Chivalry II Interview with Torn Banner Studios’ Steve Piggott and Alex Hayter
After racking up a sizable kill count with the crossbow in Chivalry II (I ended one of the matches at around 27-10), I sat down in a quiet locale away from the battlefield to sit down with a pair of gentlemen from Torn Banner Studios. Steve Piggott, Lead Game Designer for Chivalry II and Alex Hayter, Brand Director, both sat down with us to talk about Chivalry II and what Torn Banner Studios has been doing since launching Mirage: Arcane Warfare.
Chivalry II is expected to debut at some point this year on PC via the Epic Games store.
How long has it been since the release of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare?
Steve Piggott: Seven and a half years, October 2012.
Let's talk about some of the newer combat mechanics that you're showing off [in Chivalry II]. You're putting a lot more emphasis on defensive skills. Can you talk a little bit more about those skills in depth?
Steve: The basic idea this time around is to give the player a hugely expanded move set so they have a lot more options. With the first [Chivalry: Medieval Warfare], you could attack and block and there were very nuanced ways of doing that but the core options were pretty low. In the new game, we've added a ton of new options which basically let you switch up that dance of combat that you're engaged in.
On the defensive side, now any class can dodge. You can duck and attack and the duck is actually directional, so you can dodge your opponent's strike and stay close to them. You can [get knocked down] on your back and roll out of the way of strikes. There's a quick attack called a jab that basically lets you cheat initiative. Normally if you hit me, your second strike will hit me first but I can use a jab, a short range strike, to get out of that situation. You can block, but if your opponent is blocking, you can kick them to interrupt them and open them up. There are also counters: counters this time around are basically a perfect parry system, which are a parry that either won't cost any stamina or will cost a lot less stamina. You do that by blocking and then attacking using the strike your opponent is attacking you with.
Alex Hayter: A lot of those survival mechanics are built around the need to manage the chaos around you in a game that's built for 64 players. So when there's a huge battle going on around you and there's all this chaos, we want to make sure that players feel like they always have the tools at their disposal to manage that and to survive.
Now you're showing off four different classes in Chivalry II. Do any of them have different takes on the defensive skills, or is it going to be the same skill set between the archer, the footman and so forth?
Steve: There's a lot of the same options but they have different proficiencies at them, so a knight might dodge slower than a footman, for instance. While we do have the four primary classes from the first game still here, we also have subclasses. The easiest way to think of them is on the archery [class], you have the longbowman, crossbowman, javelineer, and axe thrower. On the melee classes, you have guys with greatswords or smaller weapons that affect your stats as well as your weapon loadouts. There's a lot more variety in the first game in that sense.
What sort of persistent progression is in place for Chivalry II?
Steve: We're going to do a deeper dive on progression in the future, but we can definitely say that as you play the game, you'll unlock additional weapons and a ton of customization options that let you look the part of the hero as you become better at the game.
Do you guys have plans for an in-game shop or DLC customization items?
Steve: There will be ways to earn in-game customizations through in-game awards as well as purchases.
One thing that's been very divisive with the Chivalry community is not just the dragging mechanics in combat but also what they call 'Spin to Win'. How are you addressing that in Chivalry II?
Steve: Right, so the dragging and spin-to-win, that is the animation side of things. In Chivalry I, when you move your mouse, what your character looked like was kind of ridiculous where you would spin like a ballerina or you would just do things that didn't look weighty and physical. In Chivalry II, we have a completely new animation system that simulates more bones and muscles of the body. Essentially, when you turn your mouse, you're rotating your ankles, your knee, your hip, and it's all cascading through the body naturally. It looks like you're building up torque and tension when you rotate rather than just sort of spinning on a top like it did in the first game. Basically, we've solved [Spin to Win] with tech.
With character customization in Chivalry II, will players be able to create a character and adjust their height or weight?
Steve: You can't adjust height and weight. It's more about the equipment that you're wearing and then the facial features.
Alex: You will be able to set war paint and facial hair; there's a lot more options. A lot of the customization is geared towards less of the Barbie doll anything-goes approach and more about ensuring players can craft awesome looking fantasy driven, as appealing to the fantasies they have in their heads, medieval knights and badass warriors. You're going to see less people looking like goofy idiots on the battlefield and more how everyone has the opportunity to look badass.
Now, you said crafting. Is that something that's part of the campaign or is that also unlockable through the multiplayer?
Alex: Crafting? I meant in terms of gear customization and picking stuff.
Good clarification. Do you see any of the previous modes and maps making their way into Chivalry II?
Steve: There's at least one map that's basically a remake of the first one. Because we're doing this scale increase of the game, it's sort of a reimagining of it rather than a 1:1. It wouldn't work because of the bigger maps in Chivalry II.
Alex: The maps in Chivalry were at most built around a 24 player scale and Chivalry II is a 64 player scale game. It's not really possible to just directly port maps over but the tone and setting of certain maps will see a return. It'll feel like they're returning to the location and less of the actual map design.
64 players is the focus for Chivalry II, but say players just want to have a match with their friends and have a smaller capacity game. Will you be able to accommodate that?
Steve: Yep. The game is built to scale various settings at different player counts. Some of the maps are smaller, like the team deathmatch maps.
Alex: As you guys got to play today with five-versus-five, that works on the maps that we have but 64 players also works on those maps too.
Do you have a tick rate in mind for the servers for Chivalry II?
Steve: That's something that we're still investigating right now.
Will you have any graphical enhancements for people that are running higher-end systems? You know: raytracing, HDR, anything of that nature?
Steve: There are some things there that we want to confirm a little bit later. We're basically in the optimization phase right now. We have a couple of things that we're trying to get in and I don't want to say that we're going to have them if we aren't set up yet.
In the seven and a half years between Chivalry I and II, there have been a lot of competitors with their own takes on the genre and different focuses on melee combat, a couple of examples being Mordhau and For Honor. Are you looking at those games and drawing inspiration, or is Chivalry II your dream game that isn't taking parts from other titles?
Steve: We're always looking at what other games are doing, what other media is doing. Anything with a sword in it, I consume it. That's just who I am. Chivalry II is a reaction to the fans' impression of Chivalry I much more than it is a reaction to whatever else is doing. We had this idea of the dream game that we wanted to make and we weren't quite able to do it with Chivalry I. This is sort of like a revenge mission to get what we left on the table in the first one.
Alex: There was so much potential in the first game that was left very much untapped. We know that it was something special within that players were led to, but we're also on the same page of what realistically players thought of the game, including that Spin to Win stuff that was not the intention of the design. I am looking at solutions and we have found solutions with Chivalry II to surmount all those issues. We do feel that the genre has so much potential overall as a whole. We think that the medieval battle sword fighting genre can be something that's as popular as the most popular FPS' out there. We think that there's an audience for that, as evidenced by more games like you're talking about coming out. People want this kind of game; they're thirsty for it and we know that we've made the best one.
Steve: Chivalry I was a cult hit in a way and the goal of Chivalry II is to bring that to a much larger audience.
Moving away from the game itself, have you guys been getting any support from Epic Games in regards to Chivalry II?
Steve: Yeah, they've always been great on the engine side and helping us with Unreal 4, which has been awesome. Whenever we aren't understanding technical issues, they're very helpful. They're great on the marketing side too and helping us with opportunities. The biggest thing with the Epic Games thing is we've been able to increase our team size by over 50%. The actual game that players are going to play is a much bigger, much more ambitious game through all of that. I was able to make a game that has no compromises whatsoever, and if anything, go beyond the vision that we thought possible in the first place.
Alex: So yes, [Chivalry II] is going to be everything that players want and more.
The other big thing that's on everyone's mind is next generation between the PlayStation Five and Xbox Series X. Game developers are a little torn between calling them more of the same and a substantial leap forward. Where on the spectrum do you guys position your opinion there?
Steve: I'm actually not sure what has been released about the consoles and I know more than the public probably, so... We're excited about it. I think it's definitely a step forward.
Alex: We're just talking about Chivalry II on PC today, obviously, but we watch everything in the industry that's happening. I think it's exciting to see what direction each of the publishers is taking, whether it's Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo or Stadia as you were talking about. As enthusiasts of the industry and people who play so many games, it's just cool to see what's coming next.
Very last follow-up on that one: do you think having an SSD is as much of a game-changer as Sony and Microsoft are suggesting?
Steve: That really depends on the type of game. There's some games where that won't be a huge deal, but if you have anything that's open world or streaming, it really will make a difference.
Recently, we've had another big platform launch with Google Stadia hitting the market. What do you guys think of the platform and the potential for cloud streaming?
Steve: We definitely think it's exciting. It's just a matter of them solving the technical issues, especially with a game like Chivalry. If there's any input lag you notice it because with an FPS, you are constantly attached to the controls. It's not just an every now and then, how the game feels and responds to you is so important. If that is good enough for a multiplayer FPS, then I'm very interested in it. Until it is, I'm not as interested because those are the games I love to play.
Yeah, when you have that disconnect [in latency], your character immediately just feels drunk or unresponsive at that point.
Steve: It feels like you're controlling someone else rather than it being you.
Thank you guys very much for your time.