Istvan Zsuffa discusses Armies of Exigo
Having been intrigued by the prospect of EA and Black Hole's forthcoming fantasy-styled real-time strategy game at E3 last month, Ferrago took the opportunity to sit down with the developer's Art Director, Istvan Zsuffa, for a chat about his impressive looking project.
Ferrago: What is the premise of Armies of Exigo, and how will it engage us in the fantasy world of your creation?
IZ: The majority of our team has been playing with Real Time Strategy games for a long time, and has been interested to create one. Interestingly the majority of our team likes the dark fantasy world which is very well reflected in our game; Armies of Exigo.
Ferrago: Is it difficult creating something original (in terms of look, game play and story), when you are working as part of such a well-defined tradition as the fantasy RTS genre?
IZ: Naturally, it is difficult to create something completely new in the RTS genre, but our goals were never to create something completely new. The game we created is traditional in many aspects, however the overall outcome is significantly different from everything that has come before it. This game has several fundamentally different and new features. Our most important invention is the multi-leveled game fields. With the help of two mini-maps we are able to follow the events either on the surface or down below. Although we can view only one level at a time by switching between them, the two levels are closely connected not only geographically, but in many tactical aspects that gives rise to a new game experience while using spells, controlling units and other objects.
Ferrago: In terms of game play, we hear that Armies of Exigo will take the genre in a few new directions - can you expand for us?
IZ: The above mentioned multi-level system provides many new possibilities regarding strategy. Players will be able to cast spells from one level to the other one. One good example is the Earthquake spell, which can be activated above ground, but its effects (falling rocks from the ceiling) cause great devastations below too. We are capable of destroying existing entrances to the catacombs or create brand new ones for that matter. The miners of the empire can build connecting passageways at any point of the game field between the two levels. Shamans of the Beasts are able to transform their units into a state of gas which then can seep through the ground and re-appear in a solid form in the caves below. Constructible and destroyable bridges will provide a new tactical challenge for players. This new aspect enables the player to cut its enemy off or create new ways to get to them. All fighter units gain experience points and advance in levels respectively. As these units advance, they earn specific bonuses and privileges, therefore it is beneficial to protect, heal and take care of them in order to build a really strong army. Even if we manage to have them killed, there are ways to resurrect them and continue.
Ferrago: Multiplayer will clearly be a major part of the game, what are the challenges of this portion of the title, and how will it differ from other multiplayer RTS's.
IZ: We have created many kinds of the multiplayer mode, every player will be able to find his or her favorite. There will be traditional melee (1v1, 2v2, etc.) team melee and FFA modes both normal and the tournament kinds. We created CTF levels specifically for our CTF game mode. In this game mode the players might have to protect multiple flags which aren't necessarily located at a single location, the player's base. We also created several unique multiplayer levels which will provide us with new game modes too. There will be multi-leveled multiplayer game fields and obviously single-leveled as well. The release of the game will include its editor allowing everybody to create any kind of game field and play it with their friends.
Ferrago: Atmosphere can add so much to create an immersive experience; what ambience will you be promoting in the game and how do you hope to achieve this?
IZ: Every game level will have its corresponding animal kingdom (four legged, birds, insects) with matching intelligence. These animals are running around, grazing and have a mind of their own. The game has real time wind that moves all trees, smoke and flags simultaneously. This wind changes in direction and strength. According to the season of the level rain or snow might fall from above, and once in a while even fog might form on the surface. Time of day will also effect visuals. In the evening it will get dark and practical lights (windows of buildings and other lamps, torches, fires etc.) will illuminate their surroundings. The sun moves across the sky and real time shadows reflect this respectively. Every setting or event is filled with sounds; creeks gurgle and crickets fill the silent night.