Last week I took a deep dive into Revival: Recolonization, the upcoming 4X from HeroCraft. As part of that preview, I spoke with Vladislav Mishukov, lead game designer on Revival: Recolonization. Now we have the full interview with Vladislav, hit the break to check it out.
First up, how are things going for you with the current Covid-19 situation, what impact is it having on Recolonization?
In my opinion, the IT and games industries are in a slightly more advantageous positon when it comes to dealing with the impact that Covid-19 has on work organization and scheduling.
Speaking about HeroCraft in particular – before the pandemic struck, the Revival team was already spread between offices in two different cities, Kaliningrad and Krasnodar. Coordinating work across different time zones, hosting team meetings over Skype, etc. is something we are already used to.
Sure, we had to take some time to get used to working from home, but our current set up seems to be efficient enough.
It has been over ten years since you worked on the Revival games, what have you been working on since Revival 2 came out in 2009?
The core members of Revival’s team (mainly me and our lead programmer) were dabbling in various other genres – mainly casual games on PC that relied on famous brands from popular Russian TV series and shows. The games themselves were pretty high quality, if I may say so myself – they had decent VO, a lot of well-written humor and interesting characters. Unfortunately, these titles were targeting primarily the domestic (Russian) market, which narrowed their worldwide appeal. In addition, our team was using an engine that was built for the PC ecosystem, so making our titles available on other platforms was time consuming.
A significant amount of time (4 years) was spent on developing Marble Duel and porting the game to a variety of platforms: PC, Mac, Android, iOS, AppleTV. It did not bring in any significant revenue. Instead of making a simple puzzle game, I couldn’t hold back and basically made a strategy game centred around duels with a couple of original game mechanics. Needless to say, that is not what the target audience expected or wanted.
In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best decision to abandon a well-received series (Revival) on a platform that was just hitting a new stage of growth (smartphones were getting big, Apple launched the AppStore, etc.). However, it’s easy to say that now. Back then, the decision to expand also seemed like a logical one.
What lessons have you learned from those experiences that you’re taking forward into Revival: Recolonization?
The main lesson that I’ve learned is to trust my intuition more. When I was developing the first Revival games, I had no prior game development experience and there weren’t any books on making games available in Russia. I just made a game that I really wanted to play myself. Kind of like a self-taught musician, who never attended music school.
Proper education can undoubtedly benefit both game developers and musicians, but it may also hinder creativity by creating a rigid framework, a set of rules that are difficult to break free from.
Revival 2 was still been bringing in royalties until 2019, what do you attribute the continued success to?
I think Revival 2’s success lies in the fact that we managed to provide a full-sized Civilization-like experience on push button phones that still hasn’t been rivaled. If, for some reason, you find yourself stuck with such a phone and want to play a 4x strategy game, there are no other games in existence besides Revival 1 and 2 (that I’ve heard of).
The 4x market is one that is regularly bubbling away, with few matching the clout of the Civ games. What is going to set Recolonization apart from the crowd?
The All-Mind, our version of Skynet in the world of Revival, is what we hope will be the game’s distinguishing feature. As players start changing the planet’s landscape to suit their needs, the All-Mind will notice their presence and react accordingly by issuing edicts.
You can think of edicts as spells that influence different gameplay aspects – from allowing a nasty virus to spread across the land to freezing over entire regions or causing drought. This may sound severe, but keep in mind that some of these changes may actually benefit the player, depending on their strategy for a particular match. The game also provides a variety of tools as means of protecting oneself from unwanted edicts.
What can you tell us about the various Tribes, will they have unique playstyles and characteristics?
There is a fixed amount of tribes in Revival, each with their own set of characteristics and quirks, which we hope players will learn over the course of the game. Each tribe has adapted to thrive in a particular climate.
For example, Arctic tribes can only be found in snow-covered areas and they get the most resources out of that particular terrain type. Their units are generally better in close-range combat and also move across snow faster than units belonging to other tribes can.
If a player has assimilated an arctic tribe, she will have to think twice before conquering or building a settlement in the tropics. Her tribe will not be happy with the decision and the player will have to spend resources to change the captured region’s climate to a suitable one. Unless she wants to upset her followers and risk losing their loyalty.
How will diplomacy between the Tribes work?
The nuances of the diplomacy system are still being ironed out, but to give you a brief overview: diplomacy uses “reputation” as a resource, and each emissary starts the game with a particular number. Players spend points on political actions, such as closing regional borders, increasing bargaining power, etc. Certain decisions will influence how reputation changes throughout the game, including events where players have to make decisions that affect one or more tribes in their empire.
Emissaries look like they’re key parts of the game. Are they predetermined, or can they be user created?
Emissaries are predetermined. We want them to feel like distinct characters, with a set of particular views on life and the future of humanity, similar to how faction leaders work in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.
Another important goal is to make emissaries quite varied in terms of gameplay, so players will have to keep the differences between them in mind if they want to make the most out of a chosen emissary.
What impact will Emissaries have on the in-game action?
Emissaries fill the role of a settler unit seen in most 4x strategy games – only they can establish settlements. Another important function of the emissaries is researching and launching edicts. By using energy to interface with old-world technologies, emissaries can terraform the landscape to make it more suitable for their people and protect their land from the All-Mind’s influence and its terrible creations – the automatons.
In addition, emissaries serve as army leaders and are able to participate in combat, although not directly. Rather, they use gadgets and technology that they cast on both friendly and enemy units for a variety of effects. Increasing troop morale, taking enemy units under control, stunning them, causing direct damage, that kind of stuff.
You talk about us taking over an Earth which has been devastated by a cataclysm, what happened and how has the planet changed?
I’ll try and keep things brief for fear of turning this QnA into a lore document!
The peak of mankind’s space exploration age marked the creation of the All-Mind – an artificial intelligence based on the structure of Earth’s lithosphere. Found to have unexplained powers, the A.I. came to a realization that it must supersede humanity and initiated a wave of destruction, displacing the orbits of planets and drastically changing Earth in the process.
Millennia have passed and humanity has staggered into a new Dark Age. Those who survived have long forgotten their history. Some even worship the All-Mind as a higher power and do their best to fulfil its meaningless whims. Faced with cruelty, fanaticism and disbelief, players will have to make a choice – will mankind be satisfied with servitude or is it time to light the fires of revolution?
Zombies?! Tell us more…
Despite wanting to move away from the typical bleak visuals and brown color palette of most post-apoc games, we still wanted to preserve some of the cooler elements that the setting provides. Hence, our version of mutated zombies!
Gameplay-wise, zombies are just one of the side effects of the edict system. If the All-Mind decides to increase the radioactivity of a particular region of the map, any human units that stay there for some time face the danger of becoming a rotting pile of flesh. If the spread of radiation and zombie units is not contained, they can quickly fill up the whole map. As seen in the best zombie movies.
How will combat work, will it have a deeper layer like Age of Wonders: Planetfall, or does it all happen on the world map?
We have fans of all sorts of 4x strategy games on our team, Planetfall included. So Revival’s combat system is influenced by our tastes. If I were to summarize, I’d say it’s a mixture of combat seen in Endless Legend and AoW: Planetfall.
When battle occurs, a combat layer is placed over the world map (without loading into separate screen). The type of terrain and obstacles present at the battle’s location on the map are taken into account. The combat layer is then populated with randomly generated cover and destructible objects.
You reference Alpha Centauri as an early influence, born out through promises for terraforming the planet. How much will you be able to change?
At some point during development, we dived deep into the terraforming aspect of Revival: Recolonization and tracked many parameters including wind direction, elevation, temperature, radiation levels, etc.
However, we quickly found out that this had a negative impact on gameplay. Each edict launched influenced so many attributes of even a single hex on the game map that it was hard for players to track all of them and predict what the overall outcome of launching an edict would be.
Since then, we’ve scaled back on the number of parameters, but I hope there’s enough depth and freedom to satisfy both fans of Alpha Centauri, as well as players that have never played that game.
With an Alpha planned for later this year, are you thinking about Early Access? How important will community feedback be?
Early Access is definitely something that we have in mind. With games of this scale, it’s simply too hard to test every game mechanic thoroughly or to explore the nuances of every system. It is our hope and our goal to make analyzing and implementing (where appropriate) community feedback an integral part of the development process.
We are expecting to launch a Closed Alpha in Q3 of this year, where a select number of players will be invited to try the game out and share their impressions. Followed by a public test (hopefully) by the end of this year. You can sign up via the game’s website.
Thanks to Vladislav for his time.