My Lunch with Brad Wardell

When I started this website in September 2014, I had no idea how many great people I’d befriend as a result. First it was great people like Nasarog, Warmacblu, Marlowe, Davey and more that have directly and indirectly helped with the site. I’d soon find that the 4X community was full of wonderful people, too, which was really more an affirmation than a discovery as it was the whole reason I wanted to do this to begin with. The members of our group are friendly, smart, social and their ranks grow every day. I feel lucky to be a part of something so special.

Among the many things I didn’t think I’d experience was a lunch with the owner and CEO of Stardock, Brad Wardell. That’s not because we’ve become that big, either. Sure, I feel like the only gaming Twitter account that constantly hounds him for bits and pieces of information to share with our community at present. Maybe it’s because we’re one of the few, if not only, 4X gaming sites and his company has made more than a few 4X games. Maybe he’s just trying to encourage growth in the genre he likes most. Mostly, however, I think it’s because he likes gamers and he’s generous enough to take time out of his busy day to hang out with one of his fans.

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I went to meet him at Stardock’s new Towson, Maryland location, where their new studios, Oxide Games and Mohawk Games are now located. He gave me a tour during which I got to see an unannounced game from Oxide (which I’ll be nothing but ashes if I even think about talking about it) and I was introduced to one of their lead artists. Lunch was at a local pizzaria that hit the spot. The whole while I was privy to a lot of the dialogue that occurs between two game developers.

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It’s at lunch that Brad starts to talk about Sorcerer King in depth. He shares with me that the company is a little disappointed by the early sales of Sorcerer King and he asks me why I think that might be the case. I share with him that I fear too many people see it as an iteration of Fallen Enchantress, instead of an entirely new game.

Author’s Note: If you’re reading this and you share a similar opinion, you need to really give Sorcerer King a look. It’s personally my favorite Elemental game – and that’s saying something considering Legendary Heroes is among my favorite games ever – and it’s much different that its predecessors. It’s important to our genre that we support new takes on the 4X formula.

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Sorcerer King looks a lot different to me…

He agrees and says that they’ll continue to focus on its differences and highlight its strengths. He reveals to me that Stardock has at least one more expansion planned for it, despite how well it may sell. They’d like to offer more playable factions, offering one of the current minor factions first. Should Sorcerer King sales achieve their internal goal, they would consider further expansions to the game.

Beta 5 will bring more ground cover, more art assets all around, and introduce minor faction champions: heroes that you’ll get through interaction with those minor factions after some requirements are met, like a quest completion. It will also shore up the crafting and enchantment UI, all the while introducing new sovereign- and map-selection screens. Brad also mentioned that the diplomacy screens will be added, but didn’t go into any details on them. I’m guessing that we’ll be able to interact with the minors in ways similar to other 4X games through a diplomacy menu of sorts. Beta 5 will be the last beta of Sorcerer King before release. They’re targeting the end of March with their release, but that may be postponed in light of a few other major releases. That’s still very much up in the air.

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Their Twitch stream beat me to it. Beta 5 screenshot above! That’s a minor faction hero with the wings: a Pariden Archon

All in all, it sounds like Sorcerer King is going to be an extremely solid product. I’m already enjoying myself in Early Access, in particular Beta 4, and I can see the end product being something I’ll play quite a bit. There are literally hundreds of quests in the game, some of which are laugh-out-loud funny. There are many different ways to build each of the six sovereigns, and a plethora of spells, crafting recipes and other content to keep me busy. The only thing I hope to see changed in the long run is the amount of victory conditions in game. Currently there is only one: destroy the Sorcerer King. With expansion packs and DLC, I could imagine a variety of Sorcerer Kings being added, or ways to win via a main quest, or even perhaps somehow diplomatically winning by convincing the Sorcerer King to give up. There is also room here for some creativity and coming up with new victory condition types to go along with the new gameplay that Sorcerer King introduces.

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The new front end screen for Sorcerer King. Beautiful!

Once we finished lunch, we headed back to the studio where Brad sat down and asked if I had any questions. I did! I asked him about Stardock’s future plans with Galactic Civilizations 3 and he was excited to tell me that they have a “rough story arc” planned with the game and since they built it in 64-bit, they’ll be supporting it for years to come (like they did with its previous iteration). Multiple full expansions are planned, each with its own focus on that story and new gameplay elements being introduced. As the expansions progress, they’ll start to focus around the (redacted). I won’t tell you actually. I don’t want to spoil it.

As you may or may not know, they’re shooting for a May release of Galactic Civilizations 3. Originally they had planned for April, but Brad wants some extra time with the AI before it ships. That’s a good thing in my book. It’ll be interesting to see if they end up releasing Sorcerer King in April now, to avoid those other games. All in all, Brad and Stardock’s various groups have some very exciting games lined up this year. Not only will see Sorcerer King and Galactic Civilizations 3 in the same year, but we might see two more! Both of which sound like great games by how Brad describes them. You’ll see soon enough at GDC in a couple weeks.

After I was done gleaning a bit of info out Brad, we wrapped up and parted ways. Brad is a busy guy, he is the president of too many studios to count now, but he took the time to meet with me and for that I truly respect him. He was friendly, courteous and above all, passionate and it was awesome to hang out with someone in the industry that shares the same passion I have for the 4X genre. We made passive plans to meet again once all of the announcements are made at GDC, so stay tuned to our site for some coverage of their upcoming projects!

Update: Since I wrote this, Stardock has featured beta 5 in their weekly Twitch stream. As you can see, some of what Brad and I discussed is already being shown off. What will probably excite you even more is that Stardock has given us three keys to Sorcerer King that we will give away in the next week, so stay tuned for a contest and its rules tomorrow!

Categories: Previews

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