If you’re looking for a dense, packed strategy and role playing experience, Koei Tecmo’s gigantic Romance of the Three Kingdoms series is often the way to go, and next year, they’ll be returning with another instalment in the franchise. Looking to balance the charm and mechanics of the older titles and the advancements the series has made in recent years, Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14 is a game that series fans are looking at with plenty of excitement. We recently sent across some of our questions about the game what sort of improvements and changes we can expect to see in it to the developers. You can read our conversation with the game’s producer Kazuhiro Echigoya below.
"Our first thought was to go back to the easy to understand style of the first Romance of the Three Kingdoms game but using current technology."
What was behind the decision to return to the classic gameplay style of from RTK 9 and 11?
Our first thought was to go back to the easy to understand style of the first Romance of the Three Kingdoms game but using current technology. In those discussions, the ideas of colouring in according to the forces’ colours and battling over land came up, so when we though further about what kind of system would be best, we came up with the direction of a single map monarchy.
And then when you think about a single map monarchy game, from the RTK series RTK9 and RTK11 are precursors in this, so naturally we referenced these titles. On top of that, the simultaneous plots use RTK9 as a base, because in order to bring out the uniqueness of the officers, we felt that it is alluring to have time allocated where they can’t be controlled.
Can you talk to us about the new AI system and what impact that will have on gameplay?
The AI in this game has been designed in stages of force, army, troops and officers and they are organically coordinated. Depending on the actions taken by the player or the current situation, it will analyse what is needed for the force and determine guidelines which then the armies will operate accordingly, activate the troops, and in the end determine what actions each officer will take. From this, all of the actions are coordinated so the AI logic is coherent, and while there might be mysterious actions on a micro level, from the macro level players will see things such as useful moves that surpasses their imaginations. Please look forward how the AI reacts!
With characters and officers having more individuality to them, how does that affect the general gameplay loop?
The officers’ personalities include 141 types of characteristics such as “Ignore ZOC” (Zone of Control), “Army abilities increase when troops decrease”, “Disable strategy”, “Promote development”, so these officers that possess distinct personalities will literally perform heroic tasks in the game. In battle, generally the supplies and military power of the troops become the key factors in determining victory or defeat, but officers that are uniquely heroes such as Lu Bu and Zhuge Liang will become a bigger accent in logical battles.
On the other hand, officers will each have their own doctrine and when they become the ruler of a force it will change the design of the administration they can form. For Lu Bu it would be battle, Sun Quan would be diplomacy, so each force can use their strengths and it becomes vital when making the choice to decide in what direction you want to strengthen your force. Depending on what scenario is played with which ruler will largely change the strategy and steps to take.
"Understanding what each officer can and can’t do, and then thinking about what is or is not needed on the battlefield at this very moment will be a very enjoyable part of selecting officers that are suited for the situation at hand. "
Is that something that also lends itself to more effective storytelling?
We have prepared 7 scenarios that fit well with RTK, as well as over 100 events. The events are different than in previous games in that they do not randomly occur, rather players have the option to select and then proceed with them. By being able to select the events yourself, and expand the game world following the RTK story, definitely means that events are part of the strategy when battling.
Can you talk to us about War Fronts and what they entail?
In this game, smaller plots of land are collected together and shown on a single map, and every single area represents strategic units. The broader the area, the stronger the force, and if land is taken away then you are weakened accordingly, so in this game it becomes important to manage and overtake land. The area of land that is controlled by a force is the battle line.
Within the battle line areas, income can be earned, and supplies become available when operating troops. Also, depending on how land is taken, buffs are given to troops, allowing them to battle in even more favourable conditions. So taking over the frontline becomes very valuable in both diplomacy and battle. Where and in what form do you expand your front line, and the battle that emerges becomes key.
How much variety can we expect between all the officers in the game? I imagine something like that would be more important than ever, given how many of them there are supposed to be in RTK 14.
In addition to existing parameters (military force, etc.), there are 141 types of traits (officers characteristics) available, and each officer can have up to 5 types allocated. For each trait there are various positive and negative aspects, and depending on how these are combined, the diversity of the 1000+ officers will widen. Also, the types of formations and tactics are determined based on the officer, so all officers have different settings of parameters, traits, formations and tactics, and we can probably say that there are no two officers that possess the exact same abilities.
Understanding what each officer can and can’t do, and then thinking about what is or is not needed on the battlefield at this very moment will be a very enjoyable part of selecting officers that are suited for the situation at hand.
"The concept is that by simply being always aware of the situation of the land and the state of the battle line, players will naturally be able to use the various systems of the game."
Considering how dense the subject material here is, and how many systems there are usually in play in these games at the same time, how do you balance mechanical depth with accessibility? Is that something you’re focusing on with RTK 14?
For in-game elements, we are preparing many different things, but all systems will come together in competing over land. In battle, when the battle line is expanded, send out officials to the areas taken over to proceed with domestic development, and with the earned revenue head back into battle. While that is happening, the burden of using the connected land as a supply route and the burden of strengthening troops takes a toll, and fumbles in strategies over plans and foreign negotiations may arise. All of these aspects are connected through the land in this game.
The concept is that by simply being always aware of the situation of the land and the state of the battle line, players will naturally be able to use the various systems of the game. In addition, by showing the land divided into colours, the concept is simplified and the game can be enjoyed even more. I think players can feel the simple but deep game elements through the colours.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 13 received some criticism for being something of an unpolished experience in terms of bugs and technical optimization- are you looking to ensure that doesn’t happen with 14?
We are doing everything we can to prevent this. With regards to the AI, we plan on continuously improving it through updates.
Do you have plans to launch on any other platform?
There are no plans other than PS4 and Steam.
How will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
There are no PS4 Pro specific aspects. It will be full HD, 30 FPS.
The PS5 is confirmed to have an SSD. From a development perspective, how will this help you to improve game performance in the future?
It may not be directly related to the performance improvement, but I think it will make it more standard to see things seamlessly onscreen.
"I don’t think backward compatibility will have much of an impact in growing or expanding our past titles. I think the biggest point for players is being able to carryover the content, or assets, that they currently own."
The PS5 will have a Zen 2 CPU processor which is a major leap over the CPUs found in the PS4 and Xbox One. From a development perspective, how will this help you in developing games of the future?
I think it will be a great help in acceleration and strengthening algorithms.
Xbox Scarlett features GDDR6 memory. How will this increase in memory bandwidth help you in the future?
I think increases in rendering capability will greatly help in advancing expressiveness and realistic depictions.
Backward compatibility is a big feature PS5. How will it help your past library to evolve and grow?
I don’t think it will have much of an impact in growing or expanding our past titles. I think the biggest point for players is being able to carryover the content, or assets, that they currently own. Since there is low risk when shifting to this new hardware, I imagine that the PS5 will be adopted quickly.