As I just happen to be a huge fan of games like “Civilization”, “Caesar” and “Age of empires”. I simply couldn’t help myself from becoming really curious and interested in Uncasual Games upcoming survival/strategy city builder “Ancient Cities“. That’s also why I decided to reach out to Uncasual Games for an interview. Well, I did get that interview. So we talked about everything from how “Ancient Cities” came to be, Uncasual’s success on Kickstarter, game development, the Spanish Gaming market to their plans for the future =) (you will find the whole interview down below!).

ancient cities uncasual games

“Ancient Cities” and Uncasual Games has come a long way since the start-up days.

Robin TGG
Thanks for taking your time to do this interview with us =) So, let’s start off this interview with having you introducing yourself to our readers shall we? 😉

UG
Hi, we are “Uncasual Games”, a small Spanish indie game studio now working in his first title, a survival strategy city builder named “Ancient Cities”.

Robin TGG
What’s the story behind Uncasual Games? How did the studio come to be? How did you pick that name, and what’s it like to develop video games in Spain? (the market and so on).

UG
Eugenio and Juan, co-founders of the studio, are friends for many years now, and they have worked together for different companies over the years, always with PC 3d graphic related stuff. To build our own game studio was a goal for us, always close but always out of reach. A year and a half ago, after leaving our last job, with plenty of time and some savings, we decided the time had come, so we begun to work in Ancient Cities.

As core PC gamers, we were a bit worried about the heavy streamlined games that are trend nowadays, very much mobile stuff on Pc, too much casual games we thought! Spain video game industry is small, but growing. Good talent exists here, but only a few good companies to work with. We expect that to improve soon.

ancient cities stonehenge

“Ancient Cities” kicks-off in the Neolithic era, in other words, in 15,000 BC sometime.

Robin TGG
Could you perhaps give us a brief introduction of what “Ancient Cities” is all about?

UG
Ancient Cities is a survival strategy city builder game based on ancient times. It is also what we hope to become a platform for a series of games, all installed together as a whole allowing the player to rule cities over different locations and ages, each one with its own historical game play. The first release will cover Neolithic in Atlantic Europe.

Robin TGG
What was your source of inspiration while developing “Ancient Cities”? (my guess would be “Age of empires”, “Civilization” and “Caesar”) And why did you pick the particular setting and genre that you did?

UG
Those are good inspirations, but also more recent titles like Stronghold, Banished or Skylines. At Uncasual games, we are strategy gamers and history fans. We love city builders so the genre was a no-brainer for us.

The Neolithic setting selection started as a natural compromise really. We know we are a very small studio aiming extremely high, so we needed to find a way to reach the final goal in small steps. We want to add that many gameplay layers to the game. That’s why we needed to find a way to make a realistic game without risking the project to explode in complexity. Neolithic setting fits that condition, and it is also a logical first step for a historical city builder. Furthermore, it was the biggest revolution on human history and almost an unexplored setting in the genre of city builders.

ancient cities kickstarter success

Uncasual Games managed to raise over 125,000 Euros in total for “Ancient Cities” via Kickstarter (2,963 backers helped the game to get fully funded in June this year).

Robin TGG
Did you ever in your wildest dreams expect that you would reach as much success as you did on Kickstarter? I mean, you got over 25,000 Euros more than you asked for (the original goal was 100,000 Euros).

UG
At this point, we have even manged to reach 90,000 more on indiegogo. Anyways, after the success on greenlight we really didn’t know what to expect from the crowdfunding campaigns. The game concept and what we have shown so far seem to have a nice public willing to help, and we consider us very lucky for that.

Robin TGG
I’ve been told that you dropped the Unity engine in favor of using your own custom-made engine and gaming technology. Is that true? And if so, why did you choose to go down that path?

UG
We have lots of years of experience building custom 3d engines and when we decided to start this project, we evaluated cost and vision. Of course, we checked with other developer’s cases, and that was very helpful. We wanted full control for our platform and we estimated that learning a third-party engine to its core and very likely having to modify it was going to be very close in time and resources to building our own. Using a third-party engine for a long-term platform would eventually create heavy problems to keep up to date with that engine. Also, to build our own engine allows us to design it to fit the project requirements from scratch.

ancient cities steam greenlight success

It didn’t take all that long for “Ancient Cities” to get greenlit on Steam greenlight. So I think it’s safe to say that PC Gamers are really hungry to experience a great survival/strategy city builder title.

Robin TGG
What thoughts went through your minds when you found out that “Ancient Cities” had been greenlit on Steam greenlight? (I think the game even had a 95% positive votes ratio).

UG
We moved to greenlight sooner than we would have liked because we knew about valve plans to close it. We saw greenlight not only as a door to enter Steam, but also a nice way to get visibility, and we did not want to miss that. So we decided to try even with the game in early alpha stage. So, the main goal was not only to being greenlighted, but also gain that visibility for the project. We didn’t know that only four days later, greenlight was going to be closed. However, in those four days, we reached second position on the list and yes, 95% positive rating votes. At that moment, we knew for sure that we had a very promising project in our hands who people like a lot.

Robin TGG
I don’t know if you have watched the “from bedrooms to billions” documentary, but I came to think about that one when I found out that you’ve worked full-time from your own homes for more than one year now. So, what has that experience been like for you? (challenges, risks, ups and downs).

UG
You need a lot of discipline to do that. It’s very tempting to work in pajamas and slippers, but that is the road to chaos! This is something you can do only when you work in something that you really like to do. In our case, our work is our hobby too, so it’s ok. However, it can be very tired sometimes when at the end of the day you realize it is already night-time, and you have not left home at all. Days can become very monotonous really.

Robin TGG
From what I have read, Uncasual Games now consist of four people in total (Juan, Xavi, Eugenio and LLuis). So does that mean that you “might” expand the studio with even more talent in the future?

UG
True, yet we want to remain a small studio because we like it that way, we also know that we need a few more hands to reach the long-term goals we have in mind. So yes, to grow a bit is the plan but for that we need even more funding that we actually have.

ancient cities the river of life

The graphics look absolutely stunning in “Ancient Cities”, and believe it or not, but the game doesn’t run on UE4 or the Unity engine. Nope, the truth of the matter is that the game actually runs on its own custom-made engine.

Robin TGG
“Ancient Cities” starts off in the Neolithic era, but what other times and eras will one be able to experience?

UG
For the first game only Europe based Neolithic, but the game is conceived as a platform, so new eras and locations will be added later as expansions over the same game. We like to call this “expansions” and not DLCs because they are planned to have as much content as the base game itself, eventually even much more. When matching, those expansions will allow the player to continue the same city beyond the original scope. How much eras and locations will be at the end will depend on the game’s success after release. In other words, that we can keep developing the game.

Robin TGG
Is it correct that “Ancient Cities” is set for a December release next year? And will the game be available for Windows only? (no MAC or Linux version?).

UG
That’s correct. Dec 2018 is the release date we are aiming to for the Europe Neolithic game. The game will be released on Steam and only for windows. After the release we will evaluate if porting to Mac or Linux has a commercial sense for us.

ancient cities winter is here

Yes, there does indeed exist a weather system in “Ancient Cities”. So that means that it could rain, snow and much more (there’s even a day and night cycle as well).

Robin TGG
I’m curious to know if there is any possibility at all that we “might” get to see a PS4, Xbox One and Switch version of “Ancient Cities” in the future?

UG
There are no plans for such a thing at this time. However, it’s not completely discarded for the far future if the game turns out well, and it has a commercial sense.

Robin TGG
What could you tell us about the said launch features for “Ancient Cities”? And what do your plans look like for future updates? (DLC’s, expansions, etc.).

UG
At launch Ancient Cities will feature Atlantic Europe Neolithic setting. The game is still early alpha, and we have a big list of features still to be added, so it’s difficult to know at this stage what the game will actually feature at first release. We will keep our backers updated thought. We don’t like the games that get money with tons of small dlcs so our plan is to keep Ancient Cities base platform updated with free constant updates and features after the release, and pay only for big expansions full of new content, like different cultures or ages, each one with its own game play.

At this moment crowdfunding campaigns have unlocked Ice Age expansion that will be next one after the base game, and Middle East Neolithic.

ancient cities city slickers

It’s funny to build cities, but you have to watch out for natural disasters and blood hungry enemies. So it’s a really good idea to start building your city on a smart strategic spot.

Robin TGG
Could you give us some reasons why Gamers should pick up your game instead of any other strategy survival/city builder that already exists on the market?

UG
There are so many good games out there, that we hope gamers to buy them all, including ours! However, when the bag is not big enough, what we will offer is not just a game, but a platform. That means that even if a gamer buys only the base game, that game is going to receive improvements, updates and content for a lot of time after the release. The ancient and historical setting itself would be another good reason, as the combination of survival, strategy and construction game play.

ancient cities the night is calling my name

There is an economy system, resource management and production elements to be found in the game (and much more!).

Robin TGG
What’s your hopes, expectations and plans for the rest of the year? And is there anything that you would like to say to our readers?

 UG
Our plan for the rest of the year is to keep working hard on the project. Our dates are tight enough! We plan to start the closed beta for backers on Q3 2018, so we have very “interesting” months ahead and there is still much to do, features and optimizations. For any backer reading us, we want to say thank you again for trusting us and helping us to keep on track with the project. Of course, we love to read tons of suggestions for the game, so we invite all of you to stay on touch and let us know what you would like to see in a game like this.

Thanks a lot for the interview! Uncasual Games.

tgg author avatar robin ek
Robin “V-Act” Ek
Editor in chief
The Gaming Ground
Twitter: @TheGamingGround

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