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'Besieger' - Interview

by Rainier on March 1, 2003 @ 12:15 a.m. PST

Besieger is a Realtime 3D Strategy. The game arena is a medieval fantasy world with magic and mythical animals. In Besieger, besieging well-defended towns is an important part of the gameplay. You'll get to experience some exciting moments trying to break the walls of enemy stronghold or gathering strength behind impregnable walls of your own citadel. We beseiged Primal Software's Managing Director Petr Petukhov and fired off our usual annoying questions ...

1. Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation!

Petr Petukhov, Managing Director of Primal Software, Sir!

2. What inspired Primal-Soft to create Besieger?

When we were finishing our previous game, The I of the Dragon, it was a lot of fun having the dragon build towns and protect inhabitants. Our engine manages a lot of visible objects simultaneously and handles huge areas effortlessly, so those towns and monster-filled forests gave us the idea that it would be great to expand into the Strategy genre. We already had very intelligent AI that defended those towns from monster attacks, so this game in some sense is a logical next step in our product line.

3. What is the current status of Besieger?

We already have internal playable builds and are rapidly approaching alpha stage. The game should be finished in summer 2003.

4. Can you give us some background info on the Besieger game story? What is the game about?

We have two major races: Vikings and Cimmerians. They have lived close to each other, reasonably peacefully, for quite a while… until they find their land thrust into a storm of events: the evil brother of the Cimmerian leader tries to overthrow the lawful king and conquer the whole world by means of evil magic. The player begins the game as Barmalay, second-in-command under the Viking leader, who is sent on a mission with a small group of Vikings just before the evil Karon strikes his blow. Later in the game the player experiences events from the Cimmerian point of view as Konin, the lawful king of the Cimmerians who was betrayed by his brother. The story is complex, even a bit twisted around, so it will be exciting to discover what surprises are planned.

5. How many people do you have on your design team for Besieger? How long has Besieger been in development?

Our team is made up of about 38 people, 21 of whom are working in-house. We’ve been working on Besieger for about a year, and the game is shaping up nicely.

6. What graphics engine are you using in Besieger? Home made or licensed? And why that choice?

We use our own engine, which has proved itself in our previous game, The I of the Dragon. It’s simply the best for our purposes and, in some aspects, simply the best in the world. As the largest Russian game magazine, GAME.EXE, put it while writing about Besieger, “The range of possibilities for Primal’s engine is way too wide to limit its author’s imagination.” For example, there is no need for nice backgrounds in the game; our visibility range is not limited. You can see everything to the farthest horizon and it looks gorgeous…

7. What are the system requirements for Besieger?

These may change a bit but for now we have something like this as the recommended (not minimum) configuration: 1000 MHz processor, GeForce3-level card from any manufacturer, 256 MB RAM.

8. Since you will able to modify Besieger, will the average gamer be able to create their own additions or will it take a mod creator with experience to get the job done

It all depends on what you would like to do. Making a simple level is surprisingly easy – just spray-paint a few mountains, place a few trees – and there you go, your first level is ready. Going into details would be a bit more involving: scripts (used for missions and engine-based movies) are user-friendly enough, but, as with any programming language, they take some time to learn and to implement. Replacing models, painting new textures – all this takes even more time and knowledge. In short, we expect all kinds of mods to appear, from simple deathmatch maps to full-scale add-ons with their own storylines.

9. Can you give us some info on the game play? Will it be right/left click interface? Will there be a unit limit? A limit to the amount of units you can select? Etc…

The interface is right/left-click based (basically, left is used to select units and right to give them commands). We hope seasoned players will feel right at home. Unit limit is there (high enough, though) for better balance.

10. How realistic will the game world be? Will you be able to burn forests etc?

The game has day/night cycles, various weather and water effects, etc, so the graphics are very realistic. The game world itself is a bit more gameplay-oriented, though: forests are used as a wood source, so mass-burning them is not in the game, since it would impair the gameplay balance. Trees would burn, of course, as in real life, if you hit them with a flamethrower, but they won’t catch fire from each other. We are trying to make the events look very realistic (you should watch the running attack of an army – you can’t shake off the feeling that you are watching a movie!) but gameplay is king, that’s for sure.

11. Will there be a skirmish mode in Besieger?

Sure, there will be many multiplayer modes:

  1. All against all. In this mode, players select a map, a race and a main character. The mission is to completely eliminate the enemy.
  2. Capture the artifact. Each race has a special place (an "altar") to which the enemy artifact should be brought; you also keep an artifact at your own altar from being captured. Artifacts are captured using a worker.
  3. Siege. In this mode, one of the players is put into the previously prepared fortress. The second player with a prepared army is placed beyond the fortress. Both sides are unable to produce additional units. The mission is to capture the fortress (or hold out) within a specified time. The attacking party periodically receives a reinforcement. The defenders have a fixed number of units.
  4. Tactical combat. In this mode, both sides get a fixed number of units. They are unable to construct buildings and produce units. At an equal distance from the starting point there is a fortress that can be captured by either party.
12. Will multiplayer be direct connect/LAN only or are you planning to use any kind of Internet launch pad like Gamespy?

We are planning to use some kind of matchmaking service but haven’t selected one yet.

13. What are some of the unit types in Besieger?

Let me limit myself to just a couple of examples: first of all there are ships. Not sailing, though – flying ships! You can see them on some of our screenshots. There are different kinds of such ships but let’s not get into details yet. Another one is a ram that you will be using for breaching walls of enemy fortresses.

14. What are the differences between each race? The Vikings and Cimmerians.

Vikings are strong, fierce warriors who have a formidable fleet of airships and build some very interesting heavy arbalests from wood, but don’t believe in such modern inventions as discipline or dynamite :-) On the other hand, Cimmerians prefer to use balloon-based airships and have a strict hierarchy in their army. Even if they don’t have the raw power they compensate for that with their courage and good weapons.

There are some minor races (such as werebears, ogres and centaurs), each with its own features.

15. What sort of magic (if any) will be in Besieger?

If there is magic it will for most part concentrate on our protagonists. They’ll be able to do more things as the game progresses. Normal units will use “real-world” tools for fighting (flame-throwers, lances, etc).

16. How will the player control the weapon management system?

Any man can use any weapon or machine, just build a house that produces such weapons or machines and order him to go there. Even better, you can change the profession of any unit at any time.

17. What will the resources be in Besieger?

There are three kinds of resources: wood, stone, and iron. You get wood by cutting trees, stone by breaking up raw stone formations, and iron by mining.

18. Can you elaborate on your AI? What is it planning to bring to the table that current AI’s are lacking?

While current AIs are getting pretty impressive, we want to add our own things to the established standards. It’s one of the areas in which we try to be realistic. A player should be able to understand the reasons for AI’s behavior intuitively. Besides that, we are improving our pathfinding code so there would be no units walking through each other or through walls; units will form queues, use formations, etc.

19. Will your hero unit be able to play in single player and multiplayer battles or will you have to create a separate hero?

Heroes are linked closely to the storyline, so it would make no sense to import or export them. You will use your favorite race in a multiplayer game and it will have its own hero with specific abilities.

20. How will the unit upgrades go? Will it be standard upgrades for all or will there be specific upgrades?

We’ll have many kinds of upgrades. Mostly you get upgrades for buildings that improve the features of your units. Upgrade your sawmill and you’ll have spears that fly farther and hit harder. You may upgrade a building into another building or a unit into a different unit. Besides, each warrior has his own fighting experience and will get more life points as he reaches certain levels.

21. Will there be any neutral units inhabiting the world? If so will you be able to interact with them?

Sure, there will be wild beasts in our forests (wolves, for example) that may attack your careless workers, and there will be a lot of story-related neutral units that you may interact with and even get to fight for you. At one point in the game you’ll have to choose a side to help in a local struggle, and you’ll get a small army as a reward for your help.

22. With the recent release of High Land Warriors and the impending Warrior Kings Battles, what will Besieger offer that will win the hearts of gamers?

First of all, let me repeat one important thing that we tell everybody: the game is not called Besieger for nothing. You will get to besiege and be besieged and it will be fun! Our town is not just a group of buildings, it’s a real town in which you can safely hide, recover and regroup for the counter-attack. You cannot breach its walls by hacking them with swords (and you’ll get shot full of arrows from the top of those walls!).

Another thing that will make the game stand out is our system of unit management. People naturally appear in the houses you build for them – there is no need to “buy” them. Dead warriors will be replaced in the same manner. Any man can use any weapon or control a fighting machine; just build one and order him to go there.

23. What will the game play time be for an average gamer to finish Besieger? Are there different difficulty settings to increase the replay value?

The play-through time is rather long: more than 30 hours if you are experienced and make no major mistakes. Difficulty settings in place and are dynamic, so you can change the difficulty on the fly if you feel that the game is too hard or too easy. The real replay value is in the network games and mods, of course.

24. Will we see a Besieger demo before the game appears on store shelves?

We are planning to release it but have no definite timeframe yet.

25. Finally is there anything you would like to add? Perhaps something I missed?

Thanks for your thorough questions – it was a lot of fun to answer them!

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