Recently we got to chat with Ethan Levy about the upcoming turn-based strategy game Enhanced Wars. The game is currently in very early alpha and set to launch through funding via a Kickstarter later in the year. Read on to see what’s new with this turn-based strategy game that takes influence from Advanced Wars, WeeWar, and more.
Can you tell me a little bit about Quarter Spiral and what your role is within the company?
Quarter Spiral is a new game development studio founded by myself and Alex Kohlhofer, two veteran producers who worked side-by-side at BioWare Social. We are joined by back end development expert Thorben Schröder.
Personally, I have worked in game development for over ten years and have contributed to over 30 shipped in just about every role on every platform. I work primarily as a game designer and producer, but on a small, three-man team, every person wears multiple hats. We haven’t bothered coming up with official roles or titles–whenever someone tells me they are the Chief Creative Officer of a studio with three people and no shipped games I roll my eyes a little. Some days I work on game design, some days I’m doing the front end programming, some days I’m working on business strategy, some days I’m working on marketing.
We have a very cross-functional team. Between the three of us we have experience in production, game design, graphic design, web development, back end systems, system architecture, UI design, art, audio, front end coding, monetization strategy, marketing and business development…. That’s a long winded way of saying we all work on everything all the time!
So the first game being developed at your studio is Enhanced Wars. What is the basic premise of the game?
Enhanced Wars is a turn-based war game that is designed for fulfilling asynchronous multiplayer gaming.
It takes classic, turn-based strategy gameplay found in games we love and updates it for modern sensibilities. Enhanced Wars is designed from the ground up to deliver a fast, accessible, and fulfilling experience that focuses on strategic use of your army, not resource hording and base defense. Most turn-based strategy games are great as single-player experiences when you are crushing the computer, but lose sight of fun when you play another human and get locked in frequent stalemates or long, boring mop up phases. Our goal in designing Enhanced Wars is to fix all that.
What are you doing differently with Enhanced Wars to avoid these long stalemates and resource hording battles that occur in other strategy games?
The key to solving the stalemate problem is to change the victory condition. Instead of making a game where the goal of the game is to completely destroy your opponent, Enhanced Wars is a scored system where the first player to 30 points wins. We give points for taking action we want to promote, for instance being aggressive instead of turtling. Currently, on your turn you get one point just for attacking once, so you are [encouraged] to always take at least one shot.
To solve the resource hoarding problem, we had to design a game that isn’t about gathering resources. It sounds like a simple thing to say, but most turn-based and real time strategy games have their roots in taking over bases, mining, chopping down trees, or some other form of gathering resources.
Instead, in Enhanced Wars you get 20 action points (AP) every turn. Everything costs AP –moving, firing, dropping new units onto the battlefield. AP are use them or lose them, so players are encouraged to use as many AP as possible each turn.
We just ran some initial playtests with players outside of the game team this weekend. So far the results are encouraging. It feels like Enhanced Wars has met its design goals, even in this early stage.
Enhanced Wars utilizes a square tile layout, while many current strategy games have been favoring hexagon tiles. What led you to this design choice?
Ah, yes, the old square versus hex debate. For us it is all about making a game with a broad appeal (given a relatively niche genre or turn based strategy). We feel like for core gamers like us, hexes intuitively make sense.
But based on experience with the two hex-based games members of our team have worked on, hexes are confusing once you go for a wider audience. Squares are a bit easier to program, and a lot easier for new players to understand. In terms of game design, we feel like both squares and hexes are valid choices, but we chose to implement the solution we thought would be best for our players.
Speaking of your players, you are actually looking for them to fund Enhanced Wars via Kickstarter in the near future. How has the approach to planning your Kickstarter campaign been affected based on other projects’ successful and unsuccessful funding campaigns?
Early on, I did a lot of research into successful strategy game Kickstarter campaigns. We haven’t set a hard goal for Enhanced Wars yet, but, based on the research, we will need something in the range of 1,000 backers to hit our goal. That is a lot of people for an unknown studio’s first game.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned so far is that you have to get people involved and build your fan base early. It is not enough to just show up on Kickstarter…. You need to be prepared to have a big day one with support from fans, friends, and family. As a result, we are doing a lot of community outreach to build a fan base and figure out what those players want. We’ve been running a survey to figure out game features and Kickstarter goals, which readers can take here. Although we’re still taking surveys, we have shared initial results with our fans and had good discussions with our most dedicated players about where their desires deviate from the majority. For instance, the core fans were surprised at how few people have voted for Map Editor as one of the stretch goals.
When is the planned launch window of your Kickstarter, and do you have plans to put Enhanced Wars on Steam Greenlight?
Right now, we are on a path to launch the Kickstarter campaign in mid-August. We definitely want to get Enhanced Wars on Steam Greenlight since Steam is one of the best platforms for an indie PC game. Between Kickstarter, Greenlight, Humble Store, the bundle phenomena, Desura, and others, there has never been a more exciting time to try and make a living as an indie game developer.
Moving forward, what other platforms would you consider releasing Enhanced Wars on other than PC? Would the mobile market be something you’d consider for the title in the future or would that detract from the core experience you are trying to deliver to players?
We would love for Enhanced Wars to be a game that follows you around on any platform you want to play on. Since it is an asynchronous multiplayer game, it is an ideal cross-platform experience. If we are able to fully achieve our goal, you will wake up and play a round on your Android phone, get to work and play a a few rounds on Steam or Web browser, get home and play rounds while watching TV and playing on your iPad. Mechanics wise, the game can easily be played with touch or traditional input devices.
Thanks for the interview, Ethan. Is there anything else you would like to add to get out there to the fans?
Thanks for interviewing me! The one thing I would add is that we are striving for a very open and collaborative design process with our fans. If you think Enhanced Wars is interesting, follow @QuarterSpiral on Twitter to see all our latest videos, polls, articles, etc., and let us know any elements of the game you would like to learn more about, or if you’d like to challenge me to a match.