Strategy Inspirations

Strategy games, especially strategy war-games have always held a special place in my heart. When I was a child one of my favorite memories was of my grandfather giving me a hand-carved chess set he picked up at a garage sale.

I was maybe 5 at the time, as I believe this preceded when I was in kindergarten. I remember taking the shoe box holding the pieces home after visiting him, dumping the pieces out onto the family coffee table, and trying to discern any way to play with them aside from just mashing them together. Eventually I asked my parents, and they brought down and checkers board and proceeded to teach me how to play chess.

I don't remember much of the details, but I remember having my mind blown at the idea of different game pieces doing different things, and trying to predict what my opponent would do. Of course it would take me many years to even start considering optimal moves, if-then steps, and any amount of true tactics (and let's be honest, I haven't mastered any of these concepts by a long-shot). Thinking back, I think it was this instruction from my parents that planted the seed for a genre of games I would love throughout my life.

My first major video strategy game that I remember playing was Shining Force. I was always into fantasy, and I pretty much rented any game that had a sword or wizard on it, and that strategy led me to play many great (and some not-so-great) games, but Shining Force really took a hold on me. Up until that point almost every game I played was either a turn-based rpg - where the combat was pretty much menu-driven, and while some games offered some interesting choices - most boiled down to picking a very obvious optimal move for each party member over and over again, or it was a platformer.

Never before had I played a fantasy game with positioning, nor had I played a game where party composition mattered as much as it did in Shining Force. I loved moving my units around the battlefield, thinking about my party composition and how they worked together versus the battles I was participating in, and weighing the decisions of when I should promote my units (a mechanic in Shining Force based around resetting your unit to Level 1 but with greatly increased stats).

This was also around the time I started playing Dungeons and Dragons, which I think has influenced my thoughts on gaming more than any other game. For everything said about player choice in video games, I don't think it will ever come close to the amount of choice present in nearly any tabletop roleplaying game.

Two other games I often think about in terms of tactical games is Final Fantasy Tactics and Mordheim.

Final Fantasy Tactics took party customization to a much higher level than how I had experienced it in Shining Force. I spent dozens of hours unlocking all of the different jobs, trying out ridiculous combinations of abilities and units, and just enjoying the sheer diversity the game provided. Also I think the isometric 3D view the game has is one of my favorite ways to present a tactical game, especially one concerned with individual units.

Mordheim (the tabletop miniature game) had a lot of what I enjoyed about Final Fantasy Tactics, but with a few other features. Warband management was a huge deal in Mordheim. Whereas in FFT you mostly only cared for the level, job, and equipment of a specific unit, in Mordheim you also had to care for the overall health - as things that affected them in matches could last with them a great long time. If a unit became severely injured, this injury could follow them into future matches. I loved the sense of persistance and danger that Mordheim presented, not to mention my overall love for the setting.

In creating a new tactical video game I hope I am able to take a lot of the good things I have enjoyed in these games, and many more. I hope to iterate on versions of the game very quickly, but I will be starting out with a 2d game, focusing on warband management, and interesting combat system, and hopefully a home-base building mechanic. I hope to have a demo of the basic combat mechanics up very soon!