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Gameumentary recently conducted an interview with Tobias Stolz-Zwilling and Martin Ziegler from Warhorse Studios, about their upcoming first-person, medieval RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance. As the core game is now complete and playable, the impetus seems to be firmly on polishing the visuals, quality-testing all gameplay features and ensuring quests are consistent and reflective of player choices. An example of the refinements being made:
But while Kingdom Come: Deliverance might be playable front-to-back, it’s still far from the finished product. When games are delayed, one word is brought up seemingly more than any other: ‘polishing.’ A lot of people (myself included) don’t really know what this opaquely ambiguous term means practically, but here, it can refer to a variety of tasks across many disciplines of game development. Currently, Warhorse are transitioning Kingdom Come from internal alpha to beta.
“An internal alpha is something you need to have feature-lock, so you know what made it into the game and what didn’t,” Stolz-Zwilling explains, “then you need to put all the small things together — all the features, all the assets, all the quests, everything. The biggest workload now is for the technical designers, because they have to script the quests. They have to make sure that all of the quest options are playable.
“Where we’re at right now is that we’re transferring it into the beta stage, which means more polishing. The quests are in the game, but some only work with one solution.” “There’re so many ideas that we want to implement,” adds Ziegler, “but we decided to feature-lock the game and try to polish things, which means several different things for several different people.
“For example, on the programmer’s side, we need to optimize a lot. We want the game to run as smoothly as possible, and to look the best that it can on both the consoles and any PC configuration that you might have.
“There are a lot of problems that you know how to solve, but you leave them for later because you need a rough cut of the entire game. It’s a waste of time to polish things when the entire system might get cut out completely or changes made while the game is still being designed. Now that we know, there’re all of these small, or even large, optimizations that programmers and visual artists are doing.
“For visual artists, there’s a lot of literal polishing — well not literal — but really making the game look better in terms of either creating more detailed assets. For example, one of the very cool things the art department are doing right now is taking screenshots of important places in the game, handing them over to the concept artists, who then draw in small details like rocks, particle effects, trees or flowers, which the visual artists will actually put into the game. “For animators and anyone who’s doing any assets, they’re mostly all in place so we can wire them into the game, but they’re still looking rough, and we want to polish them to be more detailed, more subtle.
“For scripters and story designers, we needed to focus on having the entire story and all the side quests in the game to see how they connect — which we need to cut, which we need to redesign all together. Then when you’ve decided what you actually have in the game, you have to think, especially if it’s an open world game, of all the possibilities. What if this character dies? What if you loot this instead of buying it? What if you find the treasure by accident instead of asking? And with voice overs, which are something you can only do at a very late stage of development because it’s very expensive on several fronts, you need to generate facial animations, you need to book a studio, you need to book the actor, and you don’t want to do that unless you’re sure that the quest is in, the text is right. So that’s something that we started doing just a couple of months ago.”
“Even with game roughly in place,” he concludes, “there’s still so much to do.”
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is due to be released in 2017.