The Horse’s Mouth: Mount & Blade Interview

By Kieron Gillen on October 1st, 2008 at 6:21 pm.

They say you can't make a horse drink

It’s been a bubbling indie favourite over the last few years in its Beta state. Mount & Blade is arguably the greatest horse-based combat game ever, a medieval open-world game with true freedom and genuinely pretty nifty. Having finally reaching V1.0 and its commercial debut, we thought it time to talk to TaleWorld’s lead developer, Armagan Yavuz, about the long journey from inspiration to release

RPS: Could you talk about the moment of conception of the game? Was it a Eureka moment, or did it grow from games that you love?

Armagan Yavuz: Initially we wanted to make a game where sword fighting felt like you were actually involved by using your reflexes; parrying, feigning, etc. Then, while we were working on that bit, we wanted to add more aspects of medieval combat such as horseback fighting, and interesting and realistic archery. At another level, we wanted to make the general gameplay like a sandbox game because we do love those kinds of games. Sid Meier’s Pirates!, in particular, inspired the feel we were trying to create in Mount & Blade. Pirates! had a unique randomness about it that would make the player feel like he was having a completely new experience each time he played the game, and we strived to give Mount & Blade that same sense of freedom and replayability.

RPS: Mount & Blade’s most obviously unique feature is how it handles horse-based combat. Why do you think horses have been so badly treated in games so far?

Yavuz: Horse-based combat is a difficult feature to build into a game, because it requires some very complicated gameplay mechanics. We really wanted to incorporate horseback combat into Mount & Blade, though, to add another dimension of gameplay and give players a better idea of the exciting realism of medieval combat- no potions or spells, just the adrenaline rush of speeding toward your enemy on horseback and taking him out with a lance or sword. So we really took the time to develop the horseback element of the game to make it as realistic as possible.

That's just not true

RPS: What sort of games inspired you as creators? And linked to that, why did you decide to create games anyway? What do you love about them?

Yavuz: As I mentioned before, we were very much influenced by the feel of Sid Meier’s Pirates!, along with other games such as Darklands, The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, Elite 2, and older Koei strategy games like Ghengis Khan. Each of those games does certain things very well, but we are especially fond of having lots of freedom and replayability.

RPS: Could you talk a little about Turkey as a gaming country. What’s it like? I’m a British writer, but generally speaking, I feel in the games press the American cultural position is kind of assumed to be the default one. What’s the differences? What’s notable about it?

Yavuz: I would say that many Turkish gamers tend to favor PC-based gaming, although consoles are catching up in recent years. I guess we are closer to Europe than we are to US in that regard. Also gamers in Turkey tend to prefer multiplayer games over other types. All in all we probably aren’t very different from most other countries.

RPS: You’ve used an unusual model to support development – the paying for access to the full beta, with that allowing you to play the final version. How has that worked for you? Was it enough to fund development entirely or are you going to still require it to be a big hit now? Would you use it again or recommend it to other developers?

Yavuz: When we first tried to pitch Mount & Blade to several publishers, we weren’t having much luck at all, so we decided to try to continue development by allowing consumers to download the most recent version of the beta and pay us for that content. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the game really caught on, and we developed a wonderful fan base early on that spread the word about Mount & Blade and kept us going until we were fortunate enough to get publishing assistance from Paradox Interactive. This system may not work for everyone, but some independent developers who have difficulty partnering with a larger publisher may find that the best way to get their game “out there” is to deliver it directly to the fans, even if it’s a first look at a game that is still in development.

I could easily make a horse drink.


RPS: Freeform open world games are one of the major themes of the last five years. But Mount & Blade kind of shows how much many of those games are really on rails, in terms of the things you can do as a player. What is it about the more open approach which appeals to you?

Yavuz: We like the feeling that we are in charge of our own destiny in a game. In a typical, fixed storyline game, you will go through the game and at the end, you may feel that it was a good story. But still, you know that it was the story every other player experienced. There was nothing really special with your experience. But with a well designed freeform game, you will know that all the challenges you faced, all the interesting game moments were unique to you. When you finish the game, you will know that your game experience was your own doing, and you went through your own personal story. Nothing beats that feeling.

RPS: Was there a moment when you were developing where you suddenly realised “Oh wow! This is actually going to work!”?

Yavuz: It took us several years to come up with the first commercial beta version that we offered to the players. Until that time we were very concerned that all of this would not work and we would have to close the shop and go do something else to earn our living. But after creating that first version we put a few messages on some boards and started to see what would happen. The first day or so nothing much happened, but then news of the game started to go like wildfire through lots of forums on the internet. The players were blissfully supportive and lots of people seemed to enjoy the game a lot, and we kind of realised, “Yes, this may actually work!”

Just stick it in a liquidiser.

RPS: And related to that, what are you most proud about the game?

Yavuz: The mods and the mod community. Mount&Blade has arguably some of the best mods developed for a computer game. Of course the mods are not our own doing, but seeing all that creativity and energy, and feeling ourselves as a part of that is a wonderful thing.

Mount & Blade is available now on GamersGate. The demo can be found here.

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34 Comments »

  1. Devan says:

    This game is soo addicting. Can’t stop playing it :)

  2. jackflash says:

    Yay for M&B!

  3. Benjamin Finkel says:

    I love this game so much. Thanks, Armagan, for making it, and thank you, Kieron for posting this cool interview and for introducing me to the game back in the spring.

    Ben

  4. HidesHisEyes says:

    It’s wonderful to see how this game has grown. Apart from the pretty huge need for multiplayer, it’s a really wonderful production. There’s just something about a game where you really feel like one of the troops in something much bigger that just works.

  5. roBurky says:

    You know that thing where someone playing a computer game for the first time will move their body around when they try to move their character?

    I do that in Mount and Blade. All the time. I put it down to just how good that horse combat is that I just can’t stop myself leaning out to the side in my chair as I’m wheeling around in an attempt to swipe an axe into someone’s head. The feeling of momentum is fantastic.

    And then on top of the brilliant combat is the whole addictive strategic medieval war aspect.

  6. Mike says:

    Their pay-for-the-beta thing is clever. Almost like venture capital on a grand scale.

  7. RLacey says:

    I love what I’ve played so far. Though I also feel decidedly useless at it…

  8. Urael says:

    Keiron, your link to the demo leads instead to the latest patch.

  9. teo says:

    I haven’t played the final release, but what I played of the beta was great
    Really addictive

  10. fanciestofpants says:

    Been following these guys for years, freakin awesome game and Taleworlds deserves all the success it can get, bravo guys!

  11. drizzle says:

    Gah, can’t believe I missed this. Was watching anime all day long! Cheers Armagan!

  12. Zuhtu says:

    Helal olsun sana Armagan Yavuz.

  13. Orange says:

    I was gutted to see Eurogamer dismiss this with a 5/10 in a token sized review. This is just the sort of game which needs and deserves more praise and attention.

    Easily the most satisfying combat game I’ve played. Riding down a whole pack of peasants or chopping my way through hundreds of enemies in a castle siege with my 2 handed axe. Good times.

  14. Nimic says:

    Very fun game. I do feel it’s not really ‘complete’, but it works fantastically as a medieval combat simulator, and I still feel the sandbox feeling of it works well.

  15. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Roburky: Same here. There’s a fantastic sense of momentum when you’re fighting on horseback. Even more so when couching your lance–it’s much more important to line up a clean shot at your target when you can’t aim your attack with your mouse. It’s easy to get caught up in the motion of the rider when you’re jousting with other lancers. [And if you get knocked out by some other lancer, you can only blame yourself.] While it lacks general polish compared to massive-budget games, it’s combat system really draws you in a way those others can’t.

    But hey, we actually all knew that. Good man, Armagan.

  16. El_MUERkO says:

    i like mount and blade cause it holds with it the promise of a Total War game where you can get into the action

  17. MindBrain says:

    Cool game, been playing the trial a little. I wish they would clean up the presentation a little though (mainly the typography)

  18. Jockie says:

    I bought this game 3 or so years ago now and its been nice to watch it develop from the very simple 2 nation game into what it is now and experience some of the fantastic mods that were made throughout that period.

    Now its finally released my biggest question would be, are they going to make a sequel with a new graphics engine and multiplayer support or continue to patch and tweak the released version. Mount and blade isnt perfect by any means but its a fantastic game (i was slightly shocked at the 5/10 eurogamer gave it) and i can’t wait to see what the devs come up with next.

  19. Wildbluesun says:

    Kieron, that was an incredibly bad taste caption-joke.

    …I’m so proud of you.

  20. Scandalon says:

    Wildbluesun: It wasn’t bad taste, you’ve just never had a proper one. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not an acquired taste, rather Kieron’ horse drinks are rubbish. Plus, being english, he probably serves them room temperature. You really must try one on the rocks, or gently warmed in the summer sun, on the hoof.

  21. Tunips says:

    I’ve been lpaying this for years now. The combat is astoundingly fun, but I’ve never really enjoyed the overworld. Hurrah for a robust set of cheats that allow you to skip straight to the good bit.

    It’s a shame the latest version doesn’t work properly on my lovely new 4870.

  22. mashakos says:

    When I read this piece I was quite excited. Then I saw this trailer and frankly, I’m not impressed. I was expecting swordplay along the lines of Moonstone or something that was more awesome than Soul Calibur. Instead all I saw was a bunch of lumbering oafs slowly hacking away at each others’ necks. It seems the “sword fighting” consists of two moves repeated to infinity.

    Eh??

  23. Worg says:

    Certainly not! Attacks are physics-based and depend on mouse movement. Try the demo. And it’s not fantasy.

  24. El_MUERkO says:

    i played till 2am, am tired now :O

  25. sinister agent says:

    Yeah, I’ve yet to see a trailer for M&B that isn’t quite crap. The only way to really appreciate it is to play it – I can imagine that watching it is rather dull (particularly if you don’t have the cheats on so you can skip the tedious map bits now and then), and it’s only when you get thrown into a close fight that you realise how brilliant it is.

    The combat is astoundingly fun, but I’ve never really enjoyed the overworld. Hurrah for a robust set of cheats that allow you to skip straight to the good bit.

    This, also.

  26. Tei says:

    I have played with 2 characters, and the gameplay has ben widly original and different. This game is a instaclassic.

  27. Wildbluesun says:

    Scandalon, I love you. XD

  28. El_MUERkO says:

    i played a few more hours, i’m friends with a king, it’s cool, i assembled a team of ruffians and kicked some ass, then the game crashed and i lost most of my hard won booty

    /am crai

  29. terry says:

    Reinstalled this yesterday (thanks to the painless key recovery) and I am finding it more fun than ever. There are still the odd glitches (one of which was communicating to villagers as an ominous floating beard) but they are more charming than disruptive to me. I understand those who are disappointed with the lack of an overarching story or any particular structure to the game yet, however.

    I still think it needs a while more on the boil, but damned if it isn’t fun scything through the cannon fodder.

    Edit: I forgot to mention the loot seems more sane now – I get a variety of gear/prisoners but feel some sense of improvement with time. Whether its psychosomatic or clever balancing I am not sure.

  30. Tom says:

    Best game of the year so far? I love that someone with a mind set up like mine sat down and decided to make this game. Charging a war horse through crowds of farmers whilst swinging a f-ing massive broad sword has never been so fun. A multiplayer co-op mode would be the best fun ever. Fact.

  31. obo says:

    This game isn’t going to get good reviews from the main magazines because Taleworlds has no polish in anything. Their PR, art, typography, Web site, it’s all relative crap, even within the indies.

    That said, this is better than that crap Pirates remake we got. (Everything looks and sounds like the Sims, because The Sims sells!)

  32. Mattakajives says:

    This game kicks ass would definitely be bad as fuck multiplayer please work on that mod Id definitely play it.

  33. Labalaba says:

    If you own Half Life 2, through steam you can download a free mod, multiplayer, medieval warfare, no horses tho… It is called AGE OF CHIVALRY. Try it out, fun and adictive, MULTIPLAYER, and its free!

  34. Hemlock1962 says:

    Combat part is great, love it, Dont change this, But… Fix the seige part, to easy to take castles, you dont have any way to destroy there seige equipment and when you do take a castle you cant keep it because the enemy comes in goups of 400 and you cant stop them. So far, this game is all about the combat only. Put some real strategy into this(Rome total war) and it will be a compleat victory. Just as it is, I play to the detrament of everything else in my life…

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