Paradox Development Studio has been a leading developer of globally renowned, PC-focused strategy games since 1995. Today the Stockholm-based studio is the center of a vast community of fans and modders both, with a reach that spans the entire globe and a strong presence in the United States and Europe. One of the first developers to coin the term “Grand Strategy”, Paradox Development Studio is the creative force behind successful franchices Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, Victoria, Crusader Kings, Svea Rike & Sengoku: Way of the Warrior. Their latest game release Crusader Kings II is one of the highest rated games this year according to Metacritic. Continuing to re-invent and advance each of these, as well as create all-new titles, is just one way the studio keeps it’s 400,000+ member community coming back for more.Just as important is the studio’s passion for rich strategy, shared by their fans, and their legacy of providing games so deep and challenging that each offers hundreds of hours of gameplay.
Today, we are talking to Johan Andersson, Studio Manager and Chris King, Game Designer, who are going to tell us something more about their up-and-coming title Europa Universalis IV
1. For the start, could you run us through new features in Europa Universalis IV?
With Europa Universalis IV, we want to create a game about empire building, but we also want to show that it was led by characters. We have focused on four main areas for Europa Universalis IV. The center piece of the game is the new trade system, which is now fully integrated into the game. We have looked to add more interest into the monarch with our new monarch points system. We are also seeking to add more value to countries with more historical events, some are there to simply replace the generic chains for countries, and others are more for flavor. And finally, we are putting a strong focus on multiplayer.
2. Monarch system looks very alike to what we had in Crusader Kings II. Could you tell us more about it?
I wouldn’t say it is that similar to the Crusader Kings II system regarding influence in design, but I´d definitely say that the idea of Monarch power is something we got inspiration for when developing Crusader Kings II. We took the Europa Universalis III monarch system as our base and thought about ways to make it more interesting and relevant to the game. We wanted to add in that thing that is always difficult in a strategy game of the mold of Europa Universalis series, stagnation. Our new system where monarch ability places restrictions on the player according to the ability of the monarch. Depending on the leader and his/hers abilities and traits, you get an ebb & flow in gameplay. That prevents the gameplay from going static, because you really need to be aware and change your tactics to gain as much as possible from the strengths and weaknesses of your ruler.
We felt the monarch system would make the game both more interesting and historical. If you look at the history of the period, the ability of the monarch and the rise of the nation were quite often one in the same. The person of the monarch was in many aspects the key to the period for Europa Universalis IV, because rulers changed the destiny of countries. So we want our gamers to experience that in our empire building game.
3. We heard of complete systems being changed (military and diplomacy interest us most). What are the biggest changes we could expect?
In the area of military the biggest change is technological. We are removed the small incremental steps and changed them into less large steps which give your armies a clear boost. With Diplomacy we have changed the rules a bit so diplomatic actions are easier depending on relation. i.e. it is easier to declare war on a country you hate and ally with a country you like. However the core military system will indeed be much the same, because it was one of those things that we felt worked very well in Europa Universalis III. So we applied the first rule of sequels – if it isn´t broken, don’t fix it J
4. Can we expect the weather and terrain to play some bigger roles in tactics?
No, this is a strategy game so we have focused our efforts on the high level strategic choices. Once you push your army into combat you are trusting to your luck.
5. Considering that you had very rich expansions in your previous EU titles, can we expect the same? Or we will have full content in the original game?
Europa Universalis IV is the game where we hope we can adapt everything we’ve learned from the development from all our games. As our base we are starting with Europa Universalis III plus expansions and then building from there. Although we will discard features, because we think they doesn’t work or we can do better with something else. That’s not say we won’t ever consider adding expansions later, but that´s far far away…
6. How hard is to collect historical data and implement it in the game. Is it the „fun part“ or is it the hardest? Also, is history going to have bigger impact in EU IV?
It is both the fun part and the hard part J When you are trying to find those really obscure pieces of data to complete the game it can be some of the hardest work going. And we can tell you right now, that we are going back to our roots and bringing a deep historical flavor to Europa Universalis IV. We plan to have thousands of historical events, unique for the countries with the goal that every country will be radically different to play. We hope this will effectively extend the replayability enormously
7. New version of Clauswitz engine will be used in Europa Universalis IV. Can we expect some major changes in visuals and UI, or you tend to focus more on overall performance?
We prefer the evolutionary approach, so the new version of Clauswitz is very close to the engine used for Crusader Kings II. The map is based on the 3D map of Crusader Kings II and the game is based on our Clausewitz 2.5 engine, which is the upgraded version of the engine a few new bells and whistles added. We are happy with how the map worked in Crusader Kings II, but we believe we can add even more life into the map with shadows, seasons and ambient objects to really give a feel of having the world at your feet. So we are aiming to a series of small improvements to make our engine better and more functional. It is partly based on the approach that is silly to throw away things that do work just to have something new 😉 Also we want to devote as much of our budget as possible to actual gameplay, because at the end of the day players want to play a fun game, not just a pretty one.
8. EU IV will benefit from some multiplayer improvements. Could you tell us more about them? Also, do you think that strategies can ever be multiplayer-only games, considering the fact that lot of people tend to avoid PvP?
I think the problem isn’t that strategy games cannot be multiplayer games, or that players want to play single player. We feel that it has simply been too much work for players to play the game in multiplayer. It is essentially appointment gaming and most players simply want to play and enjoy their game whenever they have the time. So our main goal with Europa Universals IV is to make multiplayer more accessible and easier to play. We feel that if we can even get halfway to this goal more people will play and enjoy multiplayer and this in turn will add a huge value and longevity to their game.
As you might know, all Paradox Development Studio games can hold up to 32 players in multiplayer. In the office we play multiplayer every week and we really feel that the cutthroat competition and backstabbing of Europa Universalis multiplayer is something that we want more people to discover. So, with the focus of making a game of Europa Universalis IV multiplayer more accessible, we are bringing in features like hot-join, a revised matchmaking server and the possibility of hosting a standalone server. With these things we really hope that more people will discover that Europa Universalis IV is more than a single-player experience.
9. Usually, your games look and perform great without having too high system requirements. How do you achieve that?
We always aim to include a time optimizing the code. This speeds up the game and makes it work better at lower specs. I can admit it is a lot of work, but it definitely pays off in the end and also helps more players being able to play the game 🙂
10. Napoleons Campaign II was transformed into Europa Universalis: March of the Eagles. Can we expect some radical changes in the game or it is just change of name?
March of the Eagles is a radical change in focus. The game takes place in a short time period and the game is all about warfare with set victory conditions. March of the Eagles has the war focus from Hearts of Iron, the time frame and visuals from Europa Universalis, and victory conditions similar to those you’ve seen in Sengoku. What we want to create with March of the Eagles is to recreated the ambitions of the European counties of the era. And we want to create the fluidity of alliances and coalitions that constantly change, all to take down the dominant power or strengthen one-selves. It´s about how war changes nations and you will lead a nation and it will be transformed in a short but chaotic decade.
11. After some strategy games (for example Civilization Revolution) came to consoles, we saw that even in consoles, strategies are very playable. Are you considering a similar move?
No, we have no such plans at the moment. A large part of the development-team have worked on consoles before and we all prefer PC and Mac because it gives us the freedom to create the games we want to create. We hope they come across as grand, fun and challenging and we´re not sure we could make that on console. If the industry changes, I don’t know.. I’ve worked for over 18 years in the gaming industry, and I’ve seen so many things come and go, that I just believe in one thing.. “Good games sell”. If people like the game and enjoy the game-play, the game will sell. Maybe some games sell slowly over time but I honestly believe that if the game is good, it will reach it audience sooner or later.
12. In relation to previous question, do you think that strategies can bloom on touch devices such as smartphones and tablets?
Yes, we’d love to make some awesome games for tablets, but we have nothing to announce right now. But we definitely feel that the platform would lend itself well to our strategy games. However, with current machines, our games would not work that easily, as they require a fair bit of memory. So I’d expect us to have to do pretty creative engineering to handle it. So we´ll see what the future holds when it comes to tablet games…
13. Have you ever considered making your strategies in other continents? For example, Bolivar’s revolution in South America would be pretty good setting.
We did try that with Sengoku, which turned out pretty well. But most of our games you either have the world at your hands or all of Europe, which seems to be what our gamers request the most right now and we listen to our gamers.
14. In the end, we have one question from our reader, Vasily Zaytsev: How do you work simultaneously on large amount of titles?
Well in Paradox Development Studio, we are 24 people working on four separate development teams as well as an art team and a quality assurance team. So each group of people working fulltime on a game is in its core 3-6 people, even if a lot of the development studio helps out on all projects from time to time. It may not sound much, but each group is a small unit of experienced, talented and passionate developers concentrating on core game mechanics. When you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, you get quite good at it. The most important factor in our development process is to have enough time to iterate, test and refine the games and the gameplay. We don´t need large teams, we just need enough time to create our vision for the games!