Aggressors - Dev Interview!

A mix of deep gameplay and rich historical flavor, Aggressors: Ancient Rome lets you relive history as the ruler of one of the mighty civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean. Choose one of twenty available factions and conquer the world.
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Aggressors - Dev Interview!

Post by Daniele »

We had the chance to chat a bit with Pavel Kubat, developer of Aggressors, our epic upcoming 4x game set during Ancient Rome!

Matrix: First of all, thanks a lot for your time and congrats for the outstanding job with this game so far. What moved you to adopt the Ancient Mediterranean during the period of the rise of Rome as setting?

Pavel Kubat: The Aggressors was initially supposed to be released as a multimod game, but I eventually realized that this was simply not possible. Not just because we had a very small development team, but also because the amount of testing required and likelihood of bugs would not let us finish it.

The Ancient Mediterranean was chosen to be the first mod to finish. Even in this phase I did not want to release just one campaign map. I wanted to give players hundreds of hours of fun straight away. Three different historical periods were attractive for me - the expansion of Rome, the conflicts between Sparta and Athens (and Greek city states in general) and the fall of the Roman Empire. Instead of parallel development of three mods, we started to work on three scenarios in parallel. Eventually we came to a crossroad where a very important question arose. Which is better? Is it three scenarios done well or one scenario polished into finest details? After a long discussion we decided to go for the second option. But not only that. We decided to extend the rules and historical feeling by introducing objectives tailored for each country and other features (which we will reveal soon in one of our upcoming dev diaries). This would simply not be possible to finish for all three scenarios. But don't worry. They were not cancelled, just suspended, waiting for the day when they come back to life.

So, we decided to go for one polished scenario but which one? Don't you think that the first release of Aggressors coincides nicely with the rise of Rome as a metaphor?


M. What is your favourite faction to use in Aggressors: Ancient Rome and why?

P.K. I have played all the factions, many times. Despite this fact I still enjoy playing it and keep forgetting that it is actually my job. Which is my favourite... Good question. I would probably say Epirus kingdom. I really love the initial setup. Epirus kingdom starts on three different parts of the Mediterranean. The biggest part is located in the Balkans almost in the same area as today's Albania. The second part of the kingdom is in the southern part of Italy called Calabria for which the Romans have their own plans. The third part is in the Eastern part of Sicily, which you share with the Carthaginians and they would really like to take over the whole of Sicily. It sounds hopeless, doesn’t it? Two powerful empires getting closer to each other and you are between them. I enjoy being caught between a rock and a hard place and I have to admit that saving all these parts is a heroic feat which I have accomplished just once. In all the other cases it was an exhausting set of diplomatic compromises and the art of war and at the end you are happy that you saved at least one of these parts.

On the other hand, I really enjoy all the factions – the Spartans trying to reestablish themselves as a military superpower, post-Alexander empires like Seleucid or Ptolemaic fighting between each other or one of the nomadic tribes struggling to find a fertile land and establish their own kingdom.

M. What is the aspect of the game you’re most proud of?

P.K. In general - logic. Everything in the game makes sense and is based on the similar aspects of real life and history. Every rule was added only after we found a similar concept in history with a similar impact. Every decision matters and the number of options between which you need to choose is quite high.
If you ask about one specific feature, I would probably say simulation of crowd behavior. Starting from recruiting units in cities, which depopulate when men are recruited, through to migration where people tend to leave unhappy or dangerous places, to people's attitude which can lead to revolts or even civil wars.


M. Is there any feature or piece of content you definitely want to add in the future to Aggressors?

P.K. There are a number of features that we already have in our "wishlist". Some of them were added to this list in the early stages of development but it was simply impossible to implement them all for the first release. I don't really want to reveal stuff which could arrive in possible extensions of the game. You will see! :)

Apart from features themselves I would like to have the game as open as possible. Starting from sharing custom scenarios created by players through modding support, where players can change the rules of the game, to fully featured scripting. Of course, the last one would be only for advance modders. :)

M. Is it possible to “play tall”, meaning that you don’t have to expand to a very large empire and that you can still play as a very competitive and strong smaller country, if played well?

P.K. We definitely shoot for that. There are a number of winning conditions, starting from the typical conquest and victory points (different for each player) to cultural and technological ones where the size of cities and their level of development, as well as technological dominance and amount of "influence", play the most important role. We tried to create winning conditions which would be in sync with similar historical situation of Constantinople. At the end of ancient history and basically for the whole Middle Ages this city was the centre of the cultural world, despite the fact that the empire itself had been shrinking since the seventh century. We have been trying to implement a similar approach.

M. What do you think of the current situation in the 4x genre? Do you think Aggressors could be a breath of fresh air?

P.K. I think that the 4X genre is on a difficult path. It is true that 4X strategy games are basically the most difficult ones to implement and that is also the reason why not many companies try to go this way. When you compare the number of FPSs or RPGs, the number of 4X strategies is very small. That is also the reason why we hope we can contribute in this domain.

I don't know if I can generally answer the second question in an unbiased way! :) I definitely think, and hope, that players will find some new features in Aggressors that they’ve not seen anywhere else and also some renewed ones which make much more sense than in other strategy games. I don't want to hide that I am a big fan of other strategy games like Civilization (especially Civ I, II and IV), Colonization and other classics. That's actually the reason why I always wanted to bring my own 4X strategy game to life. A 4X strategy game which would really make sense and where all what is going on can be explained through historic examples. I hope that we achieved that and Aggressors is a living dream came to life.
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Re: Aggressors - Dev Interview!

Post by SirGarnet »

Playing tall must be hard in a period where wealth and production are based overwhelmingly on the exploitation of land and to a secondary degree on chattels (including persons in servitude), with the exception of mercantile city states or maritime provinces that benefit from commerce. One might call financial and manpower investment in civic infrastructure - including the military - building tall, or at least not remaining flat.

That things make sense in the historical setting is encouraging. Research, industry, freedom, Invention, republicanism and productivity are among the concepts that first flowered in the classical age, often from a rare few exceptional men with security, position and resources for such pursuits.
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Re: Aggressors - Dev Interview!

Post by pavelk »

Hi SirGarnet,
I wouldn't say that it is hard, it is different. The key is to maintain good or even better relationships with other players. With good relationships you also get better trade deals (and sometimes even gifts), with better trade deals you can "forward" the goods to other players. You can also slowly grab other cities by influence but you have be careful in the way you do it. Another sneaky way how to slowly expand is to intervene in civil wars of other players and always very firmly settle in newly taken areas.
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