We recently had the chance to catch up with Ben Simpson, Creative Director at Nicely Crafted Entertainment to discover more about their up and coming MMORTS title Time of Defiance,. The game is still in Beta testing and is due to go live in August.Can you tell us a bit about Nicely Crafted, the development team’s background and how long the game has been in development.NiCE was born to create worlds that are conducive to entertainment experiences; a place to go that has real geography and suspension of disbelief. We have a 10 year plan to achieve our goal, summed up it could be put as ‘The Matrix’ on your desktop. Time of Defiance is step two in this process and starts to grow the world we intend to set our future experiences in. Toby and I founded the company two years ago, following many years developing and refining the Creatures games. We’re a small team – around seven in total – but we share a passion for multiplayer gaming and persistent worlds. Our intention is to further the development of these games technically, critically and commercially.How did Time of Defiance come about and can you explain to the readers a little more about the game?Both Toby and I have always felt that we could design and build a good RTS game so when we thought the time was right and there was a gap in the market we realised it was now or never. We wanted to bring the social aspects of playing a game such as Risk with the thinking strategy of a game such as Chess where all the actual moves are simple, the complexity and interest comes from the combinations and how you manipulate the pieces.Time of Defiance (ToD) is a massively multi player real-time strategy game (MMPRTS). It is in full 3D and all players are human, making for a very interesting and unpredictable experience, deals can never be taken at face value..:-) Games of ToD run from one week up to four weeks with each instance of a game supporting hundreds of players. The idea of the game is simply to expand your empire by whatever means you feel is necessary, extract resources from the thousands of islands to expand your war machine and try to place in the first 10 players at the end of game to get league points. This game is about the art of war; politics, propaganda, diplomacy, leadership and more are all valuable skills that are needed to succeedThe pace of Time of Defiance is slower than your average online game so what made you decide to keep the pace of the gameplay at what can really be considered ‘more real time’.One of our driving factors was to create a game as free from “rules” as possible. In general, rules are inconsistent with reality and are a constant reminder that you’re playing a restricted computer game and not part of an entertainment experience. The goal of this was to create a game that was flexible, and that you could play in a number of different ways- a product that does its best to adapt itself to the needs of the people playing it. Furthermore, you don’t have to mortgage your social life to create and manage a large empire – so you won’t need to put vast quantities of time into the game in order to have fun.I’ll be the first to admit when the game first launched it looked a little daunting. How do you plan on appealing to the less hardcore strategy gamer or is this your real target market?We still have a few more weeks before release – and, as such, the product is subject to further improvements prior to the full public launch. We have actually provided a quick start guide in the form of a walkthrough for the first 20 minutes, but we realise that the game nonetheless can look a touch daunting. As it’s a MMORTS, we’re unable to provide a full tutorial, which would be the ideal solution. However, we will be making improvements in the menu screens and including context sensitive help close to the full public release.I have been out at the pub only to find my Empire has been crushed after checking my email in the morning. What other methods are you going to employ so gamers know when they are in serious trouble and nip online to sort out the problem?Proof, if it were needed, that drinking is bad for you! A reasonably well set up empire has an enormous amount of inertia, and could take several days if not weeks to completely wipe out. ToD can be configured to send you e-mails if you’re offline and certain events occur – so that you know what’s going on, and who did it 🙂 Your individual “units” are not completely stupid, either, so a ship that is attacked will defend itself. We will be introducing an SMS service later in the year so that no matter where you are, you’ll be able to keep track of what’s happening to your empire. If your empire is wiped out, then you can restart as a nomad player and build up a new empire. It’s amazing how much damage a restarted player can do. I was wiped out by one of our players a few games back and ended up finishing in 5th.If you’re not into combat and conquering islands are there other ways for gamers to get involved in the game or is the game about finding the right balance between combat and diplomacy?Well, I have placed in the top ten in the past just by negotiating deals without any combat. The cool thing about ToD is the game expands way beyond the pieces you see on the screen, I tend to opt for the wheeling and dealing side of ToD and will only fight if I am stuck in a corner. Though at its core it’s a strategy game, this obviously has undertones of combat, it is playable on so many levels, just like a good game of Risk with your mates.Once the game is released do you plan on adding additional features like new resources, new units and buildings?Games like ToD never really master, they evolve along with their players. We want to continue to grow ToD into the ultimate strategy game and to do this we need and use constant feedback from our players. As far as a ToD 2, well, we have big plans, you will just have to watch this space!As we understand it games last for around 4 weeks but will you be trying out other lengths like campaigns that would last months or 1 week quickies for example?We will be varying the length of the campaigns to encourage players to develop different tactics. There’s a great difference between how one should play a four-week campaign, compared to a conflict one quarter of the size. When the game launches full there will be different games players can opt to join – and those that vary their tactics will be best equipped to deal with the every-changing strategies needed to feature on the game’s leader board.Testing has been underway for a wee while now. How has the testing gone? Have you learnt a lot from the players and made many changes based on the players’ playing styles during the test?Testing has gone very well. We’ve a healthy number of people playing, and very few reported bugs or system crashes. The biggest challenge has been debugging a fundamentally parallel system. Fortunately, we got the product online for initial alpha testing last August – so we were able to learn a lot about how you search for issues. Our last server software crash was last November, which is nice. And feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.The graphics are simple but incredibly effective in the game. Can you tell us more about the game and graphic engine.This was a real challenge. The Time of Defiance code is extremely efficient. This is necessary in order to keep the file size accessible to all. You can actually play the game quite happily over a 56k dial-up and, as such, a 200Mb download would have been a real slap in the face for those that don’t have broadband. Graphically, it may not offer the complexity of the disc-based strategy titles, but we believe Time of Defiance has a unique charm which details our game world whilst offering clarity of command. The game engine is built for digital distribution so we have had to be very tight on what we can and cannot to, a lot of eye candy that you might normally expect has been substitute for robustness and simplicity, but as you say we feel they are effective.How many players will a game support?Typically, a game will support up to 1,000 individuals. We’ll be running multiple campaigns at the same time to meet demand.Have there been any amusing incidents with players during the Beta testing and if so can you relay any tales to us here?Yeah, we had one off our beta testers take his portable PC with him on holiday. He logged on using his phone when he received a message from it saying that he was under attack, he had his feet up on the beach in Brazil!!!Where are the servers based, are they UK only at the moment and do you think you’ll see a need to expand to other regions and if so will games be able to be playable across regions?Our servers are all currently based in the UK. We have no problem at all with ping times, so players the world over can enjoy lag-free gaming. It’s possible we may need to expand internationally if the volume of players demand it, but we’ve devised a system of data transfer which is slimline, you can even play the game hooked up to the Internet via a mobile phone.Are you still on target for the August launch date?Yes. Clearly with a MMP product of any kind, you never really finish it, it keeps evolving. We have many ideas and plans for the next year’s worth of development, and have had heaps of excellent ideas from our players.