IGM Interviews – Animus Interactive (Avalon Lords)
It’s always impressive to see an indie team tackle a project that is simply massive in scope. And when it comes to game genres, they don’t make ‘em much bigger in scope than the MMO. Avalon Lords, the premiere project in development from the team at Animus Interactive, is not only a massive undertaking due to its status as an MMORTS, but also because of its decision to throw thousands of units on-screen at once, battling in 3D. As if that wasn’t enough, the team is focused on beautiful world-building that ties in tightly-wound lore about the people of Avalon. I recently spoke with the team about how the game is shaping up, their decision to tackle an MMORTS, and about their recently-launched Kickstarter campaign.
IGM: Avalon Lords is the debut title for Animus Interactive. That said, an MMORTS is an awfully ambitious endeavor to work on right out of the gate. What makes the team confident you guys can deliver a worthwhile experience?
Animus Interactive: Everyone says “you’re crazy for making an MMO as your first game” and yes, they’re right. An MMO is one of the most difficult pieces of software anyone can work on. So, ok we’re crazy, but we’re all fanatical about the MMORTS genre, and about the vision we have for this game. We have passion, skill and experience on our side, and team members who’ve helped make great MMOs in the past. David Wu, our CTO, was the CTO on Halo Guardians and of the team that made Halo 4, and has done all sorts of other difficult technical things. CEO Frank Cefalu was the development team lead at Major League Gaming. Our lead developer Randy Johns worked on DC Universe Online among other titles. Tim Hays, our AI scientist, has worked on Club Penguin, a children’s MMO, among other major projects. Art Director Fredrik Larsson worked on Battlefield 4 at DICE before leaving EA for happier pastures. Our other team members have worked on a variety of less well-known titles.
Great, right? But can we make an amazing game as a team – that’s the question. Look at the quality of the work we’ve produced so far and tell us what you think. We’ve already done a huge amount with a very small budget and bucketloads of devotion to our game’s vision.
IGM: Walk me through a player’s first day as a Lord or Lady of Avalon. How does their journey begin?
AI: You start as the leader of a handful of peasants and fighters that are scattered over some land – your land. You will be prompted by a tutorial to explore the landscape a bit, build a town hall wherever you think best, and get to work. You will get some free resources to start off with, but you’ll need to find out which parts of your land are best for resource-gathering, set up warehouses and start building your city.
The landscape will play a large role in Avalon Lords. Recruit some scouts to patrol your borders and start thinking about where you will build walls and towers, maybe build some watchtowers on top of hills. Forests could provide cover for enemy troops. Mountains could be good defensive barriers.
Once you’ve set up some basic resource-gathering systems and defenses, it’s time to explore the social scene. Global chat, guild chat and small-group chat is half the fun of any MMO. There shouldn’t be too much trash-talk on the very first day… right?
IGM: Tell me a bit more about each of the three Great Orders of Avalon. What is their significance to the lore, and what are the gameplay benefits/drawbacks of each?
AI: The three Great Orders are designed to be as different from each other as possible. Starting off in the heartland of Avalon we have the Order of Dawn, a faction designed to be fast and mobile. They want to bring back Avalon’s Golden Age, when the God King Lutherian the First brought the three Great Orders together to form a peaceful union. Next you’ll meet the fearsome giants of the Order of Darkness, who have retreated to their mountain home in anger after being unjustly blamed for the Fall of Avalon. They’re the most technologically advanced faction, with incredible fortitude and inventiveness in battle. The third and most unpredictable faction is the Order of the Divine, a race of powerful magic users whose sole aim is to gain power. They can assemble some awesome firepower, but quite a few of them are completely insane.
The Great Orders are not traditional RPG style factions – players are not restricted to allying only with their own kind, but can make up mixed Empires to fight for domination. While each has some inherent pride in their roots, in these dark days it’s every Lord for himself. Each faction will have its own homeland, which they are not restricted to, and a set of unique Elite Units to compliment the standard units. They also have different physical appearances, architecture and styles.
We’ll be bringing out more stories about the Great Orders and their units in the run up to launch, but you can read about them here.
IGM: What are the differences between the game’s Standard and Hardcore modes?
AI: This is still in development. We’ll have more info later.