The closure of LucasArts studios earlier this year brought about a great deal of pain for not only fans of the games they produced, but also for Matt Boland, former designer for the cancelled Star Wars 1313.
“The closure of LucasArts earlier this year was certainly a punch to the gut,” he said. “Both my partner Tim and I were working on really cool projects, me on 1313 and Tim on First Assault, so it was sad to see all the work the amazing teams had put into them go to waste.
However, with the passing of LucasArts, Matt found new hope in the form of SeaCliff Interactive. The small up-and-coming studio is home to three veteran developers who have over 16 years of AAA game development experience. SeaCliff’s new Kickstarter project Super Roman Conquest is a new hope for the studio. The ambitious real-time strategy sidescroller has parallel battle lanes that allow players to move their units deeper into the 3D landscape, and is obviously heavily influenced by ancient Rome.
“I’m a HUGE history fan and have a very special place in my heart for Ancient Rome. I’m a big fan of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, which got me thinking about history and the lack of history inspired games out there right now,” he said.
The similarities between the Roman Republic government system and the system that exists today in the United States, alongside the large gap between the rich and the poor were aspects that Matt was heavily influenced by when coming up with a game concept.
As the concept grew larger and a clearer image emerged, the importance of creating an accurate representation of ancient Rome grew more important.
“SRC has a completely player driven story that’s based in actual events of history,” Matt said. “Players will be confronted with these events periodically and then choose how to respond to them. This of course will change the course of both the player’s campaign and of all history.”
He added he and his coworkers always had ideas for side projects they wanted to prototype while working at LucasArts, but the long hours at work made it difficult for Matt and the rest of the team to get the creative juices flowing when they arrived home. The closure of LucasArts, which still pulls at the hearts of Matt and the rest of his team, has opened up new possibilities.
“It’s certainly creatively fulfilling to create your own product and get it out in front of the world but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss working with the old 1313 team at least a little,” Matt said.
Despite the work that’s been left behind at LucasArts, he admits working with people he has history with is simply a joy.
“Being able to bounce ideas and protypes off of Tim is vital to my process of designing the game. I also think building a good team is about putting together people who’s skills complement each other in certain areas. For example, I’m not as strong of a scripter as Tim is so I’m able to constantly get help from him which benefits both myself and the game.”
The soundtrack for SRC isn’t taking a back seat either, and will be spearheaded by Jesse Harlin, former music supervisor at LucasArts.
“Jesse is basically a living legend of LucasArts. I’ve always loved the game scores he’s composed and working with him on SRC has been a dream come true for me,” Matt said. Alongside the music, he also wants people to know the art and animation is still being fine-tuned, and the finished product will look much more refined.
The overall scope and design of the game are determined by developers, however the voting Republic has the opportunity to influence features, and propose entirely new ones. He said on top of that foundation, they really wanted to add a feature to the game that would allow the community to have a voice in deciding what additional features are added to the finished game.
SeaCliff also implemented the different voting levels within the Roman Senate, hoping to re-create a bit of the politics, deal-making, and backstabbing that affected the Roman Republic. Matt hopes players interact with each other in order to create an interesting narrative outside of SRC’s gameplay.
The development of SRC is a fascinating story on its own. The initiative taken by these developers to make something fresh and unique despite the hardships they faced earlier in the year is undeniable.
SRC is currently marked for a summer 2014 release, with a closed beta becoming available around the holiday later this year. It will be available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and the Ouya.