FIRST TURN – INTRODUCTION
Chris Wingard and Nik Mueller – developers of The Iron Oath – have been working in the industry for quite some years now, but do not really have a list of games they have previously worked on professionally. Indeed, the turn-based strategy game is actually their first. So, let us go and ask them how was the experience and what happened with their 2017 Kickstarter.
Where do you come from as developers, what are your background and experience?
The two of us started working together in 2009 on a hobby game that we casually developed over a few years. Chris – who was in between contracts with Electronic Arts at the time – did all the programming, and Nik used his background in graphic design to make the art for it. Following that project, we kicked around a few other ideas for games, but none got too far in development. In 2016, we decided to go full-time as indie developers and began working on The Iron Oath.
SECOND TURN – STARTING OUT ON KICKSTARTER
The game was first successfully kickstarted back in 2017, but you’ve only recently came out with a playable beta. How was the experience on the platform?
It was certainly stressful, but we exceeded our goal and couldn’t have asked for it to have gone much better! It also really helped us gain an early following, and reassured us that there was indeed a market for the type of game we were making.
THIRD TURN – EVEN MORE ON KICKSTARTER
How did those five years influence the overall development of the game? How was the overall journey from first project to finally getting into Early Access on Steam?
It was a long journey for sure! Though the visuals looked good, the game was still very early in development when we did our Kickstarter, and we underestimated how much work still remained.
FOURTH TURN – TROUBLES WITH KICKSTARTER
What happened then with the project?
There were some changes that derailed our initial estimates: most of our combat environments were scrapped in favor of larger ones, and dungeon exploration was visually reimagined with new mechanics tacked on to it. Even though they brought delays, those changes were necessary to make the game better, and we’re glad we did them.
FIFTH TURN – AN UNEXPECTED INSPIRATION
I’ve read your experience for the company was the Band of the Hawk in Berserk (which I’m an absolute fan of), how can we see that influence in the game or what did you pick up from Miura’s classic manga?
I’ve always wanted to play a game as the Band of the Hawk, focusing on the day-to-day operations of their mercenary company. Before all the fighting with demons, when it was just Guts and Griffith trying to get by – taking up the fight for whichever lord paid them the most. Things have evolved quite a bit since our early designs, but I pictured the Scourge almost like our own version of the Eclipse. As we expand on the game through Early Access, I hope some more of those influences can be felt.
SIXTH TURN – A BERSERK FAN NEVER SHUTS UP
Staying for a moment on Berserk, I noticed how – at the moment – in Iron Oath even tragic events like a mercenary dying do not really involve any emotions or additional narrative, as opposed to Miura’s. Is this something you would potentially like to develop more on?
Those types of events are tied with the Affinity system, and it’s definitely something we’ll be expanding upon later in Early Access. Currently, we do have a few events that occur in the overworld following the passing of a character. But in terms of immediate reactions to deaths in combat, there are just a few that can trigger right now (under the right circumstances).
SEVENTH TURN – THE DARKEST INFLUENCES
As for inspirations from other games, I thought a lot about Darkest Dungeon when playing Iron Oath. Would you say that is a correct inspiration for your game or there would be something else?
For sure! We loved the tense dungeon crawls of Darkest Dungeon, where your characters were always a few tactical missteps away from death. Another big inspiration for us was D&D, especially with our narrative design – we wanted it to feel like a dungeon master was narrating the events to you. There are definitely a few others, such as XCOM, Battle Brothers, and classic CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate.
EIGHTH TURN – PUBLISHING A GAME
How is Humble Games helping you in developing and promoting your game?
Humble has been a great partner for us. They’ve been extremely supportive over the years, even when we fell behind on our schedule. It’s nice to have a partner that is as invested in the game as we are! During our Kickstarter, we learned just how much time and work goes into marketing games, so it was nice not to have to stress too much about promoting our Early Access launch.
NINTH TURN – CURRENT PLANS…
What are your current plans for the game, what do you plan to expand upon?
We’re mostly focused on adding more content: more quests, enemies, classes, items, and environments. Some existing features do need to be expanded upon (such as Morale and Affinity), but we’re happy with the core of the game, and we’re not going to make many drastic changes. With that said, the Council and Sea Travel are two new features we will be adding, which will bring another strategic layer to the game. Finishing the main campaign is a top priority, too.
TENTH TURN – …AND FUTURE DREAMS
Finally, is there something in particular you’d like to add to Iron Oath, regardless of your plans and possibilities?
One feature we had to cut a long time ago was a “home base” for your company that you could establish, expand, and manage. Hopefully we get the opportunity to bring that feature back from the grave! We have no shortage of extra fun ideas, so if we’re able to keep working on this game for another 5 years after our full release, we absolutely will!