Eurogamer: What sort of multiplayer modes can we expect?
Vesselin Handjiev: You can play WorldShift offline, but the online multiplayer remains the most important part of the game. You can play against others, and we've spent a lot of time designing and implementing a solid amount of co-operative missions. I think co-operative challenges have been a bit neglected in the past, which is confusing, as they're a great source of fun and emotion.
Eurogamer: How successful was Knights of Honor and how large is Black Sea Studios now compared to when it opened in 2001?
Vesselin Handjiev: Knights of Honor was accepted fairly well and sold fairly well too. It still has a living community which we respect and value a lot. But probably the biggest reward for us was the overall opinion and the feedback we got from the gamers themselves. It's really inspiring to see the game you've worked on for three years inspire a loyal following and make most of your customers happy.
Black Sea Studios hasn't changed much in terms of staff size, as we preferred to remain flexible so we could always focus on what we wanted to do. A studio our size can easily afford to reiterate the design and implementation of a game until we are completely happy with what we've done. It's much easier than dealing with teams of more than 200 people.
Eurogamer: What made you swap the strategical gameplay of Knights of Honor for the more action-based pick-up-and-play style of WorldShift?
Vesselin Handjiev: Knights of Honor had nearly half a million words of written text to be translated into many languages, more than four hours of spoken text, 2,000 hand-made knight portraits each in five sizes, gargantuan AI, and more. After that monster-project we felt it was natural for us to start something different. But the funny thing is that WorldShift has turned out to be no simpler at all. Maybe we should give up and admit that we just can't do a "small" game! For the style of WorldShift we asked ourselves what kind of RTS we would actually like to play. After a solid, honest and somewhat cynical answer to that question, things started to take shape easily.
By the way, we haven't abandoned ‘Knights of Honor' by any means! We have a strong vision for its future and know many will be happy to see it evolving.
Eurogamer: WorldShift is set in a futuristic vision of Earth in the late 21st Century. What was your inspiration for this? Doesn't everyone do sci-fi these days?
Vesselin Handjiev: Actually, only the background story starts in the 21st century; the action happens thousands of years later. By that time our civilisation is just a fading myth that no one believes in any more. Have you seen those amazing pictures of ancient Asian temples engulfed by jungles? They're the kind of places where guys like Indiana Jones would go. I believe such temples exist in Thailand, Cambodia, and other South-East Asian countries. For a moment we just envisioned a picture where instead of those temples, we'd have remains of today's civilisation covered by wild jungles and distorted by a mysterious plague of cosmic scale. Things fell into place very naturally after that.
I can't really say if there are too few or too many games set in a sci-fi world. On the other hand, it may sound a little bold, but I would say that there certainly is something like a standard sci-fi stereotype that very few dare to go beyond. You know, all those huge alien tripods looking like giant mechanical spiders burning the brave Earthling soldiers with their lasers, etc. But sci-fi doesn't have to mean lasers and UFOs. Arthur C. Clarke wrote in Profiles of the Future that, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." It's a quote that I adore. I believe science-fiction settings can be used more often, but please keep it simple. If the poor gamer has to spend hours understanding the wild concept behind complex proto-fusion-neural-aqua-separation weapons in order to enjoy the game, then no thanks!
Eurogamer: Why will people pick WorldShift over various other strong options in the PC RTS market? What makes it special?
Vesselin Handjiev: Well, immediate fun and tons of depth! WorldShift is different not only on the surface, it's different to the bones. We took a huge risk, but when I played my first co-operative mission and got my first real relic I felt we were on the right track. Arguing with colleagues about items and faction builds is surprisingly good fun!
Eurogamer: Do you feel as if WorldShift is pushing the genre into a new era, is it a pioneering game?
Vesselin Handjiev: Of course. Don't you realise that all upcoming RTS games are unique, innovative and redefine the genre?! But seriously: I don't know. These days it takes much more than a superb game to push a genre into a new era. WorldShift is definitely a new take on strategy, and I'll be happy enough to see even a tiny bit of it inspiring other developers.
WorldShift is currently in development for PC. A release date is yet to be announced.