Las Vegas-based developer Petroglyph has been developing games for more than a decade, and has been able to make games for some of the biggest franchises in the world, from Star Wars to Command & Conquer. Their next game, Conan Unconquered, will also see the team taking on a beloved franchise, as it aims to deliver another great RTS experience to players.
We recently got a chance to chat with Michael Legg, the President and Co-Founder of Petroglyph, to discuss the upcoming RTS and the history of the company in general. After initially meeting a majority of their veteran staff through being in the industry in the mid-80s and 90s, Petroglyph was founded in 2003, with Star Wars: Empire at War being their first developed game. Since then, they’ve seen tons of changes in the gaming landscape, with Legg describing how compiling code for their games used to take hours instead of the mere seconds it takes today. “Overnight, we would have art rendering farms that would run…it’s not so bad anymore.” Leggier said.
Unlike typical real-time strategy titles, Unconquered brands itself as a “survival RTS,” something that came from the developers playing another strategy title, They Are Billions. “We got very inspired by They Are Billions,” Legg said. “We played that game and absolutely fell in love with it, and…we love where they were taking RTS, and we got all our heads down and thought ‘what could our take be?’”
Because of this stroke of inspiration, Conan Unconquered comes with a ton of features that Petroglyph is excited for players to experience, including a much heavier focus on co-op play. In Unconquered, two players will be able to get together and see how long they can survive against waves of attackers. Speaking more on Unconquered’s co-op mode, Legg says that the best part of it is that multiple play styles are supported. “It’s just really nice because you can kind of balance the jobs of what to do to survive all these waves.”
One player may choose to stay in a fortress and fortify it, another can opt to run around outside, expanding the map and searching for treasure or just try to level up their hero. “It’s nice because, with co-op, you can assign the jobs between people. One person can work on infrastructure and building defenses, another person can focus on research and building troops,” Legg said.
While the core of the game is certainly that of an RTS, Unconquered aims to be different. In an effort to bring a unique style of play to the genre, Unconquered will include more “survival” features, including more simulation aspects into the title and a pause mode that allows players to stop and make decisions based on how they’re anticipating a battle to go. Random map generation will also be a feature in the game, giving players randomly assigned maps, terrains, and resource nodes when they start a game, in an effort to make each game a different experience for players.
Legg said micromanagement on the units in Conan Unconquered is minimal, with the studio still utilizing a rock-paper-scissors mechanic for the RTS. “The nice thing is, with the tech tree, of picking what kind of things you want to research, that determines what type of structures you can build, and what type of things you can research, which kind of segues into what kind of units you can build.” he said.
Taking place in the world of the “Black Colossus” storyline of Conan, Legg said having the world of Conan as a playground was incredibly fun, and because the studio also grew up with the Conan stories, it made developing and building the game even more enjoyable, especially considering they had never before dealt with the franchise.
For a studio that is mostly known for making RTS titles, following the changes that have happened to the genre has been interesting for Petroglphy. While real-time strategy games had their time to shine, they’ve since been taken over by MOBAs and MMOs, before making a sudden resurgence as of late. According to Legg, he thinks the reason for this is people simply miss the single-player and cooperative aspect of strategy games. Where a MOBA or MMO might throw you into a giant world filled with PvP scenarios, RTS titles allow you to take things much more slowly, and allows players to play at their own pace.
That doesn’t mean competition doesn’t exist in Conan Unconquered, however. Players can go through an encounter in a randomly generated map, post their highest score, and then include the unique seed number for the map to allow other players to try and top their score. This added dynamic adds a PvP element, but doesn’t make it “in your face,” according to Legg.
Conan Unconquered will launch on May 30 for PC, and while there are no current release plans for consoles, Petroglyph did note that they’d love to see more RTS titles make their way to more players.