July 22, 2015 by brennon
We got a chance to have a chart with Fredrik of Turbo Tape Games to discuss their upcoming game set within the Warhammer Fantasy universe by Games Workshop. Warhammer: Arcane Magic pits you against the beasts and monsters of the Old World harnessing your eldritch powers in a cool digital board game experience.
BoW: First off could you tell us a bit more about you guys at Turbo Tape Games? Where did you get started and what other games have you worked on?
Fredrik: Turbo Tape Games started back in February 2008, after me and my colleague Jan Haugland chose not to relocate to Oslo with our current employer that was closing down shop in Bergen. We had been working with games technologies there for years already, but not in the games industry.
Problem was that there was no such industry in Bergen at the time! So basically, we made it ourselves. We got an early investor, Dave Spilde, on board, applied and received a small start up grant from the government, and off we went! It was just the two of us, and cost were pretty low to begin with, so for the first couple of months, we dug into various concepts that we were passionate about.
The genre would be strategy, there was really never any doubt about that, so it was more a question of finding something unique, that we had expertise about, and that wasn’t done to death already. We landed on Naval Warfare. The main naval base of Norway is in Bergen, we knew a lot about it, and we’re been a maritime city since a thousand years ago, so it felt right, and local enthusiasm was easy to muster.
The setting became near future contemporary with a typical super-power naval fleet having the lifespan of half a century anyway, so setting it in 2030 still meant we would be pitching units in existence and on the drawing board to battle, like F-35s, MIG-21s, Kirov Battle cruisers, Akulas, Arlaigh Burkes and our own Norwegian Fridtjor Nansen frigates, to mention but a few. We put a lot of effort into unit research, and the game really shows it.
So this RTS game about. Melting ice caps, open trade routes across the North West Passage, a crumbling EU, disillusioned NATO, a strong east, and a quarrel over sovereignty in the north, became our learning project, and boy, was it steep! Somehow, we got it all together, though, and out it went, straight to the top spot #1 on the Worldwide Steam sales charts on April 10th 2012.
For us it was a huge success and we had made a game concept, implemented it, gotten it to a quality publisher and launched it, with cash to spare so that we could start over with new games. Having picked up a few good hands along the way, Turbo Tape Games had grown to six employees over the four years making Naval War: Arctic Circle.
When doing Naval War, we had been working close with Norwegian musician Harald Nævdal, better known under the name Demonaz, guitarist, composer and lyrics writer in the world famous Black Metal act Immortal. Harald had been making all the music and soundscape for Naval War.
All though he had never done anything like that before, not for the lack of offers, it was something about the setting, the austerity, the ice, the dark future and the third world war in the arctic, that appealed to him, so there we were. And when working together for that long, on something that special, of course, friendships shape.
So that was what lead us to UHR – Warlords, our next international game, this time targeting iPad. It has it’s origins in Demonaz works as a musician with a northern fantasy setting, about warlords who has been brought to earth by unnamed gods, wielding magical powers to summon creatures and demons to fight an eternal battle to conquer the throne in the center of the world, and become all powerful.
UHR – Warlords really is a peculiar thing, reciting the story of Demonaz lore, accompanied by exclusive music tracks, all narrative elements carried like song lyrics, with our distilled and tight gameplay in extreme boardgame action. There are only six levels to the game, everything shipped as a pure premium product, but with pretty much endless lifespan, given by the multiplayer, both through game center as well as pass and play.
Now were working on Warhammer: Arcane Magic. Of course, our history is in strategy / tactics, and on the darker side of things conceptually, so in a big way we feel very much at home in the Games Workshop family. I think that is where we belong, really.
BoW: You’re in the process of developing a new game, Warhammer: Arcane Magic. How did you become involved in the project and begin delving into the Warhammer Fantasy world?
Fredrik: We met up with Games Workshop at GDC in 2014, where we were pushing UHR publicly for the first time. Needless to say, there was an atmosphere of mutual admiration, and everyone felt it was a great fit between TTG as a game developer and GW as a concept deliverer.
There was of course a bit of negotiation back and forth, but really that was pretty simple, everyone wanted Arcane Magic to happen. What took a bit longer, as game development always does, was nailing the high concept, the truthfulness to the Warhammer Fantasy Battle setting with focus on Wizards, Monsters and Daemons plus our signature tactical gameplay, paired with the aesthetic factor of fun.
After that was nailed, though, it has been full steam ahead, making as much high quality content as possible for the game before launch.
We’re scheduling a lot of DLC, hopefully appearing sooner rather than later after launch. Right now we have campaigns spanning the Empire forests and the Chaos Wastes, but of course, there is so much more! Our eyes are on Lustria and Naggaroth for the immediate following, of course with sets of Wizards and monsters to fit those regions.
BoW: Can you tell us a bit more about the gameplay and mechanics of Arcane Magic? We’ve seen the teaser trailer but we’d love to know more!
Fredrik: Sure! Basically, the game pitches you as a team of wizards battling your way through a set of battle arenas where mystical Monsters and Daemons, and later in the game, also enemy wizards, are spawned. The arenas usually, but not always, contain one or more Arcane Fulcrums, mythical magical tempests, that grant the controlling wizards temporal extremely powerful abilities, in the form of cataclysmic magical spells.
The goal of the game is to harness all the Arcane Fulcurms, each level contain a set of these, and you are not allowed to exit before they are all activated. Your wizards all employ a particular lore (wind) of magic, staying very true to the Warhammer Fantasy Battle game, and through gaining experience, they unlock new spells, become more powerful, and tackle more devastating enemies.
Like in WFB, the direction of the wind also empowers magical lores, and in Arcane Magic, the wind direction changes each game turn.
Wizards may employ magic of other lores through using scrolls that are found around the levels. Scrolls dissolve after use so a wizard may bring two of these to battle when starting any particular level. A special scroll, Kadeon’s Scroll of Binding, allows wizards to bind monsters and have them fight along their side, so in Arcane Magic, there are also mechanisms that allows you to play the awesome monsters that you encounter.
In technical gameplay terms, the game is very simple: Each monster, wizard, creature, daemon, has a set of skills: Toughness, Dexterity, Willpower, Movement and Hitpoints. All spells or abilities do corresponding damage (or other effects, e.g. augments, that provide positive reinforcement like healing or stat buffs to your allies), as either Physical, Ranged or Magic types.
So, not to go too deeply into it: In an example where a wizard throws a magic damage spell on a monster, a dice (D6) is rolled. The result is added to the spells strength, and the corresponding stat of the target is subtracted (in the example of the magic damage spell, this stat will be Willpower). So the higher the stat, the lower the chances of the total becoming a positive value. Equally, the higher the strength of the spell, the more likely a positive value, and so on.
As you may have understood, a positive value is required for success. In the case of a pure damage spell, the damage caused is equal to the positive value. For other spells, though, effects are calculated differently, since not all spells have damage. Many spells in the game can have more than one effect as well, to make things interesting.
The controlling property of the game is the players Power Setting, a finite numbered value that may be spent each game turn. Any spell or ability has a Power cost to use, and the Power is shared between wizards and bound monsters on your side. Typically, you have many more options to perform than Power to spend.
This leads to a game with vast combinations of actions each round. This, alongside moving in and out of target range, is the true tactical core of the game, and leads to endless numbers of strategies for completion on each playthrough. The fact that no wizard share the same set of spells adds to this complexity of emergent strategies.
This is the main feature that we brought with us from UHR. It was what set that game apart and though slightly simplified in Arcane Magic (UHR is over the top hardcore), it is a feature that is likely to shape games from Turbo Tape Games a long way into the future.
There are forty-five available player spells in the game, distributed across seven wizards at launch. You will unlock four of these wizards through completing the games campaign the first time. In addition, there are eight monsters and daemons, each with one or more attacks that are unique to them.
In-game, it is possible to access all of this as a player, though the Daemons can only be controlled on your second playthrough, since you need the Chaos Sorcerer to bind them.
We hope this will bring replayability to the game, first completing it as Empire Wizards, then going back for a new round as a Chaos Sorcerer with companions, opening up to brand new strategies where you can have those awesome Daemons fight alongside you on your second go.
What am I missing out? A lot, probably! But, I think the above gives a bit of an overview, try it, and find out!
BoW: Magic is a big part of the Warhammer Fantasy world and it has plenty of drawbacks as well as positives for Wizards. Are there any of those legendary miscasts in there where things don’t go quite right?
Fredrik: It has been lot of back and forth about that here, and we do have support for those kinds of effects. For now, most spells just miscast on a roll of a one. However, we do have area of effect spells that does a lot of potentially lethal friendly fire, especially if the roll is high, which yields an unstoppable force, which may be a good thing, but also obliterate your company of wizards.
Many of the spells, especially the cataclysm spells, are Vortex spells, which Warhammer fans will know blow around the battlefield in an uncontrollable manner once released. These spells may remain a while, and easily lead to the downfall of your party. Finally, maybe unrelated to magic, but fun all the same, we do include monster ‘abilities’ like Fall Over for the giant.
Which may lead a giant to randomly obliterate both himself, his friends or his enemies, especially when they target him with attacks up close. Beware!
BoW: Going with a digital boardgame is an interesting angle. What made you choose this as your way of delvering the game experience.
Fredrik: That is a very conscious decision from quite some time back. Even before contemplating UHR, which is a digital boardgame distilled, we knew our company would take that direction. We simply love boardgames at Turbo Tape Games. For us it’s so much about the gameplay, and nothing puts gameplay more front and center than boardgames, so we sat down a few years back and had a talk about it, and decided to go that way in future projects.
Of course, this does not mean that we’ll be doing only digital boardgames in the future, but right now, it feels very right. Especially while we keep doing Warhammer – the concept there certainly lend itself well to the boardgame metaphor.
BoW: Do you have plans for supporting the game further down the line? Expansions, micro-transactions etc?
Fredrik: Oh, yes! We have loads of plans, this is only the beginning! I have touched on it already, the game ships with two campaigns, seven wizards (four of whom you unlock on first playthough) as well as eight monsters/daemons and a wide set of spells and abilities.
We’re already working on the next two campaigns, which will also launch with new wizards, monsters, spells, etc. These will be dropped into the game as in app purchases (IAP), but much more analogous to traditional DLC than anything else; We’re staying away from micro-transactions as a necessity to complete the game, it will be premium, fully playable for hours on end without buying anything.
The IAP will solely be for players who want more! We’ll put considerable funds into creating new content and charge a fair price for anyone who has the craving for more, plain and simple.
New content will also yield new mechanics, for instance in relation to new spells and abilities, which already can be very specialised, keeping the experience fresh. Then, of course, there is multiplayer! We’re launching with singleplayer, but will update with multiplayer down the line. We just want to make sure we do it right, and to that end, we want to engage the community!
There are so many ways to take multiplayer in Arcane Magic, and we want to hear from players how they want it as they familiarize themselves with the game. Should it be wizards vs. wizards? Free roaming? Best-of-x arena matches? Wizards vs. Monsters? Let us know what you think.
This goes for everything else in the game too, when I come to think of it. We plan to keep supporting Arcane Magic for a long, long time, and want everyone’s input on how the improve.
BoW: Finally, do you folks at Turbo Tape play Warhammer Fantasy yourselves? If so, what armies do you play?
Fredrik: Personally, I have been a devoted Warhammer fan since 1987, though mainly from the RPG side of things. I did also play quite a bit of WFB back in the day, focusing on Orcs, because I found them incredibly (un)appealing in my younger days. Today I would probably have chosen otherwise, now I have a liking for the Slann, and Lizardmen.
Most of the other folk here at Turbo Tape are of a younger generation than myself, and though the force is strong in them, they are most intimate with Warhammer from a digital perspective.
One thing I’d like to finish off by saying, though, is that it was in fact Warhammer that made me take an interest in games from a mechanical perspective, and depart from gaming as purely a player. It was the first RPG I GM’d, and even though I did not play WFB a whole lot, I consumed the rules with academic interest.
Since then it has been no turning back, my studies, and subsequent career up until and beyond founding Turbo Tape Games has all been related to gaming in one form or another, and I dare go as far as to say that without Warhammer, there probably would have been no Turbo Tape Games.
So you can probably imagine the satisfaction I am feeling now, on the verge of launching my first Warhammer game. It feels like life has had a straight line to it, and I all the more crave to make the game a desirable one. Above anything else, this game is for me about self realization.
I hope you’ll like it!
Thanks for talking with us and we look forward to checking out the game!
We hope you take a look at the game and let us know what you think of it!
"Your wizards all employ a particular lore (wind) of magic, staying very true to the Warhammer Fantasy Battle game, and through gaining experience, they unlock new spells, become more powerful, and tackle more devastating enemies..."
"...the game ships with two campaigns, seven wizards (four of whom you unlock on first playthough) as well as eight monsters/daemons and a wide set of spells and abilities."