For the last year or so, a game called Eador: Masters of the Broken World has been making the expo rounds and catching the eyes of strategy gamers. It’s a title that looks so complex that I’m simultaneously enthused and intimidated by it. We sent some questions out to developer Snowbird Games Studio about the game, and Vladimir Tortsov- the same gentleman who answered our questions about their other game, Caribbean!- responded.
Erandi Huipe: Could you give a quick summation of what kind of game Eador: Masters of the Broken World is?
Vladimir Tortsov: It’s a mix of grand strategy, turn-based strategy, and role-playing game. Players will take the roles of the immortal Masters, who compete against each other for global domination over the Universe. The best way to describe this game is to say something like Master of Magic meets Civilization meets [Heroes of Might and Magic] meets Total War. Usually it helps to get some attention.
EH: If I understand the development history of Eador: Masters of the Broken World correctly, the game was originally a Russian only game that you guys picked up and wanted to go internationally with. What about the original Eador drew your attention?
VT: That’s right – the game was originally released in Russia in 2010 as an ‘extremely indie’ title. The original Eador was in full 2D without any animations (you can find the screenshots from that version here). The game was great, it was praised by the press and the hardcore audience in Russia, but most people never heard of it. We’ve decided to give a second chance to Eador and release a 3D remake of it internationally, with proper PR support, interface & AI tweaks. We’ll keep the core gameplay mechanics of the original game untouched, because it was the very thing that we liked most about that game. Given the huge number of different elements and mechanics inside, the game was fairly balanced and every clockwork piece was in its place. What else could be more crucial for a strategy game?
EH: One of the features that you tout is the moral decisions players will have to make as rulers. What was the motivation behind including this and not just sticking to a stricter strategy game? How will the decisions affect gameplay?
VT: The strategy games are usually focused on warfare and economics. When playing Civilization II, I don’t feel bad about raising the taxes or killing a lonely barbarian unit on a desolated island – after all, it’s all about winning the game. It’s impossible to be ‘kind’ or ‘evil’ ruler in the game where every side of the conflict has the same options available to it.
In Eador, every decision and move of a player affects his karma one way or another. This idea comes from the tabletop RPGs – you’re creating your character and ‘living his life’ after that. Your ultimate goal is to win, of course, but there are many different paths leading to victory. The dark ones tend to be shorter and more direct, while the peaceful ones are usually longer and less straightforward, but also more rewarding in the end.
The same approach applies to Eador – depending on the player’s choices, the game could be finished with one of 12 different endings, and not all of them are happy ones. The current state of karma also affects the probability of fortunate events and various disasters.
EH: The idea of moral decisions implies a narrative that you want players to care about. This is interesting as one of your producers- Alexander Souslov- wrote that Hearts of Iron is more of an RPG than Mass Effect (a statement that I loved and made me grin ear to ear) because the latter had a linear story that forced you into particular decisions. How linear is the story in Eador and how do you create non-linear story that can make players care about it?
VT: You may say the main storyline is running on in the background. Players will learn that once upon a time, the world of Eador was shattered into pieces, and it is crucial for its continued survival to reunite these so-called shards under one rule. At some point of the game, they will discover the existence of other Masters, who would develop into their trusted allies or hated enemies. Each Master in the game reveals his views and intentions, and it’s up to the player to decide whom to side with and which scenario he favors, be it establishing an eternal reign of terror, annihilating all life in the Universe, achieving a new Golden Age, etc. Thus, the game is truly non-linear in a sense that everything is possible with only a few restrictions.
EH: I’ve read that individual units will level up as wells as stronger hero units. Why did you decide to have generic units level up as opposed to making them more like fodder?
VT: Because it motivates players to protect their troops and spend more time thinking over right moves during the tactical combat. Without this feature, the battles would be kind of boring, because the outcome would only depend on the size of armies and the levels of heroes. In Eador, the experience of your units is something that probably matters even more that the size of your army (think of the 300 Spartans).
EH: With units levelling up, I imagine that players will come to value them and want to keep using them in their armies. How does this affect army construction?
VT: Exactly. The players will need to organize their armies selecting the optimal combination of units. For example, a healer unit could be invaluable for keeping your most experienced melee troops alive.
EH: Can you elaborate a bit on how the diplomacy system will work? What factors will motivate me to talk to opponents as opposed to just crushing them?
VT: The diplomacy system is working on two levels: astral and strategic. On the astral level, diplomacy is sort of a plot device, unfolding the story of the game. As we speak to other Masters, we learn more about their views and personalities. Later in the game, it could lead us to valuable alliances that will ultimately decide the ending of the game. We can act as a lone wolf as well, of course – it’s possible to keep all the power to yourself.
There is also a strategic level diplomacy, which takes place during the war over some particular shard. It is possible that some other Masters have also chosen this shard as their target during their turn, and in this case, diplomacy becomes a powerful tool of survival. Instead of fighting the war on two or more fronts, we can negotiate with some of our adversaries and convince them to leave this shard for good. We can also sign a trade agreement with other Masters and sell or buy resources.
EH: One of the most interesting things about Eador is the ‘broken world’ aspect. How will this be meaningful to the game? More specifically, will it add more to the game mechanically than just separating territories with oceans?
VT: Yes, it will. Not only it serves to create a right kind of fantasy atmosphere, it affects the gameplay as well. For instance, there is a possibility that Chaos will rise from the abyss and consume the player’s homeworld. In order to prevent that, the player should constantly seek to conquer other shards, it’s the only way to “climb up” from the creeping death below.
EH: While the hero-focused strategy game isn’t new, there’s certainly been a rise in its popularity over the last few years. The work Relic is doing with Company of Heroes and Dawn of War, the popularity of DOTA and League of Legends, and even more traditional RTS developers like Creative Assembly have dipped into it with their avatar mode in Shogun 2 and seem to be going farther in that direction with Total War: Rome 2. Why do you think the trend of this system has increased and why did you choose to implement it in Eador?
VT: This global tendency supports the theory that all videogames are moving towards the RPG genre. The thing Blizzard did with heroes in Warcraft III was amazing – it was fun and tactically rich at the same time. In most cases, the hero-focused gameplay in strategy games helps to tell a story, portraying the situation where victory is primarily a result of outstanding heroism of a single person. That’s a typical RPG approach, isn’t it?
In Eador, we have heroes as well, but their role isn’t that huge. They are serving as generals of our armies and we can have up to 8 heroes per shard (though rarely we can afford that many). They’re not involved in the storyline, they don’t have any backgrounds – they’re just mortal mercenaries. Therefore, Eador is a player-focused strategy game. Only the player’s decisions and alignment matter.
EH: Having watched some game footage from about an year ago, Eador seems like one of the most mechanically dense and complex games that I’ve seen in a while- a prospect that is both exciting and terrifying. While I love how it appears unapologetically targeted at advanced strategy players, how will you make it approachable to newcomers?
VT: One of the biggest problems of Eador’s 2D predecessor was its unfriendliness to the newcomers. While we don’t want to cut any complex gameplay mechanics from the game (and upset the strategy gaming veterans), we definitely wish to make the game more accessible for the general audience. That’s why we’re adding the hints system and a proper tutorial to the game, and redesign the interface to make it more intuitive as well.
EH: When can people expect to get their hands on what’s looking to be a wonderful game?
VT: Eador: Masters of the Broken World is scheduled to be released this Fall.
Eador: Masters of the Broken World is planned for a Fall release on PC.