Greetings and Salutations, dear reader. Today, I bring you another new title called Feudums. This one is a little different than our usual fare because it is a hybrid MMO/Strategy game. It caught my attention on Twitter when a couple of people that I follow – or ones that follow me, or however it turned out – started to re-tweet art from this game. That got me looking and, being somewhat of a graphics snob, that was, as they say, that. Since then, I have been in touch with the developers and this Q&A is a direct result.
So, let’s get to it.
Question: Can you tell us about yourself and your studio please?
Imre Darics (ID): 2Pence is an indie game studio based in the UK, but the team behind the idea is truly international. We have contributors from Asia, the US, and Europe. Our team includes, Matyas Suranyi (Hungary) – Game Designer, Mark Elliott (US) – Marketing Director, Imre Darics (UK) – Head Developer/Programmer, Tibor Vizer (Hungary) – Developer, Sandor Debreczeni (Romania) – Graphic Artist and Zoltan Nagy (Hungary) – Graphic Artist.
Overall, we have 12 people working on the game, seven of which are full time employees. We encourage everyone involved in the project to strike up relationships – as best they can – so they don’t feel like they’re working alone in a cell but within this organic, highly motivated and talented team.
The two founders of 2Pence are new to the gaming industry but have 13 and 20+ years experience, respectively, in software development, business software, quality assurance of business critical systems, and online services. They’ve successfully built and led projects and companies that were bigger than 2Pence and Feudums. The third member of the core team trained as a journalist and spent 20+ years working for USA TODAY, but he isn’t a complete noob.
Being fairly new and working on our first title, we have a higher tolerance-level regarding the risks we’re ready to take. We also don’t have rigid financial pressures looming over us that we must satisfy. Instead, we have free hands to do something big. We put a lot of ideas into Feudums that – and we believe in this strongly – any other AAA-level game studio would not dare to. We are aiming very high; we want to create a cult game.
Question: What makes Feudums stand out?
Matyas Suranyi (MS): Feudums is a real cross-genre game. It is a true 4X piece, indeed, but it borrows a few elements from other genres such as MMOs and pushes the limits of the traditional 4X experience to put more tools in the player’s hand. One of these elements is a kind of roleplaying feature. The player establishes a Noble House that is beyond the unique game worlds. They can then create and customize a fictional member of this House for each world with potentially different goals, traits and drawbacks. While players are going into battle to rule and conquer the different worlds through their House members (we call them “avatars”), their actions bring appreciation and respect to their whole House. The game rewards the players if they follow their fate; honesty or treachery is not just an accidental feature of a player anymore, but an organic part of the given avatar.
That doesn’t mean the game is heavily scripted, either. A player can choose the general path they want to walk on and the game will present challenges that are fitting to that particular path.
Another important feature is that player interactions will not stagnate on the level where every other player is an enemy and must be assaulted – you may have neutral players or friends. The relationship between players and their direct or indirect impact on every other aspect of the game is a key experience we deliver. Consider vassalage, which is a main feature of the game, or diplomacy, where every decision takes a toll and can be part of a clever strategy somehow. Relations in Feudums are tactile and very dynamic.
ID: The game supports a few different game modes by default. The player can choose to play in an MMO world, a classic multiplayer, or a campaign-based single-player mode.
The MMO mode is a “ranked,” persistent, massively multiplayer game. You can earn challenges, persistent dynastic goals and prizes here, and you’re playing on maps with thousands of players. Games are hosted and set by us. Each different game is considered a different world (as you are playing on a different map). Players representing their House/Dynasty can play in one or multiple games (even at the same time).
Multiplayer will work like a classic multiplayer in Civilization. You play with 2-16 players on a medium map. The host sets all the rules, game pace, etc.
In single-player mode you play alone – in a sandboxed game, or playing missions/scenarios, story-driven, historical, or whatever else you can come up with (if everything goes as planned, we can rely on modders to add such missions after the first free update). These are relatively small maps.
MS: Last, but not least, Feudums is free to win. We did not design the game using paid features or units that affect the game balance or the chance for winning. We believe that a good game in the long run will be a success without these practices – just think about League of Legends or DOTA.
Question: In the preview, we mentioned your Kickstarter. Why don’t you tell us more about that, like when you plan on launching it and what your goals/stretch goals are?
ID: We had some early financing which allowed us to get to this point, but we’re going to need some help to make it across the finish line. Luckily, we don’t need a huge budget like AAA games. We are planning a Kickstarter campaign about the same time as our beta test – in Q1 2016. Our goal will be to raise the funds we need to get everything off the ground and stay in the black until we get solid footing.
Our studio hasn’t been developing this in their free time; this is a full-time job for us. We convinced two investors (our business angels) early on that the game and our backgrounds could make this into a winner. We have enough resources left to make it to our closed beta, but we’re going to need crowdfunding to launch the MMO and continue development of the other versions.
We certainly don’t want anyone to blindly believe anything about us or our capabilities, hence our development strategy. First, our step-by-step approach: we show more functionality in each build and each iteration gets us closer to what we want to deliver at the end.
Second, we’re trying to keep everyone informed about what we’re doing and where we’re headed. Some of the features that we’ve talked about are not for the 1.0 release but for future updates. We’re not trying to save the world in a single step but wanted to keep our community in the loop about where the game is going to evolve after the 1.0 release.
Third, assurances for the community that supports us. It sometimes happens in software development that plans change during the course of the project, but if we need to recalibrate our plans, our backers can help reset the priorities for the remaining features.
MS: We do have some great ideas for potential stretch goals and future updates. Obvious things like tile improvements, additional graphical packages and music but also some cool ideas like customizable world settings (like changing a game’s theme to fantasy or steampunk), more direct battle control and troop customizations, more detailed sabotage or an enhanced kingdom management system. We didn’t want to do everything at once, as we know our limits, and would rather incrementally build up to the final stage.
Question: Interesting, so why are you pursuing a MMO strategy format and not a more traditional platform?
MS: The MMO platform offers a few unique features that go beyond the amount of players. One of these is the idea of fostering wide player social interactions. Feudums wants people to play cooperatively. We are encouraging the social aspect of playing in a game with other people.
Consider a typical MMORPG where you play alongside thousands but only interact with a few players in your party/guild/tribe. We want the social aspect to be much stronger and more widespread.
Question: I also saw that you plan to release on the PC, iOS, Android and web browsers. How is that going to work? Will everyone be able to play cross-platform with one another at the same time?
ID: The ability to play across platforms is one of our best features. By the time we release the complete version, a player will be able to start a game on a tablet in the morning, check diplomacy messages on a smartphone while commuting to work, check the status of the game on his work PC then finish the campaign in the evening on a Mac. Our first piece of the game, the Feudums Map Creator, has been released for Android and iOS tablets, and for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.
Question: With the various types of gameplay introduced here, can you tell us why a casual gamer and a hardcore gamer would be interested in this title?
MS: The biggest reason we think both types of players will love Feudums is our unique vassalage system. Vassalage can protect casual players by offering them protection from hardcore players in return for their loyalty. It’s a win-win for hardcore and casual players. Casual players get protection and game tutoring (if they’re new to it), and hardcore players get help managing their growing feudums and loyal units to back them. Because of its importance, we’re making it as easy as possible to draw in players who can be vassals by integrating various social media with the game. Future vassals are only a click away!
With the vassalage system, both hardcore players and casuals become part of the same gaming ecosystem. Instead of getting annoyed by each other, they can become allies to the benefit of both.
ID: We believe the fixed game length will also appeal to both hardcore and casual gamers. No one wants to invest time in a game which could stalemate and become bogged down after hours of time logged. Players will know up front the amount of time they will need to invest.
MS: Also, we think both types of players will like the dynastic goals we’ve included in the game. Players may not win a particular game but they do gather points which will eventually unlock benefits for their house that affect play across all games. In other words, you’re rewarded for playing and for meeting goals other than winning.
ID: Lastly, the time players can – or choose to – put into a game can change all the time. I can be a hardcore player today and turn into a casual player tomorrow. Feudums supports the transition between these states in either direction. This will make the game experience much more relaxed and players can focus on actually just having fun.
Question: Alright, can you tell us about the world of Feudums?
ID: Feudums, as its name implies, uses a medieval setting to create an authentic environment around the players. We took the inspiration from a span of medieval history starting with ceding the lands of Normandy in France to a Viking leader, through the Norman Conquest of England led by William the Conqueror, until the late 12th Century when the full system of feudal obligations developed. The players are not isolated lords and ladies in this world, but they are living in the social network of their day. Nobody is born a king, but can become one through alliances and battles, intrigues and diplomacy.
Question: How about the factions in this world?
ID: The players are nodes of a vassalage network that is built on their social interactions. They can, and will, create or join various groups and factions based on common economic or political interests…
MS: …and can easily change their allegiance if or when it seems necessary. We have a thorough system for these connections, goals and motivations. A faction is not just a flag above an army or a list of unique abilities, but a living and dynamic combination of interests and goals that is always changing, driven by both obvious and covert intentions.
Question: Interesting, so are there different nations on the map? Who is the good/bad guy in all of this?
ID: It would be a rough simplification of the game’s different elements if we simply could point to something and say, “this is the good” and “that is the bad.” It is not a Cain and Abel kind of game.
MS: There aren’t nations as you would define them. In the MMO, each player will start with his or her own lands granted by the high king or recently seized in the political turmoil after his death. If you’ve seen any of the HBO series Game of Thrones, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The high king of the land has died. Most of these houses and their goals are far more complex than simply “good” or “evil” and for the most part, their ambitions can all be justified. These ambitions may also change over time.
The players’ houses (families) are virtual dynasties and the house delegates their members to fight in every game world. We wanted to separate the different appearances of a player in the unique game worlds, creating the possibility to play in different styles – you can even assign different traits to these “characters.” The traditional strategy game is the principle layer but we put another, social layer above it with the dynasties. The players can try to achieve various dynastic goals, all rewarding a different play style – you can be the most honorable lord or you can try to grab the crown and rule the kingdom.
ID: You can also play as a grey eminence (the power behind the throne). The dynastic goals are stretched over the worlds and games and eventually the whole house will be set on a pedestal in the Hall of Houses.
Question: Are there any AI-controlled factions, such as NPCs or minor houses?
MS: Feudums is a social strategy game – NPC factions would distort the game balance in the MMO worlds. It does not mean, though, that we don’t like the NPC elements. Classic multiplayer or single-player worlds can and will offer NPC players throughout their campaigns or just as background elements in the worlds.
ID: This is not a goal for the first release (unless our backers upvote the idea), but we would like to put NPCs into the package of the first or the second DLC.
That’s it for part one of the Feudums Q&A. I hope you’ll join us for Part 2, which will be published shortly. Next time, we’ll be talking about research, global events and the game’s economy. It’s clear that Feudums is trying to break new ground in the 4X genre. Feel free to ask follow-up questions in the comments section of this article.