Snowbird Game Studios introduces its upcoming real-time strategy role-playing game Eador: Masters of the Broken World.
Developer Vladimir Tortsov struggles to explain what makes game development in Eastern Europe different from development in the West.
Tortsov works for Snowbird Studios, a development team that isn't going to ring any bells outside of independent development circles across Russia but you'll recognize the lineage. The Russian independent games studio shares development connections with popular role-playing game Mount&Blade, whose expansion Mount&Blade: With Fire & Sword was published by Snowball Studios, the same publisher behind Snowbird's upcoming real-time strategy title Eador: Masters of the Broken World.
"For some reason this genre, this real-time strategy genre is a really big thing in Eastern Europe," he says. Perhaps moreso than in North America.
The differences aren't just geographical, although even that is a relevant topic.
"We had a lot of trouble getting here to E3," says Tortsov. "We missed the first day of press because our flight was canceled. So we flew from Moscow to Berlin, then Moscow to New York, then New York to Los Angeles. Moscow to L.A. It's like seventeen hours."
"I think it's somehow based deep in a tradition of playing chess"
The countries are an ocean apart but in reality the real differences in Russia's development philosophy stem from a long tradition of chess-playing, he says.
"I think it's somehow based deep in a tradition of playing chess, really gamey and strategic games. In Eastern Europe we really prefer to a strategic approach to anything and we also keep to our old mentality of 'expand your empire!' and all of that. All of that 'rule with an iron fist!' stuff."
Similarly, Snowbird Game Studios' real-time strategy title is a combination of both the Civilization and Heroes of Might & Magic franchises: Eador is a strategic PC title that consists of micro and macro-management skills alongside tactical combat. It's based on a 2D strategy title from 2010 by the name of Eador: Creation. That game was hard, says Tortsov, and it failed to attract a crowd. But sometime since its release the team found it, liked it, and decided to improve on it. They re-designed the game in 3D, included a light narrative, and then a user-friendly UI.
Eador: Masters of the Broken World is the story of a home planet that's shattered into 60 shards all thanks to a cataclysm in space. The user takes the role of a demi-god creature, one of fourteen who exist and are attempting to take over the bulk of these shards to gain control of the universe. To do this they attack a shard, take over a province populated by human and preternatural creatures, keep the population from revolting, construct granaries, barracks, or one of the other 174 buildings-types, and hire heroes who act as their mortal double on the shard and head armies against enemy forces. You're allowed access to one of four heroes: a mage-style Wizard, a ranged-combat Scout, a Warrior tank, or a Commander who can support large-scale armies with power boosts. The result is a complex juggling act, as anyone with experience in the genre will feel at home with.
"I think Western development at the moment, in comparison, is aiming to move games more towards the style of movies," says Tortsov. "Look at Heavy Rain; it's more movies than games. In Eastern Europe and Russia we're trying to do games instead of movies."
Eador relies on tactics in comparison. Every attack on a shard costs energy, a universal currency that requires users to think before acting. Similarly, every action in the game has its own karmic reaction. A plague might spread in a province, opening up the option to hire healers or alternatively to sell the corpses to a nearby necromancer for payment. The more evil deeds committed, the more it affects the game's end. There are 12 endings in the 30-hour game, which range from the destruction of all life in the universe to being declared a god and savior.
The battle over a shard ends once its Citadel is captured, with every victory adding to the experience of your hired hero. As he levels he can be upgraded, and combine his talents with that of other available hero-types. A Wizard can combine with a Commander to shoot magic arrows, and so on. Your karmic standing can affect your armies as well, and with a high enough standing in evil you can bend undead warriors to your will.
"It's really hard to imagine this game on console"
Tortsov expects the game to appeal to the usual crowd of hardcore PC fans. Eador: Masters of the Broken World is coming to PC and Mac this year, and may be seen on iPad in the future, he says.
"But it's really hard to imagine this game on console," he says. "Not because of the technical issue but because of the audience, they are not level of the unique level of complication, our PC audience is already a fan of this genre. They are demanding the game to be even harder than it is now. But we are trying to reach a wider audience with this at the same time. So even the newcomers can enjoy it."
Eador: Masters of the Broken World is scheduled to hit this fall. An updated version of Eador's 2D predecessor will be available soon on Good Old Games.
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