Ancient Cities Interview July 2017
About a month ago, I was trawling through Kickstarter, looking at potential up and coming games to support. In doing so, I found the usual mix of terrible, average and promising games. However, one which stood out to me was Ancient Cities by Uncasual Games. Following some research and in-depth reading of their Kickstarter plan, I decided to back the project and reached out to the developer for an interview to talk about the project in more depth.
What is Ancient Cities?
Ancient Cities is a city builder game with a heavy focus on survival. The player starts in Neolithic times but as the player’s city evolves and progresses, advancement to the Bronze Age and more is possible. At the time of writing, the game already features core Neolithic buildings and building tools, several biomes, animals, a day/night cycle, weather effects, citizens with their own traits and skills, basic survival elements, and citizens carrying out essential tasks.
Ancient Cities was initially presented to the world via Steam Greenlight just a few days before the service closed. Ancient Cities was met with a fantastic response of over 10,000 yes votes, becoming rank #2 of the nearly 4,000 games going through Steam Greenlight at the time, and gaining over 2,500 followers. Greenlight is by no means a great measure of the potential of a game, given the slew of rubbish that has managed to get through the system in the past. However, following success on Greenlight, Ancient Cities has managed to grow a supportive community around it and has got the attention of some YouTubers, press outlets, and gamers in general. Through convincing early alpha footage, screenshots and community discussion Uncasual Games has been able to provide the community with evidence that their game and team has some serious potential. As with any crowd funded project, however, we do have to maintain some level of scepticism. The real proof of whether this will be a great game or not I think will be reassured when the beta becomes available, which at the time of writing is planned for summer of 2018. In the mean time we managed to reach out to Uncasual Games to find out more of what is to come in an interview.
Our Interview with Uncasual Games
Q1). Who came up with the idea for Ancient Cities?
A). We are Ancient History passionate, and as gamers, we like strategy games and city builders.
We always wanted to make a Pc game, so when we had the opportunity, we went for it.
We also love to visit ancient and archaeological sites. When in those places we can't stop recreating in our minds how they would have looked and felt like to experience in their prime. Now we have the opportunity to create them virtually and bring them to life.
Q2). How long has Ancient Cities been in development for so far?
A). The game development process began one year ago. We have been developing game play and tech at the same time so we can get the features and performance we want for a game like this.
Q3). Have there been any particular inspirations for Ancient Cities?
A). Many games have inspired us, from city builders like Banished or Stronghold to strategy games like the Total War series. However, we are also adding original features to the mix that we expect to work well in the city builder genre.
Q4). How would you summarise what the game is to someone completely new to the game?
A). Ancient Cities is a strategy City Builder set in the Neolithic where you have to guide a European hunter-gatherer tribe to establish a settlement while they adopt new technologies like farming or animal husbandry to survive. Eventually, we want the game to become a platform for future developments where the same city will have the potential to evolve to Bronze Age and beyond.
Q5). Can you provide a quick introduction to each of your team members and their role in Ancient Cities development?
A). Juan is the artist and one of the game designers; a lifetime PC gamer too. After years working as an art director, he started in the game industry publishing two Android games with a two man company.
For Eugenio, this is his first game, but he has years of experience as a programmer and as director of development teams with related technology. He is a strategy game lover.
Xavi is the most experienced in our team with games, in fact, he started to code games in 8 bit back in the 80s. Now he is our man for everything and a great IT guy.
Luis is the sound guy and has years of experience as a musician and with FX sounds. He has collaborated in short films and games, and he is also a music and FX teacher.
Q6). My understanding is this is your first gaming project, what are your areas of expertise that will help the project?
A). We have little experience in the gaming industry itself but years of expertise in many areas related to game development that comes from working for private companies and VR research labs.
Q7). You chose to go to Kickstarter to get another 100,000 Euros to help fund development; my understanding is this is to cover the cost of additional members to join your
team? Are there any other areas you intend to use the funds?
A). This funding (minus around 30% in taxes and fees) covers a few small salaries for a year. Furthermore, we will use these funds to pay company costs and taxes during the development process.
Q8). For those who don't already know can you summarise the reasoning behind not giving playable access to the game too soon?
A). We want you to get the game as intended and in its current state, the game does not represent the game play and experience that we have planned. We expect to begin releasing the game as a closed beta in early summer 2018. Of course, we will have an internal alpha with selected people who have experience with these kinds of games and good technical knowledge.
Q9). Technology and its development appear to be a key feature of the game. Is there anything you can reveal about how this is structured or how significantly this will play into impacting on a civilisation's survival?
A). You are right; technology is a key point in our game play. Any action a citizen can perform is because there is the knowledge that allows him/her to do that. We have designed a simple but original technology system. The only thing I can tell you now is that the game does not implement a tech tree; more to be revealed in the future.
Q10). Do you have plans for natural disasters? In addition to this will it be possible for the overuse of specific types of technology to result in human-made disasters?
A). Yes, indeed. The game will feature natural disasters that you can disable if you don’t like your city to be ruined by an earthquake. We are simulating the ecosystem, every plant and animal is alive, and so you should take care of them if you want to have those resources in the future.
Q11). Will certain technology not just be beneficial but also have negative drawbacks which the player needs to balance or endure/counterbalance for before moving onto better technology in the long run?
A). When possible we are trying to design the game in a way that any action has two sides, the good and the bad. We think this approach can generate some very interesting game play.
Q12). Outside of chopping down trees and harvesting rocks etc. will players be able to influence the landscape by digging it out to create human made rivers, leave marks on hillsides, etc.?
A). Not at first release, but we want to implement terrain modification game play as well as fluid dynamics. This is all dependent of getting enough funds to do it. *
*Since I reached out to Uncasual games for this interview they have reached their funding goals for basic land modification and fluid dynamics. They have further funding goals that relate to this though which would further enhance the landscape and what can be done with it.
Q13). In the Kickstarter campaign (and IndieGoGo) there were talks of DLC, some of which is stretch goals. In addition to these stretch goal DLCs, what other DLC do you have planned and will these be free or paid?
A). We are designing our game as a platform. This means that we have an ever growing and improving the game with additional content that can be purchased and added. In this way, we define the expansion as a set of new content, with cultures, biomes and new game play. This means that you can buy a new expansion and continue playing your Neolithic city in the Bronze Age for example.
Q14). To my understanding war and diplomacy is intended for the game? If this is the case, do you intend to lock this to specific technology and buildings with more options becoming available as a civilisation progresses?
A). War and diplomacy will be improved in many ways by several technologies. Discoveries like writing should improve your diplomacy capabilities as well as warfare tactics which should improve your military capabilities just as an example.
Q15). Your videos and Kickstarter/IndieGoGo mention that every citizen is simulated and will each have their own "attributes, experience and knowledge". How much of an impact will this have on that citizen being able to carry out certain tasks and what level of control can players expect when choosing who is assigned to specific jobs and how effective they are at that job?
A). Each task will have some requirements. When a citizen is searching for a task to do, their skills and equipment should match these requirements for him/her to perform such a task. There will be many other factors that will affect the decision process. In addition to this when a citizen performs a task their attributes will affect his/her performance.
Q16). If a citizen has particular knowledge/experience aimed towards a certain craft/skill will this result in better-produced/quality items or reductions in the time needed to make the item?
A). The point here is that a citizen with some special knowledge and a high level in related attributes can work faster. The quality aspect does not fit well with our resource system, so maybe you could make some bronze tools that are better than stone ones, but anyone that can make bronze tools will produce the same tool, slower or faster depending on many factors.
Q17). As a citizen develops over their lifetime will there be training methods or buildings the citizens can interact with that will help improve their ability at a certain task or are the attributes and knowledge set for each generation at birth?
A). Maybe the building that could help you to learn some knowledge would be a library, in any other case learning comes from other citizens.
Q18). Will it be possible for man and animal to cooperate and work together?
A). Domestic animals will be included in the game. Initially animals like cattle but maybe we can tame some animals which could be used in some tasks or as companions.
Supporting Ancient Cities and Uncasual Games
As it stands, Ancient Cities has completed a very short but successful Kickstarter campaign. When I had just come across the project and discussed it with others in the industry, we were sceptical that they could reach their goal in such a short space of time as fundraising only ran for one week. However much to our surprise and delight, it did, in fact, reach a successful conclusion following a major push from the developer working with YouTuber’s, the already amassed and growing community around the game and press outlets. In the end, the campaign surpassed the 100,000 Euros goal and reached 125,365 Euros from a total of 2,963 backers. The funds raised are according to the developers going towards “a few small salaries for a year” and “to pay company costs and taxes during the development process”.
Following this, Uncasual Games realised more funds would be required to expand their team further and provide them with the extra resources needed to add additional elements to the game and in a timely fashion. Some individuals were also late to the party and missed out on the Kickstarter campaign but were still keen to get involved and financially contribute to the project. To address this Uncasual Games recently launched an Indiegogo page which you can find by clicking here. At the time of writing this, the campaign has a further 18 days to go and currently stands at 32,932 Euros from 656 backers and has surpassed its initial 25,000 Euro goal. I highly recommend checking it out as it is the only place where you can currently support the game financially if you are looking to get involved. They have a range of awesome rewards on offer and are rapidly approaching several major stretch goals in addition to the numerous ones already achieved.
I am normally very sceptical about crowd funded games as I have seen more than my fair share of disastrous fails in the past. As with supporting any crowd funded project, there are always risks. I advise anyone looking to back any project (whether that be Ancient Cities or something else) to carefully consider the risks. Take the time to research the organisation properly and proposed project before pledging.
All in all, I think Ancient Cities and the team at Uncasual Games have significant potential to create a really awesome gaming experience in an emerging subgenre of gaming. For such an early stage in the project with a working alpha that appears to be well thought out and looks great, I am already very impressed. In addition to this, I have been impressed by the developer’s attitude, expertise (within technology), and their community driven approach. Consequently, I am very excited to see what is to come in the next couple years of the project’s development as so many ideas and potential directions for the game come to mind and I can see myself potentially losing so many hours getting soaked into playing this game on release if it meets expectation.
For full disclosure, I have taken the plunge to back this project from my personal funds, and this is, in fact, the first project I have ever backed in the two years I have regularly been checking Kickstarter. I will be keeping a careful eye on this project and look forward to playing it when it becomes available. This is an area of gaming I am very passionate about and have immersed myself playing many hours of similar games in this and related genres.
I recommend checking out their website at https://www.ancient-cities.com/ and their Twitter page for all the current news on the game’s development progress. The developers have already demonstrated they are very friendly and open with their community and I have no doubt if you have questions and tweet them they will reply when they get the time. Alternatively, post in the comments below, and I will push the questions to the developer via email and get back to you later via the comment section.
I hope you found this article and interview informative and interesting. Please post any feedback in the comments as well as any ideas or speculation you have about Ancient Cities; I would love to hear from you all. As usual reading the article, sharing and comments will grant you extra CG points. Please share this article (and the video on my YouTube channel) with your friends to not just support myself and the Charede Gaming team but also to help spread the word about Ancient Cities and Uncasual Games.
- Interview answers edited for clarity as the developer's main language is not English.
- Since writing out initial opinions of the game based on the Kickstarter campaign and press information Charede has backed this project on Kickstarter using personal funds.