The indie developer could be a risky and tiring job, unfortunately often, a lot of work and passion towards a project are not enough to be repaid for all the hard work. However, since we love these projects and want to encourage independent development, we interviewed a successful indie Studio that, with their Battle Brothers, born a bit as a hobby game until it became such a reference, can be a positive example for everyone.
Battle Brothers is a strategic tactical RPG where we are at the head of a mercenary company that goes around the world accepting missions and facing often impossible battles. A unique style and an enhanced level of challenge are the elements that I personally appreciated the most.
Over the years, the Overhype Studios project has received many updates and new DLCs that have made it increasingly rich in content and new mechanics and at the new DLC Warriors of The North release, scheduled for May 9, 2019, we had a chat with Jan Taaks managing director at Overhype Studios.
Hi Jan, first of all, I wanted to thank you for giving us this interview and confessing that Battle Brothers was one of the games that led us to start this blog and so I thank you for that too.
Tell us a little about yourself? How Overhype Studios is born?
It all started a while before 2013 when we thought it would be great if someone made a medieval/fantasy version of the original X-com. As no games like that showed up we decided to try our hand at it ourselves and worked on the game as a hobby in the evenings and on the weekends. At that point we never planned on selling the game, we just did it to see how far we could get and to create the game we wanted to play ourselves.
We came up with the name Battle Brothers and the project developed more and more away from its initial concept and grew into something pretty unique. With the successful Early Access launch in 2015, we were able to quit our regular jobs and go full time on the project – which we have been working on ever since with the same core team of just three and a few freelancers to help out.
Actually, Battle Brothers is a game that inspires many strategy games. But before it all began, is there something in particular that inspired you?
There are many games that influenced us, mainly the good old core strategy games from the 90ies. Besides the above-mentioned X-com or UFO-Defense as it was called in Germany, we drew inspirations from Jagged Alliance, Mount & Blade, Homm and others. We were always big fans of turn-based strategy games but to this day there are very few games produced in that area and many are of extremely low quality. We still feel the turn-based strategy game market is pretty much ignored by many developers despite some recent bigger games like the new Xcom or Battletech.
When you started working on Battle Brothers, was that exactly how you imagined the final product?
The original concept for the game was vastly different from what we ended up with. The only thing that stayed very close to the original design is the tactical combat. I can give an example of some of the crazy ideas that were flying around back then: With X-com as the mental foundation of the game we started out with the idea of actually fighting aliens in medieval times but the people at that time think of the aliens as creatures from their folklore and fairytales. We dropped that idea at some point and went for a less wild approach to the enemies in the game.
Being too strict with the concepts and mechanics of a game can be a very bad thing in our mind. As a developer staying open to new ideas and being flexible during development is crucial. There are countless bigger and smaller additions and features in the game that we never planned to exist but we implemented them anyways in between our planned features and often on very short notice. A game project is a living, breathing thing that changes during its lifecycle and we try to appreciate that. On top of that, developers should not be afraid of iterations and of rolling back things they once thought of as great ideas. Some things just turn out to not be that great after all and you should not be scared to touch them again for the sake of a better game.
The origins, a new faction, the champions, new legendary locations, new events, new items and much more we will find in the new DLC Warriors of the North. We know that initially, it didn’t have to be so big, what prompted you to do more?
When planning a DLC we start out with a basic idea and then add things around it. We want DLCs to have a certain amount of content to make them actually worth buying and to give the players a good deal and a reason to get them. Some of the new things also just come up as we are working so we never start out with a full feature list but keep adding to it on the go. The Warriors of the North DLC will still be a little bit smaller than the Beasts & Exploration DLC and that is why it will sell at a slightly lower price.
Warriors of the North will give us the opportunity to start a new campaign differently thanks to the introduction of the origins. We can’t wait to try them all. What is your favorite one?
I personally like the Peasant Militia the most. Starting out with a huge horde of extremely bad and ill-equipped fighters is just great fun. You will pick up and use any little piece of armor and equipment you find on the battlefield and you will have a great sense of achievement after every won battle.
An origin that I think will be very popular is the Lone Wolf, a single powerful Hedge Knight that starts with great stats and equipment but alone and with little funds – also the campaign is lost if he dies. This origin sounds like an easy start but it is way harder than people might expect as power really does lie in numbers.
After a titanic work with lots of updates and DLCs, do you still have something in store for Battle Brothers?
We designed Battle Brothers in a way that it is rather easily expandable and of course we still have ideas in store for it. However, by now it is getting more and more difficult to add new weapons or new enemies that still feel unique and are not just a “reskin” of something that is already existing.
We always want to add more choices for the player when adding new content and it is important to us that the content is somewhat meaningful. Expanding a game just to expand it is not what we want.
If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently in terms of development and marketing?
It is hard to point something out as everything turned out pretty well for us which we are really happy about.
One thing that did cost us some resources was the reworking of existing assets. We ended up reworking basically all assets in the game at least once, be it weapons, armor, characters or world map tiles. However, this is something that was caused by the “hobby” origin of the project so there is little we could have done about it and it benefited the game a lot. Another thing that we did not plan for and are thus not able to implement properly now are translations and mod support. For our next game, we will definitely plan ahead accordingly so we can add those features.
Surely you are an indie studio that is a source of inspiration for many. What may be the advice that you would give to those who want to start their own studio in 2019?
I am personally convinced that high-quality games will always find their audience despite the 40-60 games that are launched each day on Steam. However, small Indies cannot beat out any larger studio in terms of production value so you have to go with your passion and make a game that you really care about. Do not make a game from genre X because you think there is the biggest market share to grab. If you really love the game you are making the quality will differentiate it from others who are just making a game based on theoretical market research.
Also, you should start out small and try out what you can create. A smaller game that is finished is better than a large one that never sees the light of day. You can always scale things up later and add more content, like we did, once you have the resources for it.
Finally, connect with other Indie Devs. All I have met so far are really keen on sharing insights, information and helpful advice – be it big or small Indies. Just hit them up with a mail or on twitter, they will reply surprisingly often and more openly than you think.
And here we are with the million dollar question. What are your plans for the future? Are you already thinking about a new game?
For now, we will focus on the release and support for the “Warriors of the North” DLC and try to iron out any bugs or other issues as quickly as possible. As people know we have been working on the side on a new, unannounced project for quite a while now. However, it is still pretty far from being revealed so I can not share any news on that!
Before leaving, the bonus question we reserve for all the interviewed. The last turn-based games you’ve played or still playing?
I personally have recently come back to Panzer Corps which is still a very interesting game to play and definitely a classic. I am really looking forward to part 2 that is in the works and I am also excited about the next installment of Unity of Command which is coming up.
I like to play all kinds of games as I think it broadens the horizon regarding gameplay and mechanics. I can highly recommend to any game developer to keep an open mind and check out games from all different genres. Outside of turn-based games, I am currently also playing Anno 1800, Hoi 4 and The Division 2.
Jan we thank you for this interview and wish the best of luck to Overhype Studios.
In the meantime, we remember that Warriors of the North is coming out on May 9. Below the Steam page and the official trailer.
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