With only a few days until release, we asked some of the questions raised by beta experiences in Warlock: Master of the Arcane, and also found out how much of an influence Master of Magic really was and why. Plans for multiplayer are discussed, as is the reasoning for avoiding tactical battle screens and sticking to the strategic map.
RPS: Hello! Before we move onto the game, could you tell us a little about your role on this title and your history in the industry?
Lilja: My name is Mattias Lilja, I am Executive Producer at Paradox Interactive and have worked at the company for approximately four years. My background before that is very varied; it includes being a lifelong gamer as well as being a published role-playing game author.
RPS: The word ‘Master’ is in the game’s title and Master of Magic has been explicitly mentioned as an influence? How much so?
Lilja: Most of us are gamers and heavily influenced by our own gaming experiences. The name was chosen by Paradox and the devs because our vision from the start was to create a “Master of Magic” style game. This is not saying that people should see it as we are trying to create a Master of Magic sequel, but that we had it as a major influence when we started working on Warlock.
RPS: Why do you think people still look back on Master of Magic so fondly?
Lilja: Master of Magic added new interesting content to the popular 4X game formula. What was made popular by games like Civilization and Master of Orion was brought into a magic world by Master of Magic. And who hasn’t dreamt of casting a Greater Fireball on your enemies; I know I have! In brief, it combined two popular things – the fantasy setting and 4X gaming.
RPS: Do you feel that having a great variety of unit types, spells and possible types of mage is an important part of the design philosophy? From what I’ve played, Warlock seems like it wants to offer a great deal of choice.
Lilja: Absolutely, great variety of spells and units and good randomness of maps plus different Great Mage settings are the basis for replayability and a unique experience in every new campaign. We want Warlock to be played and enjoyed by players again and again. We will also continue to update the game with new content going forward.
RPS: How important is Ardania, the world, to Warlock? When and why was the decision made to use the world of Majesty for a 4X strategy game?
Lilja: We grew very fond of the Ardania setting during development of the Majesty 2 games. Since it’s close and familiar to both the development team and Paradox, we decided to use it for Warlock This decision was made at the earliest stage of development, when we were working on the game design document. The world of Ardania has everything you can wish for: good guys, bad guys – elves, dwarves, gnomes, gods, elementals and vampires. It combines fantasy clichés with serious gameplay in a great way and makes it the perfect choice for a 4X game.
RPS: In general, what is exciting about developing a fantasy strategy game, in comparison to sci-fi and historical games? What does it allow the team to do that is fun and unique?
Lilja: Exciting, but also challenging, is that there is feature creep lurking around every corner. We rarely have a meeting without new and fun ideas being thrown around and someone pleading passionately about getting it into the game. The fantasy setting gives great freedom to push the boundaries and invent something new. Not all of our good ideas were implemented, and given the opportunity, we still have lots that we’d like to add to the game.
In addition, all this magic has a great look and feel to it, and is fun to design; I know this is something the development team has enjoyed tremendously. From that aspect sci-fi and in particular historical settings are a bit more constrained. Our internal development studio has a lot of experience from the historical side and knows just how tricky it can be to walk that fine line between historical accuracy and creative freedom.
RPS: Religion confuses me. How does the relationship between mages and gods work in the game?
Lilja: In short, mages can improve relations with gods by fulfilling their quests and by building temples to them. Also it affects relations between mages. For example if we have two mages
that worship the same gods, those mages will share a better relationship, and vice versa. It will also affect what type of spells you can cast and the effect those spells will have.
RPS: Combat takes place on the strategic map, with non-stacked units, rather than being a tactical offshoot as in Master of Magic and Age of Wonders. What drove that design choice?
Lilja: We have seen many games with stacks and tactical battles lately and, in our opinion, they all share one big flaw, and that is that tactical battles very soon become repetitive. Even if an enemy stack is different, the best tactics are mostly the same every time as well as the player’s best battle stack, which only changes slowly. These tactical battles make turns longer and the game less multiplayer friendly.
The developers also had a very good and positive experience with big battles in their previous games (Fantasy wars, Elven Legacy). The tactical situations in those games were different at every turn, and there were multiple smart choices and strategies to win. Every turn was unique and interesting, so it was a natural choice to go for the same in Warlock.
RPS: How strong are the RPG aspects? Units can level up as well as the mage if I understand correctly. Is that to make them valuable and add personality as well as a tactical feature?
Lilja: The RPG aspect is pretty strong. Units can level up, but mages themselves just do research, cast magic spells and rule. But since they use the magic power gathered from their entire empire – they become much stronger over time. Experienced units become very strong and important.
The units can also get different kinds of perks apart from the leveling system. As a mage you can of course influence your relationship to different gods which gives different effects in the game, depending on what faction you play you will also get different options to use natural resources that occupy some of the hexes in the game. Depending on your play style, your game will look very different between different sessions.
RPS: Maybe it’s my imagination, but turn-based strategy appears to be enjoying something of a renaissance. This is a good thing. Why do you think it might be?
Lilja: It’s been a pretty constant fixture in the Paradox portfolio but I guess turn-based strategy isn’t perceived by the big companies as very commercially viable since they seem to have abandoned the genre. Meanwhile there are still a lot of players out there who can’t get their gaming needs fulfilled and perhaps that’s started to reach through to more studios out there.
Depending on how you define turn-based games you could count games such as Words-With Friends (or Wordfeud) and Draw Something as being turn-based and I think mobile gaming platforms are partly helping the renaissance of the TBS genre. What we currently see is a wave of nostalgia in combination with new ways to reach customers and more multiplayer focus and we see it as a really good trend.
RPS: Will the game be mod friendly?
Lilja: No, unfortunately the technical solution we have chosen for Warlock is not very mod friendly.
RPS: What are the plans for multiplayer?
Lilja: Warlock will be a single player game on release, but we are not deaf to the amount of voices crying for multiplayer. So we are looking at it. It’s always a bit tricky to make a good single player design into a tight multiplayer experience, but we think we have an exciting take on it.
As for a release of multiplayer we are working on a multiplayer update that will be free for everyone who bought the original game. Multiplayer will be a great addition to Warlock and we think it will greatly improve the replayability of the game.
RPS: Thanks for your time.