Tobias Stolz-Zwilling — PR Manager at Warhorse Studios
Warhorse Studios had a very tricky time getting Kingdom Come: Deliverance developed. “With KC:D we tried to create a game that hadn't yet existed,” says Tobias. “A game that focuses on authenticity and realism to the best of our knowledge, paired with fun and interesting quests and activities. We saw a gap in the market, as the market is flooded with many 'copy and paste' fantasy RPG titles.”
There is a common misconception about KC:D’s combination of stripped-back mechanics and emphasis on the real world, one that we at TA have been guilty of making. “I am always a bit reluctant to call Kingdom Come: Deliverance 'Hardcore' or 'Simulation,'" Tobias illustrated for us. “In the end, it is just another RPG, but with [a different] approach to things.”
From the outset, the team faced trouble getting funding through the door. With a prototype built on CryEngine 3
sorted before the end of 2013, the newly-formed Warhorse team shopped the game around town. Tobias explains that Warhorse’s timing “for the KC:D pitch was bad. It was before PS4 and Xbox One were released, the future of gaming was not clear, minigames on Facebook were booming, and publishers were generally more reluctant than ever to try something new and risky.” In the face of a lack of investment from a publisher, something the team openly described in a fascinating blog post
, the game eventually got put on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
“It was really a sink or swim situation. Failing the crowdfunding campaign would [have] led to inevitably closing down Warhorse Studios. Luckily… we were lucky. Or to put it differently, the concept proved to be appealing to gamers all around the world. Within 36 hours we achieved our initial goal of £300,000. After one month we had over £1.1 million. This success wasn’t completely out of the blue — as we already did market research and contacted a potential community before — however, the speed was surprising. Before, during, and after the Kickstarter campaign, we quickly developed a very active and interested community that was involved immensely in creating the game.”
That community — which still thrives today — opened up a toolbox of inspiration for the dev team, as “many ideas, opinions and feedback were incorporated into the game.” If you have played KC:D, then you know that you are juggling open-ended quests, free-form looting, survival mechanics, and skill trees that actually impact outcomes of the interwoven narrative structure. So how on earth did this team manage to keep it all in check?
“Probably magic,” quips Tobias. “To be honest, it was a big challenge. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is, with all its additions, a 100 hour plus ginormous open-world RPG. Do what you want, go where you want… and essentially break what you want. We had a very bumpy ride to keep the game in shape and fix everything that came up ASAP.
“I’d say that every day is a surprise day in game development. Tasks that seemed to be easy turned out to be way trickier, and the hard tasks… Okay, no — who I am kidding? It almost never turns out to be easier than expected. In all seriousness, one can be surprised at how complicated a save and load system is in a huge open world like that, but we take it for granted.”
Luckily, the Warhorse team had some help in beating KC:D into shape. “We definitely have to thank our patient and active community that helped identify things that slipped through our net, as well. In the end, within a week we had one million testers instead of the initial 20 we had at Warhorse Studios!”
Since the game was released in 2018, there has been four DLC expansions that are now part of the complete Royal Edition. All four have a different flavour and — in some ways — serve as the epilogue to the game. One has you in the burnt-out husk of Pribyslavitz, rebuilding the town and bringing its new citizens into order. Another is a murder mystery and there is another all about Henry’s love life. These are now vital parts of the experience in our view and Tobias told us that they came about as “a combination of many factors.
“We were not 100% clear about [making] DLC before release and had to wait for the reaction and feedback to the release of the base game. It was after that, that the dev team sat together to see what had to be cut out of the game and what would make an interesting fit. In the end, we came up with four very different, but very sophisticated DLC expansions. They might not be the biggest ones, but each and everyone brings new mechanics and interesting quests.”