I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Warhorse Studios’ Tobias Stolz-Zwilling, PR Manager and Martin Ziegler, Technical Designer to talk about their upcoming game, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, a historical, open world RPG with a heavy focus on realism and player choice. We have had several opportunities to experience the game first hand and have always come away highly intrigued with the game’s potential.
Tobi: You start with the trickiest question! Well actually where we are at right now is the game is doing pretty well. And I mean it because we are really in the optimizing phase and that means that we are optimizing to get the game to make it run smoothly on all platforms which means that PC and Consoles. We are targeting 30 frames per second on consoles and 60 frames on PC. We are of course targeting the best quality possible on PC and Consoles. We will come out with something pretty soon!
Tobi: Yes it should be the same time and we are also planning on full release only so no early access.
Martin: We in the technical design department are finishing on the loose ends so all the different interactions between quests and between mechanics. There’s thousands of numbers that we need to tweak in order for it to be fun. If you think about it we have about 1600 to 1800 hundred NPCs that we have to set up numbers for and there’s dozens of different numbers that we have to set for them like different skills and which perks they have. There’s also a huge number of items that you don’t necessarily see in the game that we still need to set.
Tobi: This is actually a very good point because they are right now changing doors for example because usually they had the same looking doors everywhere but because in the game you will be able to lockpick we decided that the player has to have the visual feedback of the difficulty of the door. So we had to change it. But in order to make the player actually see it as well. It’s a very tough decision for our historian. She’s really crying when it comes to these kind of changes.
Martin: We actually hope so! This is the fun of a game, that sort of emergent kind of situation that we don’t necessarily and we can’t really prepare for. Players are going to try to find their own ways of interacting with the game and having their fun and our job is basically to create a system that they can interact with and even try to break. Sometimes it will react in a way that they did not expect and that may seem realistic in a way that no other game can do. That’s our ambition. As far as derailing the story that’s obviously a huge conflict of interest. We want to make this overboard game but at the same time want to have an epic story which in the end has to be there in some way so we have to compromise there and find some sort of good balance. I think we strike that in a good way in that we try to guarantee that you can finish the main story. So there are a few NPCs that you can’t kill. But as for the quests if you play them in a way that you break them so if you for example kill the giver then that’s your call and it’s just a quest that you fail.
Tobi: So this is actually a good conversation. We don’t tell you how to solve the quests that you will have of course. But it’s up to you to find out and decide how you approach. You can come up with dead ends which means that you need to roll back and try another approach or come to that end where you actually killed the side quest and then it’s done. So it’s pretty interesting that we have all these branching dialogues and quest options and the game waits for your input pretty much and then develops the quest. The quest will continue according to your decisions there. Which also means that different quest solutions might ask for different stats, so it also depends on how you develop your character. We just decided that it’s better to make sure that the main quest is always solvable.
Tobi: It has a lot of consequences that for example killing people would have. So it’s not like we prepare a very specific consequence for you. Killing a particular village for example, your reputation will drop which propagates.
Martin: So if I kill someone in this then everybody in this particular town will know. So that means that I might not be able to talk to them which might mean that they won’t give me quests or they won’t talk to me which will close some branches for the quest that I’m already on. It might mean that I’m not able to shop with them or repair my stuff with them. They will react more aggressively if I’m trespassing on their property stuff like that. So it also propagates into the world. To a lesser extent it also affects in the same way people that react to me in the nearby settlements and my prices in shops will be worse.
Tobi: They will be even more suspicious even if they don’t know if it was you or not. They will start carrying more weapons and there will be more guards.
Martin: So your reputation for example affects your skill checks that you are trying to make. I think that’s quite funny. And there’s skill checks that you might do in the dialogue. You might try to persuade people or impress them with the way that you look. And if you have a lower reputation then these skill checks are more difficult. But you can also threaten then some sometimes and for this check to lower your reputation, betters your chances.
Tobi: Everyone in this company thinks and says that this particular optimization part is the most important part for the game. Without it this game would make no sense. The hardest overall is putting it all together and making it run. It’s like if you are creating a car and every department is creating their part. These ones are doing the engine, they are doing the doors and those guys are working only on the tires. And then in the end there’s that one part that gets all that stuff and then has to put it together. And then they will see, ok the tires are way too big with the frame and then we need to either make the frame bigger or we need to make the tires smaller or maybe even cancel the square tires, we need round tires so redo them. So it’s really putting it all together in the end. And then actually see where the conflicts are. Then you get to the end at the script department where they put something together and then they see it’s not working the way it was intended. The worst case is that they have scratch it because it just does not fit anymore.
Martin: Definitely agree. The hardest part is to get all these small systems of different people to interact with each other in a way that’s fun and not broken. And that’s something that actually comes quite late in the development process because you can’t really anticipate all the different interactions.
Tobi: The frustrating part in an open world game is that you don’t have closed levels which you can work on and you can finalize them you can test them. Once you have the first 3 quests done and then you find out that you need to make your houses a bit larger, but it completely destroys quest one because now in quest one the houses are too big and NPCs become confused, etc. That’s the frustrating part. You do two steps ahead and one back.
Martin: It’s also rewarding. I would like to say that. Seeing all of these come together and actually seeing the vision that we have that’s a source of a lot of problems but at the same time it’s very rewarding as it comes to life.
Tobi: Not yet. We promised some stuff on Kickstarter and there was mention that the female character did not make it into the game for different reasons and this might be something that might be added but again we will still have to discuss this. We don’t want to throw anything off the table but just want to keep an open mind and bring it a bit later rather than never.
Martin: Well this is something for sure that we wanted. We wanted a horse that works a bit like a Tesla automobile that is driving autonomously which is like magnetized to the road and which allows you to fight from the horse’s back. It was up and down with the horse back fighting. And so in the beginning we had this huge ambition of what we wanted to do and then at one point we thought we are quite behind schedule and we decided to even to cut it out completely and then somehow we did some things a little bit faster than we thought. So then we at least in a limited way put it back in and we didn’t really cut all the fun stuff and we realized that we can sort of realize it through the physical model that we had. Regardless we didn’t have the kind of conversion of the physical traits to do the RPG damage. If you are moving very fast or if you are very heavy, that’s going to do a lot of damage to other people because we wanted just not necessarily horseback riding but just you being on a horse and sprinting into a person and just cause simple physical collision and we wanted that to have the obvious consequence of hurting the person or maybe even getting killed. And for example the boar that you can see in the forest, we wanted to be aggressive towards you if you’re aggressive towards it and so we realized this in the very same way we had the boar run towards you and if it hits you it hurts you because it is very heavy. So once we had that it was just a small step towards having a combat system where you could feel the weapon was moving very fast and then just by running into people and swinging your sword, there was already a lot of stuff being done by the physical simulation there so it looks all right in the end and we’re happy that we were able to include this.
Tobi: You will be able to sharpen and repair your stuff with some kits but mostly you will pay a blacksmith to do it for you as well as getting new stuff. There is a very sophisticated alchemy system in the game which allows you to brew different kinds of potions, poisons or medicine where you have the recipe book you need to follow the exact steps. You will take different liquids, put it in the kettle , boil it, let’s say maybe you need to grind some fist full of metal then throw it into the kettle for two turns of the hourglass.
Martin: Yeah. It’s the most fun and sophisticated thing that we have in our game crafting wise. We don’t really have any other way of crafting your weapon or even modifying your weapons or armor. We unfortunately had to cut all these out in order to be able to focus on the other stuff but never say never.
Tobi: Yeah it’s definitely something that we miss as well as as much as the players. We definitely want to have it sooner rather than later.
Martin: It was really production. We didn’t have the time. We already had designs and concepts in mind but it was a lot of work for a lot of different people and it was a very isolated feature. It was easy to cut the blacksmithing mini game without really affecting all of the other stuff.
Tobi: Well actually there is minimal concern to be honest. We are driven by our own passion and motivation. So this is something combined with the passionate motivation of our initial backers on Kickstarter. We want to create a game that we think is cool, that we think is funny. So why not share it with the world? But then of course you have to think in terms of marketing it you have Europe for example which is as far as I can judge it very interested in the realism part and the historical accuracy part. Then you have America who was more interested in the fighting and the action scenes. So I’m not afraid that people will not like it. I just think that some people might get used to another type of game because when Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls released the first time around most people said that no one is interested in losing all the time. And in the end that’s the fun about the game right. That losing is actually the thing that motivates you. KCD is a bit slower as you said. It’s not like Destiny which is in super high speed, it’s a bit slower. You have to do a lot of talking, you have to do a lot of investigation, it’s much more about social relations, a lot about the understanding the story and the plot of the game and the problems of the early 15th century. And it shows you the real way of how things really looked like, what kind of problems they had and most of the quests have something to do with the plot of the game. So it’s not some kill 15 spiders in my basement and you get a flame sword +3 or something like this. I just think that the difference in it might be attractive, might be the interesting part of it. It’s not that it’s an anti-modern game. We are just in a position where we are brave enough to try new stuff.
Martin: I think what sort of makes me quite confident that people like it is the feedback so far from the people backing the Kickstarter that was much more successful than anything we could hope for, and through the alpha and beta, from all of this feedback people seem to really look forward to our game and understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. And I think that it’s kind of a reaction to the current state of gaming which is a pretty natural thing to do. You have some games that you evolved into and then once you play those games you think well what if we could do this differently. That would be something that we would enjoy and that was the original spark for Kingdom Come and once you have that then it’s very probable that other people share this sort of direction that you want to take. And we were lucky enough to choose the one that a lot of people seem to appreciate as well.
Tobi: Definitely in the beginning more than now because now it’s just too late to change big stuff. It went even so far that Daniel Vavra, our creative director was asking on different Facebook groups and medieval re-enactment rooms, “Hey I have to do a quest in the monastery. Do do you guys know how they actually behave?” because sometimes our historian came to a dead end so we tried to find the right expertise and ask different museums and even Facebook groups and our community. We sent a questionnaire to the 60,000 people that played the public beta and we got over 8000 questionnaires back which a huge amount. Usually you don’t get this high of a number back and we read all of this and tried to work with it as much as possible and take it into consideration. Sometimes people take short videos of the beta or something and send that story with red circles like, “That here. This is not possible like this and think about this and are you sure about that?” We have a super strong and super active community forums for example which of course are the biggest lovers and biggest haters and that was very, very important in the beginning of the game.
Tobi: We were successfully funded in February 2014 and in the beginning it was more a garage project like Apple and came to be an ambitious triple-A title let’s say. In the beginning it was very punk rock and papers on the wall. We still keep the papers on the wall but we have more people, more and more workflows. And it got more and more professional of course. And on the other hand it gets even more stressful. So from a garage project in the beginning it is like serious business that is going to be released soon. So of course the initial backers grew with us. So this as far as I can judge there is no one who said, “In the beginning you are cool, now you are assholes.” So I think that’s also the work we do on our YouTube and that’s very important because some might argue that building a community is worthless or useless or you don’t need PR guys or you don’t need community guys. I strongly disagree because that’s what we do on YouTube. It’s not only work with journalists but it’s also work with the community and in educating them in terms of what we are working on. Almost every second month we release a video update, a really big one from 10 minutes to 30 minutes talking about all the ups and downs, all the wins and fuckups of the studio and we educate them in the way that we want connected to them. It’s like talking about ok, now we implemented the crime system which is really fun but it completely broke so things went wrong. And this is shit, so now we need to work more on it. So this gives credibility. I would say that also in terms of marketing you could call it reason to believe but also it connects to the outer world, to the community. And as a thank you we grew with them and together we are now working on releasing Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is set to release sometime this year for the PS4, Xbox One and PC. Just today they released an entertaining video featuring famed actor/voice actor Brian Blessed which you can check out below:
Visit the Kingdom Come: Deliverance Wiki
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