Grogheads interviews Romain Soulié of Nyx Studios

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Boggit has a chat with Romain Soulié, the brains behind Legions of Steel

Interview by Boggit, 8 August 2015

GH: Romain, thank you for agreeing to talk to Grogheads about Legions of Steel. 

Dark and eerie corridors – ideal fighting conditions for my Commandos ;-)

Dark and eerie corridors – ideal fighting conditions for my Commandos 😉

GH:  Romain, tell us about yourself. When did you become interested in gaming, and why did you decide to design and produce Legions of Steel?

I have a very classical gaming education, which means for somebody of my generation boardgames, wargames, roleplaying games and video games during my teenage years. I have been lucky enough to work in big companies like EA and Ubisoft before Studio Nyx was founded. Legions of Steel is the first game developed from the ground up by our young studio. The key moment was my encounter with Clark Browning, the designer of the miniature board game from the 90s. We just played his game, I loved it, and we quickly started to talk about a digital adaptation.

GH:  Tell us about the design philosophy behind Legions of Steel?

Since we wanted Legions of Steel to run on both PC’s and tablets, we wanted a game that would run smoothly on any platform. From the beginning we’ve been obsessed with devices’ capabilities. Everything…, – graphic rendering, user interface, and more has been developed keeping this in mind. The game runs smoothly on an iPad2. The beta will be launched soon on Android tablets, especially to test that device’s fragmentation. And we already know the game runs fine on a Nexus7.

It was a challenge to have a unified user interface for all platforms. I think we partially failed on this since some PC players complain about the tablet feel of the game, but I can guarantee the PC version is not a port. The whole design was an attempt at having a completely cross-platform interface. I haven’t given up on finding the magical formula.

One of the BAD guys …

One of the BAD guys …

GH:  What do you see as the most exciting aspects of Legions of Steel?

What I loved about the original board game is that all factions have ranged weapons. In this type of tactical game you usually have slow moving marines with powerful ranged weapons versus fast, close-combat oriented enemies. Legions of Steel breaks this pattern while still keeping the factions very distinct.

The other shiny part of the gameplay is the wide range of firing options. The player is provided with a broad range of tactical possibilities, opening the door to different strategies for each scenario.

GH:  Has the game engine reached final development, or will you develop it further adding new rules, weapon systems, a dynamic campaign with a strategic layer etc?

New scenarios are in the design phase, in order to bring even more variety to the range of existing scenarios. Most of the scenarios that are in the shipped game are now adapted from the original board game. Only a handful are original creations. We are working on bringing new scenarios designed from scratch.

The next big step would be the introduction of a new faction, but that is not scheduled yet.



GH:  Tell us about the moddability of Legions of Steel? I know it is early days, but have you had much feedback from the modding community?

It is not possible to mod in Legions of Steel for now.

GH:  What was the biggest design challenge in converting Legions of Steel to a digital format?  How did you resolve it?

By far the biggest challenge was to deal with the fact that in Legions of Steel the “passive player” can still act and perform actions during his opponent’s turn. We had to find ways to keep these possibilities while not breaking the flow of the active player. We knew from the start this game would be played asynchronously online, so we did not want the active player to have to wait for his opponent’s reaction to complete his turn. In order to solve that issue we introduced a system of programming actions. During his turn, the player can plan his unit reaction during the next opponent’s phase, using the wide range of firing options. The Commando player also has the possibility of using Leadership points to allow some units to jump into cover during the opponent’s turn. This adds a new layer of anticipation and some surprise elements.

Lots of shooting options here. I tried to kill the machine but missed. A bad start!

Lots of shooting options here. I tried to kill the machine but missed. A bad start!

GH:  I can see that Legions of Steel can be a lot of fun multiplayer, but a lot of people in the community prefer to play their games single player. Tell us about the AI in Legions of Steel, and the sort of challenge the game presents in single player mode.

First of all, the AI does not cheat with dice rolls 🙂

A firing unit controlled by the AI will have exactly the same odds as the human player.

Each scenario has a dedicated AI. At some point experienced players will be able to recognize the patterns and predict AI movement, so it will be time for them to use the Electronic Warfare mode, which basically adds a fog of war to the map and options to ping the map with a radar (at the expense of firing). This mode was supposed to be provided in a later DLC, but the first games we played with this mode were so fun that we decided to include it at day 1. It is almost like a new game, both in single and multiplayer modes.

GH:  What potential do you see for new dlc? 

New scenarios first, and if possible, new factions.

These are the GOOD guys … You can play either side in Legions of Steel.

These are the GOOD guys … You can play either side in Legions of Steel.

GH:  If you could make any game you liked, what would it be and why? 

I’d like to play a wargame with no controller. I’m the commander and I only give orders. I guess it would be a voice controlled game or something like that. One of the challenge would be to actually articulate clear orders. Any counter-orders would create confusion on the field, resulting in bad troops coordination. What if the number of order is limited to one per unit, or a few order for the whole army, for a given time frame? The player would have to actually think globally and clearly.

Confused and contradictory orders have been the source of many defeats, such as the French disaster at Waterloo (among many other reasons) or the final defeat of the British at the campaign of Yorktown during the American war of independance.

GH:  Do you have any personal favourite games? 

Without hesitation Twilight Struggle. I love this board game about the Cold War and I am eagerly waiting for Playdeck’s digital adaptation. My favorite wargame partners are scattered around the world, so a digital adaptation of this game is an excellent news for me.

Tougher and more brutal than I expected. Make a mistake, or miss … and you die.

Tougher and more brutal than I expected. Make a mistake, or miss … and you die.

GH:  Now that Legions of Steel is released what is next for Nyx Studios? 

Besides working on enriching Legions of Steel, we do not know yet what will be our next game, but during lunch we often talk about making a historical game. Ubisoft did something really bold with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, exploring historical periods that are not usual in video games. I think it is really cool to play in periods and settings we are not used to experience: prehistory, pre-columbian South America, or the XVIIIth century.

We already discussed that you and I, but I also would like to make a rugby game that people would play in bars during real life broadcasted games 🙂

GH:  Is there anything else you think our readers should know about Legions of Steel or Nyx Studios?

We are happy to open the doors of the studio to visitors, so if you want to see a video game startup in the south west of France do not hesitate to drop by 🙂

GH:  Thank you for making the time to answer my questions, and for sharing your thoughts with

Thanks to you!

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