world you’re creating looks beautiful, how big will The Epic be?
Initially, 15x15km, but that’s really just a starting point. We may have to make it smaller or larger depending on how it actually works out. Planning a world with thousands of players is pretty difficult, I made some rough calculations but so many things depend on how the players play. It’s not a question of technology, making it larger or smaller is no big deal, it’s a question of gameplay. We’re creating an abstraction of a medieval world, not an actual medieval world. It won’t be a realistic topology, but rather one that supports the game in terms of visuals and gameplay. Walking for kilometers without seeing another soul may be realistic, but it’s not what this game is about.
It’s important to understand though that even in the end it won’t be a seamless world. There will be a transition between servers when moving between areas, we will try and keep that as smooth as possible, but it is still a transition. It is something that irks me a lot, but we prioritised gameplay and latency over seamlessness, and I still believe it’s the right decision. It’s something we’re still working on, of course, and the better we make our engine, the larger those areas will become and the more people they can host, but it’s unlikely that we will ever get rid of them fully.
How will building settlements and villages work? What are the mechanics like?
Here you can expect something that has, to my knowledge, never been tried before, and for all I know it might end in a horrible disaster, hopefully the ride is still fun though. Instead of having homogeneous villages that are both run and populated by a handful of loyal people, you need to open your doors to other players and let them settle in your fiefs to make them more powerful. But those people might be not very loyal. It could mean that a lumberjack plans the murder of another lumberjack because he is bad for business. It can also mean that people are fed up with your taxes, and plan to overtake your position as the city ruler. So you need to give people or factions that you might not trust some power in your city, by splitting your claim into districts where different parties have different powers. Enough to keep them content, but not enough to make them more powerful than yourself. Or you sacrifice size for manageability and close your doors completely, but then you will always be stuck with a small outpost, and never really play a large role in the world.
Presumably we will also be able to ransack other people’s villages? Can we completely wipe them out?
Absolutely, it’s an important aspect, but when you conquer a hostile fief, it might be in your best interest to disturb the locals as little as possible and just run the city yourself. They might even be happy about a new lord if the old one was a douche, they have their own things to work with, and might not care about your petty power struggles. This is why I consider this heterogeneity so interesting, there’s no telling what actually happens. A good game has to grow beyond the game designers ideas.
Some screenshots show some fairly large and well protected settlements, are there any plans for things like siege weapons? Or can we still bust in with the good old sword and shield?
Oh, so many siege weapons. You can definitely expect ladders, catapults, siege towers and battering rams. Trebuchets, tunnels and hot oil is possible as well, and some rather crazy stuff that we found in old pictures that I’d love to try out if I find the time.
With battles potentially having up to 200 people involved, will there be able to strategically plan and order troops around?
That is an absolute necessity, and we’ve already seen the potential of it in our mod cRPG. Having a battle where you are part of a group of 10 people, and having 10 other squads of similar size on your side, with a commander organising them all together… And it matters. This battle might decide if you keep the ownership of the castle you built for months. The feeling can’t be described.
There are a number of weapon types talked about, how many weapons overall will we get to choose from?
It’s hard to quantify, because right now we pre-made some weapons, but they are actually a combination of different parts. A sword for example consists of a pommel, a grip, a guard and a blade, each with it’s own stats. So that’s a few thousand combinations for swords alone.
What can we expect to see when the game launches?
A few arena type gamemodes, like duel, skirmish and conquest, a leveling system for your character, a simple version of the item progression system, and the first element of The Epic, the strategy part, where you can recruit and order troops into battles to conquer territory for your kingdom.
Of Kings and Men sounds like it will be better suited to groups to play, how easy will it be to survive and thrive as a solo player and how much of an effect could a solo player have in a war scenario?
This was a very important aspect, because we did it wrong in our mod, and I’m trying to correct this in OKAM. Instead of large, experienced players ignoring, or even hunting new players, they are encouraged to invite them. I expect large factions to have “immigration officers”, finding new players and convincing them to settle in their city to strengthen their economy. So instead of a hostile survival game where everyone is a danger, you can expect the world of OKAM to be a much more friendly initially. The social troubles only emerge when you actually manage to seize some power for yourself, be it through economy, military or diplomacy. Of course, the global influence you can have as an individual player without friends is limited, if not in-existent. But the world is split into many microcosms, and there you can have an influence, even as a solo player.
Will character customisation be something we’ll see at launch or fairly early on?
Fairly early on. Just need to work out some kinks and performance issues, but it’s nearly ready to go.
There is mention of a social area, what we will actually be able to do in this area?
This idea was scratched some time ago, and incorporated into the general world of The Epic, where everything is to some extent a social area.
How will factions work? Will they be completely run and customisable by a player or will you be able to have various people doing various ‘jobs’?
Factions will be completely player run, I don’t want to influence them too much. There will be different custom ranks with custom permissions, so it’s up to the factions if they want a very flat or deep hierarchy. I expect spies to become a big thing, which is not something specifically designed, but we certainly don’t limit it either. If someone manages to climb the career ladder and backstabs the faction by opening a gate in a time of siege or runs away with the faction treasury, I will probably have a very villainous grin on my face.
I’ve seen horses in the trailers will there be any other animals that we can interact with, ride or use to our advantage?
Donkeys. Lots of Donkeys.
Donkey army confirmed then!
I really love the sound of this game, it’s ambitious and grand, but has the potential to offer something really unique and I can’t wait to play it!
It hit’s early access 25th August and you can get your copy here.