DevDiary 02 - World Setting and Size
Hello friends, and welcome to our second “Knights of Honor II: Sovereign” DevDiary! Today we’re going to take a look at the world of KoH2:S.
One of the very first steps for us was to choose the time period our game takes place in. Setting the rough boundaries was rather easy, considering this was something we definitely wanted to preserve from the first game. We could hardly pick a more appropriate period than High and Late Middle Ages for a game with that title, right? These were the glorious days of knights, central to the KoH series, and everything that goes with them – epic battles and sieges, crusades, intricate diplomacy, court intrigues, and clashes between kingdoms, cultures and religions all over Europe and the Old World!
Within that period, allowing players to choose from several starting points in time seemed like a good feature. After all, we had this 15 years ago and variety in game settings and modes has only become more important for gamers since then. This allows us to add more interesting setups for conflicts and give the players more options to take control of a wider variety of kingdoms. One of many examples is the choice between Byzantium or the Latin empire we would have to make if we had just one starting setup, since the second one emerged from the ashes of the first – and we wouldn’t like to exclude either of them from the game.
So, after making a thorough research pass, we chose three starting points in which the historical maps looked most interesting to us – the beginning of the 12th century, the 20s of the 13th century and the middle of the 14th. Only the first of those differs significantly from the starting points in the first game, but it seemed extremely appealing to make the change, what with the tension between Christians and the Baltic and Finnish pagans, the Crusader states in the Holy Lands, the fragile balance of power on the Iberian Peninsula, the massive strength of Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire, and many others.
Since we realized there can never be a definitive answer to the question “which is the most interesting moment in the Middle Ages”, and since there are players who like to get creative and set up their own starting conditions, we are doing our best to provide some options to customize their experience, especially through mods. Modders will be able to change the political scenery and define which kingdoms participate, what provinces they control, what religions they follow, who are their rulers and so on. Whether the players like to recreate a specific historical time period or devise a fantasy Europe with House Lannister or Mordor in it, it will be up to them. Elaborate modding possibilities proved to be quite fun for many in the first game, so we plan to give even more control for your ideas and imagination in KoH2:S.
Choosing how big the map will be and what territories to include was an entirely different and more significant challenge, since the map size impacts not only the overall feel of the game, but the gameplay as well. One of the things we felt we might improve from the first game was including Arabia, in order to provide a more complete picture of the Old World and make it fun to play with Islamic kingdoms. Thus, we stretched the map to the east and a bit to the south so that Arabian cities with great significance, like Mecca, Medina and Baghdad, are included in our game world.
At some places we “cheated” the geography a bit for the sake of gameplay, which is the number one priority for us. For example, we enlarged Rhodes so we had enough space to place the city and some settlements, since it was a historically important landmark and we wanted it to be part of the game. Another example is the decision to slightly shrink the Arabian Peninsula, so that the map does not stretch too far east or south, opening vast empty spaces. After all, Africa was called the “Dark Continent” at that time because too little was known about the area and it wouldn’t make too much sense to have a lot of playable provinces there, nor would it be fun to conquer the barely inhabited, but immense, Sahara Desert. Almost the same goes for the north-eastern parts of the North European Plains.
Since it is hard to estimate which world size and province count would provide the best experience prior to testing the game in its entirety, we initially left the question open. We really wanted to fine tune and iterate on the map several times. We even asked for our community’s opinion on the topic through a somewhat hidden way, by asking a general question in a Facebook post early last year. To remain agile and alter the map throughout development, we invested a lot of time in making a proper map-creation kit. One cool example is an automation tool that generating borders between provinces automatically, based on settlements and terrain features like mountains and rivers. We were very pleased to see how well it worked on most places. Here is one example – Trebizond, entirely auto-generated:
The actual territory of the Kingdom:
In our social media channels, many people ask what the size of provinces are. To be honest, there really isn’t an exact answer to this question. In densely populated regions they are smaller, and vice versa – there are some pretty large provinces in Sahara and the lands furthest to the north. Larger territories are harder to conquer, since armies will need more time to reach their targets, but due to the same reason, these territories are harder to defend. It is not only the size of a province that matters, though, but also its settlements and the resources that can be found in it. A smaller province can sometimes be richer in all aspects than a larger one.
We wanted to share a few words regarding the historical accuracy, as well. We’ve put quite some effort this time around to improve here, as we know there were some mistakes in the first game. For example, there were some cities in the original KoH which did not exist in the corresponding time period. While our game is more a fun sandbox than a history lesson, we know it can be an immersive experience to rewrite history from a more accurate starting point. This task is quite hard, since some territories were in very complex states of rulership, and little is known for others. Even historians argue over territorial specifics, but we can say we’ve done our best and surely those who care about that side of the game will be able to see the difference.
We hope we’ve managed to answer some of your questions about the game world of KoH2:S. If you want to learn more, join our DevStream on this topic on Thursday, January 9th, @ 3:00 PM GMT / 10:00 AM EST. The Twitch stream will be hosted on the THQ Nordic channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic and we’ll be grabbing responses from this post as well as answering questions live during the stream.
So, jump right into the discussion and share your thoughts in this thread, or join our Facebook and Discord channels and talk there too. We’d be glad to hear what is your “perfect” moment in the medieval history of Europe, what Kingdoms you want to lead or oppose, and what are your preferences of the game world size and province count.
Next time we will dive deeper into the heart of the game and talk about the Royal Court – the King and his trusted knights. Until then, we bid thee farewell. Go forth and conquer!