You don’t see that many RTS games being made by indies these days. Thankfully, they’re not a dead breed, and Siegecraft: Commander is one hell of a take on the strategy genre. Instead of going down the tried-and-true path of basebuilding and unit management, Siegecraft is all about fighting by building. The game is even being developed in VR, which was as strange as it was intriguing to me. So, to get a glimpse into how all this came into being, I roped Ellen Jurik into revealing the thought process behind the game.
Introduce yourself to the lovely people at home.
My name is Ellen Jurik. I am a producer and designer at Blowfish Studios.
For anyone who doesn’t know what Siegecraft is, give us the elevator pitch.
Siegecraft: Commander is a turn-based and real-time strategy game that’s available across multiple platforms (including VR) and offers cross-platform play.
One of the interesting things about this game is that the entire game is just basebuilding. How was it approaching the game as just basebuilding as opposed to dealing with units, micro, etc?
The Siegecraft franchise started out as a tower defence, so I think that the tower building still retains some of those tower defence mechanics. You can build units, like, you can build a barracks and units spawn automatically. Towers have different defences, so they may have shields or automatically defend against airborne attacks or ground attacks. It is a bit different in that there’s not as much micromanagement, and it’s a bit faster… It’s just a different set of mechanics, I guess!
In terms of the controls, I’ve noticed that it’s very controller-centric.
Well, we do have a PC/Mac version as well, which isn’t what we’re exhibiting today. Today it’s mostly console and VR. I like to play on PC and Mac, so it’s still keyboard and mouse for me, but the overall mechanic remains the same. You’ve got a crossbow or catapult style turn, control the power, that’s how far the shot will go, and that’s how far your tower will fall from the tower you’re shooting from. Of course, that gets connected from a connecting wall…
And flinging cows.
Yup, we even fling cows. Mad cows if you’re a lizard!
So, have you guys been making the game for controllers primarily?
Note to self, she is making a lot of questionable faces.
I don’t actually know! I don’t think the deliberate decision was made to design for controller over keyboard. Both were certainly designed before VR. So, a lot of the changes for VR have been how you move around, how you move the map, etc. RTS has very pre-set ideas for PC and Mac. A lot of the people working on the game are more console gamers, but because our game has a mix of that, it’s been – everyone’s kinda wanted to be, “This doesn’t feel intuitive for this system,” so the goal really is intuition and a comfortable play no matter where you’re playing.
What’s been added since last year?
This year we’ve worked on the campaign. We will have two campaigns that we’re working on now. There’s a human campaign…
… And a lizard campaign, and that’s more of a backstory to the human camapign. It’s a prequel sequel, bit of a non-linear storytelling approach. We’ve also gone over the art style and revised it a lot, mostly character design but also environmental design as well. And, of course, we have the inclusion of VR.
When you started off, did you ever think, “We’re gonna make it for VR one day”?
… Well, that was easy. So, why have you decided to try it out now?
VR is an emerging technology that we’re interested in and curious to see where it could go and what can be done with it. While you can have a lot of VR experiences that are EXPERIENCES, they’re kinda gimmickey. We wanted to see how we could move forward to go, “Well, we’ve already got this game, how does it adapt to VR?” It actually feels really appropriate for VR. It goes from feeling like an RTS to more like a tabletop strategy game on a board in real time.
With cows! And knights, and lizards…
How important has it been to get that campaign in the game?
The campaign has been very important to us because not only is it world building, it also has the tutorial in it which shows players how to get into and play the game. Shooting buildings isn’t a common gameplay mechanic, so it does explain that and start to introduce the different kinds of towers and different units over time as well as the idea of countering units. It also gives us an opportunity to make maps that we design and define for the player so that they can have a great experience, even if they log on and none of their friends are online and don’t want to play with other people. If you’re like me and kinda like playing on your own…
Because people suck.
Yeah! But you can. You can play at your own pace, interrupt your game, you don’t have to sit there and finish the game because you’re playing against other people. The sessions for the campaign are a little bit longer too, so it gives you a bit more of an opportunity to develop your skills.
Biggest challenges faced in developing the game?
[Concerned looks!] One of the ways that our company does stay afloat- Blowfish, staying afloat! Aaaaah! We stay afloat by taking a lot of client work on. We make games, VR experiences, and more software and tools for clients. Because they are paying clients, we prioritise their work first, we kind of have to. So, things like Gunscape, which we released earlier this year and showcased last year as well, haven’t been able to be developed as quickly as we’d have liked because it is the lower priority. It can be pretty demoralising.
Can you ever see yourselves going full-time games development any time soon??
For our own games? We would love to. The truth is, we don’t get enough money from our own games. If we did, we’d absolutely commit ourselves to doing that. That said, we also love the challenge of doing client projects. We often work on games that we wouldn’t think about ourselves, and we do get to develop a lot more skills because of those projects as well, which feeds back into our own games and our own development.
Now, you told me earlier that you’re from Perth.
What are your opinions on Perth?
I love Perth, and I would love to move back there.
Do you think it has a strong gaming scene?
I think it has really strong gaming community, and a very supportive, inclusive and friendly community. I often miss Perth, I would absolutely love to go back there, and I’d love to see more government support like in Victoria. They have a lot of state funding for setting up things like The Arcade. Perth has a lot of experienced people there doing some amazing things, doing creative things, a mix of contract things and a mix of their own things. It’s great to see the quality of work coming out of Perth, but I just wish more people knew about it, and I wish there was more support, even just to help the people that are doing things to get their name out there. Even if it’s not development support, if it’s marketing support or PR support, for the devs that are there and doing an amazing job.
Release date for the game?
It’s coming soon. We do have a launch date announcement coming.
UPDATE: January 17, guys! Get hype!
You can follow Siegecraft and other games over at http://www.blowfishstudios.com/