Leviathan Warships is Paradox’s front-runner for their new goal of trying to provide truly ubiquitous gaming experiences. It’s a simple game with a lot of hidden depth, and we went to talk to Andreas Renstorm, who not only has the coolest name ever, but actually had some interesting facts about the game:
Strategy Informer: How is the gameplay experience going to change between PC/Mac and Tablet users?
Andreas Renstorm: It is more or less the same. It IS the same game, but like you say due to technical issues... I mean the tablets aren’t strong hardware, so we’ve had to scale things down a bit. But in terms of gameplay, it is the same game.
Strategy Informer: What were the challenges involved in making it fit with all these different platforms?
Andreas Renstorm: We built it on Unity, which is a really good tool for creating these ubiquitous gaming experiences. When we started this, it was the goal all along to make it cross-platform. Also the design of it, you have to think about how you control the game on the PC or the tablet. When you play the game, you use only the mouse to drag and drop, which you can do on a tablet as well through touch. I think the major challenge for the game... I mean it is a warship game, so the maps are quite flat. You can’t have many islands... we had to play with line-of-sight and visibility. There’s a lot of offensive and defensive ways in order to see your enemy, like a raider for example. There’s a lot of meta-gaming in spotting your enemy before he spots you.
Strategy Informer: The ten-second gameplay segments doesn’t sound like it should work on paper – what was the design process in creating that bit?
Andreas Renstorm: We actually had longer instances to start with. A couple of months ago we had 20 seconds. The problem is that when you spot the enemy; you want to react quite fast... so we tried different things there. I think the ten second rule really works though. The drawback is though, on the larger maps, you can go through several ten second bursts and not see your enemy.
We are aware that you play games differently on tablet over PC... like on the PC build you played, when you clicked on ‘End turn’ you had to wait for your opponent to finish. You can add a timer to that though, so the planning phase can only last 30 seconds or whatever. So you can have faster paced games... but for a tablet, it makes more sense, I mean on my tablet I think I have like five matches going, so it makes sense that you’re able to make your moves and come back to it later, so it makes sense to have both options.
Strategy Informer: The game only supports up to four players, co-op or competitive. Was that a deliberate choice? Or were there technical limitations?
Andreas Renstorm: Well we thought it didn’t really make sense to add more. We have a limit now for 8000 points, that’s the maximum fleet you can have, and that allows you to have around five or 6 ships depending on how you outfit them. That doesn’t seem like a lot of ships, but it is because each ship has so many options. Some weapons fire automatically, but others need you to manually aim and set. For example the artillery, which is an extreme long-range weapon, so you’d fire it away and see what you could hit.
Strategy Informer: Do you think there could be something here that would fit with E-sports?
Andreas Renstorm: Yeah... I think it could. I mean like you said, it’s not a twitch game, so you need to be smart with your wits. There is an element of skill though... you build up your expertise. We want a good player to win more than they loose... there is an element of chance, you could miss with your cannons. But you could say it’s kind of a tactical e-sports element to it. I mean when you finish a game you get a results screen and you get to save replays and stuff.
Strategy Informer: You can tell us a bit about the two factions and how their ships differ? Can you mix and match?
Andreas Renstorm: There is eleven ships, and those are split into two factions. There is the ‘Elite’ faction, which the style is more 19th century battleships with a bit of sci-fi steam punk inspiration. Then you have the Marauders, which is more pirate based. They both have different ships, with different hard points etc... we’re not sure if you can mix factions yet though. We haven’t decided.
Strategy Informer: Tell us about the campaign – I’m surprised there is even one included as you could have just had the multiplayer and be done with it.
Andreas Renstorm: The campaign is a nine mission campaign. For example the first mission is that you need to find your lost ship, and then there’s escort missions as well - there is a narrative though. Like before each mission there is like a tactical briefing.
Strategy Informer: Are there any other modes aside from Team Deathmatch?
Andreas Renstorm: Well, we have an Assassin mode – which is basically where you have a flagship that you are supposed to protect whilst also destroying the other person’s flagship. There are also the challenges – which are a bit like the campaign missions but you get to customise your own fleet. For example one challenge is a horde-like mode, where you have to hold out as long as possible against waves of enemies. You can play both the challenges and the campaign can be played co-op, up to four players.
On the competitive side, you have 1v1, 1v2 and 2v2, you set your point limit etc... and it’s basically just destroying the other fleet. You can set it though so that you lose if you lose, say, 50% of your fleet, so you have to be more careful with your ships. We have possibilities though, in the future, depending on how successful it is. New game modes, maps, ship types... even a new faction. We have a bunch of ideas basically – but this is our first attempt at making a ubiquitous gaming experience, so we want to make sure we get it right.
Strategy Informer: How do you plan on reconciling two very different markets, who expect to pay different amounts for products?
Andreas Renstorm: You’re absolutely right, yes. For the PC game we’re aiming at around $20... but as you say if you had that on the tablet, nobody would buy it. What we wanted to begin with was that, when you buy the game, you get all the versions. But that won’t be possible – you can’t do that with iOS for example. So we’re thinking about how we could solve that, we have a bunch of ideas. On tablets specifically we’re going to go with getting the full game, but you can pay to unlock some features. We want the players to have the full experience though. I think it’s a cool experience to start something on the PC, then take your tablet with you and continue that game on the go.
An interesting idea, to be sure, but one where there’s still plenty of kinks to work out. It’ll probably do well enough as a PC-only title, definitely as a tablet game, but if they can unite the two audiences... well, time will tell. Don’t forget to check out our hands-on preview.