When it comes to the Indie PC gaming scene, Paradox Interactive is arguably one of the better publishers around. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of the Stardock and IC Company, Paradox has craved its own dominion in the PC market, most notably with hardcore strategy series like Hearts of Iron and Europa Universalis. Lately they've been expansing and promoting alternative titles, such as the role-playing action game Mount & Blade, or their fantasy kingdom RTS/Sim, Majesty 2. Without a doubt Paradox knows there games, and in an exclusive interview with Strategy Informer, Paradox Executive Vice President Fredrik Wester talks to us about Majesty 2, DRM, and the future...
Strategy Informer: How far along in development is Majesty 2? Do you have a release schedule lined up yet?
Fredrik Wester: Majesty 2 is currently scheduled for Q2 0f 2009, so it is quite far in development. We have tested a stable build of the Alpha version in the office and the basics are running very good. We are really looking forward to the release of this game.
Strategy Informer: There's a lot of emphasis on the unique character traits and behaviour of heroes. How easy has it been to create this, and how important is this concept to the wider game?
Fredrik Wester: Individual heroes that have a “personal” feel has been one of the major things we wanted to implement in Majesty 2. It looks really nice when your Warriors have different armours and swords; it really adds to the feeling of every hero being unique. You can say it is one of the key concepts in the game to make the heroes feel more personal and like individuals.
Strategy Informer: Do you think there is a future for games like Majesty, where they turn genre conventions on their head?
Fredrik Wester: Absolutely. Majesty is actually quite straightforward RTS gameplay where the element of indirect control is what makes it different from other games in the genre. The mix with RPG elements is of course a good addition to the game.
Strategy Informer: Where will the Majesty franchise go from here?
Fredrik Wester: The Majesty franchise has a lot of potential and we have been discussing opportunities like sci-fi setting, a Dungeon Keeper inspired “bad guy” and many other ideas But first of all we want to finish Majesty 2 and make it a great game. The team has implemented a lot of their own ideas, but we always try to pay attention to what is going on in the forums and the gaming sites, even if we are not always active in discussions.
Strategy Informer: There are rumours that you intend to release a console version of Majesty 2, can you confirm this?
Fredrik Wester: Yes, we are currently developing the game on consoles. This is a new experience to us so we can’t go into details yet.
Strategy Informer: Why do a console title? And why this game?
Fredrik Wester: We all think this game would work excellent on a console; the gameplay is not by any means a click-fest, but could be easily done through good controls.
Strategy Informer: What consoles are you planning to release this on? Are you planning to release it at the same time as the PC version?
Fredrik Wester: The Xbox360 is the console we have in mind at the moment, hopefully we will have something for at least one handheld console as well.
Strategy Informer: Will it have it's own development team, or will the same team work on all the formats?
Fredrik Wester: The X360 version will be developed by the same team.
Strategy Informer: Is this console version going to be simply a port, or is it going to be made for the console from the ground up?
Fredrik Wester: It will be adapted to the console environment to make the controls work as good as they possibly can, but of course we will keep as much as possible from the original gameplay.
Strategy Informer: Despite being a twist on the RTS/strategy-role-playing genre, Majesty still contains within it the basic tenants of an RTS. Given that these types of games are not well suited for the home console, how will you approach the development from a control and design point of view?
Fredrik Wester: This is a process that we are going through at the moment, of course easy control is key to make the game a success on consoles. Both the controls and the overall game design needs to be overlooked to fit consoles.
Strategy Informer: When will the Demo be available, and will there be one for the consoles as well?
Fredrik Wester: We hope to have a demo for the game in time for release, hopefully for consoles as well.
Strategy Informer: What is Paradox's view on DRM and Piracy? Will you be using any Anti-Piracy software in your new titles, like Majesty 2?
Fredrik Wester: While it is very important for us that people respect our property and our right to get paid for our work, we are no friends of current DRM solutions. I would like to see a user-friendlier DRM developed together with the gamers, a DRM that supports the gamers as much as it keeps people from piracy. With this said, I am still not sure whether we will use any DRM for the game or what DRM it would be. For titles from our inhouse team, like Hearts of Iron, we haven’t used any DRM in the last 4 years.
Strategy Informer: What other titles are you thinking about moving to the console?
Fredrik Wester: You never know. Personally I would love to see Hearts of Iron on a console, even if we are not even close to starting development on this yet.
Strategy Informer: A lot of the games you publish are from Indie or small-time developers. How much of an impact do you feel these smaller games have on the PC gaming market? Do you ever wish you published games of a higher calibre? Or that you had the same resources as larger publishers?
Fredrik Wester: Sometimes you are really longing for some larger budgets and we are slowly but surely getting there. We increase the quality of both third party published games and our internal releases. 2009 will be the year where Paradox Interactive took a big step forward in the quality and scope of our games. I still think that indie developers and publishers can be quite innovative and push the market forward. If you look at the Penumbra series from Frictional Games I think they have done a tremendous job in adding physics to their games engine and done this in a new cool way.
Strategy Informer: As part of Paradox's future line up, there is apparently a 'secret' expansion coming out for one of your strategy titles – any hint as to what that may be?
Fredrik Wester: I don’t know how this got out of our office, but we have a lot of secrets; and if I told you about it it wouldn’t be a secret, right? We work continuously to expand our games with things people are asking us to add, and the model with download expansions has been very good for us so far and the response from our gamers has been positive. I’ll tell you this much; there will be additional content for one of our key brands before the release of Hearts of Iron III. I guess we’ll announce this Jan-Feb sometime.
On a final not, I would also just like to say thanks to our consumer base. We do not always get a chance to 'thank you' to the people who buy our games and I would like to take this opportunity to do so. Thanks for all your support and feedback.
It seems that the 'console craze' is even starting to effect Paradox. It'll be interesting to see how well Majesty 2 fairs on the 360, and even more interesting to see what other titles Paradox might bring to the table. And we haven't even begun to muse over what this means for the PC Gaming scene...