Consultan The Creator: CKII Sword Of Islam Interview

By Adam Smith on June 21st, 2012 at 8:00 pm.

Familicide is an actual word with a meaning as horrible as you might imagine. A lot of the things that happen in Crusader Kings II are horrible and familicide is just one of them. I’ve misplaced more blood relatives than I’ve had hot dinners, and that’s mostly because heating food takes time and that’s time that could be spent crushing infidels, betraying loyal vassals and hoping for young children to die in a war that I started so that I can inherit everything they own. With a major patch and expansion due, I spoke with project lead Henrik Fåhraeus to learn what horrible history the Sword of Islam DLC will add.

RPS: I recently finished a game of Crusader Kings II. And by finished I mean to say that I was killed in battle and my six year old son was given the responsibility of rule. And then he got ill and died. I’d been doing really badly anyway, just acting as one of the Holy Roman Emperor’s many lapdogs, but I was still having fun. Life is tough and CKII isn’t always a game about succeeding. Any thoughts on why people find that enjoyable?

Fåhraeus: Well, when you think about the great moments you have had playing strategy games, it’s always when you’ve overcome some serious challenge, beaten the biggest empire on the block or weathered a crisis. Of course, it would not give you the same warm fuzzy feeling if you had never failed, or been close to failing before. Veteran players especially like to lose once in a while. It’s always been my ambition to make a game that stays challenging from beginning to end, and Crusader Kings II is probably the closest we’ve gotten so far; even if you “blob”, everything can fall apart in the space of a generation.

RPS: What new challenges can rulers of Islamic dynasties expect to be faced with?

Fåhraeus: There are two main challenges for Muslims; dynastic decadence and “open” or Turkish succession. Basically, there is a stronger incentive to land your (many) sons in the Muslim world, because if you don’t, your dynasty will grow decadent. Landed sons, of course, are dangerous; when your ruler dies, they will be your landed brothers, and will be quite likely to launch succession wars.

RPS: Is there any mechanic similar to excommunication for Islamic leaders?

Fåhraeus: There is a somewhat similar mechanic. Muslims rulers can ask their Court Imam or Mullah to issue a fatwa against one of their vassals, allowing them to revoke a title. However, this is not a diplomatic action – like asking the Pope to excommunicate someone – but a decision like holding a tournament.

RPS: In a broad sense, how does the relationship with the Islamic faith manifest itself in the game?

Fåhraeus: In a myriad of ways, I would say. Muslims have many different events from Christians, often referencing Islam. There is a different set of minor titles, such as the Chief Qadi, who will get special events concerning Sharia Law. Muslims can go on the Hajj to Mecca, which triggers a little adventure with various branching events, and they have some unique traits, like Faqih (schooled in Sharia Law), Hafiz (has memorized the Koran) and Sayyid (descendent of Muhammad or his uncles).

RPS: It sounds like the actual swords in the Sword of Islam are going to see a lot of use, with new options for conquest seeming to make striking your neighbours as easy as banging on the wall to make them turn their music down. Am I right in thinking that there will be a lot of intra-faith fighting?

Fåhraeus: That’s right. Muslim rulers are allowed to take border provinces off each other for a small Piety cost. They can also declare Holy Wars against any other religion, even Sunni vs Shiite. Lastly, they can start a full-fledged invasion of a de jure kingdom for a more substantial amount of Piety.

RPS: That also ties in with the ease with which Muslim rulers can imprison and execute troublesome family members, simply by expending some piety. It seems like piety is going to be a much more powerful form of ‘currency’ than for Christian rulers?

Fåhraeus: Yes, though Muslims will also tend to have more Piety to spend, since they are allowed to hold Temple Holdings in their own demesnes and they will get some just by embarking on the Hajj.

RPS: I’m guessing there won’t be many dukes under my command. What titles are there and are they direct analogues of duke, king, emperor and the like? Are titles and lands granted in a similar way?

Fåhraeus: There are dukes in the Muslim world too, but in Crusader Kings II they are called Emirs. Counts are called Sheiks, Kings are called Sultans, and an emperor is a Shahanshah, Padishah or simply Emperor, depending on the culture. Titles and lands are granted in the same way as in the Christian world, but Muslims are allowed to revoke duchies without the other vassals objecting, due to the absence of Christian style feudal relationships.

RPS: The rules surrounding marriage seem like they’d be one of the bigger changes. How will that work?

Fåhraeus: Muslims are allowed to marry up to four wives. For gameplay reasons, they are expected to marry a number of wives corresponding to their rank (we want Muslim rulers to have many children, as they historically did.) So, for example, an Emir is expected to have at least three wives, or he will lose a bit of Prestige every month. Also for gameplay reasons, the first wife is a bit special; only her skills are added to yours, but all wives can give you alliances. Lastly, Muslims do not gain any Prestige for marrying, and there is no royal wedding event granting you money or Prestige.

RPS: Decadence is going to be an important feature in the Islamic world. Can you explain a little about how that works in the game and what the historical background is?

Fåhraeus: Decadence is the new core mechanic for Muslim rulers. It represents, in an abstract sense, the rise and fall of dynasties in the Muslim world. There are many examples from history where a tribe or clan from the fringes of the realm suddenly rose up to seize power from what they viewed as a weak ruling dynasty of decadent city dwellers; particularly in North Africa. These desert clansmen tended to seize a chain of cities along a trade route or coastal stretch. Perhaps the most clear-cut example from real history would be the Almoravids of Morocco being supplanted by the Almohads, who in turn fell to the Marinids, who fell to the Wattasids. In the game, Decadence is per dynasty and starts at 25%.

It affects your demesne tax income and the morale damage your demesne levies take. At 75%, there is a very real risk that a clan of desert tribesmen will rise up to depose you – a rather apocalyptic event. Decadence grows if you have unlanded adult members of your dynasty kicking around doing nothing, and it is lowered when members of your dynasty lead troops in sieges and battles. Having a smaller demense than the max also helps keep it down. Wise Muslim rulers therefore make sure to land their sons well, to wage enough wars, and to imprison, banish or execute brothers and more distant male relatives.

RPS: In regards to Islamic and Christian alike, how important is it for you to balance historical accuracy with interesting and varied rulesets?

Fåhraeus: In general, gameplay always comes before historicity for us, and the Sword of Islam mechanics are no exception. We took inspiration from historical processes and differences, thought about how we could represent it best with the allotted time and resources, and came up with some interesting gameplay mechanics. In the case of the Sword of Islam, the main gameplay changes revolve around Decadence, Polygamy (with its multitude of sons), and the Open Succession Law. Easy come, easy go…

RPS: The map is growing, the world is expanding and there are new horizons to march toward. What in particular made you decide to include these new regions specifically?

Fåhraeus: Oh, many reasons. By expanding the map south around the Red Sea compared to the original Crusader Kings, we created a huge empty area in the Sahara. Trying to make use of that part of the map was one of the reasons. Another was of course the riches and fame of Mali and Songhay. It also gives Moroccan rulers more options, and makes a hypothetical African portrait DLC more viable…

RPS: Although I love the game’s potential complexity, I’m content with the relative simplicity of combat. I assume I have people working for me who handle the tactical side of things. I’ve read about the new commander abilities; what will they add and what else can I expect from the expanded combat?

Fåhraeus: We are not entirely happy with the combat mechanics; not because they are too simple, but because there is little the player can do to affect the outcome, and the larger force always tends to win. Our solution is to put more emphasis on the leaders. After all, this is a game about characters! So, with patch v1.06 the combat tactics are more varied and more decisive, and the choice of flank leader matters more. This is the first step in an ongoing combat system revision; future updates will take this further and make the leaders matter even more.

RPS: Finally, you’ve added some new De Jure empires, including Britannia! How hard is it going to be for me to become the once and future Emperor?

Fåhraeus: To create any empire, you need to control 80% of its constituent counties. In addition, many empires have special creation conditions. The Empire of Britannia requires that you are of English, Saxon, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, or Norman culture. We are aware that the addition of the new empires might be controversial for historical accuracy reasons, but it makes for good gameplay, and gameplay… is king.

RPS: Thanks for your time!

Fåhraeus: Thanks for the interview! I am happy to report that Crusader Kings II is still doing very well and the future looks bright. We have planned the next four expansions in some detail, and I think people will be pleased with the subject matters!

RPS: This is awkward. ‘Thanks for your time’ is my closing line! We’ll be back to learn more about future expansions when the time is right. Until then, thanksforyourtime.

The 1.06 patch and Sword of Islam expansion are due next week. The latter will cost $9.99.

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52 Comments »

  1. cornflakes says:

    Hooray! This sounds fascinating. Perfect timing for me to start a new game/empire also, as my current one was getting a little too involved/easy and so I had left it behind for other games.

  2. Yawny says:

    I’d love to see them expanding the game by adding more of middle east and asia to the game map. Diplomatically conquering the world as a hindu pacifist nation would bre pretty sweet… that is until your brother assasinates you!

  3. Premium User Badge Faldrath says:

    This does look lovely. Four expansions? So many possibilities…

    • Meusli says:

      This expansion then the Pagans I suspect, but after that god only knows.

      • caddyB says:

        4th one is Pandaria.

      • Anabasis says:

        My personal (and totally unlikely) hope is for peasant-governed polities. There were definitely a few throughout the Middle Ages and I think they’d provide an interesting challenge. On a more realistic note I’m sure we’ll see Italian-style republics in one of these expansions.

    • Jonith says:

      I guessed this:
      Pagan
      Republic. Then I got confused for the next 2 so I had a guess at:
      New World (Expanding the time frame etc)
      Orthodox (Yes in the game already, but they have no depth and are just watered down Catholics)

      • Meneth says:

        I doubt they’ll add the New World; They’ve got EU3 for that already.
        What seems more likely is fleshing out the Altaic hordes.
        Besides, there’d have to be a naval expansion before a New World expansion ;)

        • Jonith says:

          I agree, I just didn’t know if they would be expanded on already in some of the other ones. Oh and China and India could be ideas for it

      • Premium User Badge Faldrath says:

        India/China are more likely than New World, yeah, given the game’s timeframe.

      • Anabasis says:

        I missed your post before responding above, but I think you’re spot-on about republics being in the works. Maybe something to do with the Black Death for a future expansion?

      • Pagans R Candy says:

        I just don’t see Pagans working out. Pagans are free candy for the rest of Europe to conquer. You have to do a lot of changes to the game in order make a pagan ruler viable. When the rules to start a war are just “Are you ready? Take another bite.” for my pagans opposed to the yearly percentage chance of getting a Chancellor to hand you a casus bellis. I have started several games where I allowed my heir to be converted by a Norse Nanny. The deck is stacked against them heavily.

        I think Theocracies and Republics are more viable as an expansion than Pagan.

        • Anabasis says:

          To the contrary I’d offer the historical example of Lithuania, which was a viable, and even expansive pagan power in the later Middle Ages (in fact if I recall correctly Lithuania is counted as an Orthodox power in CK II even though the nation didn’t officially convert until several centuries later).

          • Pagans R Candy says:

            I was not talking about historical accuracy. I was talking about game-play and game mechanics.

            Making the game playable for a pagan ruler would greatly alter the way the original Christian options can be played, in a way that would likely be viewed by many as detrimental.

          • Mordsung says:

            CK games strive for historical accuracy, so if they have to make changes to make Pagans viable, even if those changes affect currently Christian nations, if the change is accurate than I doubt most CK players would have a problem.

            Even if it’s hard, who cares? I’ve always found the joy of these types of games is picking some small, unknown power and rising to dominate the world.

            I have a game of HoI3 going where I’ve turned Canada into an axis power with nuclear technology. It’s just more fun to play small countries/rulers.

          • Saiko Kila says:

            Lithuania starts as Pagan, so we cannot play as Lithuanians in CK2. By the way, real-life Lithuania converted to Roman Catholicism (through personal union with Poland), not to Orthodox, this was a political choice.

  4. Torgen says:

    I get paid next week!

    Coincidence?

    or… A SIGN FROM GOD!

  5. Premium User Badge Carra says:

    How does having four wives work? Switch them every night? Do you take all of them with you to bed? So many questions you forgot to ask!

    • Obc says:

      i guess if you are in a position to have four wives who obey your every order, you can pretty much do it however you like: 4 wives on monday because it sucks and you earned it as a sultan, 1 for tue, wed, thur while you switch them each of these days, 0 fri because its a “holy” muslim day, 3 for sat and sun ;)

      • Premium User Badge nasKo says:

        I want one to make me happy. One to make me sad. One to give me good love, love I never had.

    • caddyB says:

      Let’s just say it’s complicated.

    • MSJ says:

      Muslims are supposed to be fair to all their wives if they practise polygamy. Not just sex, but money and ‘quality time’ too. Which also means the same to their kids. In other words, only the toughest, most sane, most financially stable man is allowed to be polygamous. Notice I don’t say pious there. That’s because according to some scholars, the more pious a Muslim is, the more likely he is to take only one wife because he would now his limits and would fear God’s punishment if he fails to make all his wives happy. So, yeah, Muslim men are encouraged to be monogamous. Polygamy is usually for special reasons anyway (your current wife cannot have children, for example, but even then a Muslim would do better to adopt an orphan instead).

  6. Obc says:

    i love to read about the game, but everytime i try to play i am like : WTF AM I DOIN???. i read some tutorials but they rather hard to grasp at points. i watched some videos on youtube, there everything seemed still too simple and so exciting.

    can anyone please provide a link to a guide that is really made for newbies. thanksforyourtime.

    anyway nice interview, keep up with the awekawrd endings ;)

    • corbain says:

      This one is brilliant, check this playlist for multiple thematic tutorials, followed by a “lets play” / tutorial

      • Premium User Badge jimbobjunior says:

        These videos really are excellent. I watched them, then bought the game. Reminds me of watching my big brother play games I could barely comprehend.

        Edit: I would say that after watching these, you probably do want to avoid starting in Dublin, as it can be a wee bit samey. Somewhere small and nearby can be completely different, so try your luck in Scotland or Wales, or even just a different Irish county.

    • Xardas Kane says:

      I was in a similar position. One day I said “fuck this”, sat down, buckled up and dived in. I still haven’t come out :)

    • wodin says:

      It’s about egttting the right mindset. Take your time and experiment abit, there is no real rush and just watch things unfold. Throw an event and manage your vassals and keep the like of you up.

      it plays totally different to any other games out there. I’ve spent 80 years of game time happly without a War. Yet still found ti enjoyable even though I was rally reacting rather than proactive, as the game goes along things will happen however you don’t have to be doing all the time sit back and watch the world go by etc. It’s more a sim.

      Again it’s OK not to be doing loads all the time but to let time go by, make sure you have your Spy etc etc doing something somewhere. When you have money improve your towns\Cities. Again take your time and relax. See the game as a medieval word interactive story and your a small (or big depending on how YOU want to play) part of it. You don’t need to be doing everything in one go you have generations ahead of you, just try and arrange good marriages if you can.

      I will say either go for a King (King of Poland was my first go and enjoyed it) or a duke so you have many options open if you want to do them. Playing a Vassal can leave you scratching your head on what to do as it’s a touch limited and probably a little more advanced in away than taking on a King.

      Start up a game and just let it play, try something out and see what happens, thats the best way really to learn. Take it easy and watch. Be hands off, give up that control you normally have over a game or that objective based mindset. You will soon get ti and it will click.

    • noodlecake says:

      It’s much simpler to play than it looks. It’s very daunting at first but there’s very little micromanaging to do and not really that much to keep an eye on if you don’t want to. You can usually just get away with being a count and not really interfering with anything at all. The game prompts you if there are any major decisions to be made. I’ve never really gotten very far with any grand strategy games like Medieval and games like Civilization take far more effort to succeed at.

      I would advise just starting as a count and copying the first few steps of a let’s play on youtube. You’ll be into it in no time at all.

      There is complexity to Crusader Kings if you want there to be. You can set up some quite complex schemes to manipulate things in your favour but mostly it involves just sitting around and watching how things plays out and just nudging things occasionally. It’s the perfect game to play with a spliff or five.

      • wodin says:

        well said noodlecake…though I’m past the spliff or five followed by a few buckets days…

  7. dongsweep says:

    This sounds great. The only thing that concerns me, and perhaps someone can weigh in, is mentally picturing how succession will work. It sounds like you will have a ton of children, lets say 10 sons. You will have to land them all, now we have 10 separate lands ruled by 10 separate sons. Once you die, you will only get a few provinces (assuming you are not large enough to have those 10 lands, vassals lands, your own land, etc.) that pass on to your heir. Now your heir has a few provinces and starts populating the world with his sons – where are you expected to get the next group of 10 provinces? Kill your brothers? expand exponentially outward every generation?

    • Gasmask Hero says:

      Yes, kill your brothers. No cost attached. Go read the dev diaries.

    • djim says:

      You can also revoke your vassals titles for a piety fee without any opinion modifiers and give them to them. The biggest problem will probably be if/when you get a lot of relatives and they have a lot of unlanded relatives in their courts. That could be a chore – and a challenge. What would happen if the “tribe” comes and you beat them? Does decadence get reset? Warring won’t be a problem as in all my games mouslims were almost constantly warring.

  8. MythArcana says:

    Strap on the ol’ kevlar helmet! This time around we are bombarded with Islamic DLC. Plenty of Internet hate will arise from this baby and it should be semi-entertaining in some regards. It makes me wonder what is coming next for this franchise.

  9. Nimic says:

    I will play the shit out of this.

  10. Sassenach says:

    It’s a very tenuous link, but the dynastic nature of the game and all this talking about Padishah’s and Jihad’s is enough to trigger recollections of Dune. Maybe that should be the next big mod. Spice must flow and all that.

  11. MrLebanon says:

    As a Muslim gamer I love what they’re doing with this. It’s a breath of fresh air to see Muslims being given roles as actual people in games rather than the usual generic bad guy role.

    I feel I will fair as a poor Muslim ruler however… being able to relate more to the faith I may be more reluctant to be a backstabbing evil person as I am when I play as a secular leige who ignores the Pope all the time.

    Go to war? Naaah it’s Muharaam…

  12. wodin says:

    Still my game of the year so far ad my game of the year contender. With this next patch\add on it will be giving abit more fidelity to the combat which suits me fine. I’m not after loads of control but choosing tactics and the leaders in the Army being important will really add that extra dimension.

    I agree that combat at the moment was really just about getting loads of troops in it and be damned and that usually won out, I never gave any thought to the leaders or even the type of troops and still had little to no problems aslong as I had more men. If I now have to look more closely at the army details and leaders then excellent.

  13. ahmedaak88 says:

    If the wife’s don’t try to kill each and there sons i will be very disappointed .

    • MSJ says:

      Don’t know about the Middle East, but in here in Malaysia wives fighting each other is a common trope for TV dramas.

  14. Premium User Badge Goodtwist says:

    Developers, please, if you’re here reading this:

    Font Size !!!

    Please make it customizable. Right now it’s so tiny that it liquefies my eyes.

    • olemars says:

      I concur. Applies to all the current iteration of EU/CK/HoI/Vic games (does the engine itself have some sort of catchy name?). But at least the font isn’t completely broken like it was in Empire: Total War.

      • Janek says:

        The Clausewitz engine, I believe.

        Agreed that the ability to change the font size would be nice, though.