As promised, here’s the Age of Wonders III Q&A with designer Lennart Sas of Triumph Studios!
By way of introduction, Age of Wonders is a high fantasy, turn-based strategy series that has been around since the late 1990s. In AoW, players build up their cities, recruit armies of soldiers and elves, cannons and dragons, and then pit them against rivals in a tactical combat minigame, a la Master of Magic. Fond memories of the earlier games, Triumph’s promise of further improvements, and gorgeous early screenshots all piqued my interest in Age of Wonders III; and it didn’t hurt that the most recent AoW game, Shadow Magic, held up well when I replayed it to prepare for this interview. Sadly I wasn’t able to include every question sent in (I received some separately from the comments to my original post), but I hope this Q&A will address some of what you guys (and I) had in mind. Read on…
Peter Sahui: First off, congratulations on announcing Age of Wonders III! A lot of people have wished for this news, but very few were expecting it – it’s been ten years since Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic came out in 2003. Can you tell us about the journey to getting this game into production?
Lennart Sas: Age of Wonders has always been very dear to us, like our first love. During the more than six years when we worked on Overlord, we recharged with fresh ideas for the series. But of course it needs to make business sense as well. The license with our original publisher expired, so the game became fully ours again. We subsequently did a successful re-release of the series on sites like Steam and GoG. The PC games market seems to be booming again, fueled by hard core gamers, digital distribution and a creative indie scene. PC seems really the place where it’s happening now, so it’s great to be back with Age of Wonders during these times!
PS: What inspiration has Triumph drawn from other games (e.g Dominions 3, Civilization IV-V) that came out after Shadow Magic?
LS: As players we do play these games, and as developers we keep an eye out for what’s going on in genre as well as the strategy games market as a whole, but we really haven’t looked too closely at the recent competitors for design inspiration. (Perhaps only for interface conventions) We’d rather look for inspiration outside of the genre, like we did with our RPG-style leader classes, or with Pikmin for Overlord.
PS: I’ve noticed fantasy TBS games often fall somewhere on a scale between a Civ-like 4X game with multiple ways to win (Master of Magic) and something closer to a pure wargame (Warlock: Master of the Arcane). How would you describe your overall design goal for Age of Wonders III?
LS: The Age of Wonders series has always been firmly in the middle between a war game and empire building mixed with some adventure and roleplaying. Our focus has been on combat, the units and many abilities and RPG-style adventuring in single player and a load of multi-player options. For Age of Wonders III this focus remains largely the same, but we did increase the depth of economic and territory systems through the inclusion of more terrain bonuses and borders. This works well with the terra forming that has always been a fun part of our game. Also we feel the setting and atmosphere as very important in our games, something that is often missing in strategy games.
PS: One distinctive element of Triumph games (the previous Age of Wonders titles and Overlord) has been their atmosphere and sense of humour, e.g. dire penguins. How have you approached these in Age of Wonders III?
LS: Overlord is all-out genre parody whilst Age of Wonders is an epic fantasy game. We do try to add charm, plus fun and quirky stuff to a degree that it doesn’t detract from the main conflict in the game. Some of the more bizarre units are back, including dire penguins that now march in neat formations in combat, along with some new creatures. Also, the class-race combinations can lead to some interesting new leader characters.
PS: You’ve announced Age of Wonders III will add a new leader class system, with unit availability depending on the player’s choice of class. Could you elaborate on how the class system will work? E.g. will we be able to multi-class, will different classes have completely different units or will they have some units in common, etc.
LS: In AoW3 we introduce unique RPG-inspired classes and specializations. Classes like the Warlord, Theocrat, Rogue and Sorcerer, allow players to craft empires of their own design. As a Warlord you create Spartan civilizations, as a Goblin Theocrat you can build your own holy empire, recruit little goblin crusaders or cute winged goblin angels equipped with flaming weapons, and wage war on your heathen enemies. We want players to develop unique strategies and play styles.
PS: Thanks for your time!
Age of Wonders III is due out for PC in August 2013, so stay tuned! All Age of Wonders III images in this article taken from the official website.