E3 2015: Warhorse Studios

During E3 this year, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with developers Warhorse Studios, makers of the upcoming Kingdom Come: Deliverance. The interview was held inside the relatively small cubicle that was assigned to every studio or company looking to have press inside, and Warhorse had decked theirs out nicely with posters, shirts, hats, a top-of-the-line PC, and a giant 4k TV screen. During the interview, I was able to watch and play Kingdom Come while I was being guided through the world and development process by Daniel Vávra. The game was impressive, to say the least – stellar visuals, truly ambitious design, AI that extends to even the farm animals, and realistic combat that would challenge even the staunchest history buff to find a problem with it. To hear the extensive and full details of what I witnessed, check out my interview where I’m walked through the Alpha. Throughout my experience with Kingdom Come, I only ran into one problem – it just wasn’t my type of game.

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Is that to say it’s a bad game? No, and it’s quite the opposite – the amount of detail and passion that has gone into Kingdom Come is staggering, and it’s easy to see why it has such a rabid fanbase. The creators took such care to research and included every minute detail of the time period that it could be one of the most realistic RPGs out there. However, I’ve never been a particular fan of this type of open-world realism and gameplay. It’s blasphemy, I know, but it’s the same reason I was never a fan of the Elder Scrolls series. Medieval-based RPGs have never been something I’ve enjoyed, with Dragon Age being the lone exception. Having said that, it’s easy for me to distinguish between something I’m not personally interested in and something that is just bad. This is very much the former. In fact, by the time I was through with Kingdom Come at E3, I had made the decision to give that game-type another shot come release.

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Assisting Vávra with the walkthrough was Warhorse Studios’ community manager, Tobi Stolz-Zwilling. Tobi was in control of the game for the walkthrough and knew the ins and outs of the Alpha as we went through. Warhorse Studios’ PR manager, Jiří Rýdl, was the other constant presence. All three of these gentlemen were gracious, kind, and very accommodating. The interview went smoothly, and after it was over, something surprised me – they were still just as welcoming and humorous as they were before and during the interview. I take special note of this because, as I found out during most interviews, they’re treated as all business – once the information is imparted to you, most people are generally done with you, and some even before the interview has started! I was given a Kingdom Come press kit that included a t-shirt and press materials (check our upcoming giveaway for the shirt!), and though Tobi and Daniel had to start the next interview, Jiří took more time with me to make sure I had everything I needed, and hand out business cards. He also invited me to the Warhorse Studios community party on the last day of E3, which at the time I wasn’t sure if I was going to attend – the next day changed that!

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I ran into Tobi by chance on the floor of E3, and out of the dozens of interviews I’m sure they did – and the tens of thousands of E3 attendees – he not only remembered me and my name but made me promise to come to the community party. I’ve done quite a few interviews over the years and met many different PR people and company workers, and this was a first. I resolved to go to the community party, and hopefully meet more members of the community and continue to see Kingdom Come in action. The final day at E3, I once again ran into the entire team by chance, as they were disassembling their conference room and taking the equipment out front. Tobi once again recognized me and asked if I’d be there, and I told him I definitely would be.

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The party was held Thursday night, the final night of E3, at 8 pm in a pub in downtown Los Angeles called Casey’s Irish Pub. It’s smack in the middle of the city, but the pub is actually a story underground in a beautiful brick-and-wood setup that was highlighted whimsically with hanging string lights and old-fashion lanterns. The open courtyard of the pub had a ping-pong table, a dart board, and several small tables with chairs, while the inside was more cramped and dim, but never in an over-powering way. The main event was held in a back room that had the Kingdom Come banner draped in front of it, with various PR people ready to welcome the attendees. I was the first to show up – I was very un-cool and showed up at 8 pm on the dot – and so I chose a table in the corner and started to get my phone and tablet ready to take pictures and record. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi was blocked by the brick walls, and deafening noise of so many people in so small a room drowned out any hope of my being able to record the proceedings.

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Well over thirty people showed up, and it was a cacophony of chatter, laughter, and industry-speak. The temperature quickly skyrocketed into the mid-80s, and there was no ventilation, so it was pretty stifling – everyone had a nice sheen of perspiration not long after it started. Warhorse brought in a sporting gentleman by the name of Alex to dress up in authentic armor for pictures and demonstration, though I honestly felt terrible for him the whole time – the heat was truly atrocious. The same TV was brought in to run the Alpha for the attendees, and we were given a very detailed and thorough walkthrough that mimicked the one I was given, but added quite a bit more due to the Q&A process.

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Unfortunately, this being a bar, quite a few of the attendees were already several drinks in, and hearing Vávra became an issue as the tight quarters were filled with revelry. Despite the valiant effort of some marketing folks, the room was never able to truly quiet down. Once the walkthrough was over, Tobi handed the controller over to attendees who felt like trying it out, and everyone was able to mill about and ask questions of Vávra, Zwilling, and the other Warhorse devs that were present.

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When the event was over, I was inexplicably sad. I couldn’t figure out why until I realized – I felt like I had made friends! These developers, virtual strangers, had been absurdly friendly and made me feel welcome, despite having to hold dozens of similar interviews. Tobi, in particular, messaged me on Twitter the next day, apologizing for not having more face-time with me! I was floored. Most people I’ve interviewed treat it as a job – a thing to complete, and to move on. Warhorse Studios treated it as an opportunity to connect, and not just temporarily – they’re building a strong and very devoted fan-base by just this sort of personal attention. It’s a very rare – yet very effective – way to interact with your customers in this day and age.

In closing, I wanted to offer a sincere and personal thanks to Warhorse Studios, and to Tobi in particular. Not only for their kindness and generosity but for restoring some faith of mine in the PR machine. I hope other studios will hear of the way they treat people interested– or not interested! – in their game, and take it to heart. It’s the best marketing you could have.

If you want to know more about Kingdom Come: Deliverance, you can follow their Twitter account or the Facebook page. To keep up with the Warhorse folks on Twitter, follow Daniel Vávra, Tobi Stolz-Zwilling, and Jiří Rýdl.

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