Empires in Ruins (EiR) is a fancy mix between a Tower Defense game and a classic 4X, with a story-driven campaign and Real-Time Battles.

“The bastard child of 4X and Tower Defense” as Emiliano Pastorelli, Lead Designer, Developer and CEO of the company Hammer&Ravens loves to call it.

Tell us a bit about how and when you got started with game development?
Around 2012, I took a course, during my Master in Tallinn. Game and Avatar Programming, that was the beginning. After the course I googled, found out about Unity, downloaded it, and never stopped using it since then. The first learning project was rebooted and reshaped a few times until it became the foundations of our upcoming game, Empires in Ruins.

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What is the most challenging problem you’ve had to solve while building a game?
I’d say eating and having a roof. And preserving mental sanity! πŸ˜‰ More strictly related to development itself there’s the fact of wanting quality while keeping the budget minimal, keeping together production with a team spread across Europe, trying to keep the game visible enough in the current huge sea of released games, etc. The list is long, hard to pinpoint the most challenging one!

And what is the most rewarding part?
The reward is having someone playing and loving your game. It’s even more intense during events (we’ve taken EiR to EGX (Birmingham) and Rezzed (London) last year). People do play the game, then turn towards you and with really sincere eyes do compliment you and the game. That’s intense, and awesome, and rewarding more than anything else (beside maybe huge sales πŸ˜€ )

What is your favourite game (or genre)/most inspirational game?
I’ve always a been a strategy games/sim players (from 4X to RTS, from village building to tycoon games), and definitely that’s where EiR takes the most from. I must confess though, that lately, specially after long working hours on EiR, I find it hard to play those games and I tend to rely more on less thoughtful gaming experiences (aka Pew Pew Boom Boom these days after work)

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What made you want make Empires in Ruins?
A solid amount of folly and the will to make a game like I would love to play: with a story-driven 4X campaign, with a deeper, geekier, RTS-inspired Tower Defense gameplay, and a solid amount of low-brow humor. Ah, and with a folk metal soundtrack, I love folk metal!

Why a Tower Defense? Don’t you think that as an out of fashion genre?
We’re making sure that it takes us so long to make this game that it’s not out of fashion anymore but it’s vintage, and therefore cool and trendy! Jokes aside, I love TD as a concept. I see it as a fascinating “simplified” strategy mechanic. Stripped down of the distraction of offensive gameplay, a well made TD game gives you the tool to turn defense into offense. It also tickles a lot the base-building geek inside several of us. I think TD for a while has been heavily underestimated by PC gamers as a mobile-only genre, but in the last few years developers have started hybridizing TD with other genres, and the results are superb I would say!

How many people are involved in the making and in which role?
At the peak of production we had up to ten people, now most of them finished their part already, beside some polish and fixes. Currently I would say that it’s 3 of us still in production.
The full team:
Emiliano (Italy), Team Leader, Designer & Developer
George (Greece), Lead 3D Artist
John (Greece), 3d Rigging and Animation
Alexandros (Greece), 3d Models, Textures and UI assets
Marcus (Germany), SFX Crafting and Audio System Developer
Alessio (Italy), 3d Models
Yannis (Greece), PR, Marketing and Events
Giulia (Italy), Illustration
Tom (UK), Writing and Editing
Karlis (Latvia), Illustration
On top of these we have the Red Dew Hellpipes guys for the soundtrack, Doug Cockle (The Witcher) as voice actor, and a few more minor mercenary roles we needed to have covered at some point or another.

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What’s the best and the worst in making Empires in Ruins?
The best is that the game now is nearing its final shape, we remade a few times a lot of the older parts (as we learned and improved, we had to), so it shows that our original view made sense. That is, it has the character and shape we wanted it to have, and the gameplay works (needs of course polish and balance, but the feedback is overall very positive).
The worst is that as we learned and improved, we had to make things over and over (I think the UIs we had 3-4 different iterations at least, not to mention the performances optimization). That of course taught us a lot, but caused the project to be a lot longer than it should have been.

Have you thought about the future (after the release of EiR)?
Well, first of all Early Access release in January with a fairly complete game. It will lack some polishing, some balancing, a handful of minor features, but everything else will be in. Then 7-8 months of tight Early Access to really finish it, then finally release. Post release we need first of all to see how EiR does. If there is enough interest, we would love to release a few free DLCs or map packs in the first year at least.
Then the making of another small game (that might already happen during the Early Access as we already have the design ready), and then we shall see. We would love to stick to strategy games, but definitely shorter and maybe a bit less niche projects. But time will tell, for now eyes on the prize, and the prize is release!

Wishlist Empires in Ruins on STEAM https://store.steampowered.com/app/604510/Empires_in_Ruins/