The first time we covered MMO-RTS Kingdom Under Fire II was way back in 2009. So last month, I sat down with the game's director, Sang Youn Lee, during last month's Tokyo Game Show to talk about what the game was, is, and how it's changed over its seven years of development.
In its original conception, Kingdom Under Fire II was a single-player game for Xbox 360 that mixed hack-and-slash with RTS combat. However, in 2009, Sang Youn Lee decided to switch from the 360 to the PC only. At that point the team was aiming for a 2012 or 2013 release, and the game was being retooled to be a multiplayer online game. This change from single player to multiplayer was one of the team's greatest challenges: The need for server technology changed everything.
Soon after however, at the publisher's suggestion, the game was changed from being an online multiplayer game to a full blown MMO, pushing the game's release back several years.
Now, Kingdom Under Fire II is far beyond what Sang Youn Lee's original idea was in 2008. "The scale of the game has expanded to 3 or 4 times what it was at first," Sang Youn Lee told me. "$US15,000,000 was the first budget for the game. Now it is $US50,000,000."
However, much of what was the core of the original idea remains. The characters, the story and setting of the world, and the basic gameplay system are the same as they were back in 2008, only updated and expanded.
What sets Kingdom Under Fire II apart from most other MMOs is that it still retains its melding of hack-and-slash and RTS gameplay. In fact, despite being an MMO, it feels more like playing Dynasty Warriors than World of Warcraft as your hero wades through literally thousands of opponents using strong and weak attacks and various combinations of special skills.
Then, at any time, you can switch to an RTS viewpoint and give orders to your character's armies (of which you can have up to five). You can simply pick a point and tell them to go and attack or set them waypoints for any number of strategic movements. On the other hand, you could instruct an army to defend a point, follow where your hero character leads, or use its special army skills.
The game sports coop missions and massive PVP battles where up to 16 players and their armies can battle it out in epic fashion. Because each player can bring up to 500 troops into battle, there can be 8000 individual units on the screen at any time. Currently, according to Sang Youn Lee, the game can actually handle displaying up to 10,000 units at once.
While developed as a PC game, Sang Youn Lee announced last year that the game would be coming to PlayStation 4 as well. When I asked about the challenges of porting the game to PS4, he told me that there were none, rather the only issue is how time consuming it is because of the game's massive size. He also added that the PS4 version is not inferior to the PC version; in fact, the opposite may be true.
"Everything that is possible on the PC is possible on the PS4; but there are some things that are possible on the PS4 that are not possible on the PC," Sang Youn Lee told me. He also assured me that the game looks as good on the PS4 as it does on high-end PCs.
During our conversation, I was able to see the game in action — and while it was still running on a combo of two laptops (one as the server and one as the client) and not the PS4 — I was told the interface and assets were those of the PS4 version. Frankly, I was more than a little impressed at how smooth it looked, how fast-paced the action was, and how well it worked with the PS4 controller.
The PC version of Kingdom Under Fire II is currently in open beta testing in Malaysia and the Philippines. There are also beta tests planed for the EU and US before the year is out (but no set date has been announced). Currently, Sang Youn Lee and his team are focusing on the full game's PC release in China. The PS4 version will launch in Japan and Korea first, then the rest of Asia, and finally in the West. The Western release dates are still TBA.