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Stronghold 3

Developer: Firefly Studios
International Publisher: SouthPeak Games
Russian Publisher: 1C-SoftClub
Official Website: English
Genres: Strategy / RTS / Builder / Medieval
Platforms: PC
MultiPlayer: Internet (8)
Release Date: 18.10.2011
Russian Release: Q4 of 2011
Our Score:
n/a

Stronghold 3. Interview with Simon Bradbury, Firefly Studios

Stronghold 3 is an upcoming RTS-strategy game to be released in the midst October, which will be another title in the famous castle building franchise set in the medieval times. The line-up presents a greatly balanced mix between managing your settlement’s economy and waging wars. This year its developers also presented their new online and free to play MMORTS-game – Stronghold Kingdoms (2011).

You can now find The Wolf, the well-known villain of the Stronghold series, on Twitter, sharing his evil plans and comments with the fans. Meanwhile, we caught up with Simon Bradbury, the Co-founder and CEO of the UK-based Firefly Studios, who is also the Lead Designer of Stronghold 3, to discuss many notable improvements introduced in this game.

- Hello! Please, introduce yourself to our readers.

Simon Bradbury (Firefly Studios)- Hello! My name is Simon Bradbury and I’m the Lead Designer on Stronghold 3.

- Give us some background about your career in the game industry.

- I started in the late 80′s in the days when I could code, design and do the art for a game in two months!  I had a long spell freelancing for Impressions games where I coded and designed the Caesar (1992-1999) series of games (1-3), then set up Firefly with Eric Ouellette in 1999 to produce Stronghold (2001). In all I think I have worked on more than 40 games!

- Share with us some Firefly Studios news about your recent activities.

- We’re currently hard at work putting the finishing touches to Stronghold 3 ready for release this autumn. We have also recently launched our online free to play game  – Stronghold Kingdoms.

- This year the Stronghold game series can celebrate its 10th Anniversary. Looking back all the way through to its development roots, what achievements are you proud of the most?

- I am very proud of the big technical hurdles that we have always managed to overcome to produce the Stronghold titles. Other RTS games are much simpler to make! Stronghold not only combines two game genres (an RTS with a Builder game), but dealing with the path-finding needs of a castle builder game (where we encourage players to block off many areas or allow troops to walk on walls and gates for example) are a big technical challenge that we always need to overcome. Especially, now in Stronghold 3, where we allow any angle walls.

- How long has Stronghold 3 been in the works? Were there any ideas you had to turn down?

- Stronghold 3 has been in development for over two years. Our main goal for the game was to take the series back to basics, in some respects. We wanted to create something that was closer in spirit to the original Stronghold, rather than the perhaps too complex Stronghold 2 (2005). We always get a load of ideas from fans, for example – but the ones that we tend to use are the simple ones – that add polish to the game, the one we turn down tend to be the big ones that would turn the game into something else .

- The rich history of Medieval Ages could be a great source for castle design ideas and clever battle tactics. What historical research have you conducted when developing Stronghold 3?

- You’re absolutely right, the medieval period is an exceptionally rich period for inspiration. Before we even started developing the original Stronghold, a lot of us at the studio had a real passion for castles and were extremely interested the in Dark Ages. Growing up in England means that you often go on school trips to castles or have days out to some pretty amazing fortifications – so it’s not unusual that so many people have an interest in them. Of course, we do a lot of research for the games and have probably over 200 books about medieval castles, life in the office.

Something that’s really helped to create the historical castles in Stronghold 3 is Google Maps. Using the satellite view means you can really get a great bird’s eye view of castles, which helps us to accurately recreate the surrounding area and you can even see the lasting effects the castle has had on the environment – which means we know almost exactly where to place walls or towers!

- What gameplay modes will be available in single-player?

- In the single-player we have several different modes: a Tutorial (for the few people who have never played one of the many wonderful Stronghold games), the military campaign, an economic campaign, free-build mode and the historical castles. [Smiles]. We reckon that to complete everything it’ll take you well over 50 hours!

- The economy system is one of the most exciting features of the Stronghold series. What important improvements can you speak of regarding this portion of Stronghold 3 gameplay?

- The economy system is a huge part of the Stronghold series and I think, this is one of the many reasons why the games have remained so popular. With strategy games, most either specialise in real-time combat (e.g. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War [2004], StarCraft [1998]) or they’re a gentler simulation (e.g. Settlers 7 [2010], Tropico [2001]). However, with Stronghold we’ve got a finely balanced mix of both because to create a decent sized army, you’ve got to have a fully functioning village in Stronghold 3 to supply your troops with resources or new soldiers.

One big change is to popularity which uses the Stronghold Kingdoms model – which is more fixed and controllable – in some ways it’s a small change but it has a big effect and we all much prefer it to the old system. It also allows us to use events more creatively and players will find that events play a bigger part in the game  – not just in shaking up popularity but also visually  – so if you get a royal visit event for example  – you get a fixed +50 to popularity, but you also get a king coming out of the keep to wave at his subjects who will wave flags back at him energetically.

To be honest for Stronghold 3 one of the biggest improvements is to ensure the economic side of the game isn’t too complicated! In Stronghold 2 we added too many elements to the economic element, which actually distracted the player from the game. A good example of this is the crime system, which meant you were forced to place certain buildings (guard post, jail, court house and torture equipment) just to stop people stealing things from the granary. The problem with this is that players had to make sure they had these buildings, potentially at the expense of other things they wanted to include in their village. So (for example), we’ve removed the crime system from Stronghold 3 to make sure the player isn’t forced to place anything and can concentrate on building their village how they want.

Another small but interesting change is housing, now when you place hovels, the amount of peasants that can live in them changes depending upon how close you build them to the keep. Houses that are very close will have 10 inhabitants, whereas those placed further away might only have one. We wanted to do this because in previous Stronghold games it didn’t matter where you put hovels, so everyone would put them in unrealistic locations (on top of cliffs, on islands) so they didn’t get destroyed during a siege. Now you’ve really got to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of where you place hovels.

- How many resources and industries are presented in Stronghold 3? Were any of the production chains updated over the previous titles?

- We have 25 resources in Stronghold 3 – with a couple of new ones added for the production of honour. As mentioned above however we have simplified the economic side to make it easier to play than Stronghold 2 – so that honour producing buildings just now send their goods directly to the keep and don’t require other specialised buildings to enable them to work.

- What kinds of units and siege engines will be available in Stronghold 3? Do they possess any special skills or abilities?

- We’ve got a wide range of units and siege engines available for inclusion in your army, from long-ranged troops such as archers and crossbowmen to melee units, like swordsmen and macemen. A new troop type is the Ranger – who is a cross between a swordsman and an archer – making him quite powerful and expensive! The siege equipment will be familiar, such as the Trebuchet and Catapult, although whereas before you could select only between stones or dead cows for the trebuchet ammo, now you can choose a range of deceased animals that cause larger or smaller clouds of disease.

- What is the new role of a castle’s Lord in the gameplay action? Is he represented by a controllable unit figure?

- Yes, your lord will clearly be visible on the map and you can control him too in Stronghold 3. This is extremely useful in the early missions when you haven’t got many troops because you can use the lord to fight weaker enemies, particularly wolves or bears.

- What changes will the players notice during castle sieges from attacker’s and defender’s points of view in Stronghold 3?

- Well, there are huge changes depending upon whether you’re attacking or defending a castle. If you’re defending you’re choosing the best place to put your troops to give them a good view of the enemy, building walls that will hopefully channel the enemy into your numerous traps and quickly repairing areas of wall that have been destroyed by the foe’s catapults. Whereas, if you’re the attacker, you have to make sure you have a continuous supply of soldiers to head into combat, you’re also looking for potential weaknesses in the defences of the castle and you have to make sure your village is producing enough resources to create new weapons and armour for your growing army.

- The level design has always been very sophisticated for the series with maps opening a wide array of strategic and tactical choices for players. What options will the maps and landscapes provide?

- We want to make sure there is a wide variety of levels available in the game, from resource-rich woodlands to ghost towns plagued by disease. Height plays a big part, as usual, but space perhaps is more important this time round in Stronghold 3 with many maps having only have a limited amount of space available so you’ve got to be very effective about where you place your buildings and how you rotate them to fit them into tight spaces. Of course, some maps really open up and the challenge there is to build a huge castle brimming with cunning traps, such as the new stake trap.

- The AI in the original Stronghold game created many intriguing challenges for the players. How has the enemy AI evolved in Stronghold 3 in comparison with the previous games in the series?

- I think ‘intriguing challenges’ may be a polite way of putting it! We’re working extremely hard at the moment to ensure the A.I. is a big improvement upon previous games – this means the enemy will be a lot smarter when attacking your castle, so I hope you’re prepared for a real challenge.

- What can you say about the Multiplayer features of the game, its modes and the supported number of players?

- We’re planning to have four modes in the multiplayer of Stronghold 3: Death Match, King of the Hill, Capture and Flag and Kingmaker (which use the ranking system to upgrade your lord by meeting certain requirements in the game).

We’re also using Steamworks to handle the match making, which should make it easier than ever to find a battle online and we’re planning to have up to eight players for multiplayer matches.

- What are the main visual improvements introduced to Stronghold 3? How many units can fight on the battlefield at the same time?

- There is a huge visual improvement in Stronghold 3 compared to previous game thanks to a third party engine we’re using called the Vision engine. I think that players will be really impressed with the visual quality this time around. One of the biggest changes due to the new engine is that players are no longer restricted to placing buildings on a grid – which resulted in very organised medieval villages!

Now players can use the mouse wheel to rotate buildings to place them at angles or make sure they squeeze them as close to another building as possible. This also affects the castle building because you’re no longer forced to build your walls in straight lines, instead you can create very intricate castles that look just like the real thing.

In terms of number of units in Stronghold 3 – we are still finalising that and it depends on the specific map  – but it will be over 100.

- The in-game physics model is powered by the Havok engine. What has it allowed to bring in for presentational value and in terms of gameplay?

- It means that this is the most dramatic Stronghold ever! During a siege you’ll see castle walls being destroyed by trebuchet fire and huge chunks of the walls will fly into the air when struck, potentially destroying buildings nearby (via a balanced splash damage sytem).Also troops on the walls will be thrown off. So, when you’ve got a huge siege the effect is far more dramatic than in previous Stronghold games.

- We remember Stronghold series music always filled with many ear-pleasing melodies and memorable arrangements. What’s the music of Stronghold 3 like?

- Once again we’ve enlisted Robert Euvino to create the music for Stronghold 3 because he really is the man! We will include a few well known favourites from previous games but Rob has also been hard at work creating some great new pieces as well.

- What are your favorite video games of all time?

- Populous (1989) and Barbie Horse Adventures: Wild Horse Rescue (2003). Actually, only one of those is true.

- Name a few things you associate with Russia.

- «War and Peace» (1869)! The perfect metaphor for Stronghold.

- Thanks a lot, Simon!

- Make sure you join Stronghold’s fan page on Facebook, get insulted by The Wolf on Twitter and keep checking the official website for the latest news. Thanks for reading!

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02.09.2011 | Features | Alex "Jace" Ivanchenko

Stronghold 3

Stronghold 3

Stronghold 3 is the long-awaited third installment in the award winning castle-building series. Set 10 years after the original, the Wolf has cheated death, and during his painful recovery he’s become even more bitter and twisted. Now he seeks revenge. Raiding villages and towns during the dead of night, the Wolf has created a tide of panic. You and your allies are the only force that stand against him. In this stunning new update to the world’s favorite Castle Sim – will you triumph by day or die by night?

Game Features:

  • Attack or defend accurately re-created castles from the pages of history;
  • Dramatic night time sieges add a new dimension to the Stronghold franchise;
  • Watch your village spring to life in an amazing depiction of medieval village life;
  • Story-driven gameplay engages players across two campaigns: combat or economic;
  • Realistic physics and cutting-edge graphics make siege warfare more brutal than ever;
  • Besiege other players’ castles or defend your own in a range of several action-packed online multiplayer modes;
  • Build and manage mighty castles with an improved building system allowing unprecedented levels of realism and intricacy.
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Stronghold 3
Stronghold 3 is the third entry in the famous castle-building franchise made by a British team at Firefly Studios. The title is powered by the Havok physics engine this time. Read on further to find out more information about the new features and improvements added to the game. More »
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Features » 1

Simon Bradbury (Firefly Studios)
Stronghold 3 is an upcoming RTS-game that will let you build your medieval castle. We have caught up with Simon Bradbury, the Co-founder and CEO of the UK-based Firefly Studios, who is also the Lead Designer of Stronghold 3, to discuss many of the notable introduced improvements. More »
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