How seven Mount and Blade modders created a game studio
The game Mount and Blade: Warband is a convenient playground for fans of modding, allowing you to move players to Middle-earth, Westeros or the distant-distant Star Wars galaxy. However, the entourage of the most important fashion for her was not a fictional reality, but Britain of the seventh century. Brytenwalda is a fan project of Spanish modder Alberto "Ibidil" Fuentevilla de Diego, who turned the Dark Ages of Britain into a mod, then into a DLC, and then created an indie studio. When Alberto first started experimenting in his free time with the files of the game, he had no idea how far his determination and love for the game would take him.
Ibidil is a creative person, he always tells stories; in the modder community, he won acclaim through his work on Iberia: Total Warcreated by the 2005 total conversion Rome: Total War. Ibidil got to work when the community of Spanish gamers decided that their nation was reflected in a game with too many historical inaccuracies; Iberia: Total War was also designed to eliminate these errors. Ibidil was engaged in fashion documentation, and also edited the combat system and organized the work of the creators of models and textures, which gave him a lot of experience for the future.
Like Britain itself, Ibidil moved from Rome to the Dark Ages. The reading of materials about the fall of the Roman Empire and about post-Roman Britain led him to this. “It was a world with a clearly defined dynamic, consisting of small warlike kingdoms whose rulers knew that everything was at stake in the battles,” he says. It was perfect for the game. Not many records have been preserved from that period, which is why it is called the Dark Ages, but this inspired Ibidil even more. He loved the rich and complex history of Britain of the seventh century and wanted to revive this period - Alberto considered it shameful that "such names as Penda or Cadwall, are known only to historians." He even translated the collection of early Welsh poems Canu Heledd into his native Spanish.
At that moment, he found himself a new passion. Mount and Blade: Warband is popular among modders, it allows you to freely transfer the basis of the game in different contexts. This game, with its medieval surroundings and an emphasis on the characteristics of ordinary people, spurred Ibidil’s interest in medieval Britain. “The developers at TaleWorlds seemed to have read my mind,” he says. Ibidil saw this as an opportunity. "Video games can liven up stories and story." Britain is ripe for translation into program code.
The freedom of the open world of Mount and Blade: Warband allowed Ibidil to tell stories in a unique way. Gameplay, according to Ibidil, means living a story in a different, more understandable way. The mystery of the Dark Ages made them the perfect setting to create his own adventures. The name of the fashion was given by the old British word "Brytenwalda", or "ruler of Britain." Since the goal of the player in Mount and Blade: Warband was to seize land for his kingdom, the title suited perfectly.
Brytenwalda never thought of as a game for other players, it was “a simple mod just for me,” says Ibidil. He added quests, changed some textures, and gradually the fictional kingdom of Caldaria turned into Britain. But Ibidil could not hide his desire to tell stories. He released the raw beta version of the mod, and Warband mods liked it. So the possibility of something greater arose. “I wanted everyone to feel themselves in the Dark Ages,” says Ibidil.
Ibidil knew that few mods were done - the online forum TaleWorlds was filled with blogs of unfinished mods. He knew that success could not be achieved alone, so he threw a cry on the modders scene close to him. Asbjorn Lindegaard “Adorno” Möller from Denmark, who developed scenes and locations as a hobby, decided to join forces with Ibidil before the first official version of the mod. In the process of releasing new versions, the team continued to grow; Michael “Motomataru” Richter from the USA, Mattias “Phaiak” Gromann from Germany, Marco Aurelio “Yeyo” Balbas Polanco, Leire “Elyllon” Ramirez Erwiti and Cesar “Caesar” Inyarrea Sanges from Spain added to them. Their knowledge of modding and history provided a harmonious work on the project.
Fortunately, Ibidil was able to show the rest of the team with Britain with his own eyes. “I remember the first time I read the Ibidil post about his desire to create a historical mod about the seventh century Britain, and thought,“ What kind of guy is this? ”,” Says Adorno. "Honestly, I did not think that such a little-known time period could be a source of a popular fashion." But when the white spots of the seventh century history began to gradually fill up with Ibidil, it captured the rest. “Almost everyone knows about the Roman era in Britain, about the legendary King Arthur, the Viking raids on the British Isles. But the seventh century! What happened then? ”Continues Adorno. In the development of fashion, he began to attract players. “Our own passion has become to infect other people,” says Adorno.
There were seven modders, but there were hundreds of other people who contributed to Brytenwalda. Only with the Nexus Mods mod was downloaded about 100 thousand times, and each player had his own suggestions for improvements and changes. “It was useful and motivated us, but also caused difficulties, we could not lose focus. It’s impossible to please everyone, ”says Adorno. With each version of the mod appeared something new, for example, fighting on the water or the system of religions. The latter is so important that, according to Ibidil, "it is impossible to imagine a mod or the resulting DLC Viking Conquest without it".
The mod has grown from a historically accurate alternative to the Warband into a separate game with new features, options and challenges. For this, the team needed more talented developers. “It is also important to note that many people contributed to Brytenwalda, whose work was added to Brytenwalda, sometimes at the request of users and fans,” says Adorno.
However, the attention of Brytenwalda was paid not only to the fans. As soon as Brytenwalda achieved peak popularity, Sem Chimenbicher of TaleWorlds contacted the fashion creators. He proposed to her: “Why not turn the mod into an official DLC?” And so the Brytenwalda mod development team turned into Brytenwalda Studios.
The dynamics of the group instantly changed. Previously, it was just a gathering of fans working in their free time; Now they have become professionals hired to carry out ongoing work and develop the project. They had to create more extensive plans and schedules. Such a change was caused by the decision not only to turn the mod into a DLC, but also to make it the basis for a completely new gameplay. “I didn’t want to repeat myself,” says Ibidil. Brytenwalda was transformed into Viking Conquest .
Fortunately, TaleWorlds supported this initiative. Motomataru refers to the studio as "informal, friendly and trusting." He adds: “I was surprised at how voluminous their support was. They added additional operators and modifications for us to build paths, etc. ”The team continued to work, still being in different parts of the world. Phaiak explains: “Such an image of work quite suited us when creating a fashion, and it seemed natural for us to continue in the same spirit.”
However, after the release of Viking Conquest, fans realized that this was not the expansion they hoped for. “We overestimated our strength,” explains Caesar. Even in spite of the reduction of the part of the functions before the release, the new systems added over the base game took their toll. Fans and the press quickly noticed that the increase in the scale of the DLC brought with it bugs and stability problems, and too high complexity left no chances even for experienced Warband players. Caesar admits that the move from free fashion to paid expansion was not as successful as they hoped, “performance problems led to a lot of bad reviews. Most of them were caused by a big step that we took from the original game. ”
“After this whole process, we understood a great deal about how to moderate our ambitions, rather than inflate them,” continues Caesar. “After a hard blow from critics, we focused on the quality of the functions, not on their number.”
One of the greatest virtues of a creative person is the ability to continue working on a project, despite setbacks and criticism. Problem release did not mean that the game is broken. The participants at Brytenwalda Studios knew that their reputation in the eyes of the fans was at stake, and, being fans themselves, they understood that now the team had a turning point. They worked tirelessly to create updates for Viking Conquest.
Seven months after the release of Viking Conquest, the team completed the Reforged Edition, a patch that eliminated all the bugs. It took a lot of work, and honest confrontation to all that hindered the developers in the process of creating a DLC, including a discussion of the true vision and scope of the game. Their efforts came true, and almost all the reviews on Steam are now positive.
Brytenwalda began as an amateur loner project, but gradually grew to a multinational development team, creating an official addition to your favorite game. Ibidil and his team have shown that developers, modders, and players do not constitute a strict hierarchy, but an interconnected ecosystem in which enthusiasm, love, and perseverance lead to significant success. Now the team is working on an undeclared project whose goal is to “create new games based on our values - immersion, complex plots and historical accuracy”.