Dogs of War Online – Developer Interview

Dogs of War Online was recently announced by Cyanide Studios in a press release last week.  The game is a turn-based, tactical arena game that draws heavily on an old table-top RPG game called Confrontation.  We had the opportunity to speak with Pierre Gilbert, the Lead Game Designer of Dogs of War Online about the game and what we can expect in the future.

MMO ATK: Let’s begin by telling us a little about the game?
Pierre Gilbert, Lead Game Designer: The game is an online multiplayer F2P set in Aarklash (the main continent of Confrontation).  It is a turn-based game where you lead mercenary companies, inspired from the tabletop game, that mainly aims to keep the same spirit.  Fans of the game might recognize the influence of Confrontation’s first expansion book (“Dogs of War”), which focused heavily on adding RPG and Management elements to the mix.
Can you talk a bit about how the game came to be? (i.e. where the idea came from, who was involved, how did you get started)
Cyanide holds the rights for Confrontation for quite some time now, and when the first Confrontation game was released, many players expressed the wish to have a multiplayer part closer to the tabletop feeling, with turn-based action.   I shared that feeling; as a kid, I craved to see a good tabletop game made for PC.  When Cyanide came up with Chaos League and then Blood Bowl, I felt that we were on the same page, though I wasn’t working for them at the time.
Few years later, I felt it was natural for me to apply for the company. After some time in, I went to see Patrick [Pligersdorffer, our CEO] to discuss the potential of a persistent turn-based game set in the Confrontation universe, closer to its core experience. We quickly came to an agreement and launched Dogs of War online with a small team.
What is the challenge for bringing the table-top experience to an online game? 
There are so many!  First and foremost, the worst thing for us was to get an intuitive game while following a 200-pages rule-book    It was a bit of a nightmare at first, as we had to “translate” every feature of the book into something that was close to the spirit of the game but accessible for PC players.  The sheer number of rules can be really hard to assimilate for new players, so we had to make sure that the complexity would be gradually tackled by players, assuring intuitive inputs and feedback. 
Then, you’ve got the pace.   A typical Confrontation tabletop match varies between 1 and 3 hours long (if you’re lucky), which we felt was way too much for PC gamers. 
We aimed for 20 to 40 minutes games, mostly depending of your squad size.  Luckily, the computer was an advantage here; because it can obviously do all the underlying work, leaving players only with the pleasant input (tactical choices).
There is also the random factor.  Most of the tabletop games heavily rely on dices, adding a lot of unpredictability in the game.  While we felt it was an important side of the experience, it did not translate that well on PC.  First tries proved to be a bit frustrating, so we had to reduce randomness to an acceptable level and help the player to control possible risks, to make sure the experience was enjoyable at all levels.  
Table-top games offer a lot of social interaction, which is a key part of their success, how will Dogs of War Online incorporate a social element? 
Social interactions were a concern too.  For example, PC players can’t launch dices the way they would in real life, or pick the ones they like, or reroll some… They also cannot refer to the rule-book or react verbally and discuss rules with the other players before reaching an agreement, interactions that are common with the tabletop game…  In a PC game, rules are hard-coded and there is no place for negotiation. The good side is that it prevents possible rules misinterpretation 🙂
Rolling and choosing dices or allowing each player to react to every action would have hindered the game way too much, essentially slowing it down to the tabletop level.  We opted for a faster-paced tactical game.  However, that doesn’t mean that there is no social interaction in our game; we secured an immersive experience, and made sure to have feedback for everything important in-game   Players will have ample opportunities to comment the ongoing action, give advice to their adversaries, taunt them, or blame luck aloud (like we all do !).
Regarding our other social and community interactions, we are planning to unveil multiplayer gameplay details as the project comes closer to its release date. 
You will begin with three armies at launch, how many more do you plan on releasing in the future?
The tabletop game included a lot of armies with powerful concepts behind them, all of them equally interesting.  The vastness of their world offers plenty of opportunities to expand armies in the future.  I can tell you it was hard to select which ones to release first!  Hopefully when our game launches, the “Company Creation” process should give a good idea of what to expect in the next months. 
In the press release there was mention of unexpected consequences like unit desertion, tension between soldiers and theft, can you explain a bit about these consequences?
That’s the central idea behind our management gameplay.  The logic here is that you’re a Guild leader dwelling in Cadwallon (the largest, “free” city of Aarklash).  You are in charge of many mercenary companies that you hired yourself.   You’ll send them to execute contracts, and they’ll stay loyal to you. As long as you can pay them.  But because they are unruly outlaws, it’s a bit like herding cats. Cats that would have caught rabies for some reason.  You can chose to close your eyes on your men’s outrageous behavior, or reprimand them.   Either option will have consequences, be it on your treasury, or their health, or the way they see you.   We want you to make cornelian choices as you strive for power in this brutal world.
When will players be able to play Dogs of War Online?
We are doing everything we can to make it happen as soon as possible! 😉
Finally what is your favorite part of the game, and why will players want to play your game?
That’s a bit hard to answer, because I equally love many of them.  I guess my favorite part would be the fight itself, but that’s mainly because I was a fan of the tabletop game for a long time.  I think long-time players as well as newcomers will enjoy it though.  The fact that there are consequences to every decision is really great too ; it adds a lot to the experience in my opinion.  I can’t wait to see which parts of the game will be loved by players, though.

Dogs of War Online – Developer Interview