Latest news
Exclusive Interview: Stronghold 3 with Simon Bradbury
by Chris Hawke

In real life, architects have their work cut out for them. How to craft a building that is beautiful, grand and elegant, whilst also keeping it functional and stable without laughing at the word 'buttress'? Well, forget all about that, because in the Stronghold series, you can make the most titanic, ludicrous and impregnable fortresses imaginable, without ever worrying about planning permission. We interviewed Simon Bradbury, designer on Stronghold 3, about the upcoming title.

One of the things, in my opinion, which helped the original Stronghold succeed was the careful blend of warmongering and city development. What is it like in this title?

Stronghold’s blend of different gameplay mechanics has always been unique, and it’s extremely important to us to keep it that way. Fans of the series
will be pleased to hear that the usual mix of building and sieging castles whilst growing apples, chopping wood and torturing the peasants, is definitely
present in Stronghold 3. We think the mix of gameplay styles really helps to
set Stronghold apart from some of the other strategy games out there. People
who prefer the military aspect can play through the military campaign again
and again, whereas those who prefer a slightly gentler pace can take on the
economic campaign or even just play at their own speed in the free build

Will we see a move abroad at any point, fighting in the holy lands again?

Some of the historical castles are based abroad, but there is no return to the
holy land for the time being. The story does, however, see the Wolf returning
from ten years recovering as the guest of the Caliph, to take his revenge on
those who defeated him in the first game, so you will come across some
familiar characters, or at least their descendants!

With the new destruction engine offering much more realistic damage, how
will castles be able to improve players' defences?

Just like previous Stronghold games, players will have a range of deadly traps at their fingertips to turn their castle defences into deadly killing machines - spike traps, caged dogs, burning logs, pits of burning tar, etc. But the new engine also allows us to do new and interesting things with the walls, for
example. Unlike the way previous games had several limitations placed on walls, we now have 'Bastions', protruding wall shapes that take much more of a pounding; or the much thinner 'curtain walls', cheaper walls that soldiers can’t walk
along but can be used to create extra defences that slow down the enemy,
giving you some precious extra seconds to get your soldiers ready.

You have noted that buildings will change as they move further from the
castle. Will this also effect their efficiency?

This chiefly applies to the houses but, yes, it greatly affects their efficiency
to provide much-needed extra bed space. Space near your keep is precious
because it’s normally the last place to be ransacked, so you’ve got to choose
wisely what you place near it. With that in mind, houses close to the keep
contain up to 10 peasants, whereas those in slums furthest away are basically
just a glorified shed that house just one person. Not only does this mean
players have to carefully manage their space but the different styles of houses
also help to give the villages a more random 'mediaeval' look. Other buildings
that need space near the Keep are all the honour-producing buildings - which
now just deliver directly to the keep itself - so become much less efficient the
further away you place them.

Will we see naval battles taking place at any point during the game?

No. Although many goods and people where often transported by sea to avoid
bandits, no big mediaeval battles took place upon the high seas. Stronghold is also all about castles and, to ensure we’re staying true to the period, we’re
keeping our feet firmly on the terra firma.

Can you give us an insight into the new map editor?

Yep; as usual, a map editor will be bundled with the game. The community’s
passion for creating their own maps has always been something we’ve been
extremely impressed by, and we wanted to give them something special this
time. The new editor is far more flexible and we can’t wait to see what they’ll
come up with, now that we’ve got a far more detailed engine. It allows you
to place buildings without the restrictions of grid-based placement, and castle
walls that can be graceful curves, rather than the straight lines of castle battlements in previous Strongholds. We’re also making it much easier to share maps in Stronghold 3, via our online service.

Will visible damage be limited to walls and towers, or will we see it in a
variety of places?

Visible damage applies to pretty much everything in the game, from the walls
of your castle to smaller buildings such as houses, and even siege equipment
like catapults. The inclusion of physics for the first time in the Stronghold
series really helps to make battles extremely dramatic, because you’re literally
watching your defences crumbling around you. There are even ragdoll
physics on the soldiers, so you’ll see them tumbling off towers when they get
an arrow through their throat.

Are you going to bring any gameplay mechanics from Stronghold
Kingdoms (the online version of Stronghold) over?

There are a couple of things that we think will work very well, and that we are
bringing over from Stronghold Kingdoms. Perhaps the biggest Kingdoms-related change is in the popularity system, which will be more static and controllable, like in Kingdoms. Even we continually kept getting caught out in the previous games by setting a high tax rate, for example, and then going to war, only to return to an empty castle. Frankly, it’s always been a weak point.

We're really pleased with the small but profound change we made in Kingdoms, where the popularity doesn’t swing wildly over time; it just reacts and reflects what is going on at the present moment. This gives you a much greater sense of control. Of course, we still mix things up, and we've beefed up the events system to provide changes to popularity that are out of your control. So if the King makes a surprise visit on the map, for example, you can probably put your taxes up for a spell while the peasants are befuddled by the presence of royalty!

Will the weather system also work as a game mechanic as well? For example, will
we see huge armies moving in the cover of night?

We have a weather system and a day/night cycle, and nighttime battles will
be a huge part of the game, particularly in the single player. One thing we’ve
never done in Stronghold is ‘fog of war’, but the night time effect is really our chance to do a realistic fog of war, because it’s literally too dark for you to see very far.

For example, you may start a level in the dead of night, with your advisor telling you that you must sneak towards your enemy’s castle before
dawn, when they will be able to see you. At key points - such as before dawn, for example - the time of day will change noticeably, so you’re always on your
toes to make sure that you beat the sunrise.

We think the nighttime battles really add a lot to the game, and we’re really looking forward to seeing what the community thinks to them. As for weather effects, these also play a key part in the new popularity system: sunny weather will actually make your peasants happier, whereas a storm with lightning and thunder makes them all miserable.

Will we see the return of the 'historical battles' mode, where you're able to
defend a castle from the enemy in a historical situation?

Yes, we’re planning to ship the game with a number of historical castles
based on researched castles from history, although I can’t reveal the exact
details just yet.

A huge thanks goes to Simon Bradbury, Rob Burman and everyone at Southpeak and Firefly Studios. Stick around for more interviews heading your way soon.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

- Chris Hawke

Discuss this article in our friendly forums

Sign up to our community today and discuss our articles, debate over upcoming games and organise matches and playsessions with like-minded people just like you.

Liked this? Spread the word - share with your friends!

Done? You might also enjoy these!

All comments are subject to our commenting policy

GGTL Classics
Some of the very best articles dug out from deep in the GGTL archives, written by some of our past and present wordsmiths alike.
Your continued use of this website and/or any others owned by Gamer's Guide to represents your acceptance and indicates your full understanding of all of our legal policies and terms. Our legal policies and terms are legally binding. If you in any way disagree with or refuse to be bound by any part of said legal policies and terms, you are advised to leave this website immediately.