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Banner Saga 2 Interview at Rock Paper Shotgun

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Banner Saga 2 Interview at Rock Paper Shotgun

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 9 July 2015, 18:54:08

Tags: Arnie Jorgensen; Drew McGee; Stoic Studio; The Banner Saga 2

Rock Paper Shotgun's Philippa Warr spoke with Stoic's Arnie Jorgensen and Drew McGee about the upcoming Banner Saga 2 at E3 last month. Today, she got around to posting the resulting interview. Despite some excessive editorializing, it's a good summary of the game's innovations in the areas of combat, travel and choice & consequence. Here's an excerpt from the part about the combat:

At this point I bring up combat. I own Banner Saga on PC but I had been playing it on tablet during train journeys because it felt like a story I could sink into while travelling. Sometimes fellow travellers would peer over and try to see what I was doing. On one trip I turned my screen to let one of them – a pudgy-handed, grinning toddler – get a better look and try to “help” with a battle. But the tablet is outdated to the point where combat scenes now take minutes to load and so my progress had ground to a halt. I could boot up the PC version but the combat – the idea of repeatedly clearing all those battle boards of foes all over again – was putting me off. It’s not that the turn-based combat is bad – far from it – but it is repetitive, the same objective to be achieved over and over. I found that fights just slipped into this mush of actions, none sticking with me as particularly memorable or tense.

“One of the things we’ve seen a lot in comments is some of the combat felt a little slow, or not diverse enough so that was the number one thing we tackled,” says McGee. “No-one seems to have a problem with the type of heroes you can play as, it’s the type of enemies you’re fighting so we went through and thought where can we spend our budget to diversify that enemy base – give them new abilities, buffs… My whole thing was to give them a culture and really extrapolate on that to bring the Dredge to life.”

The team has also dedicated a lot of time to watching Let’s Plays of the first game, picking out where players hesitate or pause. “You see where they lose interest – you can hear it in their voice and see it in their mouse clicks,” says McGee.

“Now the combat boards are all going to be hand touched. They’re going to be scripted to really follow the narrative so it’s never going to be this situation where I’m just on a blank board with random spawners. The first battle you fight there, the tutorial, is you come upon this village that’s about to be sacked so the whole battleboard emulates that. There’s destructible barricades. That wasn’t in the first but it really provides a new layer to the strategy.”

At this point Jorgensen joins us. He has watched a lot of those Let’s Plays and says that the main takeaway from the first game for the team has been the need to work on switching up the combat..

“We’re going to have more win scenarios,” says Jorgensen. “We’re going to have a lot more variation in combat, not just ‘kill them all’. John [Watson, the lead programmer] did a whole new toolset for the engine so we can make it more scripted, so we’re going to be moving story through the combat.”

He goes on to elaborate on what McGee was saying about the tutorial/demo battle. “The whole thing feels a little more cinematic. We have destructibles now so you can put up barricades and have them broken. You can put up urns that are knocked over with coals that come out and affect the battlefield. We’re doing everything we can except for we’re still not doing height.

“That’s something a lot of people bring up but it would break our combat balance. Everything is so finely tuned with archers and they’re almost overpowered so if I game them height we’re done. I might as well only roll in with archers! Some people think it would make it more fun but it would really just break the game.”

Secondary characters have had their roles altered too. “What we used to get for war, it would just say ‘Here’s how many Dredge, here’s how many fighters’ and then you go into a fight. It didn’t feel very tactical or rewarding. This time it’s story based.

“You can get advisors now. In a war they might come up to you and say ‘You hold them off for a little while and I’ll come in and we’ll smash them from the back’ or it could change the win scenario or it could say ‘Let’s toss clansmen at them and run’.”
The part about travel mechanics is also pretty interesting, so check it out. Stoic would like to apply these improvements retroactively someday, in a unified version of the trilogy which might also feature full voice acting, but they have no definite plans to do so yet.

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