We recently conducted an in depth interview with Ian Fisher from ShogunGamer. We answer some indepth stuff about Champions of Demah and NRD Studios. Interview below, also available at ShogunGamer.
The real-time strategy genre has been one of the longstanding staples of the video game industry. With the ability to present deep gameplay without having to go with cutting-edge visuals, RTS games have had a prominent place within the industry ever since their heyday back in the early to mid-1990s.Just as is the case with other established genres, most RTS games have kept a consistent approach in what they deliver to the player.
The basics of the RTS genre should always be adhered to through having the ability to command units and build structures, but most games never really go out of this comfort zone. But such a thing isn’t the case for Champions of Demah, a new hybrid game that combines traditional elements of the RTS genre with controllable 3rd person action gameplay.
Developed by the team at NRD Studios, Champions of Demah is attempting to do something different all while giving longtime RTS players the elements that they know and enjoy. NRD Studios CEO Robert Mizen and Writer/Community Manager Nathan Gibson discuss the finer points and goals of Champions of Demah in this extensive interview with Shogun Gamer.
Ian Fisher: Since Champions of Demah not only presents a rather fresh take on the RTS genre but is coming to us via a studio that some people aren’t familiar with, can you talk a bit about how the concept for the game came about and what the history/overview of NRD Studios is?
NRD Studios: Well there have been a couple of games in the past that have tried to combine RTS elements with other genres but we felt they were always slightly lacking. We liked the idea of a hybrid but not any of the previous executions of the concept. So when we decided to start this project we sat down and said that everything in this game should feel entirely comfortable in both genres. Nothing should feel out of place.We started life in the UK as a specialist software and web development company. Although we always had the intention of moving into game development at some point. In 2011 we relocated to Sweden and began to expand the company. After taking on some extra staff we released two games for iOS platforms. However this is our first big game project. But we are comfortable that with the team we have and believe we can create an exciting and innovative game.
Ian: Champions of Demah has caught the attention of gamers since not only is it a RTS game, but it combines traditional RTS elements with that of a 3rd person action experience. So was the plan with the project always to meld these genres together, or did such a thing slowly evolve as the concept was being fine-tuned?
NRD Studios: We envisioned Champions of Demah being a hybrid from the very beginning. The concept of melding the two concepts together into one experience was really interesting. The truth is battles are won through a combination of strategy and the talent and bravery of the soldiers on the field. Our goal was to create a game that shows both sides of the fighting.
Ian: Can you talk about the basic approach the development team is taking as to how a mission within Champions of Demah can be experienced and what sort of tone is being sought after in respect to combat & pacing? Will it be possible to complete a scenario within the “traditional” RTS way, or is it mandatory that players switch between modes (RTS and 3rd person) to effectively win the battle at hand?
NRD Studios: Our initial release of the game is going to be multiplayer only. This is because we want to concentrate on team based gameplay, with players having to work together to defeat their opponents. Before each match you will be able to choose what role you want to play as, and you will stick with that choice throughout that match. Although there is some flexibility. For example if you are playing as the commander you will oversee the battle and play the game in the traditional RTS manner. However you can jump into the action and defend yourself or perform particular tasks. This will put your entire army at a disadvantage though as while you’re in 3rd person they will be without a leader directing the battle.
Ian: The base building element featured in Champions of Demah should be relatively familiar to those RTS veterans out there, but of course the component of 3rd person action is something that’s entirely new. So what can gamers expect once they assume the role of a soldier and go on the battlefield in respect to how the combat and tone of the battles are portrayed?
NRD Studios: Players who have played RTS games before will find the commander mode very familiar. If you’re playing as a soldier, or enter 3rd person mode as the commander, you will be taking your customised warrior directly into battle. We’ve taken inspiration from games such as Dynasty Warriors for the combat. Soldiers will also have a large array of skills and abilities to use to try to turn the tide of the fighting.While playing as a soldier players will also be able to assume some strategy elements, such as weapon placement, building barricades and repairing structures. We also have some other RTS style features for soldiers which we will be announcing shortly. Of course soldiers will also have to carry out orders given by their commander, or risk defeat by deviating from the strategy.
Ian: What sort of strategies and unique opportunities can gamers expect from Champions of Demah given how it allows them to go from the regular RTS perspective and then go onto the actual battlefield?
NRD Studios: Players will probably feel familiar with many of the elements of they will experience in the game. So if you’ve played Command and Conquer the RTS element in Champions of Demah won’t feel too different. But there are gameplay features which are different. As the commander you will be located in the battlefield, usually in your main fortification. If you come under attack do you risk entering 3rd person mode to defend yourself, leaving your team mates without an effective overview of the battle? While in 3rd person mode you might have to risk not following orders directly or removing yourself from battles to perform strategically important tasks. We want to give players something that feels familiar but at the same time is fresh and exciting.
Ian: When building a game that has a rather complex approach as Champions of Demah does, has it been hard to balance out the various elements, both in how the game is played and how much time the player switches being game perspectives/modes (RTS and 3rd person)?
NRD Studios: It’s been fairly challenging to balance the two different approaches. We have ran a lot of simulation to try to figure out what players are likely to do in games so we can give them appropriate skills and abilities. Mainly we wanted everything to feel fluid and responsive. The commander can switch in and out of the two modes by leaving or entering the tactical map. Others playing as soldiers can swap into RTS elements by interacting with places or things on the battlefield.This limitation in how the soldiers can switch between modes is for the obvious reason that you can’t have multiple people directing the same battle, it would just become a confusing mess. But we want players to experience both roles. So if you play as a commander all of the time you won’t be able to access certain skills and abilities that come from fighting directly on the battle field as a soldier.
Ian: Besides the key battle mechanics, what other features can gamers expect which will enhance the overall experience found in Champions of Demah?
NRD Studios: We have a very large skill system which also incorporates the type of weapons and armours that players can use. Each skill and ability can be developed further to make them more powerful and useful. Players will also be able to upgrade weapons and armour. This allows players to have truly customised characters who they have developed for their own particular style of fighting.We want each player controlled solder on the battlefield to be different and unique. Of course this then makes it even more important for commanders to understand the strengths and weakness of their team mates so they can use them effectively on the battlefield.It’s been hard to balance our system because we want to reward people who play the game a lot with more skills and abilities, but not so that they can beat new players easily.
Ian: RTS games are somewhat known for their epic battle scenarios which in turn can result in gamers putting a hefty amount of overall playtime, both in attempting to finish the campaign and merely replaying certain missions. It may be relatively early in the development cycle as of now, but what sort of length is the team looking at for the main campaign of Champions of Demah?
NRD Studios: As a multiplayer only title there won’t be a campaign, at least not initially. We are still looking into some single player modes but for now we are focusing entirely on multiplayer. The game will ship with the ability for 32 players to play together in each game, 16 per side. With all those players in the same game the battles should still be epic.We are aiming at designing the game so that each match will last around 20 to 30 minutes. Obviously that isn’t something we can directly control as each game will be unique, with various different players and strategies. However we don’t want games to be too short or too long, so will restrict some of the resources and that type of thing.
Ian: It is somewhat daunting to approach a RTS game with a hybrid approach such as what Champions of Demah does considering that other titles have either failed or delivered relatively mediocre experiences in the past?
NRD Studios: Yes, it has been daunting. As we’ve said previously the idea is really interested. We feel a game that can effectively blend both RTS and 3rd person action will be a really fun and exciting game to play. Some of the games in the past that have tried this type of approach haven’t pulled it off. The concept was good but they just weren’t able to pull it off.Perhaps the game we took the most influence from was Kingdom Under Fire. That is probably the best example of a hybrid RTS/3rd person we have played. But the strategy elements were very limited. It didn’t feel like you were commanding a battle. The team believes we can manage to overcome the problems faced by previous games and deliver a game that blends the two genres in the best way possible.
Ian: The RTS genre as a whole has gone through an interesting cycle since it was huge throughout the 1990s with titles such as Command & Conquer. In recent years the scope and overall release cycle of RTS titles has gotten somewhat smaller due to the changing tastes of gamers. So what has it been like as a studio to approach a project that’s as large as Champions of Demah and it be in a genre that may not have the same attention or immediate fanbase as the FPS genre? Is such a current situation being looked upon as a blessing of sorts since it’ll allow the project to stand out more, or are there concerns over whether or not people will actually check out the game?
NRD Studios: RTS games have taken more of a back seat over the last few years. I think that’s mostly to do with consoles becoming more mainstream though. They just don’t seem to work as well on consoles, using controllers. So they aren’t as popular with gamers playing on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. However I think the genre still have a dedicated and strong fanbase on PC, where the genre is much more at home.I don’t think we really considered it a blessing or a curse. We just wanted to create an interesting and innovative game.
Ian: Right now the Kickstarter campaign for Champions of Demah is active, but are there any plans to do other efforts such as Steam Greenlight? And in general, what’s the plan if the Kickstarter campaign sadly falls short of the goal? Will development be stalled for a while or will things still progress while other funding avenues are secured?
NRD Studios: The Kickstarter campaign hasn’t been great, but we were prepared for that. Our game is very ambitious for such a small studio. We expected that a lot of people wouldn’t want to risk funding the game. Development won’t be stalled. Rest assured though that Champions of Demah will still be developed and released if the Kickstarter fails, it just means we will have to work harder to find funding.We have been looking at alternative funding sources even before the Kickstarter campaign and we have had some very promising discussions. But I obviously can’t go into any details at this time.We launched on Steam Greenlight a couple of days ago and that seems to be going really well. We’ve had a lot of feedback and from the comments it seems like people are very interested to get to play the game themselves.
Ian: As a hybrid RTS experience, what element, or elements, are you the most proud of when it comes to what Champions of Demah has to offer?
NRD Studios: At the moment we are most proud that the game is fun to play as both a commander and a soldier. It was always going to be difficult to get both roles balanced but it is vital that we do. Otherwise people will only want to play as one of the roles and not both. So far we think we’ve achieved that.Other than that we are just really proud of how far we’ve come in development with our small team.
NRD Studios currently employs nine staff and everyone has had to work incredibly hard to get the game to where it is so far.
Tackling a gameplay direction that not many other games have attempted in the past, Champions of Demah is definitely a RTS title that longtime fans of the genre should keep their eyes on. Combining dense RTS strategies with intense 3rd person action, there are quite a bit of things to find appealing about Champions of Demah and more importantly there’s enough to do to keep the action varied.I want to extend my thanks to Robert and Nathan for taking some time out of their busy schedules to discuss Champions of Demah with me. Stay tuned on Shogun Gamer for more coverage on Champions of Demah in the coming months as development on the project continues.
Thanks to Ian for interviewing us on our game :)
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