Exclusive Battle Brothers interview

all questions answered by Jan Taaks, Founding Partner and Managing Director at Overhype Studios

Elevator pitch:

Battle Brothers is a turn based strategy RPG mix which has you leading a mercenary company in a gritty, low-power, medieval fantasy world. You decide where to go, whom to hire or to fight, what contracts to take and how to train and equip your men in a procedurally generated open world campaign. Do you have what it takes to lead them through bloody battles and to victory?

The game consists of a strategic worldmap and a tactical combat layer. On the worldmap you can freely travel in order to take contracts that earn you good coin, find places worth looting, enemies worth pursuing or towns to resupply and hire men at. This is also where you manage, level up and equip your Battle Brothers. Once you engage a hostile party the game will switch to a tactical map where the actual fighting takes place as detailed turn based combat.


Q: What were your main inspirations for Battle Brothers?

A: The main idea behind the game was the original X-com from the 90ties which i consider one of the best games ever made. We wondered why nobody took the same concept but transferred it to a medieval/fantasy setting? This is how the idea for Battle Brothers was born.


As we went on with development other games also influenced development in certain aspects. Most importantly Mount & Blade, Jagged Alliance and Heroes of Might and Magic.


Q: What made you choose such a low fantasy, almost realistic setting?

A: We felt that there is an abundance of high-fantasy games out there with dragons, fireball throwing mages and crazy barbarians covered in spiky armor. We went more in the direction of Lotr where magic and fantasy races like orcs and goblins exist, but they do so in a very “realistic”, dark and gritty way.


On top of that, we are huge enthusiasts of medieval weapons and armor so we did want to keep them close to historical gear. We felt it also added a lot to the grim and dark atmosphere of the game where death is around every corner.


Q: Combat is a big part of battle brothers, was there any goal you wanted achieve in it’s design?

A: The tactical combat is actually the core of the game and we developed it into a working prototype before even starting with designing the worldmap. When starting out the main goal for us was to make the tactical combat challenging and fun. It is the core of the game and players will spend most time here so if the combat is not fun and engaging the whole game falls to pieces.


Regarding actual combat mechanics we decided to go with a classless system where the skills are granted by the type of weapons that are equipped. The player should be able to switch equipment on the fly and change his combat tactics without having to re-skill all his mercenaries or starting a new game. On top of that, we wanted to allow for as many viable equipment choices and tactical approaches as possible so that there is not one “dominant” strategy but each player can develop his own playstyle.


Q: The art for the game is amazing. What made you choose this style?

A: (Answer by Paul Taaks, Art Director):

The basic style of painting is just my personal favorite, so that’s easy to answer. The more interesting part is how we developed the depiction of characters and environments.

The current style of the game is the result of a long, almost evolutionary process.
Regarding the characters, the original idea was to have full body figures with animations, just like in the old Xcom: Enemy unknown.
Being a team of 3 we pretty soon realized that the resulting workload would crash the project, so we had to invent something that would give us a maximum of flexibility with a minimum of work.
That’s why we went with character busts. This way we can show all equipped items, injuries etc and don’t have to deal with work intensive animations.

Explaining how exactly the environment tiling works would go a bit too far, but we crafted a system consisting of tiles, transitions, details and objects to achieve a look that is as natural as possible. The organic environment enhances the immersion and takes away a bit of the “boardgamey” feel of the busts.


Q: What is early access like? Has it been good for the game?

A: Early Access is kind of a double edged sword. Originally, it was intended to help balance and test a game prior to release for a timeframe of maybe 3 months. It is only meant for companies that have the development fully funded and do not need the money from the EA.

However, many small companies use it to fund their running development over a long time and some of these fail, for whatever reason, and the game never get’s finished. There have been a lot of really bad things happen with EA titles over the past years but it also allowed for a lot of amazing games to be made.


For us it is a great thing as it both helps test and balance the game while funding further development so it is safe to say that without Early Access there would be no Battle Brothers.


Q: How has Battle Brothers changed since it’s inception?

A: A lot. It moved away from a pretty close copy of X-com mechanics towards a rather realistic medieval-mercenary-simulation. By now we feel that it is a very unique game and its origins are very hard to track down to a single game or other piece of inspiration.


The game further changed during the Early Access phase where we get constant feedback from players testing the game, finding inconsistencies, suggesting ideas, finding balance issues and so on. With the kind of iterative game development we are using the game is in a constant flow, it is “alive” if you will.


Q: What has been the biggest challenge you have during development? How did you overcome it?

A: We have been working on Battle Brothers for 4 years now, most of this time we were working normal day jobs and then work on Battle Brothers in the evenings and weekends. All while having only a very vague idea if the game will ever be successful.

The biggest challenge was keeping yourself motivated over all those years without giving up on the project or losing the drive to finish it. I think this is where most Indie-Game projects fail. What helped us keep going is the fact that we wanted to create a game that we want to play ourselves. So even if everything else fails we will still have created a great game for ourselves. If you are not 100% invested in the game you are making chances are it is not going to get finished. So as an advice to people thinking about making a game: Make a game that is exciting to you, a game that you really want to play and that you think will be amazing and that you are passionate about. You will lose motivation very quickly if you just make a “random game”.


Q: Anything exciting coming soon?

A: We just published a big Worldmap Update that changes around the whole strategic part of the game. Right now we are adding different combat environments and more contracts to the game so there is something new in the game every other week.


Q: Do you have a release date yet?

A: Definitely 2016 but we have not decided on a final release date.


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