Interview: We chat with Torn Banner Studios about Chivalry: Medieval Warfare

We have seen our share of sci-fi or WWII or modern day first person action games, but its the gaming world ready for one set in the Middle Ages? Torn Banner Studios hopes so. This small independent team first made a popular mod for Half-Life 2 called Age of Chivalry that took that idea of putting players in the roles of knights in armor, fighting with swords and other weapons and ran with it. Now the team is working on a stand alone Unreal Engine 3 game with the same theme called Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. The game is due to be released later this fall and the team has recently started taking sign-ups to test early versions of the game.

We got a chance to ask some questions to Steve Piggott, the president of Torn Banner Studios, as he talks about the gameplay features in Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, including the fact that you can decapitate your enemies, among other things.

First, how did the idea for the original Chivalry mod for Half-life begin?

Our passion for the idea came from watching epic medieval (and pre-medieval) movies like Gladiator, 300 and King Arthur. We wanted to bring that intensity and those iconic medieval battlefields to the hands of a gamer. I think the reason we decided we were the ones that had to do it was from our frustration as gamers that there wasn't a game out there that was doing first person melee combat well, especially in multiplayer. So we set out to make the game of our dreams ourselves.

How did the idea come about to make it a stand alone game for Unreal Engine 3?

In 2009 and 2010, Age of Chivalry (The former project, HL2 mod) became very popular on Steam and we got a lot of positive feedback on the game. This really built up our confidence and we hoped that by creating a standalone commercial product we could reach the quality we had wanted to with Age of Chivalry. Using UE3 became an obvious choice when Epic announced its UDK (Unreal Development Kit) was moving to royalty based fees, allowing independent developers to push a lot of the risk to the back end, after release.

A medieval setting is certainly a different way to make a first person action game. Besides the setting, what makes Chivalry different than other FPS games?

Everything. Although the control scheme is designed to feel familiar to FPS players, the game offers a wealth of truly unique and exciting experiences. The amount of combat options and the furious pace players exchange blows at makes for intense and visceral battles that require both strategy and reflexes to come out on top. The biggest difference from FPS games is that in Chivalry, you can't just shoot an enemy in the back from 300 feet away with a sniper rifle. Instead you have to go in there and smash his face in up close while he desperately tries to fight you off and defend himself. So the combat has a much more gritty, personal feel to it, and when you do hack your opponent down you know that you have bested him- and he knows it too.

What kinds of swords and other melee weapons will we see in Chivalry: Medieval Warfare?

There is a massive arsenal in Chivalry, featuring 60 brutal and iconic medieval weapons. Everything from Swords, spears and longbows to battleaxes, huge two-handed swords and warhammers. The best part about the variety of weapons is that each one feels completely different and will promote a different playstyle. So if you use a Halberd or other polearm you have a reach advantage and want to keep enemies to the outside and use your distance, whereas if you have a mace, you might want to get in close and overwhelm your opponent berserker style.

How hard is it to make a game that focuses on melee combat, as opposed to shooting guns?

Very difficult, when you throw first-person and multiplayer into the mix anyway, which is why I think most studios have avoided it. I think melee combat has a stereotype attached to it and a lot of people don't think it can be done well in First-person or in multiplayer, because melee in most games is very simplistic and doesn't offer enough feedback to the player. Melee in other games also often lacks much strategy and you don't have the ability to become masters at the game and excel over other players. With Chivalry its almost like we've had to make a fighting game, RPG game and FPS game all into one because of the level of depth in the combat and how it also allows for fast-paced and responsive controls.

What other types of weapons and items will we see in the game?

Siege weapons including catapults, ballista, battering rams, siege towers and boiling oil which can create epic castle sieges and let you rain destruction upon your enemies. There is also support weapons for certain classes that include things like fire pots which act like a moltov cocktail to break up enemy formations, different types of arrowheads that perform better or worse against certain armour types and even pavise shields which can be stuck in the ground and act as mobile cover for archer units.

What can you tell us about the kinds of combo attacks you can generate?

Our Free-form dynamic combination system allows players to chain attacks (and blocks) together in any order they choose in real time. This means no memorizing button sequences and no quicktime events, instead you choose each individual action in real time for precise and full control of your combinations. Want to swing again instead of bringing your sword back to its starting point? Press one of the attack buttons before your current swing ends and your weapon will flow into the next strike!

What other features do you think are important?

Medieval times was a brutal and gruesome era, we don't try to hide that. You'll begin to realize that when you note that in Chivalry you can decapitate your opponent, knock his helmet off and crush his skull, or even sever any of his legs and arms with a strike that lands on a joint.

What is the current status of the game's development and when will it be released?

Chivalry is currently in late alpha stages of development and is expected to release for PC on Steam this fall. We are also hoping to do a beta in the summer, openings will be announced on our website, www.ChivalrytheGame.com

Finally, is there anything else you want to say about Chivalry: Medieval Warfare?

I wanted to talk a bit about the variety of game modes that players can expect, which include the standard team death match and elimination style modes but also Free for all ,which basically turns into a giant meat grinder with everyone killing everyone everywhere and our most unique game mode, Team Objective. In Team Objective, players complete iconic medieval tasks in ruthless medieval fashion, you might expect to besiege a castle one map, assassinate enemy royalty the next and raid and pillage a medieval village, complete with slaughtering villagers and setting the town on fire in another. If Chivalry sounds like something you might be interested in, please help us make the game by connecting with us on the forums, we are very active there and genuinely care about our community.

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