For Grand Ages: Medieval, the successor to Haemimont Games’ city builder Grand Ages: Rome, new development studio Gaming Minds have certainly upped the stakes. Rather than stewarding one single city, you’re now tasked with establishing a trading superpower across Europe and the Middle East. No pressure or anything. I chatted to the game’s creative director Daniel Dumont, to see what other surprises the team has in store.
GameWatcher: You’re taking over development of the Grand Ages series from Haemimont Games, of course. How did you approach that? Did you bring a lot of ideas across from your work on the Patrician series?
Daniel Dumont: In fact, “Grand Ages: Medieval” has not much to do with “Grand Ages: Rome”. Both are global strategy games but the mechanics are completely different as Grand Ages: Mredieval was always meant to have a strong economy part as well. So the decision to use “Grand Ages” is more because of marketing reasons.
GameWatcher: How do you balance manual control with automation in this game? The scale is huge, so you don’t want lots of micromanagement, but at the same time you don’t want to do everything for the player.
Daniel Dumont: During our design process, we always thought about a situation, in which the player has to fight at several borders at the same time while continuing exploring, expanding and maybe optimizing the economy system. Therefore, micromanagement should not create too much advantages compared to a player using no micromanagement. However, in the most important situations the player can choose the rations between manual control and automation.
For example, the user can select a trader and manually buy or sell goods between the towns. But he can also just create a trade route between the towns with just a few clicks and activate it. When building new buildings and businesses in a town, you don’t have to place them. Just order and pay them – they will be automatically placed by the citizens. In total, there is no micromanagement in a town if not wanted by the user. You can even set the tax rate manually or just keep it on the automatic setting.
GameWatcher: How much of a focus on combat is there? Can we control individual units in battle?
Daniel Dumont: Each troop consists of 100 soldiers and can be controlled individually. 200 troops are possible at max. Troops are normally acting self-sufficient. If an enemy approaches, the nearest troop will instantly attack and call nearby troops for support. However, you can control troops that are currently not under attack: you can move them, send them to sieges or order them to entrench at a certain position. The user can interfere by sending more troops to the battle or by taking out troops from the battle which are currently not attacked. Pulling enemy troops is not possible to prevent micromanagement exploits. However, you can tell a troop to flee. To create a huge army, you can quickly browse through your barracks in the different towns and order new troops. To gather them later on, just set a gathering order on the map.
GameWatcher: Will the game have random events – plagues, bandit attacks, that kind of thing?
Daniel Dumont: Yes, we have lots of “Adventure Sites” and natural disasters in the world. Some examples include campfires with different events when you visit them, bandit hideouts with simulated bandit troops. They can get stronger if they successfully plunder traders. Wild animals, natural disasters like plagues, fires, storms, snowstorms, frost, volcanoes, earthquakes and so on.
GameWatcher: Will there be one cultural building style in the game, or will cities in the East look different?
Daniel Dumont: There are different styles in the game: one for north western factions, one for south eastern.
GameWatcher: Can you tell us a little bit about the story campaign? Is it designed as more of a tutorial to get players into the game?
Daniel Dumont: It’s a campaign with lots of historical aspects and historical authenticity. It consists of about 35 steps with lots of animated illustrations and voice-over. As you are always free to do whatever you want, the campaign does not have much of a tutorial. However, when you get a new mission, the campaign will support with hints and explanations to introduce the user to new game mechanics. At the beginning of the campaign or the open game, the user is asked whether he wants to follow a short tutorial or not. These steps will introduce to the main controls of the game.
GameWatcher: Will we be able to research every technology in the game, or will players have to choose a particular path?
Daniel Dumont: As the open game has no defined end, we wanted that the user will be able to research everything in one single game. As soon as the user ranks up to “Emperor” he has enough development points to unlock every technology.
GameWatcher: Will you be adding Steam Workshop support at launch? The game seems tailor-made for modding, is that something you would like to encourage?
Daniel Dumont: It is not yet decided how and if we add Steam Workshop support. However, there will be no support at launch.
Many thanks to Daniel for chatting to me. Grand Ages: Medieval is set for release on September 25. If you’re curious as to what we thought of the game, you can check out our preview.