The game is released, the reviews are in, and the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. It's been a long road, and a few of you might be interested to know the dirty secrets of the development process here at Paradox... Also, what we have in store for you in the future. So don't get scared by the wall of text; get comfy, pop a Valium and chill out to the "Tron: Legacy" soundtrack as I tell you the story of Crusader Kings II.
On paper, Crusader Kings II was an 18 month project, the same as Hearts of Iron 3. In comparison, Victoria II and EU:Rome were made in 12 months, and Sengoku eight. With the varying number of team members in different phases of the projects, these figures are a bit misleading but should still give you an inkling of the relative budgets. The idea was simple: take the original Crusader Kings design, cut out the chaff, remake the game in the Clausewitz engine and make it our most polished release ever. (To be clear, we did not port anything from the old code base; we didn't even look at it.) We were very wary of adding more new features than we could handle (*cough* HoI3 *cough*.) Thus, the design document was divided into core, major and minor features. The major and minor features were modular and ordered by priority, so that we could simply start cutting the least important ones if it looked we would not have time to do them properly. In fact, we expected to have to cut some of them, and yes, we thought that some would eventually make good DLC.
Now, there are a lot of negative opinions about DLC among gamers these days. In some cases, it's justified; some DLC material just isn't worth the money. However, I've never understood the argument that "it should have been in the game from the start". Everything should apparently have been in the game, including an onion peeler and a self-aware AI. There are so many obvious problems with long development cycles that anyone should be able to understand that this argument is simply nonsense. It's far better to make a fun and balanced game with all the core features working properly than to either release a buggy bloated mess or a game with a huge budget (and thus a huge risk) and hefty price tag that's already outdated on release after five years of development.
So what did we cut from Crusader Kings II? Basically, this:
- A medieval style chronicle with annual entries
- Trade post holdings built by the republics (Venice, Genoa, etc)
- Hiring ships from the great republics
- Relics that can be found, looted, and used to build cathedrals
- Loads of very rare narrative events (like "The Gates of Hell") with multi-generational effects
- A viceroy/drots/great seneschal council position for each kingdom held
- Cadet branches of dynasties
- Adventures - younger sons raising an army and going off to conquer something on their own
Will all these things become DLC? Probably not, but some likely will, and others might be patched in for free (or, well, basically paid for by those who do buy our DLC.) Note that playable non-Christians, republics and theocracies were never planned (though always considered good material for expansions.)
A few areas of the game went off on a tangent from the original design as development progressed. For example, the map turned out much prettier and more advanced than I had envisioned, thanks to the efforts of Tegus (Fredrik Zetterman.) Also, things like the vassal and dynasty trees, the Wikipedia links and the panning map in the lobby (courtesy of Johan Lerström) were not in the design doc. As always, there are also parts of the game that I am not 100% happy with. Plots could be more dynamic and have a better interface, the marriage interfaces are a bit clunky, the general GUI can be intimidating to newcomers and battles are not interactive. On the whole though, it all turned out pretty much as intended.
So, what are we planning for the future? Crusader Kings II will have many major DLC packs that are actually more like small expansions. Every time we release a major DLC, we will also release a major free content patch. I cannot say exactly when we will be adding what, but here are some things you can expect for free in the coming months:
- Enhanced, more focused Crusades with a "contribution" score
- Causes of Death
- Asking to join an ongoing war
- Lots of more plots and ambitions
- Events, events, and more events
- Improved GUI where it's needed the most (plots, marriages)
- Flexible de jure liege structure
- More de jure kingdoms
Of course, we will also be fixing bugs, plugging exploits and improving the interface, the AI and game balance. Oh, and unleash some DLC...
Thank you all for the positive response and for buying the game, ensuring that we can keep making the games you want to play.