If you haven’t heard of Kingdom, then where have you been? At its heart, it is a kingdom-building simulation game developed by Thomas van den Berg and Marco Bancale (also known as Noio and Licorice) with support from publisher Raw Fury Games.
It seems as though every strategy gamer out there recorded a lets-play of the game, with hundreds of YouTubers uploading their playthroughs – some with over a million views – it’s hard to believe there’s anything about the game we don’t know.
How would you describe Kingdom to someone that hasn’t played it before?
KINGDOM is still hard for me to describe. It’s a minimalist strategy game where you need to discover the rules of how the world behaves before you can rule effectively. It’s also a little bit whimsical, it’s pretty, and it can be frustrating but it won’t hold your hand.
What were your biggest inspirations when developing Kingdom?
I was learning pixel art animation about 5 years ago, which yielded the original horse animation. I added a king and this would become the seed that the game grew from. First, I thought that the king needed subjects who do their own thing and interact with each other. They needed some kind of adversary to pose a challenge of course, and I wasn’t very concerned about being serious, so I drew the original troll-faced noodly-armed monsters. I think unconsciously at the time I was very influenced by the really pretty looking pixel art games that were becoming so popular. Sword & Sworcery being the best example of that, of using pixel art to make beautiful impressionist visuals.
What was the design process like and how long did it take to make the game?
This game wasn’t really planned out from the beginning, so most of its design was not the result of a conscious decision. The flash game was built as a side-project during the last years of my graduation (2012-2013). Since 2014, I’ve worked on the desktop game full time.
Many people fell in love with the game when they saw the graphics, was there a reason behind going for such a retro nostalgic look?
One reason is the simple fact that pixel art is a style that I could use to create an entire game that would still look beautiful. My animation skills were pretty basic at the time, and by limiting the creative space I could use a trial & error approach to get nice looking graphics. Additionally, making and implementing pixel art is a relatively fast workflow, which is nice for a small team.
It seems as though every major online gamer played your game, do you think youtube had an impact on the success of the game?
Indubitably. We feared for a little while that the game would not be very suitable to being streamed because watching it can spoil some of the discovery and surprise, but it turns out that the humorous aspects of the game weigh far heavier. It can actually work the other way around: viewers often already know how to play the game, and they enjoy watching an online gamer get wrecked.
What problems did you face while working on it?
One of the biggest development challenges was walking the line of non-handholding: between the satisfaction of discovery and frustration. And I think we succeeded for the most part, but there are some mechanics that aren’t doing their job.
How do you think the game been received so far, it’s been out for a little while now. It seems as though everyone on social media is talking about it.
The launch was great! And I think the game has been slowly growing since, which is really motivating for us as we work on more content and patches.
What is your favourite thing about this game? What was your favourite thing to work on?
I love building systems that power different visuals. The water shader and the system that dynamically colours the game—depending on the weather—are examples of this. I also really like to just observe what happens when you program agents with simple behaviours (c.q. the citizens) and see how they interact and what behaviour emerges. Having this simulation run and then messing with it (by throwing coins at them) is really what makes KINGDOM.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
Not yet! For now, I am 110% focused on new platforms, content, and fixes for KINGDOM.
Have you ever played Kingdom? What do you think of the graphics and artwork?