"What we want to bring to the fantasy RTS space is the ability to have the large and the small interacting," Chris says. It's a long way off, but Gas Powered Games and lead designer Chris Taylor are already talking about their next strategy game: Kings and Castles.
"Whether you're talking about Age of Empires I, II or III, Warcraft, or Lord of the Rings," Chis says, "they just weren't able to have giant units on the map because there was no way they could render them and make them fit on screen." Not any more. Using the zooming technology developed for Supreme Commander's giant robot battles, Kings and Castles will bring the giants of the fantasy realm to the battlefield.
"Dragons are something that weren't possible to the degree that we can do them now," Chris says. "We can have a real, giant, believable, fantastic creature that can be really intimidating and awesome." He's been designing strategy games since 1997's Total Annihilation, but still he's almost too excited to speak when describing his latest work. Imagine exclamation marks at the end of every sentence. "And if you're evil, your dragon will literally get bigger and stronger as it feeds on enemy soldiers."
Other legendary units (the equivalent of SupCom's experimentals) will increase the game's 'wow factor' as they plough through armies of soldiers and cavalry. Chris mentions a massive stone statue that, with enough magic, can come to life and join the fight, and a disgusting 'Meat Giant' erected from the remains of fallen soldiers and horses. "The goal is to push to areas that are really quite fantastic."
'SupCom in medieval times' was the foundation of the idea. Chris is designing Kings and Castles with the goal of carrying on a medieval strategy spirit he feels has been lost since his favourite, 1999's Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.
"Kings and Castles is a dyed-in-the-wool RTS game for people who love the RTS experience," he says. It has all of the base building and resource management of a traditional RTS, although with some interesting options, such as slow-cutting forests for a steady trickle of resources that won't expose you to new avenues of attack, and temporarily shutting down an enemy's economy by marauding through his farms to drive off workers.
I asked Chris to explain a typical moment of play. "The huge bridge that you were about to cross is destroyed. What now? Bring up your wizard, and have him conjure a bridge! Not enough magic? Sacrifice a third of your troops, sucking the life force right out of them, build a bridge from the light of their souls, and cross before the enemy swoops down with their dragon and eats your wizard."
The singleplayer campaign will tell a classic good-versus-evil story of noble humans battling an evil army of creatures, and the whole thing will be playable with up to eight players. There's also third faction in the mix, but Chris will only say one thing for sure: "No elves."