Strategy Informer talks with Josh Bishop and William Phelps to find out more about Dungeon Keeper's Spiritual Successor War For the Overworld
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The 90's might be long gone, along with Yo-Yos, Neil Buchanan, and those mini skateboards, but in the minds of a few indie developers, it remains indefinitely. Subterranean Games are the latest to take their wild eyed dreams to Kickstarter, and are posing a single question: do you like Dungeon Keeper? If the answer is yes, followed by an Al Pacino table slam, then War for the Overworld might just be your thing.
Strategy Informer: What is War for the Overworld?
Josh Bishop: It's god game, very much based on Dungeon Keeper and its sequel. We are using that as our foundation and building upon it; essentially bringing in elements of more modern games like StarCraft 2 and Overlord. Basically we are bringing Dungeon Keeper to a modern audience.
Strategy Informer: What new additions are you adding to the Dungeon Keeper formula?
Josh Bishop: We are putting a lot of emphasis on a solid - and working - multiplayer component. This is something that Dungeon Keeper didn't really have due to some of the design decision they made. So we are hopefully trying to bring some functionality and depth to the multiplayer - such as removing abusable tactics and problems that exist in other god games, for instance in Dungeon Keeper, if you engaged the enemy there was no way to disengage because of the way the AI worked. Also there were only a small number of workable strategies and so on - we aim to fix that. We are essentially adding a whole bunch of things along with a huge amount of choice on how to play the game.
Strategy Informer: How influential has the coveted studio Bullfrog been in regard to War for the Overworld?
Josh Bishop: Well a decent portion of the dev team are from a site called Keeper Klan which is probably the last remaining Dungeon Keeper fan site. A lot of us have being playing the Bullfrog Games for a decade, so this is something we have been wanting to do for a long time.
Strategy Informer: Would you see this as a spiritual successor to Dungeon Keeper?
Josh Bishop: That's definitely what we are aiming for.
Strategy Informer: What is it about Dungeon Keeper that the team is attracted to?
Josh Bishop: We all love Dungeon Keeper, and nobody has done it right since. Evil Genius was good, but some have been quite far out and we want to create a good, solid successor.
Strategy Informer: With this being such an indie title, how does Subterranean Games develop the project?
Josh Bishop: Well I'm in Brighton, a bunch of people are dotted around the UK, the US, some people in China, someone in Australia. In terms of development, we work mostly over Skype and Assembler. Assembler is a group software tool - it's very good.
Strategy Informer: How big is the team working on the game?
Josh Bishop: The core team is about 10 to 15 - but this is a game born out of a big community so there's a lot of collaboration.
Strategy Informer: So what can players expect in terms of campaign and story modes?
Josh Bishop: With the initial base game, which we can afford with the budget, there will be a short campaign with around ten levels, then a multiplayer mode, and a sandbox mode - which basically allows you to do whatever the hell you want. It's something we took from Dungeon Keeper feedback in that there was no mode for people just to play with whatever dungeon they felt like creating. As for the narrative, there will be an overarching story, and we want to expand upon it in the future but we haven't figured that bit out yet.
Strategy Informer: You mentioned StarCraft II earlier, how will that particular influence find its way into War for the Overworld?
Josh Bishop: So the main things we are taking from StarCraft is the theoretical and high level stuff. Basically a really deep and competitive multiplayer mode - which is certainly something a lot of games tend to lack as they neglect key things such as player choice and balance in a way that's fun.
Strategy Informer: How will you release War for the Overworld?
Josh Bishop: We want it on Steam, and we are going to be submitting it to Steam Greenlight when we are able - but contrary to what their sites says, it's a little more complicated to submit a project, it was changed recently. So we've had a little trouble going past the concept stage and to an actual game.
Strategy Informer: As the game is currently up on Kickstarter, what kind of costs does a game like this incur during development?
Josh Bishop: A large portion basically goes on the team so we can stay on development essentially. Over the last couple of months we've looked at what we need to see the project through, also there's a little bit of tax involved. Kickstarter takes some fees out; we have to introduce the rewards; and we might be doing some external voice work - basically there's a lot of fees involved, so the budget comes from there.
Strategy Informer: So far, how have you found the reception to the Kickstarter campaign?
Josh Bishop: It's been overwhelmingly positive. The only problems has been some slow burning press, beyond that the community response has been overwhelming and we're already half way to our goal.
Strategy Informer: Have any past Bullfrog alumnus seen or reacted to War for the Overworld?
Josh Bishop: Yes, we have spoken to a bunch of them, Peter Molyneux included. We've spoken to David Amor who did a lot of levels, Alex Trowers who did design for Dungeon Keeper 2, Simon Carters who was a producer - they've all been very supportive.
Strategy Informer: Have they given you any advice?
Josh Bishop: Some of them have, Peter Molyneux is obviously very busy, and it's nice that we are side by side with his own Kickstarter project. Another Dungeon Keeper developer, Alex Trowers for example is from Brighton like me, and we actually sat down with him in the pub and had a big long talk about design in Dungeon Keeper - it has been a huge help.
Strategy Informer: So how can people back War for the Overworld
Josh Bishop: There are many tiers to the project. Basically anyone that backs it gets access to our backer-only website, that will allow you to keep up to date with development, and also vote on polls about features and tweaks. It will also give you an emblem in game. If you go for £10 you get a copy of the game, £15 you get beta access, £20 you get a digital special edition with the soundtrack and book to go along with the game, and so on.
Strategy Informer: How far along in development are you?
William Phelps: Well we've been working with a tool called dungeoneer, we're really big on modding and we've just got partnered with Nexus. Everything we are building at the moment has been focused on Dungeoneer and getting it to the point where it can accomplish all the work we need to do. We're about at the point where in the next two weeks Dungeoneer will be where it needs to be with regards to working.
Strategy Informer: When do you anticipate release?
William Phelps: March 30th for the bedrock Beta and every week to two there will be a new build. The actual release is August 30th.
Strategy Informer: So finally, what would you say to people to persuade them to be backers of the campaign?
Josh Bishop: If you ever played Dungeon Keeper, then you need to play this game. That's the bottom line. We're taking the thing that games in the 90s did, and are bringing it to the modern audience - there's a nice coat of paint, a multiplayer, and it brings back the magic that those games had.