Game Dev Hotseat: Templar Battleforce

by Chief Tin | January 25, 2016 | , , , , ,

Minutes to Read: 3:30

 

Andrew and Cory Trese from Trese Brothers Games talks to about the creative process behind Templar Battleforce, a strategic combat RPG game which has gained hugely positive reviews from every platform it appears in, from Steam (96% positive reviews), Google Play (4.8 out of 5), and the App Store (5 out of 5 in customer ratings).

How do you think TBF stands out amongst the thousands of turn-based strategy RPG’s?

Andrew:
I think TBF brings together the perfect mix of combat elements that keep the game play tense and challenging. For me, the premise of being an elite strike team played out so well in the game.  An elite strike team goes in fast, gets the job done and gets out fast.  That’s the Templar Knights.  Prolonged deployments are hard, and a lot of the tension comes from being surrounded by overwhelming odds.  You’d lose if you had to stay forever, but you’re here for an objective.  Hit it and get out!  This is the kernel of the game’s pace, tension, and challenge.

Cory:
I think TBF’s campaign really stands out. The missions are challenging and vary substantially from deployment to deployment. This gives the player and opportunity to use many different strategies and press you to use every Templar and tactic you can come up with. You can also completely redesign Templars between missions which lets you try out lots of different builds and squads without paying a penalty.

Where did you get the idea for TBF? What were the main inspirations (design-wise, mechanics-wise)?

Andrew:
Templar Battleforce is inspired by Jagged Alliance, Syndicate, Silent Storm, Fallout Tactics — great games that gripped us powerfully when we were younger. A lot of people see Space Hulk in the game, but I have honestly never played the board game or any of the video games (but of course, understand their premise).  

The other inspirations come from the Star Traders universe, which include Dune, Battlemech (you are playing pilots in a 10 ft tall Leviathan mech), Aliens, Firefly.   

What are your favorite parts of TBF?

Andrew:
My favorite part of Templar Battleforce is the Requisition Tree. With over 800 levels, there is so much variety in how you build out your army through this central tree of the game.  Every play through can truly be different if you shift your focus one way or another.  And with free Respec at any time, you can use anything you get whenever you’re ready.  For me, it keeps me addicted and coming back for more.

Cory:
My favorite part about Templar Battleforce is how it fits into the lore of Star Traders. For me the game does a great job of expanding that universe while still standing on its own. You get the sense of being part of a military unit assigned a nearly impossible peacekeeping mission. The politics, threats and characters from the Star Traders universe provide a great backdrop to the campaign, and provide the backbone of the story.

Tell us about the creative and work process of TBF (especially regarding the rather extensive gameplay mechanics, how did you make everything come together?).

Andrew:
It’s a careful balancing act developed and tested by Cory, Martin and I, and then shared with our alpha team for four months before we had it perfect.  You’re combining Heat, Overwatch, Bio-Poison, limited use Buffs, weapon penetration vs. deflection, very limited battlefield healing, absolutely deadly enemies

Cory:
Our creative process was very iterative and we experimented with a lot of mechanics that never made it into the final game. We had a playable prototype very early in the design process and were able to test and experiment with different mechanics as we designed the rules. At the core of the gameplay are the different Templar types, and how their unique mechanics combine.

What were the greatest challenges you faced while making TBF and how did you work around it?

Andrew:
For TBF, we brought on our youngest brother, Martin, as a new team member and as the primary artist for the game.  We’re all creative, headstrong, and … did I mention stubborn?  We had a vision of the game we wanted to make, a very deep and engaging lore for the world it would fit into (Star Traders RPG), a sort-of-prequel in Templar Assault — so squashing all these together and really nailing the game was a tough balancing act. But, if you check the reviews — 4.8 stars on Google Play, 96% positive on Steam, and perfect 5.0 stars on Apple App Store — we managed it!

About Martin, it was something new and challenging for us to bring another creative mind into the mix.  Cory and I are used to working with just the two of us and have a way of finding agreement, seeing eye to eye, and moving forward without a lot of fuss.  So, it was new, fun, exciting, and frustrating to have a new player and equal in the mix.  We hope Martin will join us on future games!

The feedback for TBF has been very positive. Shaun Musgrave of Touch Arcade applauded you guys for a very polished initial release, which he said was “the first time the execution matched the design effort” for Trese Brothers. What were the practices that helped you improve along the way?

Andrew:
As a studio, we grew up a lot with Templar Battleforce.  It is our seventh game, and honestly, the first one that we have ever released as a complete game.  Every other game was released with a long roadmap of things hanging over its head to finish the game.  This time, we took extra time to finish the game before release.  Imagine that.  But, it is where we came from, it’s how we engaged our first community members, and it’s the strategy that let us build up our small but growing studio.  

Shaun is a great reviewer and we love that he has taken it upon himself to review all of our games on TouchArcade.  That’s a special touch, and we’ve laughed about it all year — saying things like “This time we’re going to impress Shaun.”  He’s reviewed and ripped up some of our earlier games that came out too early, and rightly so.  He just did a great RPG Reloaded piece on Heroes of Steel two years later, and commented that it was more like playing a sequel than the original game.  We’re crazy about updates and post-launch improvements, but we’ve changed our model for Templar Battleforce — and notably, for all games that will follow, including Star Traders.

How do you maintain post-launch communications with your community?

Andrew:
Our post-launch strategy is all about updates. We push down the accelerator after a release and gas the engine.  Templar Battleforce was a finished game at release, with 45 levels, intense boss battles, and a New Game + mode, but … we know we can do more and add more.  So, we groomed our post-launch backlog, and once the game was out we started working hard on making the game even better, even bigger, and even more fun. We know this helps keep our community engaged and coming back to try new strategies, levels, and see the new things that are going on.  

Cory:
Andrew and I are constantly present on Steam, Google Play and iTunes. We read all of our reviews every day, and we participate on our player’s forum as well as on Steam discussion boards.  We do a lot of updates, and many of the new content and improvements come directly from our community post-launch. We’re really happy to be available and talking to players wherever we find them.

Where do you interact with your community the most? Where are they most active?

Andrew:
I think in terms of direct volume, it has to be our community forum.  I am coming up on my 20,000th post on our forum.  I think we are a rare studio that you can join our forum and pretty much every day talk to the two developers.  We’re there, come hang out!

See you there, any given day.

Cory:
I think our Steam discussion page is probably a close second.

How do you loop their feedback and suggestions into the game?

Andrew:
A lot of these improvements are directly based on user feedback.  The first week of release on Steam, we added the Swap feature, which massively changed the game — all based around a wave of discussions we were having on the Steam forum.

Let’s face it — we’re kinda smart, but our community is really smart.  When they speak, we always listen and check to see if they are right!  The Swap feature, it was evident pretty quickly that our community had a pulse on the game already, knew what it needed, and were making great suggestions.  We balanced it, coded it, tested it, and pushed it out within the week.

Are there any parts of the game that is completely from fan suggestion?

Andrew:
With every game, we run a closed alpha.  The bright lights of our community sign up and pay to get in, in return for free copies of the game and rewards (special codes, appear in the game and so on).  For Battleforce, we had over 60 alpha team members and the alpha basically encompassed the four months before the game’s release. During this time, Cory and I are glued to our forum where we get direct feedback on the game from our alpha team.  By the time the alpha gets it, the game is well cooked, usually lacking only the story.  

A lot of the game comes from the alpha team — we got Scout’s Boi-Poison weapons thanks to the alpha, and the Engineer’s Sentry Turrets got pushed into the game on a request as well. So many of the value-add and polish features come from the alpha, it’s a really exciting time for us to turn raw game material into polished form.

Cory:
Hard to even keep track of how many features came directly from fans, but there are a lot both from the alpha team and the post-launch community. Features like “High Speed Enemy Turn” and “Reposition Overwatch” came from the alpha team and were terrific improvements. We’ve made updates to the Berserk, Paladin and Captain classes based off feedback from players on Steam — new Templar Talents suggested by players were added to the Captain, for example.

What can fans of TBF look forward to? (new content, sequels, updates, spin-offs)

Andrew:
Let’s talk about new content — in the aftermath of the end of the story (I won’t spoil it), the Factions built and deployed a state-of-the-art research center into orbit around the infamous world of Leo Major. This research and scanning center is manned by some of the Factions’ best scientific minds, a friend of yours, and explorers.  But … communication from the remote station has cut off suddenly, and the Templar Knights are getting called in to investigate the Stratos Orbital Station.  

This new deployment will be a big and nasty one, featuring 6 really hard levels and big challenges, and will only be available once you’ve beaten the main campaign.

Cory:
We absolutely plan to continue to expand on the Star Traders universe — so that means the spin-offs and sequels are always possible. We’re planning to continue to update Templar Battleforce as long as players remain interested in game — that means lots of new missions as well as features and Templar types. I’m really excited about the Templar Assassin and Templar Valkyrie classes we’ve been prototyping … of course they have a bunch of new mechanics so
lots of testing ahead.

Check out Templar Battleforce in action below:

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Chief Tin

Chieftin likes beaches. All kinds of beaches. She loves the rogue-class and doesn't understand why anyone would want to control a moving boulder a.k.a anything in warrior-class. She is currently pursuing further studies in creative writing and pursuing even more vigorously what to do with creative writing.

All views and opinions are strictly that of the author's.

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