Jagged Alliance: Flashback interview - Full Control's CEO on Kickstarter, mods and mercs
Copenhagen mini-studio Full Control are avowedly fan-developers, and CEO Thomas Hentschel Lund happily admits it. It's his blessing, after years of pitching, that he's finally working on the Space Hulk game he's always wanted. And now, thanks to bitComposer, he's going to be working on a Jagged Alliance prequel too, which he's attempting to fund through Kickstarter (Update: the Kickstarter drive will kick off next week). Will it use the same hybrid real-time/turn-based system as the original? Will Ivan be in it? Will it have '80s action movie perms? We caught up with Lund on Monday to find out more.
PC Gamer: So, you’re doing lots of things right now. You told me about Jagged Alliance when I saw Space Hulk at GDC but is that it? Do you have more we should know about?
Lund: [laughs] I have more wishes but, no, right now, those are the ones that we’re running with. We’re what 12, 13, 14? guys now and it’s limited how much we can do at the same time.
PC Gamer: Yeah, I can imagine. Obviously I know Space Hulk is relatively limited once you've built the engine and the level editor - you've just got to lay the levels out and stitch them together and that’s relatively straightforward - but Jagged Alliance is a big project.
Lund: It’s a big project, yeah – it’s a huge project. We really really hope that people will back us up on this and give us a lot of money so that we can actually make a really big, cool Jagged Alliance. That’s how we would like to have it – I mean obviously there’s a limit of what we can expect and what we can actually do on the budgets given; and we don’t want to ask for too much and fail because we’d rather make a small really cool Jagged Alliance than fail with a big Kickstarter.
PC Gamer: Yeah these days I think it’s much better to start with a low target and have good stretch goals than to start with a high target like the Molyneux and the David Brabens of this world did.
Lund: Yeah and really it’s a balance because, as you were saying, Jagged Alliance is a big thing and it has to have tonnes of mercenaries and tonnes of missions. That’s how we structured the stretch goals in terms of being able to add more and more mercenaries into the game and more and more individual levels. So we hope that being able to do this core game that we’re asking for and then having more and more stretch goals that people can stretch into defines for the community what kinds of features and how much content they can expect. I think the original Jagged Alliance 2 from what I remember that was like $5m project for Sir-tech - that’s a number I’ve heard somewhere on the internet. And that was in 19…90? So that’s a shitload of money. So I think that was why they went bankrupt because there was no way they could recoup that.
PC Gamer: Yeah it’s interesting to think about how many of these hugely-popular older games were commercial failures for the companies working on them. People don’t think about that, they just think ‘we love this game’.
Lund: Yeah. Kickstarter is the place to go for this type of games. Let's just say we could hopefully get like a million dollars or one and a half million dollars to make this game. It’s impossible these days to find that kind of money loose in a publisher’s pocket for a turn-based strategy game.
Yeah it’s because PC development has become more realistic, I think.
Lund: Yeah, so the ability to engage the fans in a Kickstarter and actually trying to make a fan-based game from a fan studio for fans instead of something that’s purely commercial driven by a marketing department – that’s a perfect chance and we hope that it gets support. But no guarantees. That’s the other side of the coin.
PC Gamer: Have you got anybody from the original team involved?
Lund: Not directly. We had some of the original team contact us – primarily smaller things like translations and similar that they really would like to do more work for us. But other than that no, we don’t have any of the original people involved yet. Let’s see what’s possible once we go ahead there.
PC Gamer: And are you going for a re-boot of the series? Are you going for a sequel? What’s the decision?
"We are going for a prequel. We’re going to tell the story of how AIM came around and how it was founded, and by whom"
Lund: We are going for a prequel. We’re going to tell the story of how AIM came around and how it was founded, and by whom and why it was founded in the first place. This allows us to both introduce the founders – never been done before – and it allows us to scope things in a way that we can introduce some of the old mercenaries and go into their back-stories and pull out – say, Ivan. He was a colonel in the Red Army. Why did he suddenly turn mercenary? Something like that, we can take him and make a whole side story based on that. So when you meet Ivan the first time in the game, he’s just a regular colonel and somehow during this game and the story that progresses he will jump over to your side – turn mercenary, become one of the really iconic game mercenaries and yeah, suddenly you know why. So we can scope this based on the stretch goals so we can add more and more side missions based on the game based on the pledges, so it’s both an interesting way of telling a story and it allows scaling based on the amount of money that we can get.
PC Gamer: One of my friends asks, who’s a huge Jagged Alliance fan; will the characters still have their hidden relationships – will they still have those bits to give you hidden bonuses and modifiers?
Lund: That’s one of those things that was really missing out on in recent ones, the hidden personality part. Instead of just having basically a generic shell of a character that they actually have personalities in there – they like and dislike each other and you get advantages and bonuses if you pick a team that like each other versus people that hate each other. I think it’s some of these things that really make JA iconic in its way. You have this cheesy or this B-movie story and you fix that with these really weirdo characters that are psychotic in many ways. It just adds that humour part which is missing in many other games.