Interview: Rising Lords’ Devs Speak About The Game’s Inspiration & Hardships

Rising Lords
Rising Lords

Rising Lords is a turn-based strategy game inspired by medieval history, even taking elements from card and board games. It brings the medieval tapestry to life and does so without compromising its gameplay elements. The game has been in development for a long time, with over 3 years being just in Early Access.

To understand the hardships of video game development and discuss the game’s longer-than-usual development phase, along with the media pieces it takes inspiration from, we talked with Chris Fernholz, the Managing Director at Argonwood, over an email interview.

Rising Lords
Rising Lords – via Argonwood
Rising Lords has been in the making for quite a long time. How did it shape or evolve throughout the development?
Chris: We never expected Rising Lords’ development to take this long. We even had to switch to completely new GameMaker engines twice in order to be able to support the game in the future. There were also some massive overhauls concerning the core elements like networking, UI and data handling. From a player’s perspective, basically, nothing has remained the same. Graphics, UI, events, skill cards, maps – everything has been expanded upon or reworked.
You said before how you and your brother started watching YouTube channels and listening to podcasts for more knowledge on medieval history. Could you tell us some of your favorite channels or podcasts?
Chris: The main podcast I listen to is ‘Schlicht und einfach Mittelalter‘ by Alexandra Aschauer, which is a German podcast covering the history of medieval England in currently 40+ hours. Some notable YouTube channels are Modern History TV, Tod’s Workshop, Ola Onsrud and Royal Armouries. I strongly recommend all of them.
Was there any aspect of medieval life that you couldn't grasp in the game due to technical difficulties or some other reason?
Chris: Well, the main goal of Rising Lords has always been entertaining gameplay. Everything concerning historical accuracy is a secondary goal. Most notably, our story does take place in a fictional place in medieval Europe with its own little history. We also only view the era from the perspective of a ruler, so the everyday life of medieval people is not examined much. We also didn’t want to get into the family-building aspect with marriage, heritage, etc. We always felt it was best to have a single Lord you can skill the way you want and get attached to instead of having to go through a dynasty.
What other major challenges did you overcome during the development of Rising Lords?
Chris: Apart from the code-related problems like pushing GameMaker to the limits with networking, console development and engine updates, budgeting was probably the most challenging aspect. Especially since Rising Lords was taking way longer than expected, it wasn’t always easy to have enough gold to pay the tithe, so to speak.
In another interview, you discussed the difficulties of making turn-based strategy games as compared to side-scrollers, etc. I am curious why you chose this as the right genre for Rising Lords.
Chris: I think the process was the other way around. The genre was already picked, and then Rising Lords formed. We wanted to go with a genre we know a lot about and love to play ourselves so that we can realistically go about creating a good game. Especially for people working most of the day and possibly having children, a turn-based strategy game like Rising Lords can be a relaxing yet engaging option to play, either alone or with others.
Rising Lords
Rising Lords – via Argonwood
How much has the game changed since its release in Early Access?
Chris: Apart from the complete overhaul of our systems and graphics, we also introduced a bunch of new features like diplomacy, factions, challenge mode, raider victory condition, story editor and workshop support, and most importantly, the story campaign and prologue/tutorial.
Are you and your brother still on this project alone, or have you hired more part-time/full-time developers?
Chris: The core team has remained the same, but we have hired freelance programmers from the US and Sweden who have been working with us for quite some time now. We also got support from an additional artist and composers.
For your next potential title, would you again go for GameMaker, or would you like to try another engine for game development?
Chris: Especially with Unity being in an odd state currently, as long as we remain in the 2D gaming world, we will probably stick with GameMaker.
Is there any piece of advice you would like to give to other independent developers?
Chris: Don’t try to do it all at once. Try to focus on the core aspects of your gaming idea and make it right. It’s better to publish a few smaller titles than one that you don’t get finished. Feature creep is a big issue for many developers. Also, pick your niche and start marketing early, potentially with the help of an agency. Apparently, many indie developers still think that making a great game is sufficient for being successful – it sadly isn’t.
Any last words to convey to the audience?
Chris: If you like turn-based strategy and/or the medieval theme, consider giving Rising Lords a go! We hope you will enjoy it, just as we did enjoy creating it for you. It is a great game for playing with friends and a fascinating journey for those who like a detailed, gripping story campaign. And to all indie developers who are struggling out there, All the best to you, and don’t forget to sleep enough!
Rising Lords
Rising Lords – via Argonwood

Rising Lords is currently available in Early Access on Steam and will be fully released on January 18, 2024, on Xbox consoles, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

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