Kingdom Come: Kickstarting a medieval epic

One year on, we catch up with the creator of next-gen’s most epic adventure game.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Kingdom Come: Deliverance © Warhorse Studios
By Ben Sillis

It’s been more than a year since Czech studio Warhorse wowed gamers with the concept for its new adventure game, Kingdom Come: Deliverance. The medieval, dungeons-and-no-dragons project became one of the most backed projects on crowdfunded site Kickstarter in 2014, raising more than €1.45m in the process.

The game has gone from strength to strength since then, with an early access alpha debuting late last year, and plans for PS4 and Xbox One ports to follow the PC release, and we’ve been following its evolution closely. To find out what else has happened in that time, we caught up with Warhorse Studios co-founder and game director Dan Vávra. Read on for everything he had to say about the challenges of playable alphas, console plans and just how Skyrim-big that world map is going to be.

Hi Dan, tell us what’s been happening since we last spoke: what’s the current status of the game?
A lot has been happening. The team is three times bigger since our Kickstarter ended. We went to full-scale production, we released playable tech alpha for our backers, we raised another half million dollars on our own website and of course the game has made a huge leap forward. We have implemented tons of new game mechanics, our combat system is finally becoming more than a clumsy prototype, something actually playable and enjoyable. Our AI team has built one of the most robust artificial intelligence systems used in a game, we’ve started to work on quests and the world is getting bigger and bigger.

What’s still yet to be added?
We still have lots of mechanics to implement, for example the stealth and crime system is something we are working on right now.  We are writing and implementing quests and producing lots of art assets.

© Warhorse Studios

It’s been more than a year since you launched the Kickstarter. What’s changed in your vision during that time, and why? Have you had to remove anything?
We are setting priorities for each mechanism and asset, so in case we will be behind schedule, we will remove tasks that have the lowest priority or we will just simplify them. That means, that we didn’t remove anything, we just gave some things lower priority. We will see!

What’s new in the game that you didn’t plan to include originally?
We have a ton of work to do, so it’s not a good idea to add something on top of it, but we did. Since our graphics department seems to be doing okay, they decided to make the game world a little bit larger. There’s going to be one extra location spanning a few extra square kilometres. It also seems that the gameplay time might be longer than we promised, if we manage to finish all the side quests we plan to have. I mean it could be as much as 10-20 extra gameplay hours.

How has the public alpha launch gone so far? What have you learnt from players?
The launch went great: we have tons of positive feedback and found out about some hardware issues. Combat is not there yet, but anyone who backed or will back our game can play several non-linear quests, see our world, try alchemy, archery, etc. The next alpha will focus on lock-picking and hopefully stealth.

Can you give us any stats on how many have played and for how long?
Currently we have 45,000 backers, about half of them have access to the alpha and most of them have played it. Some people have spent an unbelievable amount of hours in the game trying to find out every single detail, 30-hours-plus. That’s more than I have!

What’s new in the latest version of the game?
The alchemy minigame with a large non-linear quest was the main thing in our latest alpha. In the next one, we will have lock-picking with a new quest surrounding it.

© Warhorse Studios

How close are you to delivering the original vision you set out?
I hope and believe that we are on the right path to deliver what we wanted. Some things may be little bit different because we realised that it would not work as we originally planned, some things may be simplified, but nothing major. In the worst-case scenario there is still Act II and III, where we could build upon what we achieve in Act I, polish stuff, add new features.

What sets Kingdom Come apart from its peers?
It’s a game set in real world, during real historic events at places that really exist even today. You can visit castles that are in our game. The story and quests are more than just typical: “Go there, kill some monsters, bring me that item.” Every quest has several solutions, you are dealing with more believable situations. Our combat system is based on real medieval combat and is very different than usual button mashing and blocking. Some people are afraid that a game which has no lava, snow and jungle levels or 100 types of monsters is going to be boring. I and many people who backed our game think exactly the opposite. Think about it as a Vikings TV series that you can play. Do you miss dragons and vampires fighting with Ragnar Lothbrook? Would it be better if he was cruising a sea of lava on his longboat? I don’t think so.

A couple of fantasy games have done particularly well recently, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor to name but a few. Have you played them? Do you think Kingdom Come will compete against them in anyway? What sets it apart?
I played Inquisition. I was really looking forward to play it, but I was little disappointed. It’s very generic and static world. Quests are mostly simple MMO-style generic tasks. It has its strong moments, but it’s very far from what we are trying to achieve.

What about the console versions of Kingdom Come: When are they planned for and will you be aiming to hit any specific tech benchmarks?
Console ports are already working. The game is not optimised, so the framerate is lower than it should be, but it’s going to be okay. We did not set ourselves any goal and I personally think that it’s better to run at 30fps with more details, than to have 60 and uglier visuals. I am a graphics whore! If we were making a racing game, it would be different, but in the case of an RPG, I think a richer environment is better.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Kingdom Come: Deliverance © Warhorse Studios

Will you be taking advantage of any of the console-exclusive features like Kinect or Move?
Most likely not.

How will the game control on console too? Will players have as much fidelity as on PC?
It’s playable with classic keyboard and mouse combo or Xbox controller, and I think that both options are perfectly okay. I prefer, and I know some people are going to hate me for it, to play the game with controller, even on a PC. But the biggest issue there usually is – Inventory – is optimised for both, and even with controller you can sort items by different parameters and do everything you expect from a PC game. I don’t think anyone has complained yet.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is due to be released later this year. Head to the Warhorse Studios website to try out the alpha now.

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