An Interview with the Creators of Melee: Battlegrounds

We’ve made it no secret here at MiddleEasy that we like to boot up Mount & Blade: Warband a lot, with me probably the one who boots it up the most often over the past few months. It’s kind of a meeting place where all of us who have a PC can meet, do some slashing and stabbing while we converse about whatever is going on. Needless to say, this genre of game is probably one of the best around and is starting to pick up some steam.

The team behind the very popular cRPG mod for Warband, Donkey Crew, have banded together and are producing what looks to be an awesome alternative to Warband called Melee: Battlegrounds. Right now they are running a Kickstarter campaign for the game, with the progress that they’ve shown on the game thus far being quite amazing. We spoke with the crew about the upcoming Melee: Battlegrounds about a bunch of topics, including the incredible looking Stronghold mode.

So, obviously the first thing is that you guys are perhaps best known for cRPG, a mod for Mount & Blade: Warband. What made you want to finally step out from the world of mods into making your own game?

We simply wanted to do more, better, than what we could do with Warband’s modding system. There’s been so many great ideas that we never would have the chance to bring to life. So at some point you simply have to make a choice, and for us that was to move on and create our own game with its own engine.

Having such is a great relief, our own engine allows us to tailor everything as we need, from extreme mass combat to all sorts of “outside the box” interactivity we want to include.

Coming from modding backgrounds we do want to include modding as well in our engine, we believe that it adds tremendously to the longevity of a game and engine. That’s why we are dogfooding, developing Melee BG as a mod in our own engine, based on the same SDK that everyone will get access to.

NvOmYuC An Interview with the Creators of Melee: Battlegrounds

All of the expansions for Warband thus far have been directly from the modding community, there has even been Carribean!, which uses the Mount & Blade engine and got its own, independent release. Since cRPG has been one of the most popular mods for a long time now, did TaleWorlds ever approach you about becoming an “official” expansion of the game or to make something like Carribean!, which uses the engine?

We unfortunately can only answer “no comment” to that.

cRPG felt like something that almost already belonged in Warband and worked perfectly within the confines of that game, how do you feel about “splitting” from Warband and even being a competitor for them now?

Enormously liberating. It’s still a small genre but we believe melee oriented combat — as a game type/genre — is still in its very infancy, just like FPS once was many (many!) years ago. There’s plenty of room for innovation, for different gameplay to flourish. The more the merrier so we can all evolve and aspire to do our best.

There should be room for all of us to grow the genre together. If there’s room for a thousand different FPS games there’s room for a handful of medieval combat games.

How will Melee: Battlegrounds differ from the melee-based games that are already on the market right now?

Is there comparisons to be made? Yes, just as how FPS games can be compared.

Melee BG will be very different in total from all the other medieval games, not only the combat system is unlike the others but also from how the actual game works, especially the UI and its options from allowing groups, queuing for gamemodes or a competitive arena mode, quick access to friends and so on, to the intricate workings of base building, Stronghold mode and the whole Social aspect of the game where all players can hang out and have fun with their friends and clans, brawl with each other, look at ongoing arena battles or arranged tournaments, set up a booth to sell/trade items, or use the marketplace.

There’s a heavy focus on customization and heraldry, on being able to properly differentiate oneself on the battlefield — you should be able to know who your friends and nemesis are based on what they’re wearing — we’re working on adding a ton of armors, weapons and items into the game, enough for everyone to be unique. Customization doesn’t just end with simply getting a new item or armor, there’ll be alternative looks (skins) which can be acquired, get that green handle you always wanted on your sword, or that rusty look on your armor. You’ll also be able to name tag your weapons and possibly some armor types as well, pass it down the chain as a heirloom.

Weapons modification will also be available, make your weapon a little bit faster, heavier and so on, all with each their benefits and drawbacks to preserve balance.

Fun elements. All games need something that’s not 100% serious in order to lighten up the mood, to enable people to fool around sometimes. For Melee it’ll be a lot of fun emotes, the possibility to play on instruments (fitting for the period of time), to playing mini-games against each other where there’s rankings and more.

We’ll also be a game that’s in direct contact with our community, who listens to suggestions and won’t be afraid to test them out on for example a special Patch/Dev server. For the cRPG mod we have over 81000 posts in our suggestion forum, we hope to see something similar for Melee.

DnxDF4D An Interview with the Creators of Melee: Battlegrounds

There seems to be a bit of a resurgence of late with these kinds of games, but there have also been some failures such as War of the Vikings. What are you guys taking away from the current market for melee-based games and how inviting it is for a game like Melee: Battlegrounds?

It’s definitely a lot tougher than what we expected, especially when just being a bunch of indie guys with limited means. But bear in mind that no major AAA blockbuster game within this genre has yet been made and pumped out through the mighty marketing channels, not yet, and compared to the huge player numbers in FPS-type and RPG games, we believe there should be room for us and any other aspiring medieval game creators.

Nevertheless we’re not making this game to fill a hole in the market, we’re making it because it’s a game we would love to play, a game that our community and fans would love to play, and we believe it’s a game others would like to play as well if they knew about it, especially people who do not know of this type of gameplay yet should especially have an easier time learning and getting into this genre via Melee Battlegrounds.

What lessons did you take away from the experience of being one of the more popular mods for a game with a rather intimate community like Warband?

Where to begin. We’ve learned so much. How important community is, in fact almost all of us on the team stems from the cRPG community, we met within it. We also learned how challenging it is to balance a game like this, an ever on-going task.

The most important lesson is no doubt that it’s unfortunately impossible to please everyone, no matter how much you try and come up with a solution that looks like it would benefit everyone, there’ll always be some who feels incredibly overlooked. It’s tough when all you want to do is try and make sure everyone is having fun.

Overall it’s been 4 years, and those years have definitely influenced and shaped us to who we are, as developers, modders, and as a team. We owe everything to our community.

The Stronghold mode seems to really be what sets your game apart from the rest, can you explain it a bit better? Will the servers be persistent and save progress? You’ve said that it’s more RTS-like, does that mean that you’ll be controlling bots, or giving orders to other human players?

Let’s start with the last question. Giving orders.

Leaders (such as group leaders) will be able to issue orders to other players, or deputize someone to help them do so, else in general there’ll be voice commands available for easy communication. We hope to include VOIP at a later point, but it’s nothing we can give a promise on just yet.

In regards to ordering bots around, probably not in terms of like ordering major armies around, but ordering some NPCs around, we won’t rule it out just yet, there’s some ideas we’re kicking around.

The overall idea of Stronghold is combining several fun aspects into one, large scale warfare, base building, melee combat, and strategic elements. It’s a mode that’s in constant development, and while the original idea was round based on something like 45 minutes or so, without persistence (but with savable building templates so players could get started faster), it might actually end up as something much, much bigger — with persistence — or both, should the players desire so.

As time goes by after the Kickstarter ends, the community and our internal testers will have a huge impact on how this specific gamemode is shaped.

The building seems to be pretty automated, but it appears like you’ll be able to choose where and how something is built. Will this just be for Stronghold mode?

Currently in the pre-alpha version you start with some low-end buildings and get access to more as you progress.

You gather a few quick resources, wood/stone — now don’t think that we’ll have awful grinding in Melee, we won’t, a term we’ve playing around with is “No grind. All fun” and we have some unique ideas on how to handle this aspect — Once you’re done collecting you select a blueprint (currently a wire-frame), place it on the ground, confirm, and it’ll be built automatically, rising from the ground.

Base building was made specifically for stronghold but who knows where it might end up 🙂 it’s still very bare-bones for now, but we promise the end result will be epic.

You guys have taken a bit of a new approach when it comes to the melee system by doing what looks to be an almost 360 degree method of attack and blocking. This seems a bit like a natural evolution to the Mount & Blade engine, but I do wonder how spot on your blocks need to be to register and if there will be consequences for blocking a strike, but not doing so perfectly (like perhaps being stunned or thrown off balance).

The code for ‘perfect blocks’ is already implemented, it just doesn’t have a function at the moment in-game, but we intend on its feature being something that will help give the player a feel of how a fight can change pace back and forth depending on who is performing best. Block bad you’ll feel how the fight is slipping from your hands. It’s also supposed to open up the combat given people don’t need to block in perfect angles because our hit registration is based on physics, all needed is for the weapons to touch each other, to clash, and that’s a block. Therefore it needs more than simple attacking/blocking.

An example would be if you’re performing a lot of perfect blocks and your opponent is making mistakes, this should provide you with an opportunity to take charge of the fight. It’s also something we touch down a bit upon this in our latest combat video update, and in general there’s a lot of ideas we want to try to implement, from the regular stuff of punching/brawling, kicking, shield bashing, shoving your opponent, to perhaps being able to perform some specific hand-to-hand moves based on how well you’re performing in the fight, even a take-down.

Combat is the most important aspect for a game of this type, and we fully acknowledge it’s a process involving a lot of feedback and a lot of playtesting to get it perfect. However it is something we are 100% dedicated towards getting right. As we wrote in the Kickstarter presentation, if the combat isn’t good the game isn’t good, and we want the game to be awesome!

8rRGi0w An Interview with the Creators of Melee: Battlegrounds

Are you going to consider doing further crowdfunding on your own if Kickstarter doesn’t work out, maybe something like Steam’s Early Access? I feel like there is a lot of negativity to those kinds of things right now due to a few games not working out. People perhaps need to realize that you guys did a lot for Warband and that cRPG delivered for years before saying, “yet another Kickstarter.”

There’s definitely a lot of animosity towards Kickstarter nowadays, almost all the places our game has been referred there’s been someone complaining about their lack of faith in crowdfunding due to having been burned in the past, and we certainly understand that, but it does feel quite unfair.

Kickstarter has so far given us a lot of opportunities though, a lot of new friends, and the chance to get noticed, we’ve had some good mentions too, on Rock Paper Shotgun, and most namely Warhorse Studios — the team behind Kingdom Come: Deliverance — gave us a shout-out on Twitter which we were (and are) deeply humbled by, still can’t believe it 🙂

When the KS ends, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, see where we stand and so on. For now we’re all hands on deck, trying our best to get noticed in the big sphere.

The dream is to be independent because we believe it’s the best way to be able to make a proper and complete game.

Thanks again for your time.

Thank you for listening and having us Dave. It’s been great. Your interest in the project is very appreciated.

Those willing to swear fealty to our cause can join up via our Kickstarter — otherwise stop by melee.org, feel free to chat us up on our channel #melee on Quakenet, poke us on our open teamspeak server at teamspeak.melee.org — we’re all ears, open for feedback and suggestions.

We’re also hoping to get noticed through the Indiedb awards ‘Indie of the Year’, support would be very much appreciated at http://www.indiedb.com/games/melee-battlegrounds!

 

 

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