After the release of Imperium Romanum last year, Kalypso Media listened to fans and critics alike, heading back to the drawing board in order to refine their Roman strategy experience. Seemingly smoothing over the cracks of the previous game, we sat down to discuss how Haemimont Games, the developers of Imperium sequel Grand Ages: Rome, were getting on with the task.
Strategy Informer: To start, could you give our readers your name and position, plus state an outline of your involvement with Grand Ages: Rome?
Haemimont Games: Boyan Ivanov, game designer at Haemimont Games. Lyubomir Iliev, game designer at Haemimont Games. Andrew Johnson, Commercial Director, Kalypso Media UK.
Strategy Informer: Can you tell us what players should expect from the game?
Haemimont Games: Players should expect an entirely new game and an entirely new experience. We decided to go back to the drawing board and give the players a more innovative take on the city-building genre. We redesigned most if not all of the game’s core mechanics – economy, construction, citizens and military aspects.
Grand Ages: Rome also features completely new graphics - new buildings, units and environments. Players can now see the whole map from a birds-eye view camera. The game’s lighting has been improved drastically. The size of the maps in Grand Ages: Rome has been improved as well. We still have 1x1 km maps (the same size as in Imperium Romanum), but there are also medium sized maps (1,5x1,5 km) and large maps (2x2 km).
Strategy Informer: As the sequel to Imperium Romanum, how does the title improve?
Haemimont Games: When we started work on Grand Ages: Rome we gathered a lot of feedback for Imperium Romanum. Both fans and critics commented heavily on the simplistic battle system. Based on this we created a new battle system, with standard RTS controls and more units. Players can now recruit not only Roman squads but barbarian mercenaries as well, bringing the total number of military units to 16.
The campaign in Grand Ages: Rome is another major improvement we made based on player feedback. In Imperium Romanum missions were arranged in a timeline, but each mission told its own story and there was no link between missions. In Grand Ages: Rome the player will take the role of a Roman patrician whose goal is to become the Governor of Rome. On his way he will meet many historical figures such as Caesar, Pompey and Mark Antony. At some points the player will have to choose sides. When the civil war begins the player must side either with Caesar or with Pompey.
Strategy Informer: What new features have been employed?
Haemimont Games: The feature count of the game is pretty ambitious. The economy and the military aspect have both been revamped. The player can choose a persistent character from one of five families and develop it through the campaign and multiplayer games. This character may learn up to 20 talents from over a hundred possible. Many of those talents are exclusive for one of the families.
There are four types of workers in the city - slaves, plebeians, equites and patricians. Many buildings can work on more than one worker caste, changing the production or the effect of the building. Slaves are very useful, but can only be acquired through trade or conquests.
Strategy Informer: Which games or other media texts would you point out as your inspiration for the series?
Haemimont Games: Many of our favorite games and main inspirations are old school classics and we wanted to do a modern take on them. For the military aspect of the game we looked to the popular RTS games, specifically historic games such as Rome: Total War. The TV series Rome was an inspiration for the campaign as well as various documentaries. Many Roman texts still exist to this day, such as Caesar’s “Commentaries on the Civil War” which we found very useful. Of course, Wikipedia was the most useful reference source on the Web.
Strategy Informer: We’ve received a number press releases containing snippets of information about the game since last November. In what ways are you going to market the product and, more specifically, to what audience?
Kalypso Media: We are aiming directly at strategy fans by advertising on the fan sites and advertising in the press, running competitions. We are also running direct e-mail shots and a comprehensive trade campaign to back this up.
Strategy Informer: Do you feel there is room for another Rome based strategy game?
Kalypso Media: I think providing you have new elements to the game then there is room for another title, this title offers multiplayer and has been developed specifically to enhance the experience from Imperium Romanum the original. We have massively updated graphics, more complex combat and a wealth of new features to please new and old fans alike.
Strategy Informer: What does Grand Ages: Rome offer that sets it apart from the rest?
Haemimont Games: The huge number of possible buildings, the new economic system and the persistent player character are all great features that make the game stand on its own.
Another feature we are proud of is the concept of "City States". These are various effects, either positive or negative, changing the rules of the game and affecting the entire city. For example, while a player is in the "martial law" he doesn't have to take any precautions against crime (normally this is a serious problem), and when he is in the "Bankruptcy" city state he has to earn some money quickly or lose the game.
The game features competitive and cooperative multiplayer for up to 4 players. The unique Team City option allows several players to work on the same city.
How do you feel Haemimont Games has performed when developing Grand Ages: Rome?
Kalypso Media: They have performed fantastically well, they have hit and achieved all milestones and continue to produce high quality games on time. Grand Ages: Rome has an extensive multiplayer facility allowing you to take on your fellow Romans and vie for control.
Strategy Informer: Did they meet all expectations you had with the title?
Kalypso Media: Yes, and added extra content that the fans will love, they surpassed their commitment on the game to ensure that this really took the genre to the next level.
Strategy Informer: Why was the ‘Imperium Romanum’ tag dropped?
Kalypso Media: We wanted to release under a new name as we thought the title deserved it as it was so far advanced from the previous launch, we wanted to own the name worldwide as well.
Strategy Informer: Have you thought about working on a console version of the game, or do you have any plans to do so in the future?
Kalypso Media: We will look at the possibility, as the demographic and installed base increases on console it becomes more of an opportunity for us, if anything Xbox 360 is best suited for this style of game.
Strategy Informer: Are future Kalypso projects going to be strategy based, or will the publisher extend further into different genres?
Kalypso Media: We do have some more strategy based games, but we are looking to offer a diverse range of titles, the main objective is to ensure quality through all of our releases.
Strategy Informer: What can we expect from you in 2009?
Kalypso Media: Tropico 3 has huge potential for us, we also have the Sins add-on and a space compilation, we are still looking to secure new titles and we are keen to increase our presence in all markets.
Strategy Informer: Any final thoughts for our readers?
Kalypso Media: With Grand Ages: Rome we tried to do something new and different. We feel the game will advance the city-building genre further. The game is rich and complex and we hope that fans will enjoy it as much as we do.
Watch out for Tropico 3.
Grand Ages: ROME will be released on 6th March for the PC.