Available: Q1, 2004
Developer: Related Designs
Publisher: Data Becker

Interview by: Andreas Misund Berntsen

Castle Strike is a medieval 3D RTS, in the works at Related Designs. Embraced by the historical landscape of medieval Europe at the time of the Hundred Years’ War, the player takes on the role of a brave hero setting out to experience an exciting fictitious story packed with treachery, betrayal, battles and ambushes. Castle Strike will be published by Data Becker

Hi, please introduce yourself, and tell us what your role on the team is.

These questions were answered by Burkhard Ratheiser, Managing Director of Related Designs and Joerg Becker, Jr. Product Manager/Producer at Data Becker.

Could you introduce us to the storyline in Castle Strike, and the three campaigns?

Castle Strike features 3 campaigns with a focus on each of the three nations (England, France and Germany), but played in the correct order they tell one complete story. The background is the 100 years war between England and France, but as we preferred to have the liberty of an exciting story rather than a historical lesson, our protagonists are completely fictitious. The player will accompany Thorwald and Svea von Rabenhorst, siblings of an old German noble family, on their long fight for justice and revenge. What first starts as a feud between two German local noblemen quickly gets the two involved in the war between the English and the French. On their way they meet loyal friends and sinister foes and they need many ‘cunning plans’ to overcome their adversaries

We all know that there aren’t exactly few real-time strategy games with a medieval theme. Castle Strike seems to use similar mechanics, in terms of resource management etc, but could you tell us differences, such as the labor management?

Castle Strike is focused on battle action, so our intention is to give the player limitless resources and an easy to handle economy to get into battle quickly. Still there will be shortages and quick decisions might be required to keep the reinforcements flow steadily. So we divided the worker (serfs) in two groups, the builder and the gatherer. The builder will automatically perform any available task as constructing or repairing buildings, fighting fire or... if nothing else is to be done, boil pitch to give unwanted visitors a warm welcome. These tasks can be prioritized. To shift builder into the gatherer group or vice versa, we designed a simple slider bar. The gatherers are divided between the three resources automatically. A triangle with a pointer, by default in the center, gives the player an easy control over the balance of the gathering. These controls are available regardless of the position over the map, so even in the midst of battle the player has control over the serfs ‘back home’.

How exactly does the castle construction work? What kind of flexibility will the player have?

The balancing act between historical correctness and game fun is sometimes tricky. As neither of the three nations featured in our game at that certain period of time had the power to build something like the Chinese Wall to separate whole nations, we actually put a limitation on the player. There is only a limited space in each scenario where he can build his castle and walls are only meant to protect the most valuable military buildings. The buildings needed for economy are not allowed inside the castle, so there will be a village quite close to any fortress and unprotected it will be a priority target for hit and run raids. But we have several foot soldiers, which can be upgraded to mounted troops as quick response units. I think this ‘limitation’ increases the atmosphere and the feeling of medieval warfare drastically.
On the building ground of the castle the player has many options to build his unique home and castle. Instead of placing walls immediately, we designed a kind of blue print. So the player designs his walls on the given area, adds towers and gates and only when he’s pleased with the plan... and has sufficient resources... he hits the button to raise the walls. These can be upgraded with wooden and later stone battlements, the large towers can carry siege weapons and if space and resources are given, the castle can have inner and outer walls.

The special units seem to play an important part in Castle Strike. Can you introduce us to a few?

There are different kinds of special units in Castle Strike. First of all our heroes are very special, as only in combination with a hero a group of soldiers can be upgraded to a ‘banner formation’ and take unique advantages from that hero. Then we have very special units available to each nation, like the healing monk, the bomb planting saboteur and the sappeur, who can either undermine walls or open gates from the inside of the enemy fortress. And finally each nation features unique units, like the German ‘Bidenhaender’, a walking fighting machine with a two handed sword, the English outlaws, invisible in forests, and the longbow men (no surprise I guess) or the French paladins and crusaders.

How does combat work in Castle Strike, and what makes it different compared to other games?

The fighting units in Castle Strike span from the typical close combat warriors over pole arm fighters, several bow and crossbow men, heavily armored mounted lancers to the harquebus, the first rifle and the end of knighthood. With the options to upgrade some of the fighter to use horses, upgrade armor, the influence of experience, stamina or the presence of a hero on the abilities of the soldiers, a wide range of tactical possibilities is granted. A difference to most other medieval games is the inability of regular soldiers to destroy buildings or even scratch walls. Although the fire arrow upgrade of the bowmen and some of the special units mentioned above can be of some help this is when the siege engines come into play. And in Castle Strike you will get a lot of them. Siege turrets with a platform for ranged fighter, ballistae, onager, trebuchets and the first guns in different variations and sizes... they will be the main focus on the battlefield.

I’m sure most of those who have seen the Castle Strike screenshots were impressed with what they’ve seen. Can you tell us some details about the engine? Also, how would you characterize the art direction?

Regarding our engine:
We at Related Designs use our own state of the art 3D engine, which was completely developed in-house. The engine is capable to smoothly render huge amount of 3D objects since we have huge castles, very detailed units (especially the siege machines) and complex scenery. Other features include: Level of Detail (LOD) system for most of our units, real-time shadows for all objects, an advanced particle effects system, weather effects and a terrain system which enables us to use very detailed ground textures that can be seamlessly blended between each other. Of course we also use and support the capabilities of modern graphics cards (T&L, vertex shaders, motion blending, etc.). One of the most important features is the scalability of the rendering engine. Several graphic details can be tuned to the performance of the user’s computer configuration.

Regarding the art direction:
The World of medieval Europe was rich of great designs. With Castle Strike we tried to capture some of the beauty of this style and choose forms and colours that represent the essence of these gone by times.

We also worked hard to give the players some images, that can be easily recognized and help to identify with the scenery of great warriors and huge castles. In addition, we wanted to step aside the well trodden paths and try something that has not been made before. For example we not only included crossbow men into the game, like many other games did before, but we put some effort into research to find out, how the real crossbow-men were equipped in the armies of medieval times. So we found out, that these fierce fighters used great shields, so called paveses, to protect them against enemy fire. So you can play crossbow men in castle strike that are historical correct and provide an unusual look with great animations that have never been seen before in a game.

Same thing is true for the huge siege machines that were modelled and textured after historical reference but tweaked and tuned to look more fantastic and menacing without being too far away from what existed in ancient times. So the overall concept is a mixture between designs that are true to the real things and also add a sense of fantasy to the game.

Will multiplayer be available, and if so, what kind of options will the players have?

Yes, Castle Strike has several multiplayer maps and a random scenario generator for online play or just skirmishes against the AI. The multiplayer modes are Deathmatch, Get the Keep and Capture the Virgin

When do you hope to see the game in stores?

In Germany the game will be released in January 2004. International release dates are not decided yet.