Almost 15 years ago, a group of friends worked together to create a free “Half-Life 2” Mod, adapting Valve’s classic dystopian masterpiece into a medieval-themed melee combat game. “Age of Chivalry” was released in 2007 as a comprehensive modification mod of “Half-Life 2”, produced by a group that calls itself Team Chivalry.
Some members of this team completed another Great Leap Forward in 2010. They switched to Unreal Engine and established Torn Banner Studios to develop “Chivalry: Medieval Warfare”.
The studio’s first release provided a masterpiece of a melee game. Although it requires many players to play at the same time, and the difficulty of becoming a master is painful, it still attracts a group of loyalists due to its hot and exciting multiplayer gameplay. Fans. After the release of “Mirage: Arcane Warfare” (Mirage: Arcane Warfare), which was transformed and integrated into magical combat in 2017, the studio regained its original aspirations and made knight battles.
“Chivalry 2” promises to let players return to the medieval battlefield, while retaining all the hot features and combat details of the original, it will bring an epic 64-player movie-level battlefield, siege battle and improved, easy to learn and difficult to learn Refined combat system.
Unreal Engine and Torn Banner’s Alex Hayter discussed the studio’s transformation journey, the delicate balance they found in the meticulously polished close combat, and the team’s vision for this highly anticipated sequel.
This is Torn Banner Studios’ fourth commercial game. What changes have been made to the studio’s development and product production in the past 11 years?
Alex Hayter, Brand Director of Torn Banner Studios:Good guy, good question! The simple answer is: Compared with the early years, our studio has undergone a complete transformation, and it has also adhered to the ambitious and innovative spirit. It is this spirit that led us to publish the “Knight” in 2012 from the very beginning. “: Medieval War” created the brand. Our goal has always been to make the game of our dreams, and this is also true in “Knight 2”.
The first generation of “Knight” was made by a group of amateurs scattered around the world in the basement and bedroom. They all had a dream: to make the ultimate medieval multiplayer FPS. We know that its success in many respects makes it both easy to use and addictive-simple and refined, good-feeling melee weapons, a well-designed map that is loyal to the medieval fantasy style, and a little personality adjustment inspired by the Monty Python troupe. Our vision at the time was to make a Hollywood-style game where players would play the role of a knight holding a long sword, fulfilling their dreams of medieval fantasy. This idea was well realized at the time, but to be honest, due to the small scale and lack of experience of the studio ten years ago, this game has many shortcomings.
We see “Knight 2” as an opportunity to “make it right”, because now we have developers with more than 10 years of experience, and a larger team with rich experience in 3A masterpieces. In addition, now we are also supported by Tripwire Interactive. With their help, we are able to release the game on the current and next generation console platforms while releasing the PC version through the Epic Games mall, thus making this game Going to the next level, allowing us to reach a wider audience than when we did it alone.
“Phantom: Austrian-French War” is a trial work conducted by the studio outside the scope of its subject matter. In the end, the studio felt that the performance of this work was not satisfactory. What do you think you learned from the development, release and support of this game? How did these lessons apply to “Knight 2”?
Hayter：Through the “Knight”, we know that we have found a successful formula (medieval multiplayer game plus melee and chaos), but through “Phantom”, we want to test the boundaries of this formula. Our goal is to make long-range combat as rigorous as the melee combat of “Knight” and as easy to control as players, so as to provide an ingenious multiplayer combat game. We think that we have made a game that can attract master hardcore players of “Knight”. It has made an important new expansion on the basis of “Knight”‘s melee combat, and is also equipped with a unique art style beyond the conventional.
We have always had a plan to develop our “dream game”, which is to make the orthodox sequel to “Knight”, which will be developed next to “Phantom”. But we still hope that “Phantom” can provide a fun and challenging new experience in the field of multiplayer games. Our young studio is also bent on making a disruptive innovation outside of the “Knight” series of games, because many people on the team went from “Age of Cavaliers” to “Knight: Deadly Samurai (Chivalry)eadliest Warrior)”, nothing else. They have been working on the same subject for too long!
Of course, Zhuge Liang is always good afterwards. Many of its failures are at the product level. The first impression it gives is that it is not clear what game it is, so we have spent a lot of effort to market it effectively. Its settings and art styles are not common, which makes it look like a casual game at first glance, which is a step backwards compared to our work in the “Knight” series. So in general, it can’t attract our target hardcore players at all, and most new players who try it will encounter insurmountable barriers in battle, and only get a bad user experience. We have done a poor job of listening to the opinions of various target audiences.
At the innovation level, we also let this project be affected by too many opinions from different directions, and failed to steer the collective rudder to make the project move in the same direction. This is one of the most important lessons that our team has learned, and it is this lesson that helped us achieve some major achievements in “Knight 2”.
In the end, the failure of “Phantom” also made us a blessing in disguise. When we look back at “Phantom”, we will feel relieved, because our studio has withstood a storm that may cause many studios to close down, and we have gained extremely valuable experience that any studio can learn from. We also deeply feel that if we develop “Knight 2” next to the first generation of works, then it may also be ruined by the problems that caused “Phantom” to roll over. And now, we have made what we think we have a chance to succeed into one of the greatest multiplayer games of all time.
Torn Banner Studios has accumulated a lot of unique experience in the field of first-person melee combat. What has been the development of your game’s battles over the years? What do you hope to achieve in combat in “Knight 2”?
Hayter：Simply put, the design goal of “Knight 2” in terms of combat is to make players feel like they are in a melee using swords. Steve Piggott, the founder of our studio, described it this way: Imagine you are sitting in a bar full of guests and suddenly someone throws a bag of weapons on the floor and proposes a fight to everyone in the bar. In a desperate battle with swords, how much creativity, madness and despair there will be, that is its spirit, yes!
In “Knights: Medieval War”, we try to create a combat system that allows players to greatly control what they can do with their weapons. The basis of this system is real-time strikes. When you swing a weapon, the weapon that passes through the air can cause damage. This means that you have to take the initiative to make the trajectory of the sword point at your enemy instead of only using the crosshair to aim. You can turn the camera to help the weapon hit the target faster, or turn it in the opposite direction to delay the inevitable blow. This real-time sword swinging system (also known as’dragging’) is still a basic element in “Knight 2”. However, compared with the first generation of games, the overly exaggerated sword-swinging operation has now become much more pragmatic, with special emphasis on interpretability. There is no such kind of “turn to win” or “ballet” type of action now. Although players find that these actions can be done in the first generation of games, it has never been our original intention. This type of action makes the high-level combat in “Knights: Medieval War” pay too much attention to the use of drag and fake actions to confuse opponents and lure opponents to block. In this way, the feeling of fighting is not like a wonderful trick, but it becomes a fight that feels strange and looks awkward. Sometimes using such tricks will make people feel good, but it will also make the opponent feel uncomfortable, and it does not really realize the combat fantasy of medieval heavy armor knights on the level of gameplay.
“Knight 2” focuses on allowing players to constantly improvise to create offensive tricks, truly immersed in the battle of you and me. In “Knight 2”, we don’t want players to always rely on one or two moves to hit the world, but we want players to feel that they can always make interesting and unexpected choices in the battle.
Most games of this nature often have a high threshold, because their control methods are always very complicated, and they must have subtle and subtle gameplay to succeed. In order to lower the difficulty for entry-level players, are you committed to making adjustments in this regard? If so, how do you hope to achieve this goal without affecting the exciting battles in the game?
Hayter：We have set an ambitious goal, that is, the lower limit of the player’s technical requirements for this game is lower than other games of the same type, and the upper limit is higher than them. For those players who feel that they are already proficient in “Knight: Medieval War”, playing “Knight 2” will be a unique “re-learning” process, because they will find that the combat system is completely redesigned and needs to be learned from scratch. In terms of basic moves, “Knight 1” has cross cut, down cut, straight stab and kick. “Knight 2” has normal cross cut, vigorous cross cut, down split and straight stab, as well as kicks, boxing, special attacks, and so on. We have also added options around secondary occupations, footwork, special abilities, support items, etc. This means that players always have the opportunity to experiment and hone their skills in different aspects of the game.
On the other hand, players with less experience will find that if you just want to survive in battle, it will be much easier than before. Now the player can maintain the blocking posture, so when the situation is unfavorable, the player can rely on shields or weapons to get the fighter chance. When maintaining the blocking posture, the player’s stamina will be consumed quickly, but if you can use the block with good spatial awareness, the player will have the opportunity to wait for the support of teammates and learn how to counterattack, and this does not require the player. First make a block with perfect timing. We spent a lot of energy to improve the tutorial and the prompts in the user interface, in order to help players master the principles of the combat system. Our goal is to make players feel that even if they have been killed many times, they can die clearly every time.
“Knight 2” has gone through multiple versions of testing. What have you learned in the process? What improvements have been made to the game based on these experiences?
Hayter：The public alpha test of “Knight 2” (testers need to sign a non-disclosure agreement) started in March 2020, and will be tested once a month until April 2021, and each round lasts from 1 to 4 days. These tests are definitely of inestimable value. Testers have invested a lot of time to try out the game under development, provide us with various feedbacks, and report bugs. We are really grateful to them.
We hope to improve our process of listening to community opinions on the basis of previous games. The “Knight: Medieval War” we released in 2012 was a great success beyond our imagination, so we were neither prepared nor knowledgeable about how to communicate well with the suddenly growing community. It’s 2021, and we feel that this is one of the areas where we have made the most progress as a studio. As early as the beginning of development, one of our goals was to truly open the early development of “Knight 2” to our large number of enthusiastic players. At that time we had tens of thousands of active alpha testers. On the other hand, we will not stop listening to feedback or bug reports after the game is released. We intend to maintain a close relationship with our community (with our Discord server as the core), and regard the release of “Knight 2” as a continuation project that requires continuous feedback from the community. It’s amazing to see the community contribute so much to make “Knight 2” a great gaming experience.
All “Knight” games take place in a fictional universe borrowed from medieval-themed film and television dramas. Why did you decide to put the game in a fictional world view instead of using a real-world setting?
Hayter：“Knight 2” should feel like a game version of a medieval film and television series. So in our opinion, it is meaningful to create a virtual world, and let everything happen in this world, it will make the game process have a “movie feeling”. A fictitious world also allows us to make some interesting innovations. When designing a map, we don’t have to be bound by reality; we can build many interesting scenes, and in level design and art, we can make the scale bolder. In addition, we also like to write legends and create background stories meticulously to explain why the Knights of Agatha (to this day) are fighting endlessly with the Order of Mason. The legend can provide some content that attracts our hardcore players, and also gives the plot and background support for the battle in “Knight 2”.
Did the elements in “Knight 2” borrow specific movies or TV shows? If so, which ones? What inspiration do they provide?
Hayter：Of course there is. Medieval film and television dramas are the main source of inspiration for “Knight 2”.
The episode “Battle of Bastards” in “Game of Thrones” is our main reference object throughout the development process. The emotional conflict in that scene, the feeling of Jon Snow miraculously surviving in the crazy fight between the two armies… The battle that is quickly presented when the camera passes the battlefield… On the level of fantasy, this cinematic experience is We want the experience that players get when they play “Knight 2”.
The 2007 “Age of Cavaliers” is the beginning of the “Knight” series of games. It is a Mod of “Half-Life 2” made using the Source engine. What prompted you to decide to switch to Unreal Engine to produce the commercialized work “Knight: Medieval War” released in 2012?
Hayter：The development time of “Knight: Medieval War” was 2008-2012, which coincided with a major turning point in the game development world. With the release of the Unreal Developer Kit (UDK), tools such as Unreal Engine suddenly became ours. A handy thing for a team of young amateur developers. We have seen the excellent support provided by Epic for Unreal Engine 3 developers, as well as the support provided by the engine itself in an updated manner, which made this engine the best game development tool at the time (this trend continues to this day, we use Unreal Engine 4Developed “Knight 2”). It allows our team to truly graduate from the “unknown Mod team” and grow into an independent developer.
“Knight 2” will fully support cross-platform games when it is released in June. Why did you decide to add this feature? How difficult is it to achieve?
Hayter：For us, the implementation of cross-platform games is to fulfill the promise of allowing a wider group of players to play online together. If the PC version alone is released, this goal will not be achieved. With the cross-platform game function, we are more confident that “Knight 2” will gain a healthy player base and keep its server in a prosperous state for many years to come.
Cross-platform gaming also means that our team has to accept the challenge to create a game that provides the same experience on all platforms. It must be truly achieved, no matter what way it is played, it is the same game; we cannot cut content or features in the console version, they must be as complete as the PC version. It was a daunting challenge to allow 64 players to play simultaneously on a vast map and achieve excellent performance on all platforms, but we did it. This requires a lot of optimization work, and in the end, the game we make can also run on a surprisingly low-spec PC.
This will be the first game produced by Torn Banner Studios for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X. Are there any specific improvements or features that can be added to the game because of the new technologies in these hardware?
Hayter：The native ray tracing capabilities of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X did make us decide to work with our development partners to integrate this technology into “Knight 2”. Ray tracing will be updated to PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions after release, but it is definitely on the roadmap.
Of course, the fast loading time when running with SSD is also a major factor that changes the game experience, but the loading time of our game is not too bad on HDD.
PS5’s DualSense controller is also very exciting. Our goal is to make fun and immersive experiences. Therefore, we will make the function of increasing the resistance of the trigger when the player’s endurance is too low, so that the player feels that his character is holding the shield strenuously. In addition, the player can feel the sword on which side of his body when he swings the sword. Help them forget that they are playing video games and make them feel more present.
What are the effects of ray tracing and 4K resolution on the visual effects of games?
Hayter：Our goal is to immerse players in a movie-like combat experience, and in many cases even forget that they are playing games. For the realization of this goal, these technologies have provided great help. Ray tracing support will be updated to platforms that support it after the release, which will further enhance the movie-like picture quality of the game; and a game full of shiny metal armor and weapons can also truly demonstrate the performance of the hardware.
On next-generation game consoles, it is wonderful to play 4K games at 60FPS on a large-screen TV. For players whose screens support refresh rates higher than 60Hz, we have also enabled an unlimited frame rate option. “Knight 2” is an excellent “relax body and mind, enjoy the killing” game, so sitting on the sofa with the handle to play the game, and get the ultimate performance of the hardware, it is really a kind of enjoyment!
What elements of Unreal Engine do you think have played the most important role in realizing your vision of “Knight 2”?
Hayter：There are many great features worth mentioning. The Sequencer of Unreal Engine really helped us in “Knight 2” to achieve a cinematic experience far beyond the first generation of works. Our levels all start with a movie built by Sequencer to help players immerse themselves in the situation where they are about to fight. In some maps, we have constructed animation sequences full of various characters; for example, in the siege of Rudhelm, you will see the VIP “heir” targets that the attacker needs to try to kill. In various maps, players will find themselves in the perspective of a certain character, standing with the army to which they belong; sometimes, the player will first hear the commander’s pre-battle speech before they can control the character and his team. Charge to the enemy together.
The blueprint visualization script also provides incredible help. It allows our design team to work with far more flexibility than before, reducing reliance on the code team (so that our programmers can free up their hands to study new tools and features , Instead of being dragged down by small tasks from the design department). This has played a big role in the entire development process, and it also means that after the game is released, we can make changes and adjustments to the gameplay balance very conveniently, and never need to modify the code in depth. For a multiplayer game that needs to continuously collect community feedback and iterate as the content increases, the value of this technology may not be overstated.
Our team has only 35 employees (as of the time of this interview), but it is able to make a 3A-quality large-scale game, and still maintain the experimental and unique features, which gives us a very cool position in the industry . We are very proud of the results we have made, and Unreal Engine has played an incredibly important role to help our team achieve this goal.
Is there any specific gameplay or visual element design in your game that you want to specifically explain how to implement it? If so, please explain.
Hayter：Our team has made great efforts to ensure that our battles and level design work cooperate with each other, so that players have a strong urge to continue playing in our main game mode-the team goal -. This game mode is one of the biggest selling points of “Knight 2”: the wonderful design will make you feel like you are participating in a real war.
In the team goal map, you need to go through multiple stages to see the final wonderful ending; push the battering ram to the gate, break the gate, take the village, and finally assault the final castle. We want players to feel that they are surrounded by the dynamics of the battlefield, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of melee, infected by the atmosphere of the team, and fighting towards a common goal.
Our design department worked closely to make this feeling. Of course, in order to properly express this feeling of levels and battles, a lot of internal and external trials are required. Some large-scale levels, such as the new Black Forest map, have been developed for several years, and after hundreds of full iterations, they have made a suitable feeling.
Our team often builds team goal levels around major events in the Middle Ages (using examples from history or film and television dramas). Later they will adapt these concepts as the main goal, but sometimes only as a secondary aspect of the level. We think this is a situational narrative that allows players to put themselves into battle; players are not only accumulating points, but participating in a narrative in which the entire team works together. Of course, the battle design must also support this sense of substitution; we have built “Knight 2” into a game that allows you to sort out your clues from a melee on the battlefield of 64 players. Of course there will be exciting duels and small-scale battles on the battlefield, but if you look at the map from above, you can see two huge waves of people colliding head-on, and each side is trying to win in the tug-of-war.
When it comes to the long-term possibilities of next-generation hardware and Unreal Engine, which ones are most exciting for you and your team?
Hayter：We are certainly looking forward to the future and Unreal Engine 5. I really hope to start using it for new projects soon! The promise of “no more consideration of the polygon budget” really burst. Imagine that our character department does not need to make various character LOD variants, and can spend more time on making more characters; this is awesome! It is the dream of all artists and designers to spend more time on creation and less time to solve various pipeline and technical problems.
In “Knight 2”, we overcome the huge challenge of optimization and made a large-scale war game that supports 64 players to fight smoothly on the old and new generations of hardware. So when we think that game engines can take on more arduous tasks in that area, and let our team free up to make bigger and more ambitious projects, we are thrilled.
But for our team, that is a long time later. “Knight 2” will be a project that our team will go all out for a long time. We do see this game as a milestone achievement in our studio. I dare say that what we made is not only an excellent medieval game, but also a modern multiplayer classic.
Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed. Where can you learn more about Torn Banner Studios and “Knight 2”?
Hayter：Discord is our main base for all communication, and we encourage all interested people to visit there: https://discord.gg/chivalry2.
The game was launched on the Epic Games store for Windows PC on June 8.
Source: Unreal Engine