When we found ourselves stumbling around EGX Rezzed earlier this month, we were lucky enough to have a quick chat with Josh Bishop, CEO and Creative Director of Subterranean Games about their upcoming dungeon management sim War for the Overworld. Despite reeking of medicinal turpentine and barely being able to uncross our eyes, we managed to get a couple of quick questions in before security finally caught up with us.
What’s the most difficult thing about making War for the Overworld?
In general? Managing a team of fifteen people who don’t live anywhere near each other. We don’t have an office, and only four [staff members] are in the UK. We have people all over Europe, Russia, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and all over the US. So, it’s round the clock and it’s been a bit of a pain.
That’s singularly been the biggest issue over the two and a half years War for the Overworld has been in development.
How were you able to deal with fan’s expectations while making War for the Overworld?
We’re just very transparent about everything we’ve done. The only thing we’ve been deliberately hiding is the story, which I think is understandable. Whenever people ask about anything or whenever we make a change, we just tell people. We have a weekly review post every Wednesday that explains exactly what’s going on; If we delay the game, we say this is why, these are the implications and this is what’s going to happen instead. if we change or remove a feature, we explain why we’ve had to do that. if we change the price, we explain why.
We just make sure to explain everything, and everyone is happy. We listen and respond to everything. It seems quite easy [to deal with our fans], but maybe we’re all just quite good at this!
War for the Overworld is pretty heavily inspired by the Dungeon Keeper series. What changes do you think you’ve made to the overall formula?
The biggest singular change that we’ve made to the formula is to introduce the tech tree. A big issue that older dungeon management games have is that there is very little choice involved in how you progress and very little pacing. In the campaign, obviously, you were given stuff slowly, but in a multi-player or skirmish game they were just like: here’s all the stuff! Do what you want! There was no choice.
I mean, essentially, you just built the strongest thing to get the strongest units in a really weird format and then went and killed the other guy. There were no different strategies. What we’ve done is added The Maze of Evil [tech tree]. Most things are in The Maze of Evil. Some things you get free at the start, and the rest it lets you choose. You have your offensive stuff on the left hand side and your defensive stuff on the right, with the neutral stuff in the middle. You invest points as you want, so if you want to be more offensive you go on the left and if you want to be more defensive you go on the right. You can choose to invest more resources into research so you can get more stuff faster, but if you do that, are you going to have the gold to build those things and make use of them?
It just brings a lot more choice to the game, and a lot of pacing because you can control how quickly you get stuff so the multi-player is actually interesting.
Could you tell us a little about your inspirations?
Really?! (chuckles) Really?
Besides Dungeon Keeper..
Alright, well, besides Dungeon Keeper and Dungeon Keeper II, we’ve take little bits and pieces from games that have then gone on and been inspired by Dungeon Keeper like Evil Genius and Overlord. To a degree, we’ve looked at those games, and been inspired by the look, feel and human standpoint of Overlord. Evil Genius [inspired] some of the mechanical aspects.
From a more of a theoretical standpoint, when it came to the multiplayer, we’ve been inspired by Starcraft, especially how it handles progression and meaningful choices in multi-player. What we’ve been trying to do is match that without breaking the fact that it’s a dungeon management game. So, we tried to meet in the middle there to make the multi-player as interesting as it is in something like StarCraft.
Finally, can you tell me a little bit about your earliest gaming memory?
Well, my dad was making games for longer than I’ve been alive, so for as long as I can remember we’ve had games around. I can’t quite pinpoint what the earliest thing might be, actually. Some of the early games that I really enjoyed? I remember playing a Tarzan game on the PSOne? Actually, does Game & Watch count? Though, I think that was only in America. Gaming has been so omnipresent in our lives that it’s really difficult to figure out what might have come first.
War for the Overworld will be available digitally, and in stores, from April 2nd 2015, for Windows, Mac and Linux.