Interview – Kingdom Come Deliverance
I recently had the great pleasure to chat to Tobias Stolz-Zwilling, the PR Manager at Warhorse Studios, developers of the highly anticipated Kingdom Come: Deliverance. In our interview we addressed comparisons to Skyrim, its successful Kickstarter campaign, and what it’s like to develop a game from Prague. Check out the interview below.
So Tobias thank you for giving me your time today, firstly what is Kingdom Come: Deliverance? How did the game come about?
Tobias Stolz-Zwilling: Dobrý den Paul. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the first chapter of an epic journey through medieval Bohemia. Specifically; it’s a single player RPG with a great focus on immersive realism and historical accuracy. Our story takes place in Bohemia 1403 as a true to life retelling of clashes between kings, intrigues and bloody civil war.
Are there any games in particular that serve as motivation for the game, whether that is mechanically, aesthetically or even in terms of narrative?
It’s not only games that inspire us but books and movies as well. We aim on making a historically accurate experience which is the reason why we have a fulltime historian on our team. She has to triple check all design elements, sources, inspiration, proper behavior. Everything is under scrutiny, even small details like vegetation and anything that comes to mind when you look at the year 1403 in central Europe.
Are there any particular themes that are directing the overall plot?
I would say that it’s warfare, corruption and discord. The current king of bohemia is weak and has been kidnapped by his half-brother who is now invading bohemia. You, Henry the son of a blacksmith are one of many victims of his raiding army. Your village is burned, your family and friends are slaughtered and you will be torn into an ugly and bloody civil war. We basically try to frame the causes as to why the Hussite Wars break out a few years later. You won’t change history but you get the chance to tell your story within this true to history story. And you decide what Henry’s contribution will be.
Many have drawn comparisons between Kingdom Come and Skyrim? How do you respond to that?
I don’t like to compare things, even if it makes a concept easier to understand. Skyrim, Dark Souls, The Witcher are all great games and of course they are a huge inspiration for us. But I believe that we are preparing something very unique with Kingdom Come: Deliverance, where realism is our ultimate goal. So far no game has gone completely in this direction which is what makes us stand out from the rest.
As developers of a game that was at least partially funded by Kickstarter, how does the team respond to feedback from fans? Has there been anything added/changed in the game based on fan feedback?
Many projects on crowdfunding platforms will happen whether they get crowd sourced funding or not. Our case was totally different as we saw ourselves at the verge of closing the studio and Kickstarter meant sink or swim. Thankfully we swam! Without our backers there wouldn’t be a Kingdom Come or Warhorse Studios. So due to the outpouring of support in this situation we have an extremely close connection to our community. We are constantly in active dialog with them. Especially in our forums where we try to ask a lot of game changing questions about features and mechanics that we want to use in the game. So yes, the community is extremely important for us. We are planning to work with them even after the release… when modding will be a thing.
What have been some of the highs and lows of development so far?
I guess we have the same problems as every other studio. Every release of our Tech Alpha makes us extremely nervous since our team is very nitpicky and perfectionistic.
A big issue is our everyday struggle between historical accuracy and fun gameplay. It’s quite common to see fierce debates between our historian and Dan Vávra our creative director on this topic. But in the end we are making “just a fun game” and we know that a 100% simulation is not possible. And we are constantly refining the right balance between fun and realism. A good example of our approach and about the effort we put in development is displayed in one of our recent videos:
As a team based in Prague, what is the games development industry like there? Do you feel that your location adds something different to the game that many other games don’t have
We are of course the coolest and most broad-minded team ever!
For our game it’s a great advantage to be located in Prague since Kingdom Come: Deliverance takes place 50km south of us. The game map was created with a real satellite hide map which we had purchased. Many of the NPC’s are people that really lived in this area and all locations, castles, churches really existed and some are still standing today. This gives our team the opportunity to visit all those locations in real life to take reference pictures, talk to museums, universities and the people that care for these sites. We then can transfer them into the game, after some reconstruction of course since a lot of sites have since been destroyed. And it’s not only buildings we are visiting we are also going into the woods and hills to recreate the best and highest level of immersion.
What sort of previous experience does the team have in games development? Do some come from backgrounds in other industries?
Warhorse Studios is a young studio that was born in 2011 while drinking in the Pub. So from 1 person that day, we grew to a number of 25 people in Q1 2014 (when we went on Kickstarter) and are now a team of 80 people. The studio has no releases yet but is filled with veterans of the gaming industry. Mafia, Operation Flashpoint, ArmA, Skyrim… there is a lot of expertise here. We are also closely connected to Czech Universities. So our AI department mostly consists of PHD aspirants who are using this project for their PHD. Then there are the young guns who profit from the experience of our veterans. They bring a lot of motivation and energy… so you see… we are a huge mixture of expertise, energy and nationalities.
How is development progressing at this stage? When do you expect Act 1 to arrive?
Right now we are preparing the update of our Tech Alpha 0.5. Our Alphas are slightly different than others since they only showcase a small area of the game with more or less finished early drafts of cool features. We already have the alchemy system, horse riding and the combat system implemented. For the next update we are preparing the perception and crime system. We decided to go this way to generate a lot of feedback about these features. Again, we are very closely connected to our community and we need this feedback to make adjustments. Which right now it is very important to our focus on refinement since the planed release is in summer 2016. You can still jump in and get the Alpha at www.kingdomcomerpg.com
What platforms are you looking to release Kingdom Come on?
Right now we are mainly focusing to the PC build but we of course plan to release the game on Playstation 4 and Xbox One. There is already a build running on Xbox, however the Alphas and most likely even the Beta will be for PC only.
If any of our readers are looking for a bit more information about the game, where might they be best to go for further updates and news?
The best way to get more information is to visit our social networks. Just search on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Google+ for Warhorse Studios and you’ll get all you need. I would also highly recommend you to visit www.kingdomcomerpg.com. On one hand you can still hop on the Alpha train and on the other hand you can visit our forums and see all the interesting discussions we have there.