Lennart Sas: on finishing Overlord and the future of Triumph Studios!Interview by Swolte: June 2007
Lennart Sas is the Director and Lead Designer of Triumph Studios, the company that made our Age of Wonders! After AoW-Shadow Magic, Lennart and his team have have tried something different from the 2D strategy game that they have usually made. And after four years, Overlord was born! This exclusive interview took place right before its release.
Congratulations with finishing up Overlord (release is imminent)! Most of the readers of this interview will be AoW fans, but also Triumph Studios fans! Can you tell me why we should get Overlord (or not)?
Let me just say it right away, Overlord is a very different game than Age of Wonders. About as different as an action movie is to an in-depth documentary; but it doesn’t mean that if you like one you dislike the other. The aspect the games share is the same sort of fantasy charm and passion that was put in development. Any AoW fan that isn’t locked to playing just hardcore strategy games should give it a shot. Even you don’t like action games, you can still enjoy the excellent humor in the game, the graphics made by the Triumph Team or new music by AoW1 composer Michiel van den Bos. Although the demo doesn’t contain the multiple minion types and the guard marker control which opens up the tactics in Overlord, I still urge all AoW fans to check out the tutorial demo that has just been released on Xbox 360 and PC.
What were the largest differences working on Overlord (2007) compared to Shadow Magic (2003)?
As soon as you move to 3D and add consoles to the equation, everything changes. The team gets bigger, the art and technology pipelines become more complex. But by creating this 3D world we got a chance for something we really enjoy, which is to tell stories with cool characters and narration and humor. (as some of you might know the “World of Wonders” prototype had more RPG/Adventure elements in it). The 3 released AoW games had an excellent story but the limitations of zoomed out 2d world gives little room for narrative and dialogue.Unfortunately Ray wasn’t able to join in this time but Rhianna Pratchett did a great job!
Do you think that Overlord will create as loyal a fanbase as the AoW series did?
The average Overlord gamer is probably of a different breed than the Age of Wonders fans and hangs out scattered forums at big game websites. It should be interesting to see what happens.
Overlord is quite unique in the sense that one almost needs to do all sorts of nasty things to sheep, hobbits, and other innocent beings. How much of your own personality did you put in, or where did you get the inspiration from?
Well whenever go for a stroll through the countryside and I see cute lamb I get a strong urge to club it to death as I am a sucker for lean mutton. But seriously, a lot of us at Triumph are D&D playing fantasy nerds. Our back catalogue contains hardcore fantasy. But we decided it was time for us to do something different with the genre. Fantasy with an edge, where you could do things that weren't possible in any other fantasy games. Soon the concept of how a regular guy rose to become a Dark Lord emerged.
Our goal was to make an intuitive action RPG featuring lots of looting and pillaging, rather than a 'Sim Dark Tower' or an RTS. The team went to great lengths to test-bed the Minion control scheme and AI, because we needed to ensure players were given the experience of summoning and ordering the Minions around themselves. Once that system was in place we knew we could have a lot of fun with the Minions.
Of course, we were also influenced by the games we play and love. Dungeon Keeper, Fable, Pikmin and many other games consciously and unconsciously influenced the design of the game. However there are many more differences than similarities. As for story and creature design, as well as twisting fantasy clichés we looked for inspiration outside the typical fantasy mould. Some of my favourite movies from my childhood - such as Gremlins, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth - are good examples of our inspiration.
Looking back, did you get to create the game you wanted to? For example, what are you most proud of and what would you still have liked to see different?
We are really happy with the end result its actually quite close to the original design. We are really happy and proud of the minion controls, the game world, and the humor it no. No regrets!
Now that Overlord has been released, can you tell us about your next challenge? And more specifically, is there a chance for an AoW-3 in the (distant) future?
We are currently working on add-on content for Ovelord. I can’t tell you anything about our next projects, but can tell you we’ll always look for opportunities to get a new Age of Wonders made. The AoW community has to understand that many things need to align for game projects to happen and it’s not just about the developer’s willingness. The current climate for hardcore pc games isn’t looking too rosy with rising costs and shrinking sales. It’s also worth to note that the last iterations of the major AoW competitors have been made in Eastern European countries where the production costs are much lower (but they did a great job I think). Anyways, AoW and its community are very dear to us and we have lots of ideas for the series. Also, any new AoW game will stay true to its turnbased roots, and true to the world mythos.
(Sorry, I'll get killed if I don't ask...) With a successful release of Overlord, has a release of the AoW(1 or SM) sourcecode come an inch closer?
That’s something that we hope to do but I can’t promise anything! I would really express my thanks to the AoW community to keep the game alive through the years. Many people here still follow the forums and check out the patches and maps made by the community and we are often baffled by the great things being made, some things we didn’t even know were possible!
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