When in retro Rome, do as the 16-bit Romans do
After spending a collective 16 years at storied game developer LucasArts, the studio behind games like Full Throttle, Sam and Max Hit the Road, the Monkey Island series, and of course a truckload of Star Wars titles, Matt Boland and Tim Temmerman found themselves cast adrift when George Lucas sold the ranch to Disney, which sadly decided to shut it down. Rather than move on to other big studios to work on other big games, they decided to roll the dice on the indie life, combining their love of history and older strategy releases like Myth II: Soulblighter and the SNES cartridge King Arthur’s World into a new project called Super Roman Conquest.
“We settled on Rome as a setting for the game because Tim and I are both big fans of history, especially the history of Rome,” Boland explained. “I’m a HUGE fan of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast and he did an excellent multi-part podcast on the fall of the Roman Republic called, ‘Death Throes of the Republic.’ It’s a ridiculously fascinating and engaging narration of everything that went into the eventual collapse of the Roman Republic and rise of the Empire. These people lived in a governmental system shockingly similar to our own in the United States and faced many of the same problems we do today. After listening to Hardcore History, I honestly felt a strong connection to these people who lived thousands of years ago and wanted to create a game that could serve to highlight some of these similarities for people who maybe weren’t aware of them.”
On the surface, Super Roman Conquest looks like more like a side-scrolling arcade game than anything else, but it is in fact a strategy game. It won’t feature territory management, taxation, or other such components found in strategy heavyweights like Crusader Kings; instead, the intent is to allow fans of the genre to “scratch the itch” without getting bogged down in multi-layered menus and obtuse UIs.
“We want people to be able to pick up Super Roman Conquest and enjoy themselves, but also want more experienced users to use the tricks they’ve learned to manipulate the various systems we’ve built,” Boland said. “Essentially we want the gameplay of SRC to boil down our favorite strategy games to the essence of what we feel are their greatest strengths: epic, tactics-filled battles and dynamic, game altering decisions.”
What makes Super Roman Conquest unique is that it literally has depth; while it appears to be a conventional 2D scroller, it allows players to move in and out of the playing field on parallel paths called “Battle Lanes.” Imagine standing at one side of a bowling alley, looking across all the lanes to the other side, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how it will work. And while you might not expect much in the way of historical accuracy from a side-scrolling game with a 16-bit visual style, the developers plan to include a wide range of events based on actual historical happenings; although since players will address these situations as they see fit, things might not always work out as they did in the history books. Accuracy is important, Boland said, but the priority is the player’s own story, written by the choices made over the course of the game.
Also a bit unusual is the relatively paltry funding amount of just $30,000 the team is seeking from Kickstarter. Boland noted that he and Temmerman didn’t just work on big-budget, big-staff projects while at LucasArts, but also spent time on “small, multi-disciplined teams that were comfortable working within the range of smaller budgets.” They’ll also be able to take advantage of Ouya’s “Free the Games” fund, which will match their funding goal if the Kickstarter is successful. “We wanted to set a goal that we felt was completely achievable, so that we could raise the funds as stress-free as possible and get back to doing what we love doing: developing games,” Boland said.
The Super Roman Conquest Kickstarter is underway now and, at the time of this writing, a little more than halfway to its goal. A pre-alpha build, with a tutorial and “mini-encounter vertical slice” of gameplay, is expected to be ready soon as well. Boland and Temmerman say they’re “strongly committed” to the game, and what they’ve come up with even at this early stage looks very promising; I hope they’re able to make it to completion. You can find out more about Super Roman Conquest at superromanconquest.com, or throw your support behind it on Kickstarter.