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Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Wrap Report
Lead Designer Steve Fawkner's post-ship examination of the Infinite Interactive team's recent fantasy strategy game

- The recently released Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria is the latest iteration in a respected series of medieval turn-based strategy games with fantasy elements. The franchise dates from the 1989 release of Warlords, with Warlords II three years later. The 1994 Warlords II Scenario Builder included an editor, additional maps and new graphics sets such as a jungle and an invasion from outer space. A deluxe edition some months later added various tweaks plus more new content. Warlords III: Reign of Heroes arrived in 1997, and an enhanced version, Warlords III: Darklords Rising, in 1998. At this point, developer Strategic Studies Group ventured in a different direction, which resulted in 1999's Warlords Battlecry and last year's sequel. Set in the same universe, these real-time strategy titles had more prominent RPG-style elements, in particular the development of hero characters.

With the core team having established Infinite Interactive, the new game marks a return to the base property and its turn-based roots. Set in the troubled realm of Etheria and described as combining role-playing and strategy, it assigns vital roles to the hero characters, which are persistent, enabling them to gain abilities and to acquire items as they proceed through the campaign. They need to be strong to defeat old foes like the Dwarves, Elves and Orcs as well as the undead hordes of Lord Bane. And there are whispers of an even more daunting threat, a race known only as the Empire, which may be more evil still. Naturally, the developers know about this aspect and indeed, the project as a whole in a way we do not, so we asked Lead Designer Steve Fawkner for his post-ship assessment.



The Project
Warlords IV is the latest iteration in our Warlords series of fantasy turn-based strategy games. The player commands heroes who lead mighty armies as they pillage and burn their way across the world, capturing cities, searching ruins and completing quests.

Warlords IV has an interesting and slightly troubled history. Originally signed by SSG about four years ago, it went through a number of development teams and designs in its first three years. During that time, my team and I were working on the Warlords Battlecry series of RTS games. When we decided to split from SSG at the start of 2003 and form Infinite Interactive, the Warlords IV project found a new home, and we began development on it, starting from scratch.

RPG elements have always played a large role in the Warlords series. Every version of the game adds a little more RPG to the mix, and it has always made for a successful formula. With Warlords IV, we decided to let not only the heroes gain levels, but all the creatures in the game as well. With our ability system taking advantage of this, I think the leveling of characters was one of the most addicting parts of the game

The Team
Infinite Interactive is located in Melbourne, Australia. We are the same group of people who previously worked with SSG doing all of the other Warlords titles: Warlords I, II and III as well as Warlords Battlecry 1 and 2. On a personal note, I've just celebrated my 20th year in the games industry, and some of my earlier titles go right back to the Amiga and the Sinclair Timex (Sinclair Spectrum)... such as Quest for Camelot and The Holy Grail - if anybody can remember those, they must be old like me!!

 
 
 
The Warlords IV team had eight people on it for most of the development. That is a very low number, but all of the art was already created, so all we had to do was to code the game and tweak the graphics. For the cutscenes, we added about another six contractors for a short period of time.

High-Level Goals
We believed that Warlords III was about as complex as we wanted to go. We did not want to take the Warlords III design and throw more stuff at it. Warlords III was a very successful game, but I think adding more features was going to make it bloated. We tried to take the Warlords II design, and then head it in a new direction.

We had three primary goals in mind during the design phase: 1) to provide everything that had been promised by the previous design teams, 2) to recapture the unique flavor of Warlords, and 3) to add something new that no other game had ever done.

Development Timeline
We began work on the project in mid-December, 2002. I'm happy to report that we met every single milestone and delivered the project on its due date. It all took nine months to complete, seven months for development and two months of testing. Unfortunately, it was huge project, and due to the size of our team, it would have run late had it not been for some good design and management decisions as well as some huge personal efforts from some of the team.

I think the key to delivering on time is to be realistic in the design phase. Sure, the first pass at the design can be big and ambitious, but iterating through the design a number of times, and then carefully scheduling the subsystems so that it all fits together with the timeframe and budget is the key to success.

At the end of the day, we may not have included everything we wanted in the game, but we feel content that we included everything that could be done, and indeed we included everything we had planned by the end of the first month; i.e. we didn't have to cut features at the last minute so that we could meet deadlines.

Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Team Q&A
We question the developers at Infinite Interactive about the kinds of Warlords they favor and the races they prefer.
Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Q&A #2
Infinite Interactive team leader Steve Fawkner enlightens us on the races in the impending turn-based strategy title.
Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Screenshots of the Week #9
Each race in Infinite Interactive's game can have cities of different levels. We offer examples from the Dragons.
Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Screenshots of the Week #8
Should you wish to create or edit scenarios, the Infinite Interactive game will offer a straightforward editing tool.
Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Screenshots of the Week #7
Infinite Interactive has given hero characters abilities that can be improved plus the capacity to equip magical items.
Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Screenshots of the Week #5
Dragons, Dwarves, the Empire, Orcs et al in Infinite Interactive's strategy title all have different styles of cities.
Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Q&A #1
We besiege Steve Fawkner to tell us about Infinite Interactive's new Speed Tactical System and combat in general.



Most recent posts on the Warlords board:

You're closer!
  Posted by Ravens_Illusion. Last activity December 21, 2006 21:26 PDT
Test.
  Posted by KPrimeau25. Last activity October 16, 2006 17:12 PDT
What Should happen to this board?
  Posted by Dylanlip. Last activity January 1, 0001 00:00 PDT
the atari game?
  Posted by bullets_44mag. Last activity January 1, 0001 00:00 PDT
test
  Posted by DCdrummer. Last activity January 1, 0001 00:00 PDT
Related Articles:

- Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Team Q&A
- Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Q&A #2
- Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Screenshots of the Week #9
- Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Screenshots of the Week #8
- Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Screenshots of the Week #7
- Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Screenshots of the Week #5
- Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Q&A #1


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