Henrik Fåhraeus as a Project Manager from the Paradox Interactive team in this Interview answers our questions about the development of historical Strategy sequel named Crusader Kings II, where you take on the role of a medieval lord to struggle for building up the power of your dynasty.
The Swedish company Paradox Interactive is not only a well-known European game publisher, but an experienced game developer as well, which creates notable complex Geopolitical Strategies. Indeed, this genre’s audience is more limited than for traditional RTS titles, however, still there is a considerable number of fans in the niche contributing their ideas to the internal Paradox development studio, which is currenly finishing all the preparations for the Crusader Kings II (2012) upcoming launch helping you go Medieval once again.
Working with making such a game world usually begins with a comprehensive research of the appropriate historical, where the developers try to build reflect as many connections to the real history as possible for a game to have. Then some existing rulers and characters can find their way into the Strategy gameplay. Year by year, the threshold of such titles accessibility improves with changes introduced to the graphics engine and to the interface presenting an array of helpful training scenarios.
One of the branches in a series of historical games from Paradox Interactive is entirely devoted to the period of the Middle Ages. The game Crusader Kings (2004) does not look like a close relative of Europa Universalis (2000), at least because the level of governing here comes down just to one medieval Lord and his family instead of presenting the ruler of the whole big nation. In the sequel named Crusader Kings II you will encounter various innovations, which were covered in details in the following Interview with the Lead Designer of the game, also engaged in many other work activities in the Swedish company.
- Greetings! Please, introduce yourself.
- My name is Henrik Fåhraeus, and I’m an Associate Producer and Senior Programmer at Paradox Interactive. Currently, I am the Project Lead and Lead Designer of Crusader Kings II.
- Give us some background about your career in the game industry.
- I’ve worked on games for Paradox since Europa Universalis II (2001). I started out as a scripter and general programmer, and went on to do a lot of design and AI programming.
- What are the unique features of the Crusader Kings franchise?
- Crusader Kings II is unique in that it is heavily character driven. You do not play a country, but a character with a distinct personality and ambitions. You want to ensure the greatness of your dynasty, regardless of which titles it happens to control at the time.
- What main challenges have you encountered during the development of Crusader Kings II?
- Making the game easy to learn, but hard to master has probably been the main challenge. Another one has been performance: there is such an enormous amount of characters in the game, each with their own AI.
- What is the setting for the new game in terms of its history timeline and game world events taking place?
- The game starts in 1066 and ends in 1453, the year that Constantinople fell in real history. Players in Crusader Kings II can start at any specific date between 1066 and 1337 and the world will look as it actually did. But when you press «Play», all bets are off and history might well take a very different course.
- What historical research have you conducted for the upcoming sequel in Crusader Kings II?
- We’ve done an enormous amount of research into the medieval noble houses, ensuring that all the historical rulers and their relations to each other are in there.
- Will we meet any well-known political figures during the game?
- Oh, definitely! El Cid, King Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, Timur, etc. Basically, all the major and most minor rulers of the period are in Crusader Kings II.
- What familiar features from the original game will we see returning to Crusader Kings II?
- On a basic level the gameplay remains the same. You play a ruler with vassals, go off on crusades, make war, expand your territory and accrue Prestige and Piety.
- Tell us about the updated Tutorial section. How will it aid the newcomers?
- The tutorial in Crusader Kings II is very similar to the one in Victoria II (2010). You go through it chapter by chapter, covering all areas of the game in turn.
- In what ways is it possible to alter the in-game difficulty in Crusader Kings II?
- There is a setting to increase the difficulty by giving the AI various bonuses. Of course, you can also start the game as a more challenging character, for example, a lowly count of a single county.
- What are the main new features that made their way to the upcoming game?
- Here’s the list:
- Start at any date;
- New Combat System;
- More events, more characters;
- Religious Investiture and Religious Authority;
- You can send your councillors on jobs on the map;
- Characters have ambitions, clear opinions and will plot against each other;
- There are a number of baronies in each county, ruled by barons in Crusader Kings II.
- How does the Economy model work in the sequel, and what resources are used to determine the total wealth of a player’s faction in Crusader Kings II?
- The economy is based on taxing the population of the baronies. Vassals pay taxes to their liege according to the Laws of the Realm. So, your main source of income is direct tax from your own baronies, and the tax from your vassals, though noble lords normally are tax exempt.
- What is special about the Religion’s role this time in its influence on the gameplay?
- The religions are all different in Crusader Kings II. Some have a formal head (Caliph, Pope, etc.), others don’t (Pagans). Players can make requests of the religious head, such as having another character excommunicated, getting a divorce, or permission to invade another realm. Catholicism is a bit special due to the investiture conflict – who appoints bishops, the Pope or the secular liege? Catholic bishops loyal to the Pope will not pay taxes to their liege, nor provide him with their troop levies. Each religion also has a Moral Authority, which is how well respected the church is. At lower levels, the religion is more susceptible to heresies.
- Can you describe various possible ways to expand a player’s realm in Crusader Kings II?
- The main way is still military conquest. If you have a claim on a title, you can press it in a war. Of course, you don’t need a claim to attack infidels and heretics. You can also invite claimants to your court and press their claims. The other way of expanding is more peaceful; the marriage game. If you, for example, marry a Duchess, your oldest son might inherit both realms, and since you will play him when your current character dies, you will gain territory.
- How has the AI evolved in the sequel?
- The AI has not «evolved» in this case; it is completely new in Crusader Kings II and roughly based on the one in Europa Universalis:Rome – Vae Victis (2008). It should provide a better challenge than AI of the old Crusader Kings (2004) game.
- What have you changed for the interface of Crusader Kings II?
- It’s a completely new interface, most similar to the one in Sengoku (2011). It’s cleaner and more user friendly.
- How much moddable will the upcoming title be?
- We love «moddability», and Crusader Kings II will be just as moddable as our other titles, with an open data format and core game constants exported to text files.
- What Multiplayer options will Crusader Kings II offer?
- Up to 32 players can play together in pausable realm-time over the Internet or LAN, picking any character they like.
- How has the presentation of the Campaign Map changed?
- We have completely new, beautiful 3D map. The terrain map in Crusader Kings II is more useful, since borders between realms are colored by their coats of arms. Things that go on in the world are shown with animated graphics: buildings being constructed, sieges, disease outbreaks, etc.
- Who is the composer of Crusader Kings II? What is the music like considering that players will spend hundreds of hours and more listening to it?
- The music in the sequel is composed by the very talented Andreas Waldetoft, who has done the music for most of our games. It is orchestral with a medieval ambience.
- When selecting a faction in the game, we hear music notes playing and uniting into a melody with further clicks. How did you come up with this cool idea to use music here instead of traditionally simple audio effects?
- It was a stroke of genius by composer Andreas Waldetoft. I don’t know how he came up with it for Crusader Kings II. Perhaps, an apple fell on his head.
- We really enjoyed watching your promotional videos featuring the Royal Sins. Can you tell us more about their filming for Crusader Kings II?
- We’re really happy with how those videos turned out, because they were actually kind of a gamble. The main cast and creators were film students and aspiring actors keen to be given a serious project so they could prove themselves. We just handed over the scripts, they leapt into action and you can see the results yourself.
- What features of the sequel do you like the most?
- I am very pleased with the opinion system in Crusader Kings II, where characters have reasons for their liking or loathing other characters. They carry grudges and will act accordingly. I also love trying to make the most of marriages, gaining alliances or inheriting territory.
- What are your favorite video games of all time?
- I don’t play «video games», I play computer games. [Smiles]. That said, I have so many favorites it’s hard to list just a few, but here is a small selection: The Lords of Midnight (1984), Warlords (1989), Civilization (1991), Ultima VII: The Black Gate (1992), Master of Magic (1994), UFO: Enemy Unknown (2004) и Mass Effect (2007).
- Name 3 things you associate with Russia.
- Winter. Communism. Resilience.
- Thanks, Henrik!
- Thank you for your interest and I hope you will enjoy Crusader Kings II as much as I do!
Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings II:
The sequel to the Crusader Kings (2004) historical Strategy game. Europe is in turmoil once again. The lands are fragmented into petty fiefs, the emperor struggles with the Pope, and the Holy Father declares that all those who go to liberate the Holy Land will be freed of their sins. Now is the time for greatness. Increase your lands and fill your coffers, appoint vassals, battle traitors, introduce laws while interacting with hundreds of nobles, and create the most powerful dynasty of medieval Europe.
A beleaguered king will always have friends to support him in Crusader Kings II. Though beware, as your rule and realm may find trouble when a loyal vassal becomes a bitter rival. Stand ready, increase your prestige, and listen to the world whisper your name in awe. The game explores one of the defining periods in world history in an experience crafted by the masters of Grand Strategy. Medieval Europe is brought to life in the epic title with notable strategic and tactical depth.
Key Game Features:
- Struggle with the Pope for control of the Bishops;
- Expand your feudal domain at the expense of your rivals;
- Start a game in 1066 and forge 400 years of European history;
- Relive the Middle Ages with up to 32 other players in a competitive multiplayer mode;
- Unravel the plots of your courtiers and vassals, each armed with their unique agendas in Crusader Kings II;
- Re-enact the Crusades, defend against the Mongol onslaught, and form feudal nation-states;
- Gather Prestige for every successive character you play, furthering the glory of your dynasty;
- Take on the role of a Christian noble in Crusader Kings II and carry them through the ages from Count to Emperor via the line of succession.