Lords of the Realm II

Making of

(from the game manual)

Designer's notes

Lords of the Realm 1 is probably my favorite of all the games I've designed, and it also happened to be the most commercially and critically succesful title prior to our acquisition by Sierra. But there is no question that it left plenty of room for improvement - especially given the relentless march forward of technology. Lords 2 takes full advantage of the CD ROM's storage, requires a lot more RAM, and really wants a lot more processing power.

Lords 1 was really a flawed gem, in my mind; the game offered a unique mix of strategic decisions and somehow achieved that all-too rare quality that persuades players to continue for that "one more turn" no matter what time of day or night it is. The flaws lay heavily with the interface, especially by today's standards, and the game's learning curve. Also flawed was the game's "sagging middle", a trait common to all too many "empire building" strategy games, but worsened by a need for lots of micro-management of counties in Lords 1. Combat, too, was flawed - although Lords 1 featured real-time battles, they were not as much fun as they could have been, and we opted for a turn-based siege model rather than a real-time one.

With Lords 2, I have tried hard to address these issues and in addition take the gameplay a little farther. Above all, though, I have tried to reduce the learning curve of the game dramatically, and to radically restructure the interface, in order that many more people will be able to get into the somewhat unique blend of fun this time. In addition, as a game so close to my heart, I have tried to create by far the best-looking and sounding strategy game ever - no small feat, these days, I know. As I write, users online and press alike are playing around with a demo or beta version of the game, and the feedback we're receiving suggests that the goals look to have been achieved - though there is still plenty of work still to be done improving the AI and interface still further.

The journey from concept to where we are today has been tougher than I had expected. And as a result, I have relied more on other people for help with the design than ever before - Eric, Chris and Simon, thank you; I couldn't have done it without you.

The biggest "issue" arose once we had first got combat up and running. The truth is that it was a lot more fun than we had hoped, even in its then flawed state. Combined with the real-time siege engine, it seemed clear that a far wider audience even than we had first envisioned would derive huge pleasure from the game - which sent us back to the drawing board, attacking that thorny learning curve once more.

This resulted in our "hiding" grain farming, and the addition of the slider bar which most gamers will now use to allocate their serfs to tasks. Initially, I was against the idea - I couldn't see that a strategy gamer would want to give up the detailed control that the original labor panel offered. Of course, now that it's in the game and working well, I find I hardly ever resort to the labor panel! The subject of unbelievable hours of internal debate, I hope that you appreciate the ease with which you can now manage a large quantity of counties.

Possibly the most emotive issue were the sheep. "Where are they?" Lords 1 users will cry. "Gone" is the simple reply. The reality is that sheep added little to gameplay; they did not represent, in our minds, sufficient additional strategic choice to warrant the significant additional complexity needed to the rationing panel. So, with many a tear, we axed them from the game (so to speak...).

I could go on for hour after boring hour about the many other debates raging here along our journey, but I need to move back to the product itself, to ensure that you will enjoy it as much as I, and my team, hope.

David Lester
October 4, 1996