It wasn’t the most auspicious start to a crowdfunding campaign. Two hours before the Kickstarter page had even gone up, rumours of Total Annihilation and Dungeon Siege designer Chris Taylor’s new game, Wildman, had surfaced on news sites. The game, a brave hybrid of RPG, RTS, hack-and-slash and MOBA is aiming for a modest budget of $1.1 million, meaning it’ll need around $35,000 a day to make its target.
As we spoke to him moments after the leak, Taylor, who had been preparing for the launch for weeks, was obviously exhausted (“My nerves are a little scatterbrained because of all the prep work… I’m a little nutty right now”) but still keen to play down the ostensible similarities between Wildman and a MOBA like Dota 2 or League Of Legends. “We know that there’s bandwagon-hopping for MOBA. We’re not doing that, we’ve got an action-RPG here, but if you’re like me, then action-RPG is getting a little long in the tooth, you know?”
What really distinguishes this from a MOBA is that Taylor’s studio, Gas Powered Games, is focusing first on the singleplayer game, second on PvE, and pushing any talk of PvP into the distant future. “PvP is the second year, it’s way down the story, it’s Chapter Two,” says Taylor. “Do we think we’d give it away to everyone who backed this? Absolutely. People who are new to the party may want to buy it just for that. It would get pushed up, priority-wise, if there was a huge demand for it.”
That makes Wildman sound reminiscent of Brutal Legend, Double Fine’s so-so action-RTS, but again, what differentiates it is the timeline. You start a singleplayer session as a single wildman (or wildwoman) on an empire-building quest in a world that evolves around you as you pass along its timeline. The speed of your passage through history has yet to be determined, but theoretically you could explore the entirety of human history for the past 200,000 years, with the world map evolving around you. “Early on the dungeons are caves, but 100,000 years later, you’re finding brick and mortar dungeons, from medieval Europe or early Roman sewers.”
Your wildman is a classic action-RPG hero: high on hit-points with a range of abilities he can use to turn battles in his favour. On his own, he experiences much of the game like it’s a Torchlight, exploring a moderately-sized world map, grabbing treasures and dungeon-diving for better gear – until he encounters an enemy civilization. Then the game changes to an RTS. Back at your base, your buildings are producing a stream of troops; you can’t direct them, but you can decide which buildings you have and what upgrades the troops have got.
Warzones are simply any area of the game where big army battles happen, where the streams of your troops and the enemy meet. Troops from either side auto-attack each other, while you and the opposing leader pitch in. “There are going to be elements that feel like Total Annihilation,” he tells us. “The battlefields will be much busier, it’ll be more over the top, chaotic. We like the idea of destructible environments, which you don’t see in arena-style games.”
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