Trevor Chan has created elegant strategy games like Capitalism II and the Seven Kingdoms series, which is why it seemed surprising that the designer would turn his attention to a hack-and-slash game. Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc will attempt to take all of the fast-paced fighting you'd expect from a console-style third-person action game and will combine it with high-level real-time strategy. You'll play as the fanatical 15th century war hero Joan of Arc and will be able to dispatch the enemies of the king on foot or on horseback. However, you'll eventually rally entire armies to your cause, and you'll control these as you would a traditional real-time strategy game as you lay siege to enemy castles or engage in battle on the open field. For more details on this unusual game, we checked in with the lead designer himself.
GameSpot: Thanks for taking time out for this interview, Trevor. We have to admit that, given your background with strategy games, we were surprised to hear that your next game will feature lots of third-person hack-and-slash action. Tell us, in your own words, what sort of game you hope Joan of Arc will turn out to be and how you hope its fans will play and enjoy it.
Trevor Chan: I personally believe that what makes the game industry continue to advance is experimenting with new ideas and creating new gameplay models that are refreshing and exciting to gamers. The basis of designing new games at Enlight comes from the question: "What gameplay experience will realistically represent its real-life counterpart?" Great game concepts come from taking risks and breaking the mold. This is an internal goal of mine and something my entire development team challenges itself with on each title we create.
At the beginning of this project, I wanted to create a medieval game with a grand scale--one that would enable players to strategically command troops by formulating siege and defense plans. However, I did not feel the concept would be compelling enough if it relied on a traditional real-time strategy interface, which rarely gives players the opportunity to be fully immersed in battle.
The third-person perspective and the action-oriented game mechanic, while initially seeming simplistic, actually better accomplishes the task of re-creating the brutal battles specific to the medieval time. With this as a basis for gameplay, we could create an environment that enables players to experience wars and battles from a new perspective--letting them command troops, build siege machines, lay siege to castles and capture them, and subsequently recruit troops from the barracks of captured castles.
In Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc, all these familiar concepts of strategic gaming are experienced from the third-person perspective with the addition of a real-time strategy perspective. I believe this will deliver a gaming experience that more realistically resembles the relentlessness and brutality of medieval warfare and will also emphasize the military strategies and tactics unique to this era as well.
With this title, I hope that fans will take advantage of all the different variations of tactics and strategies available to them. We implemented action, role-playing, and strategy elements to provide players with a unique gaming experience, but most importantly, we wanted to present them with an opportunity to determine their own style of gameplay so they can decide their own fates.
GS: Obviously, 15th century France isn't a typical setting for a game. Why did you decide on this setting and these characters?
TC: Fifteenth century France set the stage for the most famous battles during the Hundred Years War, and within these battles, some of the era's most memorable figures (like Henry V) made history. It was also a time when castle architecture and siege technologies were at their peaks and before they were rendered obsolete by the advent of gun powder. This was one of the richest periods of time in the medieval age to draw stories from, and for all of us at Enlight, it made a great setting for this title.
GS: We know that the single-player campaign is based on Joan's historical adventures, but, obviously, the team had to take some creative license in some cases. Tell us about the campaign and what we can expect from it.
TC: For most games and movies with historical settings, the addition of fictional elements or the alteration of historical plots becomes essential for delivering a fast-paced and thrilling story. This holds true for Joan of Arc as well. We used Joan's historical adventures to form the backbone of the game's campaign but designed each scenario with the aim of producing the most entertaining experience. When the rules of game design do not rest well with sequences of historical events, we, more often than not, opt for the design approach that favors gameplay over historical accuracy.
One example would be the route that Joan of Arc took as she escorted King Charles VII to his coronation. According to the history books, they crossed enemy-occupied castles, yet no fighting occurred. We chose to beef up this sequence of events by populating the castles with enemies who are eager to attack Joan's army.
For Joan and Country
GS: We know that while the game, unfortunately, won't have multiplayer support, it will encourage players to replay the game by tackling certain challenges in different ways by using different strategies and characters, such as gaining entry to a castle by picking a lock on a gate rather than storming the keep, for instance. How will the game encourage players to seek creative solutions to challenges, and how will it reward players for replaying the game?
TC: With Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc, we wanted players to have different options for accomplishing key objectives throughout each of the scenarios, so we implemented several approaches to complete these objectives. Also, as players revisit each scenario, they will also note hidden elements that provide new ways to explore certain missions.
To expand further on this, let's look at the objective of breaching the defenses of an enemy castle. Two solutions would be to use siege units and transports by using the real-time strategy perspective to attack the castle walls, or you could seek out siege houses to build machines for you. However, the Duke of Alencon is also a siege engineer and can build siege machines in one of several resource locations, which provides another possibility for acquiring the hardware needed to penetrate castle fortifications.
Or, if they prefer, players can instead use either La Hire's devastating power attacks to directly strike at the castle gates, or players can use Joan of Arc's explosive arrows to tear down the enemy fortress. In essence, with every objective, there are at least four ways to reach the same goal. In addition, the game's mission maps are vast, and every path through them presents different challenges to encourage players to try different strategies each time they play a new game.
GS: We were intrigued to hear that the game is also planned for Microsoft's Xbox console. What changes are planned for that version? Any plans for exclusive content, like new levels or characters? How is the console version of the game being tweaked to work well with a gamepad rather than a keyboard and mouse (which seems like the best method for controlling real-time strategy games)?
TC: When we started the project, we already decided that the game would have PC and console versions. For the Xbox version, we plan to have some variations to the gameplay. At this time, we are still working with these additions, and it is still a bit early to openly announce them, as we're constantly making changes.
GS: We recently had a chance to play an early version of the PC game. How far along is Joan of Arc at this point? What parts of the game is the team working on now?
TC: At this stage in development, we are happy to say we are just about done with all feature programming, scripting, and artwork and are about ready to package everything up for a final test run. Provided there are no major issues, we will be able to release the game on schedule.
GS: And finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc?
TC: Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc is quite unlike any other action or strategy game on the market. At the onset of this project, we elected not to stick to an existing mold of gameplay and created what we believed would be the most compelling portrayal of playing as a warrior and a military leader in medieval time.
We have been faithful to our belief in the game design over the entire course of development, but we're aware that the new design approach represents some marketing risks, since the hybrid design may not generate immediate interest from hardcore action or strategy fans. We hope that people will be willing to try something different from the established genres, and we also hope that they'll play a game that we believe offers a truly outstanding gaming experience.
GS: Thanks, Trevor.