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Interview: Longbow Games Talks Indie RTS Hegemony: Philip Of Macedon

Gamasutra spoke with Longbow Games lead programmer Rob McConnell about PAX 10-awarded indie strategy game Hegemony: Philip of Macedon and the pros and cons of independent development.
Longbow Games' Hegemony: Philip of Macedon, which has been in development for several years, follows the rise of Alexander the Great's father, Philip of Macedon, allowing players to manage the leader's armies and empires as they progress through the game's campaign. The game features large-scale real time strategy battles based on historical events and conflicts. The game allows players to manipulate troops and systems outside of the battlefield, such as supply routes and trade networks. Since its launch in May 2010, Hegemony has since been featured in the Penny Arcade Expo's indie showcase, the PAX 10, and is part of a series of Gamasutra interviews with PAX 10 honorees. Toronto-based Longbow Games has released several previous games in the indie space, including arcade games like Rival Ball and vehicle combat game Tread Marks. Gamasutra spoke with Longbow lead programmer Rob McConnell about Hegemony's development, distribution, and funding, and the pros and cons of independent development. Gamasutra: Can you describe you game a bit? Rob McConnell: Hegemony: Philip of Macedon is a historical RTS war game. It’s real time, but with full pause control. It’s set in ancient Greece, following the campaigns of Phillip of Macedon, who is Alexander the Great’s father. GS: Is there anything about your game that just makes it absolutely certain this was going to come from an indie developer; something that would have no chance of coming from a mainstream developer? RM: Being a PC game, in part. There’s not much of a market in North America [for] PC games these days. There are historical aspects to it as well, which makes the audience a little bit smaller. GS: What has been the nicest thing about developing independently? RM: The freedom. We don’t have a publisher breathing down on us, saying that we have to have this in the game or we can’t have this. We also all enjoy wearing multiple hats -- we’re at trade shows for example, promoting the game. We have a lead designer, but the rest of us, the programmers, all take on design duties as well. GS: What is the roughest thing about being independent? RM: Probably the finances, unfortunately. We are self-funded, and we have our own online store. We’ve been selling games since 1998 actually -- arcade games and stuff. But we don’t have the stability of a publisher that has the funds we need to sell the game, and we only have one game, so it has to do well enough to pay the books. GS: What sort of funding have you gotten for the game? RM: We have a number of funds we’ve used. Because we developed the engine from scratch, we’ve used research and development credit for the last couple years. Also, part of coming to trade shows is [supported by] an export fund for sending Canadian companies abroad to promote the games, so that helped subsidize our trip to PAX. GS: How does the original idea for the game compare to the reality of what the team created? RM: Well, our lead designer Jim McNally actually pictured it as a hex-based game, and to go from that to real-time strategy on a completely open map has been quite the change. It’s been a very iterative development cycle as we’ve been trying stuff out and playing. The focus on logistics is one of the things that did stay through, because it was so important to historical battles at that time period. That stayed through the whole time, but the graphics, the zoom level, all of that came along as we made it.

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