Conqueror's Blade Interview on Forging a New Experience
It has been a couple of weeks since the Conqueror’s Blade House CBT downed swords and we all limped back to lick our wounds. While the battlefield remains relatively peaceful for now, the team behind My.com’s newest MMORPG are not away on R&R. Instead, they’ve been busily working on internal tests and processing the data they gathered over an intensive testing run, over the start of this year. While we had the chance, we sat down and spoke to Xi Wang from Booming Games, the blacksmiths forging this brand-new experience.
MMORPG: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. For everyone here and our readers, could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do at Booming Games?
Xi: Sure, I am Xi from Booming Games. We are the studio that has been working hard to develop Conqueror's Blade, and I am the Lead Producer of this title.
MMORPG: First of all, I’d like to ask why make Conqueror’s Blade?
Xi: Well, there is definitely a personal element to this. I am a huge fan of ancient warfare. As a kid, I’d play a lot of games about this type of warfare, not only on the computer but on paper too.
I always had this fantasy of being a General in ancient times. As I studied computers and learned how to make games, I still had that desire to make a game that really makes you feel like you are a General in ancient times. In this game, you could be on the battlefield, fighting with tens of thousands of other gamers. You could be united together with your own strategy and tactics. It is all these ideas that pushed everyone here towards the concept of building Conqueror's Blade
MMORPG: What sorts of games influenced you when making the game?
Xi: First of all, what we are trying to create in Conqueror’s Blade is a war sandbox. We would hate for players to be trapped by the decisions of the game’s designers, even though we are the designers.
On the computer, I loved playing Age of Empires. When I played it, I was amazed by the diversity of the civilizations involved. That led us to think, what if you are not a god, all the way above these events but on the ground and fighting with units, as events occur. After playing games like Dynasty Warrior, that have an action combat system, it became clear that this definitely presented an opportunity to combine the two styles of game together.
All of these games that we played and loved growing up helped to give us inspiration and guidance when making Conqueror’s Blade.
MMORPG: What were the challenges for you in doing this?
Xi: Taking all these ideas and translating them into a video game is a considerable challenge. If you asked me, as a designer or developer, what game you would make with infinite time and infinite money, that gives you an idea of the scale of the challenges.
Even just the founding Booming Games had difficulties, we had to find the right people. We had to convince those people to trust us and commit to this new studio. We did not even have a game engine in the beginning. We wrote our own CHAOS engine. This is a brand new game, so the core mechanics have never been created before, so there isn’t the same reference point as an off the shelf engine might have. It meant that while we could take ideas from here and there, combining them might end up being disastrous. So, it has taken us years to find out what exactly is suitable for Conqueror’s Blade.
I think that the biggest challenge for the team as a whole over the last two or three years has been navigating this without any map.
MMORPG: You noted this is a new game and you have to find the right people. How did you overcome those problems founding Booming Games?
Xi: It is all about passion. We have a lot of staff in our studio now that were attracted by the demo and the early stages of the game. For many of them, they saw the trailer and became interested in the studio because of what we are producing.
Forging the Ultimate Weapon
MMORPG: Why Build Conqueror’s Blade in your own CHAOS engine rather than an off the shelf engine?
Xi: That's an excellent question. We did a great deal of research on what was available on the shelf before deciding to make our own engine. In the end, when we realized what kind of world we needed to create, we had to develop our own in-house technology to support thousands of units on the screen.
Off the shelf, engines are perfectly good at what they do. I used to work on FPS games, and these might have only one hundred characters in a level. These units wouldn't do anything particularly complicated, just die and respawn, over and over again. In Conqueror's Blade, you are facing one thousand units and over thirty gamers connected at any one time. In the open world, you will even find thousands of gamers out in the open world.
If you go out into the open world, Conqueror's Blade is massive, and the world has to support every one of our gamers to play at the same time. When you are out there, you can travel seamlessly from one land to another. So, this whole architecture on the client and server side is brand new. We really had no choice once you consider this. In the end, we have to make our own black magic to allow this to happen.
MMORPG: Lag in massively open world battles is almost always going to happen. How did you address the lag issue in the open world and in siege warfare?
Xi: There are so many things to deal with here. First of all, there is the challenge of just rendering a thousand characters. If you take a look, you will find a lot of detail from the characters, to the animation. Now, if you fire a cannon in the middle of a swarm of these units, the units will be blown away, structures could be destroyed, and it is a very sophisticated system that can combine the animation and the underlying physics engine to represent this on a screen to the player. That is the core of the challenge.
We are also working on a PC game, so we have no real idea about the specification of the machine being used by each gamer. To allow as many people to play as possible, we need to tune the game towards the capability of a low spec pc, which is another major challenge.
Even with all these issues solved on the client side, when people connect across the internet, we need to share the status of the one thousand units in a battle, multiple times each second. As you can imagine this is incredibly stressful for the bandwidth on any network. This caused us some problems early on. Initially, we used to share too much data about the battle, and the network carrier actually ended up complaining because we utilized all their available bandwidth.
Overcoming this problem is something that we are so proud of. As far as I know, Conqueror’s Blade is the only game that can support so many units in intense combat situations. Everything that happens in Conqueror's Blade occurs so quickly, and the synchronization of data across the game's network has to happen swiftly and efficiently.
MMORPG: Does the development of the CHAOS engine in house mean you have more control over what information you choose to share between clients?
Xi: Yes, absolutely.
MMORPG: Game development is not always a simple process. Are there any times you have had to set a limit on your ambition to get the game developed?
Xi: Yes, this is a common challenge for all game developers. When you work on a game, you have a real passion for it, and you feel an obligation to our audience. We spend time reading feedback from players every single day. We may be silent, but we do read as much as we can. As we read that feedback, we see a lot of anticipation, requests, and complaints and we totally understand this. When we revealed our plan to have immersive ancient warfare, this sparks so many ideas about what we can do. As a developer, however, we only have the resource and time to do so much, and as a result, we have to be really selective and focus on certain things.
You have to pick and choose elements that you know are going to work. Some of the things that are that are really cool, and exciting, sometimes you have to skip those to get things done. That is the biggest job of any producer, focusing the resources of the studio on the most critical sections of the game.
For Conqueror's Blade, we spent maybe three years at the start in what we call the reckless expansion phase. We introduced a lot of crazy ideas into the game, and there came the point where we had all these features and ideas, but we had limited resources. We had to start deciding what to keep and what to cut. Now, the focus of Conqueror's blade will be on the incredible core combat systems. We want players to feel like they, their house, and their troops are all pushing the boundary of their own frontier. We want them to be able to use their own tactics as they go into battle. When you get into the game and see players in battle, lined up with incredible discipline and pushing forward together at the right time, it is one of the best things about Conqueror’s Blade. You just cannot get this from other games.
The other big challenge is keeping focus when developing the larger territory war. When developing the open world, there are so many ideas about what you can do. You can have trading, you can have crafting, you can have all those elements, yet the focus of Conqueror's Blade has to be that players can gather together and siege a city. If they choose to gather together and siege a city for the week, then we need to make sure that, for them, the game is exciting and engaging. That is so important.
Everything we do now is focused on these two critical points.