“There Was a Lack of Turn-based Strategies For Some Time”: Interview With Ino-Co About Codex of Victory Wargame

This summer, a wargame Codex of Victory was released on Steam Early Access. The title was developed by the Russian team Ino-Co, the developers of Fantasy Wars and Warlock series. We talked to the studio’s CEO Alexey Kozyrev about it.

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How did you come back to where you started? I mean wargames. Why didn’t you keep on working on 4X games after Warlock 2?

Any 4x project requires much more content and work than wargame title. We simply wouldn’t have enough resources for development. We made Warlock 1 and 2 funded by Paradox Interactive publisher.

Why did you publish it by yourself? As far as I know, Paradox worked well on Warlock and now is actively looking for projects.

It’s a new niche title, which makes marketing and promotion way harder for a publisher. That’s why Paradox Interactive didn’t want to publish it. Also, we’ve never published any game on Steam by ourselves and here is our chance to try. Now we see how hard it is to promote such game today. Some valuable experience.

Don’t you think that the market is experiencing a renaissance of TBS for the first time in almost twenty years (and almost complete extinction of RTS)? Can you explain this?

I have a theory that there was a lack of turn-based strategies for some time. Many of the games (especially indie) take several years to create, and many of them were started just when there was this genre shortage. Now turn-based games are released too often, there is even a market glut. But it isn’t bad because every TBS is different and each studio makes its own game. It develops the genre. As for RTS, at some point, it evolved into more popular MOBA genre.

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Wargame itself is a pretty narrow niche among TBS. Will Codex of Victory expand the genre? What features can help?

Expand the genre? With this project, we have no big ambitions. Firaxis with their XCOM series does it better. But we are experimenting with the game mechanics and try to overcome some of old problems of the genre, such as excessive usage of Save/Load in the battle.

Our battles are quite short and intense. Individual units don’t level up, but you can upgrade the type of units. Vehicles can be built between missions. Usually players don’t lose anything irreplaceable in a battle and the main goal is a victory. Saving can also be done only between missions.

Codex of Victory is far from a simple wargame, isn’t it? You decided to take some ideas from the last XCOM. Was it a bad decision?

We did, but not from the last one. Every new game mode takes a lot of work, but we are happy with the underground base we made. It serves as an interface for construction and upgrading of units, as well as an excellent complement to turn-based battles, allowing a player to see and feel the growth of his power. But the mode for interplanetary missions wasn’t originally planned and was made in the course of development.

With the next update we’ll add several planets, each with its own characteristics. The mechanics of turn-based battle took most of the time. We started to design and test it with paper prototypes but remade it several times when the digital version was ready.

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As for the working process, how many people were involved and how long did you prepare for Early Access release?

Four months since we decided to make Early Access. We wanted to release stable and interesting game even if it isn’t complete yet. It’s been a year since we started to work on the game. The team consists of eight people. Sometimes it gets bigger, but I do not remember when there were less, except the very early stages of prototyping.

Despite the fact that the game was released on Steam as a premium project, interface and some of the game mechanics (like the constant need to speed up some events) show that you plan to launch the game on mobile platforms as free-to-play. Is this true (if so, why did you release on Steam first)?

Regarding the interface, it was made this way due to the experience of developing several mobile projects with touch-screen controls.

As for the game mechanics, then you are probably wrong. You can speed up the global time, not events. It is a standard feature in many PC-games like XCOM, Majesty, SimCity, and others, but I don’t recall a single example of such mechanics in F2P mobile games, where you can accelerate individual events (upgrading of a new house, for example).

Perhaps it isn’t clear in the first episode, but further time management will be an important element of the gameplay between missions.

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It takes time to bring your army to the destination point and enemies won’t just sit back. As I have already said, a player will have to operate on all three planets, and it will be more efficient to play several missions in a row on each of them to save time between interplanetary flights.

Regarding mobile games, players ask us to release the game on tablets. So after the release on Steam, we will consider this idea.

In terms of graphics, the game is very similar to your mobile project Tank ON 2. Did you use the same graphic assets to reduce expenses or pursue some other goals (perhaps marketing)?

The setting is similar and the same artist worked on both of these games. But I wouldn’t say that they are very close visually. Codex of Victory turned out to be more beautiful and detailed in terms of style and integrity of the image. TankON 2 is simpler. Sometimes we use same assets and materials in our projects in order to reduce costs, but it is not the case.

Codex of Victory is quite playable already. Although there are UI issues, bugs, and nuances that are unusual for the fans of this genre. The question is what is missing and you want to add and how long do you plan to keep it in Early Access?

Some important mechanics are absent such as loose campaign structure, separate mech upgrading interface, loading/unloading of an army in a spaceship and some other not really significant features. It also misses a large number of missions, levels, modules and units.

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We plan to add moving between different planets and final version of Save/Load in the following update as well as some new missions and enemies.

Despite the fact that there is still a lot of work, we do not intend to stay long in Early Access and will release the game by the end of this year.

The last question is about the price. Why $9.99? While in Russia the price is even less – 269 rubles. Don’t you afraid to sell it cheap?

We plan to gradually raise the price closer to the release date. But while the game is in Early Access we try to keep it as obtainable as possible. It is easier to gather the community this way.

Paying for Early Access, players don’t get a polished game, and it is natural that many are not willing to pay a high price for a “pig in a poke”. At the same time, we are ready to communicate with the players and listen to their comments and suggestions, that’s why we need them. Without a strong brand or a publisher behind, we can only make the price attractive enough for players.

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