I love Musket Smoke on my tablet, it’s a turn-based war game with an unusually interactive UI allowing for multiple tactical options. So many lunch hours have been wasted with work-buddies while we flank and charge each other. While turn-based war games are pretty common on tablets, this one was a bit different due to the interesting environmental mechanics it introduced. Small things that made historical battles like smoke, artillery, cavalry charges, and morale were neatly incorporated in the game mechanism without being overly cumbersome. So you can imagine by delight when the folks over at SnowPunch launched a crowdfunding project for the sequel to Musket Smoke. I was very curious to get more information about the new project and how SnowPunch is going to build on the pervious installment with their current project. With that in mind I messaged Mr. Woodie Dovich, the man behind SnowPunch for a quick interview. Mr. Dovich was kind enough to spare some time in order my answer my patented dirty dozen questions for regarding Musket Smoke II.
Cliqist : Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Woodie Dovich : I’m Woodie Dovich, the solo designer/developer for SnowPunch games – my wife is the founder. I sometimes contract out for Art or Sound (or accept donations) but other than that I depend upon a fantastic small team of volunteers for gameplay testing, marketing help and refinement suggestions.
Interest in turn based games, game design and the iOS platform keeps me busy although sometimes I can also be found working as a front end developer for game companies or businesses.
Cliqist : Can you explain in your own words what kind of game is Musket Smoke II?
Woodie Dovich : It is a gritty war-game that constantly challenges us by tossing random pre-Napoleonic encounters at us. A variety of cannons, cavalry, pikemen and musket wielding folks will stand in your way.
You are never certain of the full size of the enemy forces and so you have to carefully scout out each battle. Always being wary of scout traps or tricks with the enemy hiding partial forces in the woods.
Every time, you depend upon your scouts to help answer the question.. can I defeat them? It’s a question only each player can answer as each battle will be a unique matchup upon partially random terrain. Can I beat them? Do I have enough resources to recover if I am forced to retreat? Is this particular battle worth fighting? Can my raw tactical skills make up for some unit deficiencies?
After a few battles, when you finally get a sense of where that line is, you find yourself slowly pushing the boundaries. Trying new tactics, looking for any edge that can help tip the odds in your favour.
Sometimes though you will have to sacrifice great numbers in order to keep your leader, Cromwell, alive after an ambush. Precious units that you have fought with in many battles will make the ultimate sacrifice. It will be these times when everything you have learned so far will be critical.
You will grow daily and rack up a lot of battle experience. Some experiences will make you feel like one of the brilliant Commanders of yester-year. Others will be more like Custer’s last stand.
Don’t expect to win this war on your first try.
The mountain is the English Civil war. The climber is Cromwell. The top of the mountain will not be easy, but freedom and democracy is on the line. You will constantly be outnumbered or outgunned. Your fellow citizen’s brother and father are fighting each other and the longer this war goes on the weaker your country becomes. You must win the war quickly, you must win the war.
Or take a break and kick some ass online. 🙂
Cliqist : What videogame, film, literature, or artwork have influenced Musket Smoke II?
Woodie Dovich : Two games in particular influenced Musket Smoke II. Jena 20, the board game is an inspiration for format and the idea of making morale really important. Hero Academy is the purest embodiment of simple online turn based tactical battles on iOS and features an outstanding interactive UI that goes over the top with usability.
A great game needs an interesting fight, and so Musket Smoke II is lucky to inherit a unique flanking system to make sure tactical conflicts are interesting and meaty. So obviously Musket Smoke II is heavily influenced by the original Musket Smoke. It’s a solid system that rewards smart play and encourages thought and creativity in battle tactics.
The Musket Smoke II Campaign though is just influenced by the need to have a great campaign that continually challenges you. I could not find another campaign that was interesting in this manner so this is what I came up with.
My design end goal was to make a campaign that I could personally enjoy long term, as if I were stuck on a deserted island with one game on my device and a solar panel charger. For something like that you need random challenges, risk reward, surprises, and the ability to enjoy reaping the rewards from using the full range of your creative tactical abilities. A game where you can grow and gradually take on more dangerous situations with a gleam in your eyes. Confidence and skill gradually replacing caution as you build yourself up, battle by battle, into a greater tactical Commander than you would have imagined possible.
Cliqist : “Pre-Napoleonic battle chess on steroids” Please elaborate?
Woodie Dovich : Pre-Napoleonic is the time frame, 100 years before the Napoleonic battles.
Similar to chess, this game does not have random damage. Quite often good moves will remove pieces from the board. The battles can be quite chaotic and wild, but somehow reside within a system of pure logic. Rather than 1 by 1, all your units move. Some attack, some defend, some do both or even sacrifice themselves. Few realize that if you were to completely remove the damage model, you would be surprised to find that the game is still interesting and playable with just the morale hits. Chess players know this and tend to think of the damage model more as a time limit for their routing ambitions.
You can certainly grind like your typical war game, but routing units destroys the enemy much quicker and requires chess like play to do. The game is more about morale, movement and positioning than brute force.
There is a strong flanking mechanic that makes battles more like a chess match. If you don’t protect your flanks, you will be flanked. It’s a constant dance between offensive and defensive moves, with your personality ultimately dictating your specific style of play.
Cliqist : How will this game be different from Musket Smoke 1?
Woodie Dovich : First and foremost, a massive single player campaign. The Cromwell Campaign is based upon the English Civil War and will be resource survival based with a persistent army that you have to maintain in order to win the War and start a new democracy.
But also more unit types (based upon the English Civil War), average number of units per battle is higher, big beautiful maps, some streamlined rules to make it easier for new players, different online mode with 3 different ways to win.
Cliqist : According to your kick-starter description Musket Smoke II will offer online play and solo campaign, can you briefly describe these game ‘modes’ for our readers?
Woodie Dovich : The Online Mode is your typical iOS Game Center turn based gaming, similar to ‘words with friends’ except instead of just saying it’s ‘your turn’ when any of your opponents makes a move – you get a dramatic notification. i.e.: “Emperor Mo causes devastating losses to your men, 78 men defeated and your pikeman unit was completely obliterated by grape shot from a heavy cannon.” Then when you open the match you see a dramatic replay of what you were just informed of.
The single player campaign is good in that you don’t have to wait for anyone to make a move. It’s just non-stop tactical action, unit building, resource collecting, scouting, and preparing for major battles that bring you close to winning the war. Various AI Royalist Commanders will have different tactical perspectives on how to best destroy you and prevent your annoying ideas of a democracy from spreading.
Cliqist : What kind of difficulty level can gamers expect in Musket Smoke II, would there be settings for both casual and hardcore Gamers?
Woodie Dovich : Yes. There will be 2 settings. Casual and Hard Core. With hard core, if you lose Cromwell, the campaign is over. With Casual, if you lose Cromwell, you can continue the war with a stand-in leader but will no longer be able to convince those forced to fight for the other side to switch to your side.
Cliqist : What kind of game-engine will you be using for Musket Smoke II and why?
Woodie Dovich : I’m not using any third party game engine. Musket Smoke II builds upon the engine I created from scratch for the original Musket Smoke.
The reason the Kickstarter is relatively low (compared to other games) is because the core tactical engine was inherited from the first version of the game. Also I am passionate about the game and really want to play it myself, so I am asking for as little as possible.
Cliqist : Can you give a general break down on how the funds collected from the Kickstarter would be used?
Woodie Dovich : The funds collected will be going into the 5 tasks groups, each being potentially a month of work.
- AI development with individual units, AI Leader personalities that orchestrate mass tactics.
- The Duchess AI that is part Game Master and part in-game Character. Side objectives. Earl Units.
- Creating and play testing all the random scenario templates – i.e.: Campaign content. Plus making the backers exclusive content. Scenario Editor enhancements.
- iPhone support (for campaign mainly) breaking the main campaign page into many small separate UI’s that interact with each other. Design for this is not yet complete as well. Plus fleshing out the campaign prototype in general (like what happens when you win, or have too many men, or lose, etc.)
- Documentation, tutorials, leaderboards, achievements, polish phase, online adjustments, tidbits.
Cliqist : Why should people back Musket Smoke II Kickstarter?
Woodie Dovich : The online play gets better the more you play it and now with single player there won’t be a reason to wait anymore. I often look forward to the end of a work day. Happy to see respected old commanders in my notification list waiting patiently for me to make a few moves. It is like receiving thoughtful little puzzle gifts. Like lifelong chess buddies we grow together and enjoy seeing each other grow stronger or playfully exploit known character weaknesses of each other on the battle field.
I made the original game to enjoy growing old with friends. Now with Musket Smoke II, solo players can also join the party. I want to let the public decide if Musket Smoke should grow as a franchise, or not. Backing Musket smoke is more than just development support, it’s a serious vote telling SnowPunch to continue along this particular path.
Simply put, Musket Smoke II will not exist without backing. The backing is both to pay for the final things needed to complete the game, and also to tell me that there is public interest in the game and that the game will likely have some sort of potential ROI. It is necessary to make these hard decisions.
Cliqist : What platforms are you planning to bring Musket Smoke II to?
Woodie Dovich : Upon release the game will only support iPhone, iPad and iPod touches.
However, if the game becomes a financial success then Unity3D would be the next step. So that means almost all platforms would be supported, starting with PC, MAC and Android.
Cliqist : Can you close us out with a Musket Smoke II related haiku?
Woodie Dovich :
Horrors of battle,
Hope my troops can stand it,
Hope I’m smart enough.
Thanks to Mr. Woodie Dovich for taking the time to answer my questions! If you’d like to learn more about Musket Smoke II be sure to check out its Kickstarter campaign before it ends on February 11,2015.