We’re not a clone of The Banner Saga or of The Banner Saga 3,  though it’s the most popular question and the most frequent thing people criticize us for. I’m endlessly grateful to Arnie Jorgensen and his team. But we are writing our own long story – and I will tell you about it on this website. It’s always hard for me to sit in front of a blank page, choosing the first word to type. My friend and colleague Dmitry Erokhin (the game designer of this project) asked me whether I understand who this text is addressed to. I think it’s addressed to all those people who are interested to know why this project happened. Why me and my friends are working on it and what goals we want to reach. I hope all of this will be interesting for you, and this post itself wouldn’t look like just another lot of boasting by a bunch of indie developers.

The beginning

I suppose the history of this project actually began in 2007. Back then I worked on games for social networks – including my first project that was really successful – Cradle of Magic. By the way, this multimillion-seller game released on 5 social networks still lives, 7 years after its first release and after it changed teams working on it 3 times. By that time I already abandoned the idea of “making my own MMORPG”, but I got a new passion: to create a game in which the player could gain a deep, almost painful experience of the journey, and meet new people and stories. This idea, however, barely fit the world of big money and the vision of my then-bosses of what and how this should be done.

At the same time I was drawn by the concept of non-acceptance of evil and the non-acceptance of its consequences. It may sound abstruse, but practically it looked as follows: a big online game where the world is mortal and dies each 7-10 months. The game includes some special points, the menhirs, with demon souls tied to them. You can go there and receive a free bonus for your abilities if you prayer at such an altar. You receive a bonus – but a demon receives a bonus too. When he gains enough power, the demon breaks free and kills everyone he meets – until somebody defeats him. It was kind of a play on a human weakness and the fact that you can do all sorts of bad things, thinking that you’re not the last one who will do it, and not the one who will be blamed. The more we worked on this concept, the more we had to think about the ethic norms and rules we should play on to present such idea to players.

During the year we moved quite far: we planned out the combat part of the game (a hybrid of tactical RPG and a card game) as well as most part of the story and the rules of cyclic recurrence. But the financional crisis of 2008 almost buried my then-employer together with my dreams of carrying out this project. Back then it seemed too huge. Instead of continuing this work, we had cut off the card part and created on its base a project named Mercenaries: Cards of Destiny. It lived less than 2 years and was closed down due to its terrible stupidity. You know, when I saw Hearthstone first time I choked, because the projects were very similar. Alas, back then I didn’t have enough balls and understanding to export Mercenaries to mobile platforms and prevent it from closing.

These are the first, very important bricks of the house which I and my friends are building right now.

Visual novels

Another brick is the typical genre of Japanese culture: the visual novels. A lot of text, conversations and an endless variety of choices. Primitive backgrounds and the constant themes of demons or sex (or both). You can love them, you can spit on them, but you can’t deny the fact that this genre has learned to do the thing which none of the huge RPGs, have probably managed: it gives real, honest variety. You said something wrong – and it will lead you to one of the ten finales. You will not have a feeling that the game simply plays with you, offering yoy false choices: regardless of whether you say “yes” or “no”, you will still end up having to go and “kill the evil wizard”. Proportions may be different but the essence is the same. And – yes – visual novels brilliantly manage the mission to express the feeling of journey and discovery – the themes I love most as gamer and developer.

When I saw The Banner Saga (I’ve resigned myself to the fact that people will always compare our project with it), I said to myself: “Dude! This is the European reinvention of visual novels”.

Yes, it’s not canonic (in Japanese games you rarely play several roles in one dialogue) – but it miraculously and cinematically turned the frozen backgrounds of Japanese games into a real TV show. The technique which the guys from Stoic team have used is called “the eight” – you should know it if you have a movie director education. This method allows you to effectively show the dialogues betweeen people who stand in front of each other. The way I see it, the Banner Saga was brought to life by good old parallax and “the eight” technique. Then, in 2012, the bell rang in my head – here is a method that gives you the opportunity to show emotions, a bit of the living world, a journey – and to create the effect of  plunging deep into this world, like a good old book. But, I should admit that even after I got captivated by this idea I behaved cowardly and didn’t dare quit my day job and make games again.

Instead of an ending

Since then four years have passed. After a lot of work and two children I caught myself thinking that it’s hard to find a decent book to read in the evening. Most authors write bullshit – or just the kind of stuff which I’ve outgrown. Sometimes you want to shout at the page: “Living people don’t talk like this!” Sergey Malitsky, who is mentioned everywhere as the author of our story, is a contemporary Russian fantasy writer who, in my opinion, hasn’t had a single flop. I think he’s the Tolkien of our days — in at least two of his book series Malitsky managed to create a world that was no less convincing, living, complex and absorbing than Middle Earth. In his books he speaks about the same choices that I dreamed about almost for ten years: the behavior of common people living in a world on the edge of destruction. Complex decisions in the hands of different characters. The ethics of “petty evil”. The breaking of human souls.

I said to myself: “If you manage to convince Malitsky to work with us, if he likes our (my and Dmitry’s) idea, what other proof do you need?”

He agreed. It was the final brick in the house I wanted to build. Next we had to lay down the tiles.

Even in the 60s Disney and the Russian cartoon studio Soyuzmultfilm taught the world to love cartoons drawn by hand and with heart. A lot of people who are now thirty-something, whose childhood was spent with those cartoons, grew up on this stuff. The style, the grace and living emotions give people aestethic pleasure – and some are reminded of their brightly lit childhood. We chose this old-school technique for the visualization of our project, because it is a very important bridge between the present and the past.
I always say that we’re making a rogue-like project. Did you ever play Ancient Domains of Mystery (ADOM)? Of course, in comparison to it we suck, because our game doesn’t contain SO many different ways to die. But we work hard as hell to do what the Japanese can but corporations cannot: to give players REAL choice. I think many people know life only by movies where you can punch or kick a guy in the head over and over and after all of that he still stands up and wins. Those of you who are into martial arts know another truth: men are weaker than what you see in movies.

I want to show the fact that life is complex and ambiguous matter. I believe that we will achieve what we want – to give the player an opportunity to ditch everything and everyone, as it could happen in real life. And, damn, we’ll succeed!

Finally, as I write this text, the site is almost empty. What we have here is only a handful of artwork, even less text and we have seriously little time to prepare content. But we are eager to fix this situation – and fix it we will. Stay tuned. Our whole team and I personally will do our best not to let you get bored.

By Nikolay Bondarenko
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  • Imkariel

    is look like a banner saga game ….

    • Bisty

      And Banner Saga looks like Eyvind Earle art works. imho – It’s ok when two different things is a similar. Much more important is details. For example – Warhammer 40k and StarCraft both with “space marines”, but anyway these games are very different. Don’t you think?

      • Imkariel

        LOL …. Same village same ambiance … StarCraft and w40k WE are 2 unit who have small very small ( same name but thé semblance stop ) semblance each other …. Ash of god are a russian copy of baner saga ….

        • Bisty

          Same village? What are you talking about? Can you share screenshot?

          About SC2 and WH40k – this is your opinion, many peoples won’t agree with you.

  • Aleonymous

    Thanks for the dev diary entry! Hope you have time to update this as you go. Being 4-5 weeks behind schedule is nothing! Hope your “lag” stays like this throughout the whole project. In my opinion: take your time, don’t rush or clip content; assuming that you can afford it, of course…

    • Konstantin Korneev

      Thank you, we plan to post these regularly.
      Hopefully we will find a way to catch up on these 4-5 weeks – we would still prefer to be on schedule 🙂
      And either way – we will make sure the final version has everything that we think should be in it and is a great game before releasing it.

  • VisCouTT

    Looks great. Keep calm and do Your best – we ARE waiting! 🙂

    • Konstantin Korneev

      We will, thank you 🙂

  • George M.

    I mean come on, It’s not a new approach. I like the game a lot but don’t lie, it’s very similar to Banner Saga. Nothing wrong with similarities, I love Banner Saga and want to see more games like it but this is not a new approach

    • Konstantin Korneev

      This article covers specifically our approach to developing the ruleset for the combat system: it describes how we wanted to create something that respects tactical RPG traditions but still breaks the rules and has some unique mechanics to it. This is what we’re speaking about when we talk of a “new approach”,

  • Carlos Irala

    Come on, go on, do it bigger. This is an amazing project. I hope it would be a great game!

    • Konstantin Korneev

      Awesome, thank you.

  • Роман Ривенсинг

    Да, действительно будет интересно посмотреть на остальные карты. По поводу лора: выходит, что власть северным народам вернулась восвояси, а религия менгиров стала менее актуально и, получается, вернулась старая или люди придумали новую веру?

    • Nikolay Bondarenko

      После катастрофы, постигшей Терминум, наряду с развившимися языческими верованиями, воцарившимися на части его территории, появились два Храма. На севере им стал Храм Гнева Богов – с жертвоприношениями, инквизицией, жесткой иерархией, который подчинил постепенно себе местные королевства. На юге – Храм Кары Богов, который сросся с местной знатью, но оказывает влияние на властителей более сдержанно и, может быть, более удачно. Оба эти Храма исповедую одну и ту же религию – поклонение святым-магическим камням, обладающим даром исцеления, и так называемым – неизвестным богам. Оба эти Храма грозят своей пастве концом сущего и воздаянием за грехи и ересь, подтверждением чему служат случающиеся в Терминуме жатвы. В клире обоих храмов присутствуют странные сущности, которые незримо правят всем происходящим в Терминуме.

  • Genos Studios

    Hello Konstantin. I’ve replied to your post here:

    https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=59512.msg1338277#msg1338277

    Good luck with your project.

    • Konstantin Korneev

      Thank you, man, I guess I will try to answer you there.

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