Hinterland Released on Steam
by Deborah M. Fike · 10/16/2008 (11:43 am) · 18 comments
If you've been to a little website called Steam in the last few weeks, odds are you've seen a game called Hinterland. From the developers of Children of the Nile, Caesar IV, and SimCity Societies, Tilted Mill is dedicated to the creation of the highest quality strategy games, role-playing games and simulations, and Hinterland is no exception in their impressive game line-up.
For those of you who haven't checked out Hinterland, it is a fantasy PC title that combines fast-paced RPG combat with strategic town building and a little bit of "empire building." You amass a small band of followers and establish a small haven on the outer reaches of the kingdom. Your mission is to cleanse the area of all enemies. You do this by selecting certain individuals to leave their comfortable homes and join your party on expeditions of exploration and conquest in the surrounding lands. As you conquer enemy sites you secure access to valuable resources, and acquire all sorts of loot, which in turn feeds your town, by allowing you to get more sophisticated and powerful followers, make potions, weapons, etc. The game is already amassing a good following, and Tilted Mill is dedicated to providing additional content to the game over time as its popularity continues to grow.
Tilted Mill used TGEA to create Hinterland and in addition to Steam, is available on GamersGate and Impulse. Chris Beatrice, founder of Tilted Mill and long-term industry veteran, carved out some time for me to ask him questions about the creation of Hinterland. Check out the interview, of course, but then seriously, go play the game!
What makes Hinterland a unique experience?Hinterland fuses several different aspects of fantasy gaming into a unique whole. It is instantly accessible by gamers of all levels - it's fun and addictive. You sit down, start playing, and you're hooked. Then, because you're building something, you start to get attached to that. It's a great combination of building (creating) and adventuring / fighting.
"In Hinterland even the best player can be faced with challenges and decisions they haven't seen before." - Mat Williams, Co-Producer and Designer
What was your development process like? Did you follow any strict process like SCRUM?Hinterland is my forty-fifth game...our development process is the result of almost 15 years of fine tuning and is hard to describe in a single blurb. No, we don't use any process defined externally, but we are extremely strict. In terms of nuts and bolts management we actually use bug tracking software for bugs, tasks and suggestions. This way an individual developer can look at all the work on his plate at once, and managers can prioritize all tasks on the same scale. For example, a developer (i.e. an artist, programmer, sound person, etc.) may have a critical bug as top priority, followed by two or three implementation tasks, then some lower level bugs, etc. Design specs are handled via a two-tiered system - first is a very high level design document that outlines the gist of the game, as well as the basic sections or modules. This rarely changes during development. Then there are detailed specs that define each individual section of the game, and these are created and modified a lot during development. We have lots of design meetings to draw out new ideas, to stress test existing ideas, and so on. We often move to implementation even though we have maybe only 85% of the design fleshed out, because we know it's going to change once it's actually functional and being played. With Hinterland, we regularly tested the game internally, with strictly managed focus tests. Much of this was for usability testing.
"I think this is what makes the PC special as a gaming platform: allowing innovation, quick turnaround, close collaboration between the audience and the people making games." - Jeff Fiske, Designer
How many people worked on the project team? How did you work together?The core team was about 12 people, but the whole company contributed in various ways. In terms of working together, it's basically a combination of department-based (or discipline-based) management and project management. But as with many game developers there is a lot of cross over, and much of that is simply because certain individuals have specific capabilities outside their defined field. For example, Mat Williams started off as just the project manager, having some input in the design. In the end he was doing a lot of the design, and also a ton of scripting, and some programming. I did the initial design for the game, handed that off to Jeff Fiske and Mat, then proceeded to do all the concept art! I then came back on the project and picked up the design work, which the three of us basically shared until the end of the project.
"Developing the title initially was very much an iterative process, and now that process has been broadened to include the fan community as a whole." - Chris Beatrice, Concept Artist and Designer
Why choose Torque?We wanted something that would of course do what we needed it to do, would be relatively easy to ramp up on, and which was not too expensive.
What did you learn in creating the game?With a smaller game and quicker development process we (designers) were able to have much more direct and timely control over the evolving game. We could implement, try, tweak, adjust, etc., in a sort of feedback process that is hard to get with bigger titles, where there are so many steps and so many individuals between the design and the end product.
What can we expect to see next from Tilted Mill?We've just announced Mosby's Confederacy, which does use the Torque engine as well. As John Singleton Mosby, one of the Civil War's most interesting and dynamic leaders, you are charged not with leading vast armies into battle, but with commanding small bands of skirmishers, scouts and guerilla fighters on opportunistic missions to scout, ambush, steal supplies and harass a larger and better armed force of Union soldiers. Mosby's Confederacy has a targeted release date of November for the PC.
Huge thanks again to Chris for taking the time to talk to me. It's great for us at GarageGames to see successful games make it big on the interwebs. We look forward to Mosby's release soon!
For more stories like this, check out GarageGames' Developer Interview series.