Planar Conquest Q&A

Planar Conquest (PQ) is the latest game by developer Wastelands Interactive. Wastelands was featured in Polygon’s article about up-and-coming Polish game developers. If certain elements of PQ look familiar to you, it’s because they are. PQ is an updated, mobile version of Worlds of Magic, which was released last year. Wastelands has reimagined the game, updated its graphics, improved the UI, and ported it to the App Store. We sat down with the CEO of Wastelands, Leszek Lisowski, to discuss PQ’s release for the iPad and iPhone as well as its future release for PC.

01 PQ Logo

Question: Can you begin by telling us a little bit about your team at Wastelands Interactive?

Answer: Sure, with great pleasure. My team here is a great collective of 15 people with a huge amount of passion and love for computer games. This is something which binds us together and fills our working and free time.

Wastelands is a team able to create a complete product from scratch. We are renting 200 square meters in an attic in Zgierz, Poland which is a part of the Łódź agglomeration – a city in the center of our country. Among us are designers, 2D and 3D artists, as well as programmers – the latest addition to our team has a university degree in the field of programing specialization. During the last few years, we have become very skilled in working with the Unity 3D engine.

Question: Did you work with another company to port your game to the iPad? What was working with them like?

Answer: Yes and no. Everything for PQ was created in-house. After releasing Worlds of Magic and conducting an internal post-mortem for the product and the release itself, we wanted to focus on three major aspects that we have found to be most crucial and that received the most negative user scores. Those were: AI, user interface, and bugs.

We were aware with WoM that nobody would be able to give us a hand with publishing the PC version despite our best attempts to secure a publisher. As a result, we tried our best to improve it internally. So far the results are promising, but to be honest this is a job that’s a never-ending story.

There are the limitations of the engine, of course; however, it seems that PQ now has good pacing and pretty good initial difficulty settings for people new to the game and to the 4X genre in general. How good is it for veterans? Well, that’s a matter of gathering feedback over time. If we find out that the challenge level is too low on hardest settings, we have a plan laid out that will increase it.

We also knew that we needed to create a new user interface. Completely new, which means throwing out everything created originally. This meant we designed the UI from scratch, constantly checking what worked and what didn’t. This is where Shortbreak (our publisher for the tablet version of PQ) entered. They provided us consulting and organized the hands-on testing with users. It was very helpful to be able to see the reaction of  players who had never played the game before.

The last thing on my list are the bugs. WoM launched with a lot of them and we didn’t want to repeat that. We received a lot of help from Shortbreak with QA “know-how.” During the last session of testing, we found about 200 bugs in PQ, and that was at a point when we thought there were very few of them left. We are still crushing small ones here and there, but it seems that there are no game-breaking bugs.

So generally we received a ton of data after each testing phase and continuous feedback about the progress of the GUI.

02 Shortbreak Logo

Shortbreak is a subsidiary of Techland, makers of Dying Light.

Question: What were some of the biggest challenges in porting a PC game to tablet?

Answer: Compared to personal computers, mobile devices are still quite limited: mostly in terms of the available RAM. Initially, we had planned to release the game only for iPad Air 2, but during development, we were able to get our resource usage down enough to accommodate an iPad 3. The game even starts on iPad2, but it crashes once you try to enter any other screen. You need to remember that the iOS itself consumes over 200MB of RAM.

Another big thing was to create a game that will be comfortable to play with a touch interface. We have changed a lot of our philosophy for this project. We didn’t treat our work on Planar Conquest as only a port from the PC game. We wanted to create a whole new product based on Worlds of Magic with a much better experience for the player without ruining all the things that were already good. I do believe that the foundations of WoM were fine, we just didn’t spend enough time polishing and looking at the details for the original Steam release.

This time, the team and I made our best effort to deliver a game that we might be proud of. We wanted to bring a great PC experience to mobile devices and fix all the issues that swirled around WoM. I can assure you that the whole team worked very hard for a much longer time than we previously estimated (we wanted the iOS version to be ready and released in late August). So we took our time, gritted our teeth, and almost bankrupted the company, but I think we did a very good job in the end.

Question: Explain how you and your team felt when your game finally went live on the App Store.

Answer: That is a hard question. Proud for sure. Of course it is always great when you are releasing a game. However, there is a reason that there are so few 4X games on mobile devices. One possibility is that there might not be many 4X fans playing those game on tablets, and the other is that not many companies are willing to jump into such deep waters. We were hoping it was the latter one. Initial feedback shows we were right, and there is an audience for 4X games on mobile devices. We just need to reach those guys and gals.

03 Forge

PQ’s crafting UI is much cleaner and easier to read than WoM’s

Question: What has the user response to Planar Conquest generally been like so far on the AppStore?

Answer: The best thing is that everybody can jump onto iTunes and take a look for themselves. You can see the ratings and reviews by users. I’m very happy with the initial feedback, despite a nasty bug in the tutorial, and the comments – especially on the Touch Arcade forum – are great.

People seem to like the game so far. They report that they are pretty happy with the experience. Of course we need some time to balance a couple of things, but this is always the case with such big releases. A lot of folks are pleased with our decision to release the game as a universal app, and not iPad only. I’m pretty sure it will only be better as time goes on.

Question: What are some of the biggest differences between the tablet version of Planar Conquest and the PC version of Worlds of Magic?

Answer: I’m sure that Planar Conquest is the game we should have initially released on Steam. It is just better than Worlds of Magic: better UI, better AI, fewer bugs, new graphics. That is all I can say. Of course we cannot change what happened already. We know we had a good idea; we just didn’t execute it well. We didn’t change the core mechanics from WoM to PQ, we just aimed to get them working better.

04 City Screen

The city management UI has been refreshed to be more touchscreen friendly

Question: What improvements to the diplomacy system and AI have been made in Planar Conquest?

Answer: We have completely redesigned the way the AI calculates how good a deal is in diplomacy. It tries to value it owns needs most. It seems the whole system works better, and currently we are patching the loopholes in the system. With the release of 1.2, there shouldn’t be any easily exploitable deals. The AI is always an ongoing fight.

Question: Can you tell us a bit about the different in-app purchases for Planar Conquest?

Answer: Actually the in-app purchases are just extra content. There are no core mechanics in the DLCs. There are four supplemental races: Dwarves, Myrodants, Orcs, and Draconians. There’s an in-app purchase that has the elemental planes, and several others add some extra units to the game. You can, of course, get all of them at once, and I think that if people like the game, they will buy them. But you don’t need them to enjoy the Planar Conquest experience.

Question: How was the decision made to make certain game features part of the base game or to make them additional purchases?

Answer: We talked for a long time with our publisher about how to price the game. We wanted to make sure that, for the basic price, the player would get all the functionalities and should be able to play long hours and not be forced to buy anything. The base game had to contain all the features, all the spells, four races, and three planes (worlds), along with all the game set up settings. The add-ons are there for somebody who likes the game and would like to spend more time trying diverse things. We could have sold the whole game for $32, or broken it up into smaller purchases so customers wouldn’t have to commit so much money upfront. The decision was made to break it up. Players don’t really need to buy the add-ons to enjoy the game.

05 Naval Combat

Combat on naval ships has been totally redone and looks great!

Question: I read in your press release that Planar Conquest will be coming to the Xbox and Playstation. Who are you working with to bring your game to console?  

Answer: This is a long story, and I don’t want to bore you guys to death. Xbox One and PS4 versions are planned to be released this year, and I’m really hoping it will happen during the summer. We are working with Teyon on that. We are just not big enough to do all those things internally. At the moment, we are doing our best to make PQ as good for consoles as it is for mobile devices or even better!

Question: You have also stated that the upgrades made for Planar Conquest will eventually make it to the PC version. Will you be keeping the name Worlds of Magic or will you release the game under the name Planar Conquest?

Answer: It is not 100% decided, but I’m leaning toward releasing the new game under the name Planar Conquest. This will make the whole thing much easier for people if they have one name. Especially since we are planning to launch multi-platform multiplayer once all is said and done. It is already delayed much more than I would like it to be, but we would like to make it right.

06 Deadworld

PQ uses stylized graphics rather than WoM’s more realistic motifs

Question: Worlds of Magic had a pretty difficult launch, and I know you have addressed it before with your community. What would you like people who haven’t bought WoM yet to know about your game and your company?

Answer: Yes. Worlds of Magic has gotten off to a difficult start. What I would like people to know is that the game was a work of passion and love. It’s spiritual predecessor, Master of Magic, is very dear to all our hearts. It was risky idea from very beginning. Worlds of Magic, AKA Planar Conquest, is a huge project. If I would have known how big at the very beginning, I probably would have stepped back and not taken the risk of creating it. We didn’t fulfill all the expectations people put onto the project, nor our own. The hard truth is, that if we would have put all our efforts solely on improving the PC version of the game, we probably wouldn’t ever finish it.

Designing the game for mobile devices and consoles forced us to take a completely new approach and look at the project with fresh eyes. We had to entirely change our mindset, which was really needed. It has changed how we take a look at the GUI’s usability, and the player’s actual needs. Trying only to fix WoM on the PC would probably have lead to a dead end. At this point, I’m very happy that we have decided to go mobile, because it will only make the computer version better in all aspects. Now, with all that we have learned, I am very optimistic about the PC version’s future.

WoM is not as good a game as I would like it to be right now. If you are not sure it is worth buying  right now, please wait until we will release Planar Conquest on PC and decide then.

I feel we are trying everything to make PQ a great game.

Question: What are your future plans for the WoM/PQ franchise on PC?  Will there be an expansion or sequel in the future?

Answer: Hard to say now. A lot depends on the feedback we receive. I hope your readers let us know what they think! I’m pretty sure there is some space to keep developing the base game by adding new planes and new races. For sure, the team needs to take a rest from WoM/PQ and work for a while on some different projects we’d like to try. Working continuously for more than three years on the same project can be quite exhausting.

07 Two Sorcerers

Question: Once the new version of Planar Conquest/WoM gets on Steam, will the old version of Worlds of Magic still be available on Steam for modders to experiment with in the future, or will that version be discontinued entirely?

Answer: I think that the old version will be taken down from Steam. Sure, it will be still available for those who bought it, but I don’t see any point in keeping it available for new purchases, especially since there will be an updated version of the game out there.

Question: Will there be an Early Access period on Steam for PQ?

Answer: We are not planning one at this time.

Question: Will everyone who buys a copy of Worlds of Magic on Steam prior to the launch of the new Planar Conquest version on Steam get a free copy of the new version?

Answer: Glad you asked about that. Yes, this is what will happen (and I will do my best to make this process as easy as possible): everyone who buys WoM will get the new version once it becomes live. I couldn’t imagine another way. Every Worlds of Magic owner will receive a copy of the updated game. There can be no doubt about it.

Question: Now that you’ve brought Planar Conquest to the iPad, is there a chance any of the other games in Wastelands’ library will make it to the App Store?

Answer: Not in the near future. All our previous games needs to be rewritten on a new engine. This is on our to-do list, but even though I would like to, there is no chance something will pop up this year. However I’m pretty sure it will be cool to have those wargames available for mobile devices some day.

Question: Before we go, is there anything else you would like people to know about your game?

Answer: First of all, I would like to thank everybody for reading so far, and I would like to thank you, Troy, for taking your time and hearing what I have to say. We have made Planar Conquest with the aim to bring the full-fledged 4X experience from PC to mobile devices. I think we have done a good job, but also I’m sure it’s not finished yet. If you are not sure if it’s a game for you, ask your friends, read about the game, or just ask us on our site.

We’d like to thank Leszek for answering all our questions. If you’d like to ask Wastelands Interactive some follow-ups, post them in the comments below and we’ll be sure to direct their dev team to your inquiries.  Planar Conquest is currently available for $12.99 on the AppStore.

Categories: 4X, Q&A

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14 replies »

  1. While Lesz says the right things, with WI you just have to wonder if they’re in the wrong industry. Every game they’ve released has been poorly received and is woefully incomplete. Worlds of Magic is an unmitigated disaster and they were told not to release it by virtually every single person in the community. Instead, they pressed forward and what was excreted was perhaps the worst 4x game to come out in years. This is pretty consistent with their other releases – bad reviews, poor AI, incomplete feature set and then they run away to make something else.

    I have little hope for Planar Conquest. The reviews on it are sparse but those that exist are middling. And those of us who purchased WoM didn’t want a dumbed-down iPhone game but what was promised – a remake of Masters of Magic – which has never been delivered. Thus it’s not likely the Steam community will be very receptive to this new game since they are no longer even trying to deliver the type of game that many of us purchased.


    • Just going to point out here that Planar Conquest is not dumbed down. It is pretty much a 4x computer game that they made work on a tablet. It is currently unlike anything else on the market. I’ve been enjoying my self immensely and losing sleep playing it. :)

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m glad to hear that. And re: Blackadar — I don’t think he actually understood what the kickstarter was about. There was NEVER EVER a promise of a remake of Master of Magic, and if you don’t believe me, go back to the actual kickstarter and reread it. The exact wording is “Spiritual Successor”. A lot of other games have claimed to be that. But if there has been any game design that REALLY is more in the spirit of MoM, let us all know about because many of us would find that to be a revelation. Hell, even the bugs are in the spirit of MoM (but let’s not even go there lol).

        I’m disappointed also with WoM. But I’m a big enough fan of MoM, and the devs have been honest and hard working and so I haven’t given up on it. Sounds to me, based on Mr. Lockwood’s comments, and based on other reviews I’ve read, that my patience may be rewarded.


  2. As an original Masters of Maigc fan and someone who bought Worlds of Magic on Steam I have some questions regarding the article. Hope the devs can respond to them. Despite the bugs in the Steam EA release I enjoy the game and I know some others do as well.

    – Is Planar Conquest on Steam a totally new build or do you port the current tablet version back to PC?

    – In Worlds of Magic you have a gigantic amount of starting options and I wonder if all those options are in the tablet version as well. For example huge and gigantic maps. Do we get them in the new version as well? Are the amount of starting factions and players the same? Can we select all different planes with different sizes and landmasses as in Worlds of Magic? I’m curious about this because in my experience 4x tablet games never are as complex and complete as PC 4x games.
    In short do we get the same game with the same options and the same settings as Worlds of Magic or are there features dumbed-down?

    – When you decide to not offer Worlds of Magic anymore to new buyers but keep it on Steam for people already bought can you tell us if work at the original Worlds of Maigc is totally cancelled? No more updates for the original Worlds of Magic anymore?

    – Are you planning micro transactions in the Steam version of Planar Conquest and if yes do the players who bought Worlds of Magic already only get the base game or the complete game with DLC?

    – At the Steam forums there is a daily amount of fans from your original Worlds of Magic game that report bugs, missing features and issues with the current game. Are those reports useless now since working at the game is discontinued?

    – People who recently bought the game make daily posts with bug reports. I don’t see them answered by anyone of your team. Isn’t it better to be completely honest and open about the way it’s going on Steam and lock those topics or answer them that it’s useless to report issues and bugs for the current game?

    – In the pinned Steam topic you speak about a Q2 2016 release while in the article you mention that your team need some time off to work on other things. Q2 is already starting in a month is this realistic?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. First I want to say, as a backer of the original Kickstarter, that I have been pleased by some of the positive reactions to the new game, and I look forward to the PC version.
    1. Is this game coming to Android at any point, and if so, will that be before or after the PC version?

    2. Has the AI, at least on harder difficulty levels, been made more aggressive than it was in the past?

    3. Have there been changes with regards to the undead race in order to improve their balance issues?

    4. Another concern that I posted about way back when — with all of the choices available to players in setting up games, it was far too easy to create a game that was not conducive to interesting gameplay (I think I wrote about that on the steam forums way-back-when). Are there now game setting presets to counter that problem? (freedom to make any choice is great, but when there are just too many choices, it makes it VERY difficult to actually make good ones).


  4. Hey guys! I’m Aaron Ethridge, the lead designer for WoM (and hence PQ) and I’ve got some replies for you. (These are actually Les’s replies, but he couldn’t post them for some reason…) They are as follows:


    – This will be a mix of both. We are taking what is good in the mobile version (AI, gameplay), improve and adapt some things (UI mostly to fit better mouse or gamepad for consoles) and totally change other things (environmental graphic)

    – Generally the mobile, console and PC versions are going to be the same in terms of setting possibilities and gameplay options. Our goal however was to bring the PC experience to mobile devices and consoles, not the other way around. So I can confirm that you are going to have a huge freedom of setting up the game options. We are still considering how big should be the biggest size of the map.

    – No, we are not planning more updates for Worlds of Magic. Every hour spent on supporting WoM means one hour later release of PQ. Some people might find – and they are actually writing it – this is a deception, but my goal is to deliver as best experience as possible as soon as possible.

    Imagine this as a car accident. When it happens you can try and hammer out some body parts or you can replace them with new one. Both options will lead to a moment when you finally will be able to run a car again, but we have choose the second one. It will cost us more time and effort but nobody will complain about rusting in the hammered parts.

    – For PC, we are planning the same system as for mobile devices. The owners of WoM will get the fully functional game will all eight races and seven planes. any more extras will be delivered for free only for backers who paid for them.

    – We are still reading those post at the WoM forum and we are still pretty active there in some of the threads. If we spot any issue that is new for us we are checking it.

    – This is not completely useless. I know that sometimes not answering to the posts might seem to be rude, but it is not our intention. We don’t have dedicated person to work on the forums and social media, so we are doing our best to handle and to just be on track. I know that some people think it will be enough just to write “thanks for posting”, but usually it is not. Too often it ended up in a discussion that we are doesn’t care about the people and we are abandoning the game, etc. I’m not defending myself here. I’m just trying to say that there is only 24 hours a day.

    – Q2 spans from 1st April till 30th of June. We are aiming somewhere between those dates. I think we will be good.


    1. Yes and yes.

    2. People on TA forums are saying that AI is quite challenging now. Especially the 1.2 patch has made a lot of good things in that matter.

    3. I know there were some changes, but I didn’t dive deep enough into it. If you could be more specific which issues you are referring too I might be able to give you better answer. Anyway players are reporting that it is quite hard race to play now.

    4. No, we wanted to keep the freedom. However this is something we might address in one of the tutorials. Generally every player, is looking for different experiences. For example, when I’m playing the Civilization V now, I’m choosing the setting that will allow me to get another achievement on STEAM.

    And, on my own behalf, I want to thank you guys for your comments. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Aaron J. Ethridge,

    Thank you for answering my questions. It sounds very promissing. I don’t want to judge your choices in any way. You are the developer and you know what is best for the game. I’m sure about that.
    I’m very happy that you try to take the best of both worlds from tablet and PC experience you both have now. I’m very happy that we keep the freedom to change settings (exactly like in Civ 5 one of my favorites) and you are not bringing it down to a casual tablet game.

    I understand the info on the forum can still be usefull for you and your team. Keep up the good work!
    It’s fair to give exsisting users the complete game and eventually sell new content DLC’s seperate. You need to be paid for your work as well.

    Hope to see some new info very soon and look already forward to try the new game.
    Thank you again!


    • Thanks for answering my questions.

      What I was talking about with regards to the undead race was that all of their negatives seemed to outweigh their positives, making them much more difficult to get started with, and in the long run, also very difficult to build an empire with. The lack of need for food was outweighed by the difficulty in generating negative energy. And the ‘advantage’ of not needing gold really was not an advantage at all — considering that you could not hire anyone (and even if things had been working as intended, with heroes and titans needing payment in dark energy instead of gold, the fact was that you could far more easily improve your financial outlook on the gold side, but there was no equivalent to that with regards to dark energy. And forgive me for not remembering their exact name, but I just found it: Unhallowed. In a multiplayer game, I don’t think anyone would ever choose to play Unhallowed except as a handicap.

      As far as freedom to choose is concerned, I was never actually suggesting that options be removed, but that you offer presets in addition to being able to manually set up a game — kind of like scenarios, Or have the player lock in certain options (like map size and wizard design), and have the ability to allow the game to fill in all of the rest of the options in a way that is conducive to fun gameplay. You can even add an option for whether the player prefers a shorter or longer game, or whether he wants the maps to be more or less crowded, whether he wants lots of islands, that kind of thing. It was something I suggested a long time ago, I was just hoping that it was something that you were thinking about implementing. I never would ever suggest that you remove options, though.

      Which reminds me of another question:
      Have you tweaked the map generator? I found that the old game, there really wasn’t a wide range of outcomes as far what kinds of maps you would get for which settings. It was all kind of predictable, with the only variation being on specific planes, like The Plane of Water.


  6. Hi, Aaron. Thanks for doing the interview.

    Aaron J. Ethridge wrote:

    “– This will be a mix of both. We are taking what is good in the mobile version (AI, gameplay), improve and adapt some things (UI mostly to fit better mouse or gamepad for consoles) and totally change other things (environmental graphic)”

    When will we see a preview of the new PC graphics? I still enjoy playing games from 10-20 years ago, so this isn’t an area I usually care about overly much, but (sorry to say this) I find the Planar Conquest strategic map actually unpleasant to look at.


  7. Hey Fimbul,
    We’re certainly hoping to get it on GoG. We had a hiccup with the initial launch that kept them from offering WoM. (Some might say it went well beyond “hiccup”, but I don’t want to dwell on that.) However, with the many improvements that have been made in PQ we have high hopes that GoG will want to pick it up.



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