The Iron Oath – Developer Interview With Curious Panda Games

The Iron Oath - Developer Interview With Curious Panda Games

The Iron Oath is a turn-based tactical RPG that entrusts players with the fate of a mercenary company in an ever-changing fantasy world of Caelum. Developed by Curious Panda Games and published by Humble Games, the title is now available in Steam Early Access and has received a very positive response from the community, including our own first impressions.

The developers are hard at work processing through the player feedback and working on the new content to be added to the game over the course of the Early Access phase. Over the course of Spring and Summer, players will be able to enjoy a new class, new ability upgrades to all classes, improved Scourge and Dragon events and so much more. Check out The Iron Oath Early Access Roadmap below to learn more!

We had the pleasure of chatting with Curious Panda Games’ Chris Wingard and Nik Mueller and asking them some questions about the development of the game and the studio’s plans for its future. Check it out to see what the game has in store for its players!

Gamespace: Hello! Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Curious Panda Games.

Curious Panda Games: Hi! We are Chris Wingard and Nik Mueller, and we’re a two-man team that started working together in 2009, a short while after meeting online in the Age of Conan MMO. We started working full time on The Iron Oath in 2016, with Chris doing all of the programming, and Nik doing most of the art.

The Iron Oath - Early Access RoadmapGamespace: The world of the game changing with the passage of time is a very cool idea. How did you come up with it?

Curious Panda Games: We knew from pretty early on that we wanted to have a large overworld. The existence of the dragon and the recurrence of the Scourge was also something we came up with pretty quickly, so we knew we needed to have a passage of time mechanic to fit that whole narrative.

Our idea to make the world dynamic was influenced a bit by the Crusader Kings games, with different noble families vying for power, and control over land changing as a result. Obviously our politics and world simulation aren’t nearly as complex as those games, but it definitely served as a good source of inspiration. We also really wanted to give the player a small part in influencing the world, however minor. You’re only controlling a small band of mercenaries, so it wouldn’t make sense that your choices would always result in big changes to the world, but we really liked the idea of you taking part in a war and influencing its outcome slightly by assisting one side over the other.

Gamespace: Managing a mercenary company is a fascinating concept for the game, and the way it ties into the game’s many tactical features is extremely fitting. Were you set on this idea from the beginning?

Curious Panda Games: When starting the game, we were initially inspired by Darkest Dungeon, so the idea of managing a small company was always there. Many of the current management features were things that just kind of evolved during the early parts of development. Things such as character traits, ability upgrades, and signing your mercs to contracts are all pretty core aspects of the management side that we didn’t immediately have in the plans.

The game also played pretty differently early on. Dungeon exploration was done in a side scrolling manner (which ended up becoming time consuming and tedious), and combat played out like a more traditional RPG with your characters on the left, and the enemies on the right.

Gamespace: What was the biggest challenge during the development? Were there any features you wanted to add but had to cut out completely?

Curious Panda Games: There have been a lot of features we’ve had to set aside over the years. Given the sandbox nature of The Iron Oath, coming up with ideas that felt like natural additions to the game was pretty easy. Picking and choosing what stayed and what we had to cut was the hard part!

Gamespace: What changes are you seeking to make before the game hits full release? Will you be doing stuff like adding more quests to the procedural list or introducing voiceover to the main questline?

Curious Panda Games: Our roadmap is primarily focused on adding content: more quests, enemies, classes, items, and environments. The core of the game is quite solid, and there aren’t too many fundamental changes we want to make. However, we will be adding some new features, such as the Council and Sea Travel, which will add another strategic layer to the game. Additionally, some current features (such as Morale and Affinity) need to be fleshed out a bit more before we can call the game complete.

Gamespace: The game features a really cool art style. What were your inspirations?

Curious Panda Games: Early on we were pretty inspired by the look of Eitr, specifically for our dungeon environments. The animation and spell effect style from Duelyst was also a big inspiration, and we even ended up working with one of their animators (Rafael Ventura) who helped us animate many of our enemies. I think as the game evolved we’ve kind of developed our own visual style, but those are two games that stand out for us.

Gamespace: Not having a way to repair gear caught me unawares. What was the design philosophy behind this decision?

Curious Panda Games: Repairing gear is something we were planning to introduce with the addition of legendary gear later this year, but due to community feedback, we’re moving it up in our timetable. We’re hoping to add it in the next few weeks – so stay tuned on our Steam page for patch updates.

Gamespace: Are you pleased with the reception the game got so far?

Curious Panda Games: Definitely! We’re currently sitting at 85% positive reviews on Steam. It’s been great to see so many people leave messages on the forum or in our Discord server telling us how much they’re enjoying the game. We’ve been working on The Iron Oath for six years, and though it always felt fun to us, you never really know how the public is going to receive it. It feels good to get that extra confirmation that we are on the right path.

Gamespace: Could we get something like a castle or a base of operations for our company as its renown grows? Can we join any factions?

Curious Panda Games: A home base is something that we had plans for early in development, but ultimately it was too ambitious of a feature and it had to be cut. We would still love to add it in a future expansion, but it would have to come after our full release. One feature we have tentative plans for is to let you pledge your company’s service to a Noble House. They would pay you handsomely, but in exchange you’d need to answer all of their requests for aid (or else!).

The Iron Oath - Developer Interview Gamespace: The Iron Oath Steam page lists such an upcoming feature as the Company Council. Can you tell us what you have in mind for it, for the full release of the game?

Curious Panda Games:  The Council is another thing that was inspired by Crusader Kings. We liked the idea of having council members that you could assign to perform unique tasks for the company. The Council consists of three members: the Battlemaster, Spymaster, and Emissary. The Battlemaster helps train your troops, and can help a character learn or unlearn a trait. The Spymaster can be used to uncover Noble plots, and investigate rumors that can lead to the discovery of legendary gear. The Emissary can improve your reputation with the various factions of the world, and earn you more rewards for the contracts you complete.

Gamespace: When players inevitably reach the conclusion to the main storyline, is it Game Over or can you continue roaming the continent with your company, fulfilling contracts and delving into dungeons?

Curious Panda Games: While there is an overarching story, the game is designed to be played endlessly. The main campaigns – which are entirely optional – will probably be a good stopping point for many, but it’s entirely up to the user when to end their adventure.

Gamespace: We appreciate the opportunity to have this interview. Is there anything you’d like to add for our readers?

Curious Panda Games: It was our pleasure! If any readers are interested in The Iron Oath and its development, we would like to invite them to join our Discord server where the two of us are active and open to feedback!

Written by
A lover of all things RPG and TBS, Catherine is always looking for a new fantasy world to get lost in.

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