Paradox Interactive's CEO, Fredrik Wester, is an outspoken man. He's one of the most honest company directors you'll ever come across in the games industry, and he's not afraid to lambast his own games - most of which are hardcore strategy titles like Hearts of Iron and King Arthur. The games are intricate and rewarding, but getting gamers into them can prove problematic.
“Our games leave you high and dry in the first ten minutes,” Wester told us. The trick to making their games accessible is not to make the game itself simpler, but to hold the player's hand as they're gently introduced to the game world and its rules. “We don't want to dumb down the experience. We want it to be challenging, but not a chore to learn.”
Total War developers Creative Assembly are masters of introducing complex strategy elements to a more casual audience, and Wester is keen to note that their slickness hasn't gone unnoticed among people who played Paradox's RPG/RTS King Arthur: The Role Playing Wargame. “A lot of people would like to see Total War-like design decisions and maybe we should have chosen that path, done things that make it simpler for people who are used to the same gameplay style,” he said. “I'm not suggesting that it's actually Fantasy: Total War, but it's an obvious comparison.”
Paradox have focused on making things more Total War-y for their upcoming RTS King Arthur II. "We've been working with a more in-depth tutorial in the second game," Wester said. "We will also have a pre-campaign to help people come into the game. A lot of people would like to see more Total War-like design decisions, like how to scroll with the mouse, things that are done in the Total War series."
Wester's other touchstone in ease of access is World of Warcraft. "I think a lot of people are mixing accessibility with 'dumbed-down'," Wester said. "If you take a game like World of Warcraft that's an incredibly complex game at level 80 - but you don't figure out that it's complex because you learn as you play."