Prague Game Devs: WARHORSE STUDIOS



Arguably one of the hottest game studios in the Czech Republic, Warhorse Studios’ Kickstarter campaign for “Kingdom Come: Deliverance”raised in excess of $1.8 million USD (they had hoped for £300,000). – As published on the AREA (Autodesk’s Digital Entertainment & Visualization Community). For the full article visit http://area.autodesk.com/inhouse/bts/prague_game_devs_warhorse_studios.

The Area: We are happy and very excited to have the chance to speak with Warhorse Studios, arguably one of the hottest game studios in the Czech Republic. Back in February, Warhorse Studios completed their Kickstarter campaign, where upon asking for £300,000, were instead greeted with a little over $1.8 million USD. Congratulations on such a successful campaign! That said – once you start factoring in all of the actual costs needed to make the scale of game that you have in mind, this money is maybe just enough to cover things like salaries, hardware, software/game engine license, rent, and other general expenses for running a company. Something that you most certainly already know! So, Dan, how and when did Warhorse Studios and “Kingdom Come: Deliverance” become a reality?

Dan Vávra: Warhorse was established about two years ago by myself, Martin Klíma and several veterans from the Czech gaming industry and the reason was simple – there was no chance to work on games that we would like to make in any existing studios. And since we wanted to work on something new and innovative and there was zero chance that we could do it under a big publisher’s wings, we started a new company.

The Area: Certainly the history of “Mafia” and subsequent titles are known amongst gamers, but for those who only know you for the first time through “Kingdom Come: Deliverance”, can you give a bit of background on yourself?

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Dan Vávra: I am part of the 80’s computer generation – people who grew up with the first 8-bit computers, played the first games on the ZX Spectrum and C64 and started to make their own stuff on the Amiga. I started as an artist in Illusion Softworks and after some minor work on its first game “Hidden and Dangerous”, I went on to be the Writer, Designer and Director on “Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven”. I wrote and designed “Mafia II” and worked on some others, sadly unreleased projects.

The Area: As overseer in the production of this game and making sure that all gears are greased, so to speak, what are some of the main tasks you have to take care of?

Dan Vávra: I am the Creative Director, so I have my fingers in most aspects of the game. But my biggest task is of course design and writing.

Our game is so massive, that there is no chance I would be able to write everything myself, so we have seven other writers and lots of scripters … I work kinda like a show runner on TV – I work with other writers, prepare concepts for the story, review their work, we brainstorm a lot and the I write parts of the story myself.

The Area: We also have the 3D Art Lead on “Kingdom Come: Deliverance”, Roman Zawada here. Roman, can you talk a bit about your roots in the games industry?

Roman Zawada: I started in the games industry 10 years ago when I was 18, at Bohemia Interactive Studio. Before that, I was involved in the modding community for Operation Flashpoint and this is the place where I touched 3D for the first time. Bohemia Interactive’s engine actually required the use of their own proprietary software, Objektiv, which actually was the first 3D software I used. It was very rudimentary and all models were created literally by creating each vertex manually and connecting them to polygons. As time passed, we transitioned to 3ds Max. I think it was version 6 or 8. With it, we created “ARMA: Armed Assault”. When I moved to Illusion Softworks to work on “Mafia II”, the company already had a well-established 3ds Max pipeline and it was the same case for “Top Spin 4” too. With the experience and knowledge of Max from these past titles, we’ve built our art authoring workflow at Warhorse for Kingdom Come be as optimized and efficient as possible.

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The Area: Roman – what do your day-to-day involvement and responsibilities include?

Roman Zawada: I work as an Art Lead, which means mainly managing my colleagues and making sure we can create everything needed for the game on time and in good quality.

During my journey in the games industry, I gradually moved from asset creation to a more Technical Artist position. This means that I also write tools, sometimes tweak shaders, and generally figure out the best workflows and use of your technology to achieve the best look of our assets and scenes. And together with that, I also do some 3D and VFX.

The Area: When approximately did development for “Kingdom Come: Deliverance” commence?

Dan Vávra: Approximately in January 2011, but I’ve had the idea in my head for a long time.

The Area: From the Kickstarter trailer and subsequent video updates, we can see highly detailed and content-rich environments and assets. I think it is safe to say that you guys did an I N S A N E amount of work! So many assets that the eye can see in each scene, the many customizations of the player and NPCs, beautiful textures, animation/mocap work, and AI & gameplay details…the sheer volume is overwhelming (in a good way). Can you give us a rough breakdown of the Warhorse team?

Dan Vávra: We now have 50 people and soon we will have 60+, but what you saw so far was developed by only 25 people in about 18 months. Now we have 12 programmers, 15 concept and 3D artists, 15 designers and scripters, 10 character artists and animators.

The Area: What graphic applications are used in the Warhorse pipeline?

Roman Zawada: As I said before, we use 3ds Max for asset authoring. Not surprisingly we also use Mudbox and ZBrush for sculpting, and Photoshop for texture creation. For concepts, we use SketchUp.

We are also doing animation/mocap work and use MotionBuilder, and for game engine we are using CryEngine 3.

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The Area: What were the reasons behind choosing these tools, when there are other software packages available with same capabilities? Certainly licenses take part of the available budget, which leaves no room for frivolous spending…

Roman Zawada: As an artist, I can only speak about our choice for Max as our 3D modelling package.

For game engine, 3ds Max works together with CryEngine because of the asset authoring pipeline that exists and Max is also the software we have the biggest experience with.

The Area: Knowing that customization is not only a feature of the game, but also serves as a helping hand in generating unique NPCs within the game. How many assets do you have to date for each of those customization components and for the game overall?

Jiří Bartoněk: There are 6 body parts on every NPC, each body part has up to 4 equipable layers. Each layer has up to 5 pieces so far. So we have approximately 100 pieces of different clothing items and each of them could have an infinite number of color variation, which is processed realtime in the engine. The final count of clothing items could hardly be estimated, but we think we can get somewhere between 500-600 different pieces. The best feature of our system is the fact that most of the clothing items shares the same geometry in each body part.

The Area: Can you describe the process for asset creation?

Roman Zawada: The process of asset creation actually varies a lot, it really depends on the actual type of asset.

For architecture, we get concept sketches and model illustrations from concept artists and then make proper game models, primarily with tilable textures… which doesn’t leave us with much room for detailed, unique sculpting. For small props, when we do highpoly sculpts of most of the assets and then make the lowres game-ready version.

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The Area: What do you use to maintain and keep track of all of these completed assets?

Roman Zawada: We use Hansoft as our project management software.

The Area: Your planned release date is 2015, for Act I, the first of three Acts. When can supporters expect the availability of the beta version?

Dan Vávra: We will have early access in September/October, which we call Alpha. This will emcompass a very limited area with core features that people could test and give us feedback on. Beta should be available for our backers a few months before release.

The Area: And for those who missed the Kickstarter campaign, how can they send monetary support now?

Dan Vávra: We launched our own crowd funding platform in the last week of April. It had taken some time since the end of the Kickstarter campaign to prepare, with Kingdom Come being a multi-platform title…all arrangements for the different platforms were a little bit more complicated, but you can now pledge now http://pledge.KingdomComeRPG.com. Thank you all for the great support so far!


Fianna Wong is the Community Content Producer at Autodesk’s Media & Entertainment division.

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