The Banner Saga - All News
Friday - December 06, 2013
The Banner Saga - Rough Guide to Combat
Stoic released a new video for The Banner Saga called,"Rough Guide to Combat”
We have released a brand new tutorial that covers the basics someone new to the game needs to consider when preparing for battle and the tactics they need to think about while in the heat of combat. It includes a useful overview of the hero stats a player should keep an eye on as well as a focus on how 'willpower' can also be used strategically to boost various actions in combat to take out an enemy. Watch it to find out more.
Friday - November 22, 2013
The Banner Saga - Rough Guide to Travel
Stoic Studio has released a new trailer for The Banner Saga. The trailer shows a tutorial on how the games travel system works, and how it impacts your play experience.
Check out the new "Rough Guide to Travel" tutorial trailer which summarizes the key attributes you'll need to take into consideration when deciding the travel strategy during your journey in the game. The trailer explains how managing morale, supplies and population can greatly affect your personal experience, as well as each other. Watch it to find out more.
Saturday - November 09, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-Funding Update #44
Stoic announces the release date for The Banner Saga in the latest post-funding update.
The Banner Saga Launch Date and Trailer
It has been a long time coming, but all for a good reason. Today we've finished putting together an announcement trailer for The Banner Saga. What are we announcing? A release date!
I'd love to give you an update on everything going on at this point. We finally feel comfortable with giving a release date for one very big reason: we are essentially content complete. This means the game is playable from front to back, the combats are in place, the characters are all hooked up and every conversation throughout the game is ready to go. In essence: we're almost done with the game. This is a huge milestone because we've been working nearly every waking hour since Factions released to get to this point.
We've partnered with a new marketing and distribution team called Versus Evil who have taken a lot of work off our plate and help us put together new promotions so that we didn't take away from production time. They've done an amazing job on the new website (http://stoicstudio.com/) and will be helping to make sure we get seen by as many people as possible at launch.
What's left to do? We'll be spending an appropriate amount of time on playtesting, polish and balance. We've been getting help from a QA house to help us find and write bugs because the game has become both long and complex at this point. What we originally envisioned as a 6 hour game is probably closer to 15+ hours on the first playthrough, and all the branching variables and additional systems are time-consuming to test. We'll also be playing through the game a lot to get combat balance in as good a state as we can. Lastly, you may have heard this before, but polish is the difference between a good game and a great game in our minds. Personal touches, transitions and making sure that everything is finely polished is really important to us. For example, we've added procedural snow, random events in travel, items in combat, an interactive world map, every godstone in the game and tons of new characters and classes.
Thursday - October 03, 2013
The Banner Saga - Interview @ Original Gamer
Original Gamer interviews the Technical Director for Stoic John Watson about Kickstarter success, and why it is never a good idea to promise a release date.
Friday - September 20, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-Funding Update #43
The Banner Saga has another post-funding update with the final part of the gameplay video demo.
This playthrough represents a small fraction of the full game (it didn't even include travel!). Hopefully it gave you a good idea of the kind of decisions and gameplay you'll see at major locations along the way and just how varied your story can be.
Next time: we'll be back to more in-depth content updates as usual. Hope you've enjoyed the demo and see you next time!
Thursday - September 19, 2013
The Banner Saga - Preview @ Nerd Appropriate
Nerd Appropriate has a new hands-on preview of The Banner Saga from Pax Prime 2013.
If you’ve ever seen animated classics like Wizards or Fire and Ice, Ralph Bakshi managed to use rotoscoping technology back in the 1980s to make some incredibly realistic looking cartoons. Stoic apparently used a similar rotoscoping technique to make some of the most fluid looking 2D animation that I’ve ever seen in a game before. When the main character Rook swung his ax you could really tell that the blade had weight and would really hurt if it connected with anything not protected by a thick layer of armor. I can’t fathom how time consuming it must have been to motion capture and rotoscope the game’s units, but the end result was absolutely stunning to see in person.
While my time with the Banner Saga was short, and there were no devs on hand to chat with, I ended up leaving the booth feeling incredibly excited for the title which is set to release some time in 2013. If you’d like to check out the multiplayer Banner Saga: Factions, it’s currently available on Steam for ….free!
Thursday - September 12, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-Funding Update #42
The Banner Saga is back with another post-funding update with video number four of the gameplay demo.
Ready to see the result of your decisions? Thanks for your patience! We're still working on getting the website back on its feet, but we're going to keep the demo going. After this I expect there will be one more video.
A quick report: we're making ridiculous progress on the game. All the major cities in the game are done. We've got items up and working (many of which are submissions from backers), and we're starting to get final music in as well. Austin will be doing a music update in the near future. At this point the majority of what we're doing is adding the remaining content. Then it's on to polish.
The Banner Saga - Preview @ Gaming Illustrated
In The Banner Saga, players will enjoy a mature story that heavily emphasizes decisions and choice. As a result, players’ choices may result in losses and Stoic Studio wants players to accept their decisions and losses as part of the story. In the demo, players meet Alette and her father, who must deal with the sudden reemergence of an ancient evil. Through their journey, they have to make decisions about tracking down supplies, which means to gain the supplies they have to fight these evil creatures or avoid the fight and supplies and possibly not have enough supplies for the rest of their journey. As with their BioWare lineage, The Banner Saga puts a heavy emphasis on choice through dialogue, which in the demo resulted in hard decisions that put members of the caravan in direct danger. This did lead to death occasionally. It is all part of the experience of this Viking caravan, sometimes people die, but you have to continue on because there is nothing else to do, but persevere.
This is one of the best times to be a tactical/strategy RPG fan with so many recent great titles in the genre (Fire Emblem: Awakenings, Skulls of the Shogun and XCOM: Enemy Unknown and the upcoming Enemy Within and Klei’s Incognita, and Brad Muir’s Massive Chalice next year). The Banner Saga looks to continue the trend of exciting, challenging and engrossing strategy games. If anything, it is going to offer an aesthetically pleasing tactical experience.
Saturday - September 07, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-Funding Update #41
In this new post-funding update Stoic posts the third video of the games demo from Pax Prime. The video is short but gives a recap of what to except when you play.
Friday - September 06, 2013
The Banner Saga - Previews
I managed to roundup two previews for The Banner Saga
Throughout my demo session the quiet drumming in the background and the accompanying music lent a sense of urgency to the action, as Rook and Alette are on an important journey, gathering not just supplies but help on their quest. When I had to go, I didn't want to take the headphones off because it was just that pretty, even on its own.
The game's style, based upon classic hand-drawn animation and Viking design, is stylized yet realistic. Scenes are communicated not through voice acting or cutscenes, but through rich expressions. A narrowing of eyes here, a widening there, a gaze off to the side while encountering a difficult decision. These elements work to convey the characters' emotions and complement the dialogue on screen.
The Banner Saga’s single-player really did impress me, though. It’s still very obviously rough-around-the-edges (and it’s still missing a few of said edges, to boot), but there’s heaps of promise. I felt like an incompetent, indecisive leader every trudging step of the way, and it was magnificent. The Banner Saga’s world is a harsh, frigid place, and its cast of characters are far from simple lockstep lackeys. If you want their respect, you’ll have to earn it. Sometimes that means making tough calls – ugly decisions that’ll twist and writhe around inside your guts for days to come. But that’s leadership for you. It’s not about being loved. You get results, and you worry about popularity contests later.
Thursday - September 05, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-Funding Update #40
Stoic has released the second part of their video demo in this new post-funding update.
We've gotten many, many people who would prefer to get lots of updates, so majority rule, here. To those of you who do not want to see new emails from us every day or two, I've been told you can filter that through Kickstarter.
Monday - September 02, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-Funding Update #39
Stoic has released a new lets play video of The Banner Saga in this new post-funding update.
Hello backers! After a brief delay the first part of the PAX playthrough is ready to go! Keep in mind, this is all in-game and we're still in beta so some effects, polish and optimizations are still in development. That said, we're getting damn close!
At the end of the video we'll need to make a choice. What would you do? Vote in the comments and we'll continue on next time with the most popular decision, a day or two from now. As always, watching in HD is highly recommended...
A couple people asked that we not flood their inbox with a dozen updates over the next week. We'll be hosting the whole playthrough on the Stoic forums. You don't even need an account to watch. Feel free to comment on the first part here, and check in on the Let's Play thread to see what happens next.
Sunday - September 01, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-Funding Update #38
Stoic has a new post-funding update about PAX 201, and the promise of more videos.
It has been a nutso month! We've been crunching (no surprise there), to get a playable build for PAX, which starts on Friday. We released some press kits in preparation and Kotaku already posted a news story on it, with new screenshots! Crazy!
Check out the other screenshots here.
We wanted to share the PAX demo with all of our backers, so what we'll be doing is giving you a playthrough of the game and showing off the same thing that PAX attendants will be playing.
The bit I'm most excited about is that as we've always said, the game has a lot of choices to make. Real ones! So what I'm going to do is stop at major decisions and let everyone vote on what to do next. Even at the very beginning of the game you'll be making decisions that impact the entire story. I'll also be doing commentary as I play, showing off the new classes, abilities and enemies and giving more insight into gameplay.
Spoiler warning: this will be a playthrough of the first 30-50 minutes of the game (depending on what choices you make). It's worth noting that even if you participate your own playthrough may turn out very different.
Wednesday - August 28, 2013
The Banner Saga - PAX Prime Indie MEGABOOTH
The Banner Saga will be showing at the Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX Prime. Stop by the booth Aug 30-Sept 2 and check it out!
Saturday - July 27, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-Funding Update #37
Stoic has released another post-funding update for The Banner Saga informing us of a live music show on twitch tv.
As we mentioned in the previous update, we have a gift for all our backers. From the desk of Austin Wintory:
For all those interested, I am happy to share that we will be streaming part of our big, long-in-progress recording session for THE BANNER SAGA! The recording process for this game has already been very elaborate, and next week takes a huge leap forward when I go to Dallas, Texas to collaborate with a truly magnificent ensemble: the Dallas Wind Symphony! This Grammy-nominated ensemble, led by the incredible conductor Jerry Junkin with whom I'll be tag teaming, will be the subject of a forthcoming in-depth Kickstarter music update. But in the meantime, here are the details for the stream:
Tuesday, July 30th at 4:30pm Central Time.
I have just set up a Twitch account: http://www.twitch.tv/awintory/profile
In theory if you can't attend live you can see the archive. We're working very hard to make sure this is a high-quality stream, both visually and aurally. The recordings will be going until 5pm, so you will be tuning in to the last half hour of a full day's worth. At that point I will send the musicians home, and come to the camera for a live chat. Joining me will be our dear friends from Stoic Studio, Alex Thomas, Arnie Jorgensen and John Watson, along with the DWS' conductor Jerry Junkin. We'll have about 20 or so minutes to chat. Remember that during the first half you will be watching a recording session, not a concert, so it might be interesting to see just how different those two can be from each other!
I will also be answering questions about the score to BANNER SAGA in my upcoming Kickstarter update, so feel free to leave your questions here, in the comments, or on the Stoic forum here: http://stoicstudio.com/forum/showthread.php?1807-Austin-Wintory-will-be-taking-music-questions-in-this-thread
Wednesday - July 24, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-Funding Update #36
Stoic has released another post-funding update that details the animation process, and even shares a few videos.
Hello backers! As previously mentioned, today's update will be a closer look into the animation process. We'll save the usual Q&A section for the our next content update and jump right to the good stuff!
Saturday - July 06, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-Funding Update #35
The Banner Saga has a new post-funding update.
What does Gold Standard mean for the progress of the full game? With everything in our game functioning correctly with final art, we are now working almost entirely on content. Here's a rough outline of how development goes:
Pre-production (art style, broad design ideas, type of game)
Proof of Concept (mock up of what the game would look and play like, basic rules)
Vertical slice (placeholder work on key systems that are playable, to test for fun)
Alpha (most of the game is playable in a rough state, some features still missing)
Gold Standard (a section of the game is taken to completion with final work, all systems are done)
Beta (the entire game is laid out, needs polish and playtesting)
Launch! (the game is done! Or is it?)
Developers can do this in a lot of different ways, which is why the terms above can get confusing. Is something alpha or beta? What does that even mean? Indies especially will just go along doing whatever feels right at the time, but the above is our basic trajectory. Next we'll be creating content for the remainder of the game. This is generally where production starts to move really fast, no longer burdened with having parts of the game that "can't be completed" yet.
A CONVERSATION ABOUT KICKSTARTER
Lots of stuff has been going on in the Kickstarter community lately. I'm sure many of you have noticed Double Fine's announcement about splitting up their game into two parts. They've gotten some serious heat for this. Backers of Shadowrun have heard similar things about the content in that game, with the DLC being released much later.
First of all, I want to be clear that we do not intend to do something like this for The Banner Saga. When it releases it will be a complete product. We don't have plans for DLC at this time, and we will continue to support the multiplayer component. We also intend to continue on the sequels (chapter 2 and 3) just as planned.
I would also like to talk about my personal opinion on this, and I'd love to be open and talk like a normal person instead of a PR person in damage control mode. Can we do this? Without freaking out? You can disagree with me of course, just be nice about it.
This is hard. Like, way WAY hard. When we pitched the game we were hoping for enough money to get extra animations, maybe increase the length of the game. We thought we'd get, like, 2000 backers, not 20,000. A fine problem to have, right? Haha! Except that it's actually a huge problem. The hardest problem I've ever dealt with in my life. Now I know.
We thought now we could do everything we ever wanted for the game, and got too ambitious. We thought we could make the game in six months, and I'm still not sure what we were thinking. That was stupid. I wish I could take that back, all we needed to do was put a different date there and nobody would be complaining. Whoops. We ARE still doing everything we want, and it's taking a long time. I don't feel bad about that. That was the POINT, right? To dream as big as we could?
Friday - May 31, 2013
The Banner Saga - Post-funding Update #34
There's a new post-funding update for The Banner Saga on Kickstarter. The topic of the update deals with the tools the team is using to make the game, the approach taken with story, the travel mode, and the camp.
Story is always hard to talk about when you’re developing a game. Frankly, we don’t want you to know what the story is, but it sounds disingenuous when you just say “We’re working on it really hard! Honestly!”.
Worst of all, there are no screenshots about story. I apologize for this. But there are more screenshots afterward, so keep reading!
We’re going to approach story from a broad level and I’ll make sure there are no spoilers.
So, let’s discuss iteration a bit. As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve been using Inkle Writer to help us draft the narrative. It’s an excellent tool, and they’ve recently released Sorcery! for iOS, which I wholeheartedly recommend checking out. In a previous update I showed screenshots of the some of the branching options in our first pass. Since then we’ve written a second and third pass, and a serious merging of these passes into what is now, I believe, the final version of the story. The story is pretty much locked down at this point.
Why all this rewrite? There are a few reasons, some simple to understand and some complex. The simple reason is that writing usually involves editing. You have professional editors who go through a story, make notes, help the author move around and modify pieces of the story until it feels and reads well. In a lot of ways an editor is like a writing consultant or co-writer. They make a good story into a great story.
Games don’t have editors. In fact, games often don’t even have writers, they have designers or managers who moonlight as writers, because it’s a game, right? Story isn’t really that important as long as you firmly apply pressure to the compulsion loop part of the brain. At least, that’s how games often feel to me right now. Disclaimer: this is getting progressively better. I don’t mean to look down on writing in games - in fact, it is this potential for greatness that drives us.
But even development studios lauded for their writing prowess usually don’t get to do due diligence. Budgets and time constraints on something as complex as a video game mean that you get one chance to get it right. People with lead and director positions are expected to sit down and nail it on the first pitch, or just accept whatever mess they’ve made and run with it. Usually this means it could have been better. We don’t have a published author writing for us at Stoic, nor a professional editor. But we do have a story-driven game, being written by someone who writes a lot and who wants to see the game industry flourish as a storytelling medium (it’s THIS close), and a guy who acts like an editor even though he spends 10 hours a day being one of the best artists I’ve ever seen.
There are other difficulties. If you took a dozen of the world’s most accomplished authors and had them each work on a video game, I suspect they’d mostly be terrible. In movies, writers become specialized enough to understand how film works, and how to make a screenplay. An author writes in the way that best suits the written format - you can’t just take a book and translate it directly to the screen, you need someone who understands the intricacies of timing, pacing, visual narrative and brevity. They have to turn words into pictures that feel how the words did, and that’s not easy. The film industry has been getting pretty good at this.
Friday - May 24, 2013
The Banner Saga - Factions Play-through @ Gamespot
In the Free of Charge corner of Gamespot Jonathan Toyad checks out The Banner Sage: Factions, which is the free to download combat part of The Banner Sage.
Tuesday - April 16, 2013
The Banner Saga - Factions Review @ Thunderbolt
In their review of The Banner Saga: Factions, Thunderbolt does not give it a higher score than 6.
Each match in Factions earns Renown, which is used to upgrade your classes into the aforementioned variants as well as allowing for the purchase of alternate character skins and other perks such as extending your barracks. Stoic are continuously tweaking the amount of Renown needed for upgrades, but even still, earning enough to upgrade each member of your party will take a long time. That’s where the marketplace of Factions comes in. Renown can be purchased in blocks, or boosts can be used to increase the amount of Renown earned from playing. While many will turn their nose up at the idea of paying for in game currency and quickly begin preaching about “pay to win”, the key is that there is nothing available to those who pay that can’t be earned by actually putting in the hours and playing the game. It could even be argued that paying for Renown from the beginning would be detrimental to the experience, as anyone doing so would lack the experience built up over many matches to effectively use the forces at their disposal.
Monday - April 15, 2013
The Banner Saga - Factions reviews
The Banner Saga: Factions has been reviewed by Funsponge.
Being free-to-play, the highly debated and emotionally fueled topic of microtransactions must be addressed. Renown can be purchased, as well as a few upgraded units and fancy coloured skins. Do these provide a significant advantage? The answer is a resounding no. All it really does is skip the learning process and throw you in at the deep end for a good old ass whooping. Imagine turning up to a master’s Chess tournament having only ever previously played your mate. On the other hand the cosmetic stuff feels about right, so tipping the developers for their trouble won’t sting too much.
I like Factions, I like it a lot, but I can’t deny its niche appeal. The comparison to chess is a common theme throughout, so if that’s not your thing you probably won’t enjoy Factions in its current form. If you’re after ranked matches this is for you, but expect a wait and be prepared for defeat, lots and lots of defeat. Such a robust combat system bodes well for the still-in-development single-player campaign, which will perhaps make a better introduction to the mindset in a less punishing environment. Although, in a stroke of genius, Stoic hinted at recording data from Factions to craft their AI, so don’t expect a pushover there either.
As did Cheatmasters (7/10)
The mechanic of the game that makes Factions both unique and challenging is how the strength of the characters is tied to how much health they have as well. For example, one that does 12 damage also has 12 health when unarmored. Of course, armor gives protection and reduces damage received. If the armor is greater than the character’s strength level, the damage received is 1. Normal damage can be directed to either armor or strength, while special attacks can damage both. This leads to some players whittling away armor, while others would lower enemy units’ strength early on to eliminate threats later on.
Unlike many games with matchmaking systems, the game does not ask you to confirm you are ready when it finds a match for you. Due to the long queue times, this can often mean matches start pre-emptively or even when a player is AFK. I’ve played against a number of dummy opponents who clearly got fed up of waiting before leaving, granting me an incredibly dull victory.
Factions is a game worth checking out, but likely not one worth investing money in. No-one will blame you for not making it past the dull initial grind, but at least pop it on sometime and bask in the game’s excellent opening cutscene. The single player releases to come will likely be excellent, building on the good framework set down by Factions. Hopefully the game will get a larger userbase after people react positively to the later releases.
Monday - April 08, 2013
The Banner Saga - Update #33, Development Update
Stoic has placed a lengthy article on their Kickstarter page for The Banner Saga providing an update on the current development status.
What is a white box?
This a term used to describe the entire game from front to back laid out with placeholder assets. Sometimes it’s called a gray box because in 3D games designers will rough out the shape of the world or levels with simple gray boxes so that they can playtest it before doing time-consuming and expensive final art.
What this means is that we have been implementing every travel scene, every conversation and every combat into the engine and tying the whole thing together via scripting so that we can actually play the entire game. White boxing takes the game from being a series of design docs and makes them exist in the game in rough form. Travel will have placeholder art, combat will have placeholder enemies and conversation will have placeholder dialogue that we can easily iterate on.
What a white box is invaluable for is 1) making sure the systems are functioning correctly, 2) other work can be developed based on this (for example, sound and music), 3) making sure the transitions between systems work well, and 4) Iteration! This last bit is probably the most critical part because it’s only once you have everything playable that you can start to refine it until it shines. Imagine making a game as drawing an enormous mural. A painter doesn’t start in the corner of the picture and complete the image one inch at a time. He roughs in the entire image in pencil, makes changes to the composition, blocks in the colors, adds shading and lighting, then starts to do the detail work. Making a game is a similar process of iteration.
In our case we scoped out the game in rough documentation. We re-scoped when we got 7x the funding. We created gold standards (final look and feel) for travel, conversation and combat. We then started to build the framework for each of these systems. You can see travel functionality when you pan the camera in Strand and the story is already playable through Inkle Writer. We had the great fortune of being able to use Inkle Writer as our conversation toolset, and this has saved us literally months. Inkle Writer will allow us to output functional code that easily plugs into our engine to control variables and conditionals. We took combat past the point of being functional into full polish. As this was our highest risk system it made sense to front-load the work on combat. Playtesting and feedback made sure that it’s as good as we can make it, and we’ve iterated the hell out of it.
Tuesday - March 05, 2013
The Banner Saga - Stoic's Repsonse on the Factions Feedback
Stoic's Alex Thomas is responding to the negative feedback they received on launching Factions in a blog on Gamasutra and in the process provides an inside look on how things went after the very successful Kicstarter campaign.
One of the things he mentions is that the multiplayer part was already in their Kickstarter campaign, so they are actually delivering what they've promised. The other thing is about the delay with respect to the original estimate, which was matching a $100K game. They received more than 7 times that and implementing all the stretch goals coming with that number simply takes time.
When we put together our campaign pitch we wanted people to be excited about getting playable content. The video states "we'll be rolling out a free multiplayer version of the game this summer on PC and Mac". The description on the campaign page included "Play online: Though the single-player campaign is our focus, The Banner Saga provides a deep multiplayer game; build a unique party of characters and battle friends and enemies in multiplayer combat." The game would be available on Steam. We plastered it on our website nearly a week before the Kickstarter campaign went live.
Some backers were incensed that production was taking longer than our original estimate, back when we hoped to make $100,000. Some were furious that the combat would be free, or that non-backers would get to play it. Some insisted that we had wasted their money by making multiplayer content, despite the assets, code and interface all being produced for the single player game. Many were fuming that the game must be "pay to win", despite the fact that you only get matched against opponents with equal teams, regardless of how you earned them. Within the game itself, the term "pay to lose" had started to appear, since paying money would only serve to get you matched against players with vastly more play time under their belts.
We also had a lot of backers supporting us, asking the detractors one particular question: "Where have you guys been this whole time?" What we soon learned is that many of our backers never read any of the updates. They had never read the original campaign. According to Kickstarter metrics that went up after our campaign ended, only 30% of backers even watched our campaign video, and they felt very betrayed about all of this, to which we personally felt a resounding "What?".
In addition Craig Stern has also written a piece on the matter and to the defense of Stoic on IndieRPGs.
Monday - March 04, 2013
The Banner Saga - Factions First Look @ Forbes
Forbes has checked out The Banner Saga: Factions and had amongst others the following to say:
At launch there appears to be a fairly limited number of classes and upgrades to work with, but the potential to add entire legions of units/races/factions to the title seems significant. While the units right now are restricted to various viking variants, there may be all kinds of monsters and mayhem on the way when the “full game” comes out later down the line. It’s a flexible frame to work with, and the tactical gameplay is highly accessible and yet quite involved when reviewing turn-to-turn actions.
That brings us to one of the more interesting points of The Banner Saga: Factions. To say that any sort of tactical turn-based game is fast would be a bit out of place, but rounds play out quite quickly in comparison to the sometimes cumbersome and lengthy turns found in other genre offerings. Games fly by, the in-game currency of renown begins to flow, and casual commanders become grizzled generals over the course of a few real matches.
Saturday - March 02, 2013
The Banner Saga - Factions Impressions @ RTSGuru
Some impressions of The Banner Saga: Factions are available at RTSGuru.
Upon starting the game, the first thing most will notice is that it really is beautifully animated. It makes me personally look forward more to The Banner Saga if this style and animation accurately reflects what we’ll see later. The map upon which you battle is the Great Hall, and there are multiple things to catch the eye inside. Your warriors aren’t static either, and they will move with taunts and rituals. Setting up battles can take some time to get started, with moving your units into place and coming close enough to engage, but this is typical for a game of this type. Those expecting fast-paced action will want to try something else. But for those that can appreciate the deliberate tactical gameplay here, The Banner Saga: Factions has something to offer.
The Banner Saga: Factions is fun to play and tries to strike that balance between accessible to most players and still fun and challenging for the tactical specialists out there.
Friday - February 22, 2013
The Banner Saga - Update # 32 - Q & A with Alex
The Banner Saga Kickstarter page has been updated with a Q & A session with Alex Thomas from Stoic Games. A quote, then, from this session:
Will I miss out on anything in the single player game if I don't play Factions? No (except having fun). Now, that said, we've put a lot of thought and effort into Factions. It's not just a mindless one-off from The Banner Saga. Factions takes place in the same world, in a city that is part of the single player game and when events happen in single player they'll affect the world in Factions. As we create new system for the Saga we'll be testing them through Factions, so things like playing against the computer will appear in Factions as we work out the code, and the story will all tie together.
Wednesday - February 20, 2013
The Banner Saga - Update #31, Factions Goes Live
Starting this Monday The Banner Saga: Factions has gone live for backers and will be available for everybody starting next week Monday.
A time of reckoning is upon us. All of us at Stoic are proud to announce, after burning the midnight oil for many moons, that beta has ended for The Banner Saga: Factions and soft launch is today!
What does that mean? In industry terms, soft launch is a short period in which a game is finished and complete, but released to a limited public.
Also, it is a thank you to our generous and wonderful backers to get a head start on the release build of the game. Your progress is being saved this week and carries over for the official launch.
There are some special perks available this week only, and every backer has a special green jade stone shown on your combat emblem that is exclusive to backers and early access players that are yours forever.
From Feb 18th - Feb 24th Factions will be available exclusively to backers. The current characters, stats and rankings have been wiped for the last time and the game is essentially now LIVE, along with a fully functional tutorial. Later in the week we’ll be holding the first tournament exclusively for backers.
Factions will be released to the public on Feb 25th. If you’ve been waiting for beta to end before trying the game, this is your week.
With Factions’ launch, we’ve effectively worked out the thick and thin of combat and we’re soon on to travel and conversation outlined in the previous update, and thus, the single player campaign. Consider this the first major milestone on the road to success!
From all of us here at Stoic, Skal!
WANT TO GET IN FACTIONS BUT HAVEN'T YET?
If you haven't been added to Factions yet but would like to get involved, you're always welcome. Please head to our forums and create an account using the same email address as your kickstarter account. That's all you need to do, and we'll send out keys and instructions on how to get the client on a regular basis (they won't arrive instantly!)
Crests will be uploaded in the single player game (we may add it in Factions earlier than that, but not immediately).
Thursday - January 31, 2013
The Banner Saga - Update #30, Single Player Progress
Stoic has provided a welcome, detailed update on the single-player progress for The Banner Saga:
Now that we’re well into 2013 and our estimated date was November last year, many people have been asking when the game will ship. This is a topic that comes up a lot in interviews in relation not just to us but most Kickstarters and honestly, most games in general.
To cut to the chase, we’re currently looking at mid-year for release of the Saga. We’ve said this in a few places but it’s worth repeating - when you scope the game for a certain amount of money and you make 7x that much, there’s no way around it, the game takes longer to make. We’re doing our best to mitigate that, we’re not taking anything like 7x as long. Hopefully with the progress we show in regular updates you’ll agree that we’re using the funding well and making the best decisions for the game.
The rest of the update is a detailed overview of progress and features across a number of areas, so this is a must-read if you're interested in the game.
Thursday - January 24, 2013
The Banner Saga - Update #29, Sound
Update #29 for The Banner Saga is about the sound and audio in the game as made by Kpow Audio.
When creating ambiences for games (this applies equally to film), I am striving to make them blend into the background, and not mask any important in game sounds. For most ambiences, these are the most important qualities that I am attempting to resolve.
In order to achieve this, I need to firstly focus on the repetition and timing between audio occurrences in the sounds. This means spacing sounds, and adding and removing sound occurrences in my audio sequence. I then work on the frequencies in the sounds, using equalization to mold them into the right sound. Finally, I work on their sound propagation, and the sound of the space in which they are to inhabit. These are the steps necessary to mould sound into something suitable for the space. Just adding reverb is not enough - the sound needs to be purpose built for the space’s reverberation and delay treatment.
The first task I need to do to ensure the ambience retreats into the background is to select the correct sounds. The more particular you are about the sounds you choose, the better results you will get. Don’t settle for an slightly inappropriate sound if you know its going to be a lot of work to massage the audio to make it sound right for the space. Often I will find nice long stereo files that contain approximately the right sounds, but they always need some work to be made to fit the particular space I am attempting to create. Usually they will need to be edited, removing anything that pops out and distracts you from the space and time of the location. I say time because often with an ambience the frequency of occurrence of particular sounds is something that needs to be considered. If there is too much happening, the space feels cluttered and busy. Even if you are depicting a busy location such as an outdoor market, or a busy mall, too frequent a bunch of sounds together and you have a mess. This kind of cacophony can be used as an effect, but in games you don’t have control of the player’s orchestration of the world you are creating. Therefore care must be taken to design the sounds in a pleasing, but apparently random manner. These same sensibilities are used when designing a more molecular, procedural ambience - tuning time between ambient audio events is what makes these spaces feel ‘right’. It is something that I learned after doing this for a long while, less is more often than not, more. Keep most things subtle, and let the occasional sound pop out only if it sounds perfect to do so.
Removing anything that pops out is a balancing act. A space is determined by how the sound and its propagation ‘sits’ in the space. We manipulate this with delays and reverberation. If nothing pops out at all, the reverb doesn’t have the material with which to bloom, and therefore describe the space. So I am not trying to get rid of every descriptive sound, I am trying to ensure every sound is right. It sounds the right distance away for the space I am trying to describe, it sounds at the right level (usually low, but not always), it occurs infrequently or frequently enough to be believable.
Friday - January 04, 2013
The Banner Saga - Ambient Audio
Michael Theiler who has been working on the audio in The Banner Saga and LA Noire is writing in a blog on Gamasutra on ambient audio using these games as examples.
When creating ambiences for games, I am striving to make them blend into the background, and not mask any important in game sounds. For most ambiences, these are the most important qualities that I am attempting to resolve.
In order to achieve this, I need to firstly focus on the repetition and timing between audio occurrences in the sounds. This means spacing sounds, and adding and removing sound occurrences in my audio sequence. I then work on the frequencies in the sounds, using equalization to mold them into the right sound. Finally, I work on their sound propagation, and the sound of the space in which they are to inhabit. These are the steps necessary to mould sound into something suitable for the space. Just adding reverb is not enough - the sound needs to be purpose built for the space’s reverberation and delay treatment.
Friday - December 21, 2012
The Banner Saga - Update #28, Yuletide Progress Report
Stoic has posted a video update on The Banner Saga: Factions with lots of in-game footage showing new features such as improved tutorial, battleground obstacles and the "horn". Of course, for those only interested in the SP game, the combat system will carry over:
Monday - December 17, 2012
The Banner Saga - Interview @ Gamestar.ru
Stoic's Alex Thomas has been interviewed by the Russian site Gamestar.ru on The Banner Saga, with questions about the Kickstarter campaign, the game and vikings.
You know, I've tried counting all of the authentic (more or less) works about vikings and fingers on my two hands were just enough to do it. Do you think the reason that this theme is unpopular is that gamers just don't seem to be interested in it? Do you intend to popularize the Nordic culture with the help of The Banner Saga? By the way, did other works of the same theme such as «When the Ravens Fly» or «In the Shadow of the Raven» inspire you in any way?
Honestly, we're not sure why there aren't more viking-themed games. Maybe publishers won't fund a viking game because the ones in the past weren't a huge success, so they're unwilling to take a chance on it. I feel like every person we've talked to and who backed our Kickstarter is a huge fan of the game being viking-themed, so it seems to me that there definitely an excitement for it. In media, I haven't seen «Ravens Fly» or «Shadow» myself, but some of the few popular things we have include a comic series called Northlanders and a movie called «Valhalla Rising», which is definitely something you should go into watching as an art film but one I highly recommend.
Monday - December 10, 2012
The Banner Saga - Interview @ IndiegameHQ
Stoic Studio's Alex Thomas was interviewed by IndiegameHQ on The Banner Saga and their Kickstarter success.
Indie Game HQ: Were you surprised by the massive interest in the Kickstarter?
Alex: Undoubtedly. We approached Kickstarter as a way to help fund some of the production costs that we just didn’t have time to do – mostly animation and QA, and came away from it with more funding than we ever could have imagined. The concept of the game and the idea of going it alone really seemed to resonate with people.
Indie Game HQ: What are your plans for the extra money raised?
Alex: Any time you start making a game there’s a flood of great ideas and you have to scale that back to what you can afford both in terms of time and money (often these are interchangeable). The most valuable thing the Kickstarter funding let us do was bring back the best ideas that we had to drop before. We’ve added a ton of content including dozens of unique characters, we’ve been able to dramatically expand the amount of story content and re-playability in the game, and we’ve improved the quality of everything throughout. Before we were going to be doing our own foley and writing our own music and we’ve been able to get really professional studios to pitch in with us including Austin Wintory, the composer for Journey. These are all things we never could have gotten anything close to before.
Tuesday - November 27, 2012
The Banner Saga - Factions Preview @ Indie Statik
The people from Indie Statik played a bit of The Banner Saga: Factions and they penned down some of their experiences.
The feeling of doom certainly extended to my experience with the combat. It’s harsh, and the gorgeous animations and sounds only emphasize this harshness further. In most RPGs, when you see a dead unit you equate it with the experience points you gained. In The Banner Saga you feel the cost of every unit weighing on you. The scariest, most eye-opening part of Saving Private Ryan is when the door on the landing craft comes down and the German machine guns immediately begin ripping through the American soldiers. That moment serves the movie so well because it’s completely unexpected. Heroes aren’t supposed to die en masse in the first five minutes of a movie. This de-heroization of the soldiers by means of terrible, sudden, and impersonal violence makes you feel the loss of their potential stories. Some soldiers weren’t lucky enough to make it to the beach on which their fellows died.
Tuesday - November 20, 2012
The Banner Saga - Factions Video
Stoic has released a 5-minute video of The Banner Saga: Factions, again reminding that this is exactly what the single-player combat is like:
Monday - November 19, 2012
The Banner Saga - Beta Open for Non-Backers
If you mised the Kickstarter campaign you can still join for $15. You apparently get a steam key for Factions, you can play now, and for the complete game, which will take some time before you can play it.
Friday - November 09, 2012
The Banner Saga - Update #26
Stoic has sent out a backers-only update for The Banner Saga, announcing all backers should now have access to the Factions beta as well as some other development comments:
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! We're happy to announce that all backers have now received beta keys and should be able to get in the game and try out the combat.
In addition, we've just released a new build with a lot of new things. We've added the fifth playable class, the Backbiter. He's an upgraded axeman using the Shield Wall passive and his active ability is Run Through, which allows you to pass through enemy units, doing armor damage, before stabbing them in the back. It really opens up movement on the board and is a ton of fun, give it a try! We've also fixed the crashing/divergence problem that plagued the last build so you shouldn't have trouble finishing your matches now.
If you haven't been added to beta yet but would like to get involved, you're always welcome. Please head to our forums and create an account using the same email address as your kickstarter account. That's all you need to do, and we'll send out keys and instructions on how to get the client on a regular basis.
Sunday - October 28, 2012
The Banner Saga - Factions Beta Looms
The latest backers-only update from Stoic announces the beta for The Banner Saga: Factions is close (backers will have received an email on accessing the beta). This is for the multiplayer tactics version but, as per the update, "Factions will help us balance and refine the single player experience".
Saturday - October 27, 2012
The Banner Saga - Factions, a Part of a Game
Stoic, the developers of The Banner Saga are releasing The Banner Saga: Factions this winter. Factions is the multiplayer combat part of The Banner Saga, which allows you to play online and check out the combat system for yourself.
Here is an overview of the features:
Match up against other players in multiplayer comba
Competitive and addictive turn-based combat
- Challenge your opponent in fierce battles where only the skilled shall prevail
- Get matched up against other players based on the relative power of your team to help keep fights fair and fun
- Play Factions entirely for free; no "energy" system or other gating mechanisms to keep you from playing without purchasing something
- A unique combat system designed from the ground up with the goal of creating deep strategy: build a team out of hundreds of possible combinations and take into account their abilities, willpower bonuses, positioning, initiative and many other factors
- Upgrade your characters to improve their stats and promote them to access their unique ability
- Form your party based on creating a strategy that takes advantage of their unique stats and abilities
Navigate through the City of Strand
- Go to the Proving Grounds to assemble your team and upgrade your characters
- Visit the Mead House to access new characters
- Go to the Weaver's Hut to create your custom banner
- Browse the Trophy Tower, where you can see your achievements
- When you're ready to fight, head to the Great Hall at the top of the hill
- The Banner Saga: Factions will be available for both PC and Mac. You will also be able to download via the official website (this one) or through the Steam store
- As a game free to everyone, you'll never have problems finding people to play against
- Constantly being updated with new content as it gets built!
Friday - October 19, 2012
The Banner Saga - Podcast @ Racketboy
A podcast interview by Racketboy with the developers of The Banner Saga can now be found here.
Thursday - October 04, 2012
The Banner Saga - Interview @ Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Rock, Paper, Shotgun continue their articles on The Banner Saga with an interview with the developers.
RPS: So does choice in Banner Saga largely revolve around how quickly you decide to move from place-to-place? Or are there more road-mapped, BioWare-style choices as well?
Alex Thomas: That’s definitely a large part of it. Another is just how much you support your caravan. You’re going to get these random events based on everybody’s different stats. There are three things you’re trying to balance as you’re moving along: endurance, morale, and supplies. People are going to constantly be triggering these events based on what level those stats are at. I guess the key word that we’re going for is that everybody has their own motivation, their own agency. They’re going to leave. They’re going to join up with you. They’re going to do what they want to do to handle the situation.
Arnie Jorgensen: That’s a good point. In a single-player story, everyone thinks you control the characters. But here, you don’t. You’re the guy running the caravan. But everyone’s got their own agenda. You’re just trying to get everyone along to the end of the story.
Wednesday - October 03, 2012
The Banner Saga - Beta Video Update
Stoic has released a video showing what has been happening during the production of the beta of The banner Saga.
Tuesday - October 02, 2012
The Banner Saga - Of Banners, Sagas, Microtransactions and Balance
Rock, Paper, Shotgun takes another look at Factions in an interview that discusses balance, microtransactions and more:
RPS: What sorts of characters and items will we see trickle in from the single-player story? Also, how will that affect the balance? What happens to free players when owners of The Banner Saga proper start charging in with crazy story classes?
Arnie Jorgensen: Everything in our game revolves around this big story-based idea that we’ve got. The whole game started with this story. Factions takes place on the map, in the story-based world. These aren’t two different worlds. As things happen in this world, things happening in your story, they’re going to happen to Strand and the other areas on that map. Not to go into it too much, but Strand is going to be an evolving city as you play. Easily updatable and changeable.
Alex Thomas: That was a big theme I think we glossed over a bit. When Chapter One comes out, what happens in Chapter One is going to have a direct relation to what happens in Factions. As you unlock characters in Chapter One, you’ll unlock them in Factions as well. We want free players to see [story classes in action]. We’re calling our magic-users Menders. They get hooked up in a match where they’re fighting against Menders casting these spells, and they’re like, “Holy crap, how do I get that?” You get the single-player game and you play through it, and now you know who these characters are and you can use them.
Arnie Jorgensen: Since Factions is a free-to-play game, we are hoping to pull people along into the single-player story-based game. If you only want to play Factions, you don’t have to pay anything. It’s a free game. But eventually, when you’re playing against the story-based people, you’re going to be fighting against guys who have Centaurs and Menders and crazy crap like that. You’re going to go, “Okay, I think it’s time.”
Monday - October 01, 2012
The Banner Saga - Beta Coming Soon
Stoic has kicked up a lengthy update on The Banner Saga, explaining the beta is coming soon and all Kickstarter backers will get access, as well as answering some questions and discussing Factions:
Beta is looming and you’re invited - Alpha is officially coming to a close and for Beta we’re going to need plenty of testers, so we’re officially opening the Beta to all of our backers. If you donated at any level you’re in! We’ve got 20k people on the list and we won’t be able to just dump everybody in at once, so we’ll send out staggered invites and keep an eye on the servers, working to get everybody on board. We’re not sure if we’ll take it public or not. [...]
What exactly is Factions?
In Factions you’ll match up against other players in 1v1 matches and try to be the last one standing. After each match you’ll gain Renown, which is our currency you can use to buy new units, upgrade your characters and create your banners. You’ll form your party based on creating a strategy that takes advantage of their unique stats and abilities, similar to building a deck in Magic: The Gathering. You’ll see all these characters again in the single player game.
As you win matches, you move up the ranks. We’ll always match you with opponents based on the relative power of your team to try and keep fights are fair and fun. And, we’ll try to work out any problems that come up along the way. That’s what beta is for! [...]
What if I’m only interested in the single player game?
It’s ok, we know competitive multiplayer isn’t for everyone. Give it a try, because we think it’s really fun! You won’t miss anything in the Saga if you never touch Factions. As we create content for the single player game we’ll be rolling it into Factions. We plan to support Factions for as long as people are playing it. While the single player game has been our primary focus, Factions helps us develop that while keeping players involved.
They estimate the full game for "first half of 2013", by the way. Head over to read the full update and watch the video.
Sunday - September 30, 2012
The Banner Saga - Impressions @ Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Rock, Paper, Shotgun share their experience with The Banner Saga in and impressions article.
That said, I did have a few quibbles – mainly stemming from a clearly work-in-progress interface. Ordering anyone to do anything took multiple clicks and further “are you sure?” confirmation clicks – but when time is ticking down, every second counts. At one point, I actually lost a unit because my final click was one milisecond too late. That was exceedingly frustrating. On top of that, selecting special skills felt similarly clunky, forcing me to click on the space around a character instead of the character itself, then choose a skill, then pick a target and finally, mercifully hit something – when, in fact, simply targeting someone and picking whether I wanted to use a normal or special attack would’ve made a lot more sense. But Stoic showed me images of the new interface ideas it’s currently tweaking, and they seem much, much, much, much better.
I must admit to initially being worried that Banner Saga – with its silky smooth Disney-style visuals making raucously passionate love to my eyeballs – was just a pretty face. Playing it, though, pretty much obliterated that fear. If Stoic can maintain this standard of quality, it could have something really special on its hands – a mixture of ocean-like tactical depth and frantic mid-match pacing that feels impressively different. I’ve got high hopes, anyway, and November’s right around the corner. Winter is coming. But, you know, hopefully in a good way.
Wednesday - September 19, 2012
The Banner Saga - Factions Preview @ Destructoid
Destructoid has a full hands-on preview of The Banner Saga: Factions, the multiplayer, combat-arena derivative of Stoic's "main" game:
Not to be confused with the single-player narrative promoted in the Kickstarter video, Banner Saga Factions is the multiplayer component of that game stripped out and repurposed as a free-to-play multiplayer game. While easing me into the battle grid at its office, Stoic was throwing Chess and Magic the Gathering comparisons willy-nilly. During their Kickstarter phase, I ridiculed them for having the tenacity -- as if a first-person shooter developer could compare its game to basketball because you aim and toss a projectile. But, the shoe sure does fit ...
Okay, let’s keep this simple because it’s not going to stay that way for long. You form a team of six members, chosen from 16 classes, and try to survive against your opponent’s six combatants. That’s the game at its core. But, gosh, if it doesn’t feel that simple when you have your hand on the clicker. Players of strategy role-playing games will be familiar with the move restriction, player initiation that dictates the turn of each party member, and post-match leveling ability. However, facing (à la Final Fantasy Tactics) doesn’t factor into combat. You better compose your team wisely because they will become your greatest asset, whether you level them through renown points earned from defeating enemy troops or purchased for money online. Stoic will not lock players out of content through the pay model. Instead, paying will only get you to where you were going to anyway more quickly.
Saturday - September 15, 2012
The Banner Saga - Factions Announced
I was under the impression Stoic Studio had decided to bypass the combat-only free-to-play Banner Saga Factions but apparently it will be released in November. From Destructoid:
While Banner Saga Chapter 1 (a full game, not an episode) will arrive early 2013, Stoic is taking the combat and assets from it and making a free-to-play multiplayer game called Banner Saga Factions, which will arrive on PC and Mac in early November. iPad and Ouya releases will follow.
"Basically we are developing the single-player game, and we realized we are doing all this work on the combat and it's really fun to play!" Art Director Arnie Jorgensen said. "Why not just release the combat as we develop the full game?"
Thursday - August 23, 2012
The Banner Saga - Interview @ LivePixel
A site called LivePixel has an interview with Stoic Studio on The Banner Saga, Kickstarter and the creation of the studio:
Justin Lowe: So back to some more Banner Saga questions. Can you give us an idea of how the game is structured from a combat sense?
Arnie Jorgensen: It is important to point out that it is not just a tactics game. It is between tactics and chess.
Alex Thomas: Right, when you look at turn based strategy games, they often say it is a tactical game, more of a thinking man’s game. A lot of turn-based strategy is really just grinding and then overpowering. Many of the abilities you get in these kinds of games are just “Fireball 1” or “Fireball 2”, and it does more damage, versus every other ability that does different ranges of damage. Then you look at something like chess, and it is the pure essence of tactics. Each piece has a unique thing, there are no numbers, and the teams are equal. You win because you are better. We wanted to go somewhere more in between those two things. We wanted to add more tactical nature to the combat by having characters that advance over time and improve, and you feel like you have some ownership with them.
At the same time, they fill a roll, and what you are trying to do is make your team the best that you can. When you get beat by somebody, it is not because of a random chance or they had a higher-level character with a better fireball. It is because they were better than you were at the strategy. We have made a game where position and character synergy is the most important thing: abilities that work with each other to give you the best effect against someone who has their own set of tactics.
Tuesday - July 31, 2012
The Banner Saga - Progress Report
Stoic has kicked up a progress report on Kickstarter for The Banner Saga. Backers can head over for details on prize progress but, for everyone else, here's an excerpt on the actual development:
I'm glad to say that we're starting to cross this threshold and we're seeing everything come together quickly on our first release. Since the last update we've accomplished:
- Final art for every major combat UI
- Final art for every major gameplay UI including upgrading, matchmaking and team-building as well as the option menus, combat resolution screen and many miscellaneous functions.
- Final UI functionality for combat
- Gold standard combat environment
- Final, animating character portraits
- Final base combat particles
- Implemented the majority of the playable character animations
- All tooltips for every ability and action in combat
- The locomotion system that allows us to adjust the speed of an animation versus how fast they move across the screen to avoid the "sliding" effect common in 2D games
- We've also made progress toward multiplayer functionality
With these latest changes we'll be able to send our contractors a working client so they can begin implementing sound effects, music and creating quality assurance test plans. Within days we'll be able to start playtesting the combat with outside testers.
Wednesday - July 25, 2012
The Banner Saga - Art Blog
Stoic's art director Arnie Jorgensen has penned a blog entry about creating some of the art for The Banner Saga. There's a new screen and some details on the creation:
We know we want the game to look and sound like an animated movie and along with that we also want the game to be rooted in reality to some degree. I begin every concept by gathering reference to get ideas that I throw into the pot of sketches and roughs. In this phase I begin by blocking in the correct scale of the environment. This particular scene takes place in the building at the top of the hill in the City of Strand that we showed last week. Now, viking great halls were rarely this large, but we need enough room to back the camera out far enough for players to actually see enough of the game board so I used some creative license and on top of that we might as well make it look as cool as we can. After getting the basic size of the area down I start sketching in ideas from the story that Alex has laid down for the particular combat space. Here we have a feast going on with the governor of the City of Strand at the main table. I play with color and lighting and materials until I feel that my brain is a good place to understand what it is we’re after. How many guests are at the feast? Were vikings sloppy eaters? Should there be a polar bear chained to the wall? Questions like these are nailed down in this stage.
Thursday - July 19, 2012
The Banner Saga - After the Kick But Before the Start
Stoic's Alex Thomas writes on Gamesbrief about the process of running a Kickstarter campaign, based on their experience with The Banner Saga. This article doesn't talk the game itself but might be worth a read for those who like looking behind the curtain:
So far every project I’ve watched has suffered from the same mid-campaign slump. The novelty of your project has worn off and your most enthusiastic backers have already signed up, but it isn’t close enough to the finish to attract the procrastinators and the people who like to feel like they made a difference at the end (like me). It seems to me that regardless of whether you’re asking for ten thousand or half a million, you’ll stall out about half-way through your campaign.
Again, this is where Kickstarter as your full-time job comes in. When this occurred during out campaign we had raised a lot more than we expected and felt confident that we’d be able to produce the full trilogy we had originally planned, so we offered the full game to anyone who had pledged at $50 or more and saw an immediate and massive boost in pledges which largely helped to keep us moving during the slow middle. We also took this opportunity to do a lot of written interviews and podcasts that got new eyes on the project.
Thursday - July 12, 2012
The Banner Saga - Update #20
There's a new update for The Banner Saga, explaining Stoic has made excellent progress and a combat demo is getting close, having just transitioned to Beta:
As a lot of the mundane but time-consuming aspects of running a business settle down (changing banks and setting up quickbooks... ugh), we've now entered a very critical period of development. As we've mentioned before, we're working exclusively on the combat system for the full game now, and we'll be releasing this combat as a free standalone called Factions, in the near future. A free demo with both single player and multiplayer content, if you will. We're just now transitioning from alpha to beta on this combat release, which means going from playable to polished and balanced. This is a pretty critical part of the process and we're all buckling down for an intense couple of months.
Monday - July 02, 2012
The Banner Saga - Technical Blog #3
Stoic Studios has a new technical blog for those interested in the development side of The Banner Saga. No quote, because it's all above my head.
Saturday - June 23, 2012
The Banner Saga - Of Kickstarter Prizes and Costs
Stoic writes an update about getting the physical Kickstarter rewards out and how the costs break down. $22,000 of t-shirts is a lot of apparel:
Tuesday - June 19, 2012
The Banner Saga - Update #18
We start every character (Re: class) with a sketch phase where we try out different looks and styles. What's this classes job in combat? Are they heavily armored or are they a damage dealer?Since we've set the Banner Saga in a low fantasy setting it's important to us to make a viking look like a viking, not some random fantasy barbarian with huge shoulder pads and spikes and...whatever. Keeping every class looking like they could exist in a real world is the major motivating factor behind each design. Here's the final sketch of the Axeman, which eventually became the Backbiter, one of the upgraded, or promoted versions of the base Axeman.
Wednesday - June 13, 2012
The Banner Saga - What Is Told
The final part of The Banner Saga's What is Told lore story has been released. Looking at our news posts, we've missed a couple of these, but they'll all linked from this last piece if you want to read them all:
A scream stuck in Hafr’s throat at the sight of the towering giant before him, and then a long, silent moment passed between the newly liberated captive and his former captor. Bersi’s unflinching glare was the most dreadful thing Hafr could imagine, and it was unrelenting.
Finally, mercifully, the varl stepped back and quietly sat on the rock he must have been propped up against before Hafr has emerged from the trees. Hafr’s bag slumped beside him and he resumed reading one of the books, just as Hafr had always seen him before.
Monday - June 11, 2012
The Banner Saga - Technical Blog #2
There's a new Technical Blog for The Banner Saga available, for those interested in the programming side of things. A quick quote, because it won't mean much to most of us:
The past two weeks have been characterized by four main activities:
1. Game Scene Editor Development
2. Sound Integration
3. Platform Specific Game Packaging
4. Build System
Monday - May 28, 2012
The Banner Saga - Technical Blog #1
Stoic kicked up their second technical blog entry for The Banner Saga a few days back, though again, this is aimed at programmers and techies:
As predicted in the last update, Jeff Uriarte has gotten started on the team and is working hard on the tools for building out our scenes and landscapes in-game. We have been working out the technical details of making the scenes as seamless as possible whether it is depicting the traveling caravan, a battle, or a town. We have figured out a good way to make these all part of the same rendering system, and are now working toward that.
Victor is making good progress on the FMOD integration. We have FMOD up and running in the game on our Windows build. The initial prototype was done using Visual Studio (with which we are both very familiar). To support our multi-platform approach Victor hoisted the code into Eclipse CDE and configured everything to build properly there. We are using CDE in Eclipse Indigo (the newest) rather than in Flash Builder, because Flash Builder is still on Eclipse Helios (an older version).
Wednesday - May 23, 2012
The Banner Saga - What is Told, Part 2
Stoic Studio has posted another lore snippet for The Banner Saga with the second part of What is Told:
When Hafr finally did sleep it was poor and fitful, a combination of discomfort and disturbed dreams, so that when the sun arose the next morning he was more exhausted than before he had fallen asleep.
Again, Bersi sat across from him quietly, leafing through one of Hafr’s books. Hafr groggily recognized the cover as “Antiquity of Man”, a dry chronicle of history he had been made to memorize several times over.
“This is some dire stuff, Goat,” moaned Bersi. “Is this what they have you do all day? I’d rather stab myself in the sack.”
“I’ve read worse,” choked Hafr, betraying no minor discomfort.
“Have you?” contemplated Bersi. “You know this is all I’ve had to distract myself with for half a day?” It was true; through the leaves above his head Hafr could see that the sun was already high in the sky. Despite his discomfort he had been in and out of consciousness for half a day. “Must be thirsty?” grinned Bersi, suddenly mischievous.
Hafr nodded, uncertain where this would go. Bersi instead cracked the book to a page he had previously dog-eared.
Wednesday - May 16, 2012
The Banner Saga - Updates
Stoic points to a couple of Banner Saga updates, with Technical Blog #0 talking about their first programmer hire Victor Ude and his current work integrating sound.
In What is Told, the first of a series of lore updates is provided:
A lot of things were on Hafr’s mind.
Foremost was the ache that had found its way into his feet, unaccustomed as they were to shuffling across hard rock in thin leather shoes. The intricately carved walking stick in his hand had become more of an anchor than an aid. Aside from that, there was the complex pattern he had been failing to memorize for a week, the cumbersome bundle of books and scrolls boring into his shoulders and the irksome memory of a disappointing conclusion to an awkward conversation he had left on the lips of a girl. It chafed, looping over and over in his head with nothing but backcountry paths to distract him from it, and no recourse to be taken. At least, not until he was done with this, another pointless errand.
Tuesday - May 01, 2012
The Banner Saga - Interview @ Wired
Alex Thomas from Stoic chats with Wired in a lengthy 6-page interview about The Banner Saga. Here's Alex's reponse to a question about Choose Your Own Adventure books:
Thomas: From the start of the design we intended to make each of our three main systems (combat, travel and conversation) influence the others in exactly the way you’re talking about here. To summarize briefly; the story involves you and your people trying to escape what seems to be the literal end of the world which is sweeping slowly across the land. The travel scenes from the video are actual game-play which are akin to a cross between King of Dragon Pass and Oregon Trail. You’re not responsible just for a single character or a party, but for an entire society of people, and that opens up a lot of options people haven’t played with much in role-playing games.
As you travel events will happen — your clansmen get in disputes, supplies run low and a wide variety of other unexpected issues come up that you have to deal with. Making decisions during travel can affect the difficulty or frequency of combat, and in turn barely surviving a fight doesn’t return you to full health afterward. You know you’ll be in trouble if you get in another fight soon, but making camp to rest will chew up time. Time is a key element to the game, and events can change based on when you encounter them. Through these smaller events you’re forming the story of your caravan, and through primarily dialogue you unravel the mystery of what’s happening to the world and what you can do to change things. One of our key goals has been to let bad things happen and to allow the player to deal with mistakes and keep them. Being a smaller, indie project has given us the ability to mess with the world in a way that bigger developers may shy away from. If your home town goes up in flames, you haven’t lost the game. It just keeps going. What is important to you, as the player, should be to do the best you can for you, your friends and your people.
Monday - April 30, 2012
The Banner Saga - Forums Open
Official forums have been launched for The Banner Saga:
Here's a quick overview: We've got a news and off-topic section where we'll be keeping you up-to-date with any good interviews or previews that come up. There's the special Backer-only subforum just for you, and the general discussion Longhouse, where we've already started a discussion about guild crests. The beginner's circle is where we'll be answering all the basic stuff- what's the game about, who are we, etc.
We'll be answering the boards as much as possible, but we've also gotten some help from a few guys who will be doing some moderating for us- Sean (from The Old Republic), Scott and Stelly, so if you see them answering questions it's because we asked them to :)
Saturday - April 28, 2012
The Banner Saga - Progress Report
Stoic has provided a progress report for The Banner Saga, though we're only a week after funding. There's a video that shows some footage of a party after their successful funding and a few glimpses of animations. New wallpapers are on offer and official forums open on Monday. Lastly, they look at some Kickstarter projects they are backing, including Grim Dawn and Legends of Eisenwald.
Sunday - April 22, 2012
The Banner Saga - Update #11, Campaign Over, $723k Raised
Stoic has ended their Kickstarter campaign for The Banner Saga, having raised $723,886, which opened up some new inclusions such as a full orchestra and player-owned MP cities. Here's a snip from the latest update:
Needless to say (but we'll say it anyway), not only did we meet our goal in two days, you've gotten us to 700%. OVER $700,000. This is all beyond our wildest dreams and we've said it before, but we'll work our hardest to make something you can be proud of supporting. [...]
Were you expecting a progress report?
Somehow we've still managed to make a little progress this week!
- We've finished our first pass of animation shoots and Powerhouse has officially started animating characters. The first character is our base human viking fighter called the Axeman and his upgraded versions. Keep in mind these are going to become the real animated characters in the game, not just concept work. Check out the design image above!
- Austin Wintory has already recorded the first pass on the main theme for the game and man is he ever excited about it! From there he'll keep building the full score until we can record the whole thing live with a full orchestra.
- We'll be sorting through the applications now that the campaign is over and getting back to you all as soon as possible.
- As mentioned, we're in the process of getting a forum up and running on our main website.
- We've written up a bit about the history, races and setting of the world which will probably be our first major content post on the website. Can't wait to talk about it more!
So this is it. We're standing on the shore, packing up the longships, sharpening the swords and getting ready to push off. But instead of three of us rowing furiously we've got a viking army behind us. We're honored to have you along for the ride.
Friday - April 20, 2012
The Banner Saga - Update #10, $700k Passed
Stoic Studio has kicked up a new update for The Banner Saga on Kickstarter - at the time, they had six hours to run and were nearing the $700k mark. As I write, there are two hours to go and that level has been comfortably passed, which adds player-owned cities in MP. From this last-hours-FAQ:
Won't porting to consoles dumb down the game, compromise the UI or take more time away from working on the game?
We started the game with the intention of porting to as many places as possible, which we say in the video and on the front page. Something that we could have messaged better is that we won't be porting anything until after chapter 1 is complete sometime at the end of the year. We're not doing simultaneous development, so we won't have anything to port until we have a finished first release. We do apologize about not making this more clear.
As for dumbing down the game or making the UI worse, we don't think that's true. The game as we pitched it is going to be the same on PC, Mac, Linux, iPad and consoles, the same as we originally envisioned it (at this point, better). The UI will be developed to work on our first release - PC and Mac - and then have to be converted for other platforms in the porting process. [..]
Why did you structure your goals music, then porting and content, then cities? I had to support something I didn't want to get something I did.
We set out the goals based on what would affect the most people. Music is something everyone will hear, ports and content are something a lot people requested, and the cities are for multiplayer. We needed to frontload the things we couldn't ship without, and cities are something we could add in later as funding becomes available. Our stretch goals were just that - extra - so rest assured nothing about them has changed the game we're already working on.
Wednesday - April 18, 2012
The Banner Saga - Update #9, The Final Hours
The Banner Saga is counting down to the end of their Kickstarter campaign, with 50 hours to go as I write ($597k). From Update #9, discussing what they can do as additional milestones are reached:
The Orchestra (at $600k)
Austin Wintory is currently working on the soundtrack and hiring on musicians but due to the cost of a full orchestra is still working with a combination of digital and live music. If we hit this goal we'll be able to have a full, honest-to-goodness orchestral score, each instrument played by a real musician in a high-quality recording studio used by film legends like John Williams.
Then what are the promotional music prizes for?
Prizes like the score and the signature have helped us get this far and also double as a way to guarantee that your personal donation goes directly into funding the music for the game.
The Most Content on the Most Platforms (at $650k)
Like the port to iPad and Linux, if we hit this goal we'll be able to make the game available on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. The funding will allow us to have additonal developers port the game, leaving us to focus on content development.
The additional content is just as important. This will give us the ability to add a much wider range of special events that can occur as you travel and really expand the scope of the finale to make it the biggest, most rewarding conclusion we can.
The Player-Owned Cities (at $700k)
If we meet this goal we'll be able to add one of the coolest features we thought was way beyond the scope of our game. In multiplayer, players will control their own city, raising it from a modest village to a bustling city with visual customization and their guild crest flying on the walls. Over time, players can construct buildings that will allow them to recruit new units, trade for powerful items and ultimately fight for territory.
Tuesday - April 17, 2012
The Banner Saga - Project Update #8
The Banner Saga has sent out a Kickstarter update, offering clarification on the rewards ($562k, three days to run). An excerpt:
Hello, esteemed backers! Within the last few days, two very important things have happened to encourage this update: 1) We added a bunch of new prizes to our already many and varied prizes! and 2) We’ve gotten a lot of requests to clarify said prizes, and have been pointed to other kickstarter campaigns who have already done a similar update.
So, we’ve broken out each individual tier to tell you exactly what you get and address some of the common questions we get about them. We should mention this up front: regardless of whether you’ve changed your pledge or not, you will receive whichever prize you have selected when the campaign ends on April 20th.
Friday - April 13, 2012
The Banner Saga - Update #7
Stoic Studio has a new Kickstarter update as they head into the last week of their fundraising campaign for The Banner Saga. There's a new video focused on composer Austin Wintory (Flow, Journey) - they are aiming for a full-blown orchestral score and have added new music-related reward categories, with the proceeds of those pledges going directly to the music:
This is it, fans of strategy, story, art... and music: our last week on Kickstarter. Your constant support throughout the campaign has been an experience none of us will ever forget, and we have you to thank. We've decided to pull out all the stops in this last week to make this the best version of the game we possibly can. Austin himself wanted to talk with all our supporters about his role as composer on The Banner Saga. Take a look.
Friday - April 06, 2012
The Banner Saga - Update #6
As The Banner Saga passes $400k in their Kickstarter efforts, Stoic has posted a huge update with some star-studded talent coming onboard. Austin Wintory will will provide music (Journey), Kpow Audio (L.A. Noire) will provide sound, Powerhouse Animation (Epic Mickey) will do some work, iPad and Linux clients are confirmed and more:
- We've done the concept work for each of the major characters in our first release, some of which you can see in the above piece of concept art. This is the sort of production piece you'll see in the collector's edition art book. We'll be talking more about the history of these races soon!
- Now that design is done we'll be spending the majority of next week filming character animations and getting them ready to be animated into the game.
- We continue to refine our many interface elements and adjust numbers in combat for our working prototype.
- Now that we've gotten the green light on working with all these incredible artists we're setting up the framework to integrate their work (no small endeavor) and let them work at their full potential!
Tuesday - April 03, 2012
The Banner Saga - Update #5
Stoic has kicked up a new update for The Banner Saga as their Kickstarter passes $350k. In essence, they're getting on with the production:
Hello supporters and backers! It's hard to believe it's only been two weeks since we launched the project and beside the weekly progress reports we've just cracked an unbelievable milestone at 350%! We'll be sending these updates out regularly to make sure you know what we're up to.
Without any further ado, here's the progress report for 2.12.12:
- Our top priority is to build on the work we've completed for the prototype. Basically this means hooking up everything that requires extra functionality; the combat interface, progression through each part of the game including character upgrades, building a party, hiring new units, the multiplayer narrative, the combat board itself and so on. It's a lot of foundation work you never really thinking about when you're playing a game.
- We've started working on our final designs for characters in combat and their variations, color schemes and upgrades. This work includes sketches and designs that will all end up in the art book! We'll probably pop up an image or two next week to let you see what we've been up to.
- We've spent a good portion of our time this week upping the resolution of our existing art to work on the Apple Retina displays for the new iPad, which is a much better step to take sooner than later. I suppose this is a pretty strong indication that we intend to port the game to iOS as soon as we can fit it into a schedule! That said, we won't let this take priority over finishing the game we set out to make on PC and Mac.
- We're currently up to our necks in offers to help with the music and have some great leads! We're making a concentrated effort to sort through all the amazing submissions this week and find our best fit for the project. Just like sound, we would have had to scale back the scope of what we could do with our limited manpower. We now have to option to get a dedicated music house to do more than we could have achieved alone at the highest possible quality.
- We've begun an honest-to-goodness production schedule with an animation studio who will help us complete all the frame-by-frame animations for combat and a handful of cutscenes that had previously been left on the cutting room floor.
- We've also gotten some good leads on great professional help for quality assurance. Boring, you say? It's the most exciting thing we can think of!
That wraps things up for the work in progress this week. We are, once again, floored by the donations that continue to roll in, and will be getting back to the grindstone to make it all happen.
Alex, Arnie and John
Thursday - March 22, 2012
The Banner Saga - Project Updates
A couple of updates on The Banner Saga as their Kickstarter goes past 150%:
I can't tell you how good that feels. We'll do everything we can to give back the love.
Because we've significantly exceeded our goal already, we wanted to give you a heads up on how we're already planning to use the funds and other plans for the future.
- Just today we've already gotten back from talking with a local Austin 2D animation studio about getting additional and incredibly professional animations in the game, as well as higher quality cinematics that may remind you of Myth: The Fallen Lords, which will really help to make the game feel like a big, living world in a way we couldn't have before.
- We're already in talks with a major sound studio who have worked on several games that we really respect. On our shoestring budget we were going to be snapping branches out back with a hand-held recorder but now we have the option to put incredible, professional sound into the game.
- We'll be ramping up our programming support very soon to make sure we get back all the little features we thought we'd have to skip, as well as making the game as stable as possible and making our multiplayer release as robust as possible. Not to mention staying on schedule!
We've gotten a lot of questions about what we'll be doing with additional funding. It's extremely important to us to deliver on our promises and we're dedicated to using the funds to improve the game while balancing our deadlines.
Every additional dollar we get is going into upping the quality and making the game better. Kickstarter has opened a lot of doors to other passionate professionals who want to help us make something special, and your funding has given us the option of working with them.
...and a survey on language support.
Wednesday - March 21, 2012
The Banner Saga - Platform Survey
Stoic Studio has a survey for the platforms they should consider porting to with The Banner Saga.
Tuesday - March 20, 2012
The Banner Saga - Funding Successful
The Banner Saga has successfully reached its $100k funding goal on Kickstarter with a full month yet to run.
Monday - March 19, 2012
The Banner Saga - Interview @ RPG Codex
RPG Codex has posted an interview with Alex Thomas from Stoic Studio, who is one of the developers behind this game. Here are a few quotes, starting with how the lessons learned at Bioware still apply:
What were the most important lessons you learned while at Bioware, and how do they still apply?
AT: BioWare in particular was interesting because the scope of The Old Republic was so huge it was like nothing else we've ever worked on. The number of moving parts and moving targets involved in making something like that so complex that you can't help but absorb some really invaluable experience on both the best way to do some things and how not to do others. We learned how to do a lot of very specific things, like writing branching dialogue, and we know a lot about things you wouldn't necessarily think about, like scheduling and managing scope. Overall though, the most important (and hardest to describe) part of producing a game is an almost intangible appreciation for how every part of development has to come together to create a bigger picture. Pacing, mood and flow are all incredibly difficult things to nail and it takes a lot of error to finally get it right.
A qoute on the inspiration for The Banner Saga
What are the inspirations behind The Banner Saga's art style and story?
AT: One of our major goals for The Banner Saga was the opportunity to do a mature game for adults in the vein of Game of Thrones or The Black Company. The disclaimer here is that we're not making a story based on either of these, just that we love the tone and that's the feeling we want to have in our story. When we say it's a mature story we want the player to understand it's about cultural intrigue and the relationships between the characters, not sex, swearing and violence. It's also not about high fantasy and dragons and magic weapons, and it's not about black and white, good versus evil. It really is a story written for thoughtful adults, and we hope players will find that refreshing.
And here's a lengthy quote about the choice and consequences found in the game:
The game's description says the player will be able to "make decisions with real consequences." What kind of choices and consequences are you aiming for? Will they go deeper than Bioware's typical consequences that may affect the way the story is presented, but do not have any significant effect on the gameplay or the game world, and in what ways? Could you share some examples with us?
AT: Absolutely, I'd love to talk about this and oddly enough this is the first interview where it has explicitly come up. One thing we know as developers from BioWare is how expensive it can be to create real choices in dialogue and in the story. Just one branch can double the content you create and only half the audience will see it, so it becomes extremely expensive.
When we designed The Banner Saga we created it based on this idea of changing the direction of the story. The lynch pin to our plan is that the world is coming into ruin and certain things are going to happen whether you're there to witness it or not. Whether you can change the course of the story depends on our core gameplay. How many people do you save in the caravan? How many fighters are with you when a city is besieged? That may affect whether the combat is just tricky or outright impossible, but the game doesn't end just because you lost or saved a town. You keep going. How do you respond when one of your main characters wants to leave the party? That may change not just your combat team but whether a whole group of people is willing to follow you or not, which later affects what happens at a critical point in the story. By making decisions for not just one character, not just one small party or even one town but an entire society we're really opening up the number of ways the story can change. An ultimately that's what it comes down to- what happens to the people around you, not faceless strangers in a generic kingdom.
Thanks Crooked Bee.
Source: RPG Codex
The Banner Saga - Kickstarter Campaign
Stoic Studio has joined the Kickstarter brigade for The Banner Saga, which you'll recall from a week or two back. Stoic are asking for a modest $100k, and with $10k under the belt in a few hours, that looks safe. The rewards start from $5, with only $10 getting you a digital copy of the game, due in November.
Some features, to refresh your memory:
Our first priority has always been to make a role-playing game that feels and looks fresh, and plays like the classic tactical strategy games of our childhood. It's not about defeating the villain and saving the day. It's not about grinding to get past the next fight. The Banner Saga throws you into the end of the world and asks "how do you deal with this"?
- Not another generic fantasy: Drawing heavily from Norse culture while creating its own identity and mythology, The Banner Saga takes a low-fantasy approach to viking themes. Giants: yes. Horned helmets: no.
- Strategic combat: Recruit a large roster of unique characters throughout the story, each with different abilities that interact in combat in a deeply tactical way and personalities of their own. The Banner Saga harkens back to classic turn-based gameplay with a strong emphasis on tactics over brute force and endless grinding.
- Travel across gorgeous landscapes: The choices you make as events arise have a huge affect on how the story plays out- who survives, who dies, and what's worth saving. Add people to your caravan as you travel, or lose them when tough decisions arise. You're not just fighting to save nameless strangers, you're fighting for your neighbors, your family and your way of life. We want you to care what happens to them.
- An emphasis on story: Your choices in dialogue and throughout the game truly affect the story and the people around you. A mature story for adults means forming relationships and making tough decisions; not sex, violence and swearing.
- Play online: Though the single-player campaign is our focus, The Banner Saga provides a deep multiplayer game; build a unique party of characters and battle friends and enemies in multiplayer combat. Upgrade your party over time and devise new strategies.
- Risk in gameplay: A lot of modern games play it safe- you know you'll defeat the evil and save the day. In The Banner Saga you can't take anything for granted. We want it to feel like a good tv mini-series; the world doesn't revolve around you, it's about how you deal with change.
Information aboutThe Banner Saga
Developer: Stoic Studio
SP/MP: Single + MP
Play-time: 10-20 hours
Voice-acting: Partially voiced
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Expected at 2014-02-25
· Publisher: Stoic Studio