Legions of Steel Wargamer.com interview

By Nik Gaukroger 27 Sep 2013 0

Obvious question first, why make a digital version of Legions of Steel? Why do you think it has the potential to be a successful digital game? 

Legions of Steel is a brilliant board game, and we know it would translate beautifully into video game. Games are fast when compared to larger scale wargames, which means you can chain-play several scenarios in an evening. There are a great variety of actions that can be taken by each soldier on the board, and each game provides the feeling you have just experienced an intense action sequence in a movie. Given that it is a 1vs1 game you only need to find 1 partner to be able to play a multiplayer game. Everything combines to make Legions of Steel a natural fit for the digital medium.

Aside from that, we know board games adaptations can be commercial successes when they are well executed.

 

I must confess that I had not heard of Legions of Steel before I saw your Kickstarter.

That is no real surprise. The game was only ever released in North America and, for some reason, Brazil ? it never had a European distributor. To be honest, until I ran into Clark Browning (the boardgame?s author) I hadn?t heard of it either.

 

What features of the original boardgame do you think will most benefit from being on a digital device? 

We are not limited by the physical constraints of the boardgame: number and nature of the board sections, number of available doors, etc. When designing new scenarios we can create rooms or corridors that do not exist in the physical version. Also, a great benefit of digital adaptations is that the computer takes care of all the maintenance. Due to the variety of movement and firing stances in Legions of Steel, when we play on table we use a lot of counters to keep track of who is moving and how, what are the shooting modifiers, etc. In the video game players will have all information laid down in front of them in the most ergonomic way. And of course with board game adaptations, players are able to play against the AI, discover the maps on their own, practice, and try different and audacious strategies they would not play against a friend due to the very competitive aspect of duel games. That is a massive plus.

 

Conversely are there some features which you think will be more difficult and challenging to transfer to the digital format. 

Yes. The most problematic one is that in some circumstances a player can take action during the opponent turn. The player literally interrupts the opponent to do something like taking cover with a model, or taking a fire action. It is a lot richer than the ?overwatch? feature in Space Hulk or Rodeo Games? Hunters. It is one of the features that makes Legions of Steel unique and exciting, but it cannot be done the same way on computers.We will design some ?programmed? actions that will trigger if the opponent takes specific actions.

 

Dice rolling is (often) a big part of a boardgame and can provide exciting moments of tension during play. Digital games tend to do away with this as the computer can do it behind the scenes and so, perhaps, the game loses something ? I?ve seen this mentioned as a criticism of the recent Space Hulk game. What would you say to that? 

It is a marginal problem. Most gamers who like this type of games play on both mediums and find different kinds of enjoyment. We love playing board games, the presence of friends, and the atmosphere that exists around a table. But we also love computer games which bring their own factor of satisfaction.

 

You?re going for a bird?s eye view for the tactical parts of the game ? why have you chosen this approach rather than, say, a 3D one? 

There are several good reasons. First and foremost it is the most comfortable view to take tactical decisions. 3D iso view is more costly to produce and creates technical performance challenges. We want a game that runs fast, with smooth navigation, even on mobiles.

Additionally I do not see any real benefit with going for a 3D view. 2D top-down view can be sleek and beautiful without sacrificing readability and performances. Take Battle of the Bulge on iPad: the designer decided to represent units with old school carton chit icons, yet the game looks classy and gives the feeling of a deluxe product.

Anecdote: While employed at Ubisoft, I worked on Endwar, an RTS game dear to my heart. The units could be controlled both from the full 3D world view or from a top-down tactical display. Nearly all advanced players were playing only with the tactical display view.

 

Howe many scenarios will the finished game ship with?

It will ship with around 20 scenarios from the original game, plus maybe 5-10 of our own creation. There will hopefully also be some designed by backers who contribute £250+ to the Kickstarter campaign ? so far 3 people have signed up to this level. Later updates of the game should add more.

 

Many of our readers are interested in modding, are there modding possibilities in the game, and if so what are they? 

Frankly speaking we have not discussed it. But now that you mention it I recall the Legions of Steel rules set was used by players for simulating skirmishes in other universes like Star Wars. I can image people modding our characters to make them look like the original 1990s miniatures. We will definitely discuss that and check whether there is a real demand for it. I like the idea.

 

You are developing for PC, iOS and Android; are you planning a simultaneous release or will it be staggered?

We hope to be able to have a simultaneous release, and that is the current plan. However, the development process may mean that we have to release the different versions at different times. 

We are also looking into making Legions of Steel a cross platform playable game ? in theory we can do this and have a French company who would provide the multi-player service. However, because we cannot guarantee it we have not included this in the funding goals or feature list ? but we hope it will be possible. No promises though.

  

Has the fragmentation of Android devises been a major issue? 

So far the effect has been limited, but it is likely that the initial release will cover only part of the Android market. Our prototype game is running on a Nexus 7 device, but we need to make sure it also runs on lower end devices to maximise our potential market share.

  

Which iOS devices will the game run on? 

It will definitely run on iPad 2+. As this is a boardgame conversion the video demands are not highend and we hope to be able to release a later version with a lower graphics spec that will even run on the iPad 1. However, the ultimate choice as to whether this happens will be whether the game runs smoothly ? smooth graphics is one of the biggest points for the development team. The iPhone will also be catered for - iPhone 4 onwards are definite and earlier devices will be looked at during development.

 

You?ve gone down the Kickstarter route for funding the game. Can you tell us why you decided to do this, and what benefits it brings. What happens if you do not meet your target? 

We love crowdfunding. We back projects on Kickstarter and other platforms ourselves, and we think this way of funding projects (not only games) will be a durable trend. The main benefit is to be in touch with potential players very early in the development process. I also admit we were excited to do our own crowdfunded project after backing others.

We have not decided yet what will be Plan B if we do not meet the goal. It is possible that we still do Legions of Steel because we strongly believe in this game, but we would not be able to develop everything we would like to do, and would have to cut features out of the plan. The development process would also take a lot longer as we would have to work on other things to make money.

 

Some independent developers comment that they have real trouble making potential customers aware of their games, how do you plan to overcome this? 

This is definitely the main issue for independent developers. But people who like to play the type of games we develop - board game / wargame adaptations - are very informed and very connected. We think we can get in touch with enough customers by sustaining frequent and quality communication through website like yours, and their communities.

We are looking into using digital distribution platforms such as Steam as almost all gamers have access to that, but even then it is still difficult for independent developers to get their message across. Additionally these days the sheer number of independent developers trying to get into the market is itself an issue ? an individual?s message can get lost.

 

How far progressed is game development at present? And, inevitably, do you have a rough timescale for release as yet? 

We are early in the development process but we have nearly completed the whole pre-production. 

Technos have nailed the following:

·         We know all the teammates and collaborators who are going to work with us.

·         We have a prototype of the board that looks and feel exactly how we envisioned it. Some 3D models have been integrated for prototyping. We found some nice models in the Unity Asset Store for prototyping, as we have not produced our own models yet.

·         Half of the unit interactions are implemented: all movement rules, basic firing, etc.

·         We refreshed the original artistic direction of the game. 

If the crowdfunding campaign goes well we plan to release the game in February 2014. 

 

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

Thanks to you for giving us the opportunity.

 

Various links including the Kickstarter page if you wish to support this development:

 

Kickstarter page - http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nyxsquad/legions-of-steel-the-video-game 

Studio Nyx website - http://studio-nyx.com/en/about-us 

Legions of Steel forum - http://los.turtleshellprod.com/index.php?PHPSESSID=cd7ef9517eeb7cd5f7ed65025544944e&

 

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