The gaming industry has Double Fine Productions to thank for launching the Kickstarter game-funding revolution as it opened up a floodgate of budding developers with their new ideas bypassing the typical game publishing model. Now in 2014, things are escalated to loftier heights by startup game company Warhorse Studios.
Based in Czech, the 18-people team is starting off huge with an RPG project called Kingdom Come: Deliverance. One of the many things that separate this startup from the rest is the cadre of major players in the team. Founders Dan Vávra and Martin Klíma are veterans game designers who have worked on the Mafia and UFO Trilogy franchises respectively. The rest of the team had individual success creating and launching high-grossing titles such as Forza Horizons, Crysis 3, and Arma 3.
Kingdom Come’s idea is also a cut above the rest of the RPG pool filled with fantasy creatures and standard quest tropes. Players start off as a humble blacksmith in 15th century Europe whose life is turned around when his or her family is killed by an invading army. From there on, the player has to redeem their failure by restoring order to the land and safeguarding the kingdom’s rightful ruler.
Vávra said in a Red Bull interview that the team will mix the freedom non-linear exploration of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the storytelling of The Witcher, the setting of Mount and Blade and the tough combat of Dark Souls into one single package for gaming fans. While that potent combination seems like RPG heaven, most bigwig publishers assume that a game of this scope is too risky. Vávra added that Kingdom Comes’ future would be relegated to a free-to-play or mobile model if left in corporate hands.
Quality rules over quantity when it comes to Kingdom Come’s design mantra. The game’s world will be tailored after real-world locations, including existing Czech towns and castles back in that time period. Vávra said that the setting may be the key thing to bring something different in the RPG gaming landscape. “People like TV shows like Vikings, Rome, The Tudors; movies like Braveheart. And the same people also play games, but there aren’t many games being made for them. The only thing they can do is buy the next closest thing: a fantasy RPG. But if you look at the success of Total War series or indie games like Mount and Blade, you realise that the audience is there.”
From the pictures and gameplay footage the team released on its site, the game is on the right track with its rendition of forests, meadows, war-torn landscapes and dungeons. Did we forget to mention that it’s using the latest version of the popular CryEngine game engine?
Choice is also a key point in Kingdom Come. Players can choose different paths to make progress, be it playing as a chivalrous knight or roleplay as an assassin that ambushes foes in the shadows. Warhorse is doing away with class restrictions; how you play the game is entirely up to your playstyle and behavior. In terms of map scope, Vávra is looking to have the game world as expansive as Rockstar’s action game Red Dead Redemption. “We’re trying to make the world little bit more natural,” Vávra said, adding, “So in terms of frequency of events, points of interest and so on, it’s going to be closer to [Rockstar's sandbox title].”
As if that isn’t enough, Warhorse also has much more down the pipeline to realise this gargantuan dream. Hardcore game mechanics like a hunger meter and grey moral choices help accentuate the dark times of the time period. Motion capture teams who worked with Jackie Chan and on films like Hellboy are hired to make the first-person swordplay combat as real as possible. An actual sword master named Petr Nusek is on board to make sure the game’s combat techniques are authentic.
The project’s Kickstarter page is already closed and has reached beyond its $500,206 target. From January 22 to February 21, the company has amassed $1,844,749 in crowdfunding. In fact, it’s still accepting more funding via PayPal, WePay and Amazon Payments. That’s more than enough to make a believer out of those jaded by the industry that’s banking on homogeneous action and shooter titles.
It’ll take a while until Kingdom Come makes its deliverance as it’s slated for a late 2015 release for the PC and possibly next-gen consoles like PS4. That’s a given, as its plans for a medieval hardcore RPG is grandeur by nature. Yet at the same time, it’s a plausible and achievable one at that since the team clearly have done its research and is filling in that medieval niche that has its fans.