Iron Harvest DevBlog #20 - December 2019

  Dec 18, 2019     Iron Harvest

We answer your questions, announce winners and offer new opportunities!

News: Beta When?

We plan to launch our Beta in late-February/early-March 2020.

We had hoped for mid-December 2019, but after careful consideration we decided to finish what we’re currently working on so that you’ll get to play with a more complete game than originally planned.

Ultimately, the purpose of the Beta is to let our backers road-test many of the games key features, ensure they’re working as intended and then gather feedback. We’re pleased with how this worked for the Alphas and your Beta feedback will undoubtedly improve the final released product. We also gave Beta-backers the opportunity to play the Alpha and so they’ve already had a feel for the game earlier than originally planned. Recently, our development has really escalated and stopping now to implement the Beta and monitor its progress would disrupt the teams current flow.

Launching the Beta when its ready will have no impact on our release date of 1st of September 2020. Thank you for your understanding and all your support so far.

Please wish-list us on Steam here. Even if you intend to play it on console, consider this an important vote of support for the development of a better game. Also ask your friends to do it. 
Info: End of Year Q&A - Part 1

The community’s response to our call for questions has been phenomenal. The Iron Doctor, our community manager, has been swamped. But it’s great to see what you’re interested in as we move forward. We’ve had to split the answers into two parts. Here’s the 1st, and the 2nd will be in January’s DevBlog.

When will you send out the request for the in-game picture of the backers? - Kaada (Discord)

We’re going to start sending our requests for your likeness to help us create the in-game portraits of you over the holiday period. If you haven’t heard from us by January 15th, please contact us.

When can we expect all the backer’s special extras to be shipped to early supporters? - Polarwrath (Discord)

The plan is to send out all rewards together with the game. Our goal is you having everything in your hand at launch day.

When will Iron Harvest launch? - German Marine (Discord) 

1st of September 2020 to Steam and GOG on PC as well as Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

I pre-ordered/supported in the early stages, how will I get my key? - Kaos (Discord)

Thank you, if you’re an Alpha or Beta backer you can access the PC Alpha already by logging in from the top right of our webpage and claim your Steam key. When we release the game in full, everybody gets a new key for the platform of your choosing. The Alpha/Beta Steam key will no longer work.

Are you going to sell the artbook separately? - Night Owl (Discord)

We haven't decided yet. The artbook is primarily for our early supporters. But if there is interest, perhaps we could offer it later over our shop as well.

Any ideas on the number of maps available at release? - 2Sk3tChy (Discord)

Yes. :-) What we can confirm so far: There will be 21 campaign maps, 7 for each campaign. There will also be a good number of multiplayer and challenge maps as well as new maps after release.

Will Iron Harvest be physically released? - Cody Martinka (Facebook)

Yes! The plan is to release it physically in all major markets. Our publisher Deep Silver (Koch Media) is one of the biggest distributors for boxed games in the world. We’ll also lobby for at least one Collector’s Edition.

Any chance of Iron Harvest running under Steam on Linux? - Fonant (Twitter)

All our previous games had native Linux support. The only reason we didn’t want to promise anything for Iron Harvest is the fact that it is so much more complex than anything we’ve done so far (including multiplayer and coop features). We’ll look into Linux and try to make it as easy as possible for Linux fans to get the game running. We have some Linux fans in the company, so you have a lobby here ;-)

Will there be a Mac version? - Mike Lewis (Facebook)

As with Linux (see above), we can’t promise anything yet, but we’ll look into it down the line. One additional problem on Mac is that many Mac systems, especially older MacBooks, have notorious bad graphic chips. So even if we would be able to release a Mac version, it would most likely be limited to higher-end systems. Look out for news mid-2020.

Are you able to sell/open access to Alpha or Beta before release, or has the opportunity been missed? - many people (everywhere)

It’s great that a lot of people want to get into Iron Harvest ASAP. However, Alpha will remain closed as it was always a special thing for our early supporters and Kickstarter backers. We are currently discussing internally, how open/closed the Beta will be. There are a surprisingly number of pros and cons to consider here, but we will defiantly let you know as soon as we have decided.

What are you plans for pre-release? I’d love an old school Demo - David West (Facebook)

We’re going to do the backer-Beta early 2020 and most likely some sort of performance/stability test, maybe a “Beta 2”, an Open Beta or sort of demo, close to release.

How much do you think the game will cost at release? - LokenTheAtom (Reddit) 

There will be most likely different versions (we’re thinking about a “Collector’s Edition”, for example). The game will be a “full price game” which means different things in different territories and on different platforms. You can take games like Total War: Three Kingdoms or Dawn of War 3 as examples.

Would you like to release a Nintendo Switch version of Iron Harvest? - Chris Sharples (Facebook)

YES! We would love to. But it’s not going to happen. At least not without some sort of game streaming solution on the Switch or a hardware upgrade. Iron Harvest is relatively demanding when it comes to CPU power (AI, pathfinding, many animations for many units at the same time and so on) and the Switch has a pretty weak CPU. We love the Switch, but there is no way we can make it happen.

Are you going to release it on next gen consoles too, as its being released during that period? - Ryan Hale (Facebook)

We don’t know yet. We’re talking with Unity; our engine provider and Deep Silver is in close contact with Sony and Microsoft. So, we’ll investigate it but it’s too early to say.

Plans for Google Stadia? - Sascha Seewald (Facebook)

As with the next gen consoles, we’ll investigate it. In general, we think it makes sense to give players many different options to play a game. We don’t like exclusives, but we DO like choice.

What is the strategy and roadmap to keep the game alive? - Kaos (Discord)

There will be announcements regarding our plans next year. All we can confirm up to this point are the things we have already promised: There will be a mini-campaign as DLC (Kickstarter stretch goal; free for backers), there will be new maps and game modes. We’ll also try to provide an editor so fans can create their own maps. We’ve put a lot of effort into a player progression system that works for both multiplayer AND single player fans. More about that next year. We believe in Iron Harvest and want to support the game long-term. So, we are actively working with Deep Silver on ideas how to make that possible.

How often will there be tournaments and what will the prizes be like? - Kaos (Discord)

We will likely do another tournament after Beta release. Once we’ve launched, these will continue every now and then depending on the demand from the community. We’ll try to support these with suitable and themed prizes from us.

When can we expect the 3rd faction (Rusviets) to be playable? - PASHA (Discord)

Rusviets will definitely be playable and will most likely enter the battlefield later in Beta.

How much interaction will there be with the environment? - Somencarl (Instagram)

A lot. Buildings and many other things on the maps are destructible. Big mechs can walk through most structures, infantry can jump over fences, low walls and so on. Expect maps to look a whole lot different at the end than they did at the beginning of a match.

Will mechs be able to suffer partial damage? - Somencarl (Instagram) 

No. We have a system where most units receive more damage when hit from behind. But you won’t be able to focus fire on individual parts of a mech. Visually, though, mechs receive damage where they get hit.

Will you change/balance the “infantry can swap to any type” system to make it more realistic in future? - Everett Van Horne (Facebook)

It’s not realistic, for sure, but we think it works well and makes the game better. Balancing is, of course, one of the biggest tasks on our list for the next months. In general, gameplay is more important for us than realism. We are talking about a world with giant mechs after all ;-)

Will Polania have winged hussars like calvary? - Joshua Robinson (Facebook)

They will have cavalry and we plan to bring these into the game during Beta. No wings, though. Could be a cool idea for a skin!

What will the production system be like in making units?? Will it be cheap and easy, or will it cost a lot and make it feel like every life matter? - Jason Wood (Facebook)

One of our design goals was to make each unit/squad feel important. Your units become veterans and ultimately elite units, so you want to keep them alive for as long as possible. That’s one reason why we implemented a “retreat” functionality, engineers, medics, medic tents and so on. They all help to keep your units alive. Units will be relatively costly, and you want to think about how to use each one efficiently.

How will the three factions vary in terms of play style and how will you keep this balanced? - Solensia (Reddit)

Each of our faction has a unique theme: Polania are the guerilla rebels, Rusviet are a military powerhouse and Saxony are the industrial elitists. Their playstyles derive not only from one facet of their theme but from many of them. Keeping this balanced means while the factions are not equal, they stay equally viable. We ensure this by providing each faction with all the tools they need in a way that matches their themes.

How many vs. A.I. challenges are planned for the game? - EthosImmortal (Discord)

We will have a couple of “Challenge maps” in the game, which are maps with special goals designed for you to play them multiple times and get better and better over time. But you can also play all multiplayer maps against the AI in any configuration (so for example you and an A.I. teammate against two A.Is.). We don’t know yet exactly how many maps will be in the game at release or how many more we’re going to release after release.

What distinguishes Iron Harvest from Company of Heroes and stops it feeling like a CoH mod? - STRONTJESBERG (Discord)

You will see that while CoH has been a big inspiration for us, Iron Harvest plays different. Many of our units are slower but offer more flexibility and utility. Depending on which hero you chose for a match, you have very different ways to put pressure on the opponent. Very experienced CoH players are usually positively surprised how much they must adapt and come up with new tactics. We also invested a lot of time in streamlining the U.I. and controls. We believe in complex and deep games, but we also think it is our job to make it easier for new players to get into a game. We think our U.I. is more consistent and less redundant than some U.Is. in the past. There is a whole player progression system we haven’t talked about yet; our campaign is comparatively HUGE and of course we have a very different setting. Did we mention the mechs?

Will there be something to stop mechs passing certain locations? - Vipasyn (Discord)

I presume you refer to permanent features. Mechs must already navigate around trenches, some buildings and map features such as rivers and narrow bridges. You can also lay minefields. Mechs will want to avoid bottlenecks and dominate open terrain.

Will there be other types of cover than the ones we currently have? - Jnc3 (Discord)

Visually there will be many different types of cover. Gameplay-wise we only have three fundamental types: Low cover which infantry can use to shoot over while being somewhat save from many attacks, high cover which is to high to shoot over and something we call implicit cover which is, for example, a mech between the attacker and you, or a cliff that prevents you hitting the enemy. Many covers can be destroyed. These covers have an armor type and hit points, so for example a wooden fence can be easily destroyed by bullets, a heavy cover can’t. Some cover, like for example trenches or objects like rocks, can’t be destroyed at all.

Are you planning on giving purchasable abilities for individual squads? - Mike6411 (Reddit)

Units can become veteran and eventually elite. Many units get at least one new ability when they level up, but you can’t choose between different abilities for standard units. Heroes, however, have different skills that you can level up individually during the campaigns.

Do you want this game to be competitive for a longer period and have frequent balance updates? - Kaos (Discord)

Absolutely. As mentioned above, we’ll talk more about the player progression system and our ongoing efforts next year. We’ll do more than “just” frequent balance updates.

Do you value multiplayer over single player? - Kaos (Discord)

We don’t see Iron Harvest as favoring one or another and nor would we want to limit ourselves by choosing only one of these. Iron Harvest aims to have a great single player campaign for those times when you want to immerse yourself and take it easy, while also having a well-grounded multiplayer experience for when you want to get competitive and try out new tactics. Thanks to all our Kickstarter supporters and our publisher Deep Silver, we have the resources to do both. And we’ll support both after launch.

Currently, when using a weapon system (AT cannon, MG station), the unit that’s assigned to the weapon system is the unit that gets the experience. Will this change in the future? - 2Sk3tChy (Discord)

That is working as intended. As you know, you can give squads new equipment, effectively making them a new unit type. Nonetheless they keep their XP/rank. The same is true for weapon systems. The weapon systems are just “tools” manned by soldiers and the soldiers are the ones that get the XP.

Estimated playtime for the campaign? - 2Sk3tChy (Discord)

Depends on how often you must restart a mission, of course. We think most players will take about 20 hours. Most missions are around 40-50 minutes, but there are some much shorter (20-25 minutes) and some much longer as well (up to 90 minutes). And there will be good 60 minutes of cinematic cutscenes between the missions.

What's the max unit count of a fully upgraded base? - PJ O’Neill and Christian Franco (Facebook)

This depends on the game settings players choose. We think the game feels best with no more than 15 units/squads under your control but if players what to control more units, they can obviously choose to do so (you can set the max and the rate of resource income in the multiplayer & skirmish settings). In most of the campaign missions you will have less than a dozen units/squads most of the time, but there are also some very open missions with a much higher ceiling.

Did you draw any inspiration from the Red Alert series? - Michal Durian (Facebook)

We looked at all games in the “RTS Hall of Fame” but I’m not sure we used something explicitly from a Red Alert game. I know we talked about the option to increase the size of maps during missions but ultimately, we chose fixed sizes. Now I think about it: There is one mission that was definitely inspired by classic Tanya missions.

Your mechs seem super slow and lack a real punch. Is it just my impression or a conscious design decision? - Dmytro Soloviov (Facebook)

Them being slow is a design decision (though we’re still working on them, so speeds might change). Lacking punch is something we have on our list. This has mainly to do with animations, effects and missing “juice”. Or are you talking about gameplay/stats? We think most mechs already have good punch there, depending on how you use them (not every mech is good against each type of enemy).

Will there be any other types of production buildings? - Jnc3 (Discord)

No. We wanted to keep production kind of simple: One building for infantry, exo-skeletons and weapon systems, one for mechs, both upgradable.

Are there going to be any infantry squads with more or less than 5 men? - Jnc3 (Discord)

Infantry is defined by always having 5 squad members. But there is another unit class called exo-skeletons. They usually have three squad members. Making larger than 5-man squads is something we are also investigating. It comes with new technical challenges, but it might well happen in the future.

Will there be a territory system? - Jnc3 (Discord)

You are talking about the CoH system where you only get resources from areas connected to your base? No. We thought about that, but our maps are usually on the smaller side (because units are slower) and it felt weird to force the necessary number of sectors into them.

Which RTS games did you look to for inspiration? - James Bevis (Facebook)

All of them. Well. Most of them. We looked at many classics plus basically everything that came out in the last 5 years. The biggest inspiration when it comes to gameplay and feel is Company of Heroes 1. The campaign structure and the hero system are more like Warcraft 3. StarCraft 2 was an inspiration for some player progression system stuff and U.I. elements. Sometimes, when we were unsure about something, we literally let a game designer investigate half a dozen or more games and analyze what worked and why. But it is not only RTS that are helpful. We play a lot of games here and good ideas can come from everywhere. And of course, it cannot be ruled out we ourselves had a good idea or two. After all, we've been doing this for 20 years ;-)

What surprises or interesting things did you learn from the players so far? - Solensia (Reddit)

 Very early on we did a survey and the fact that A LOT of people really care about the campaigns in RTS was something we saw in ourselves but didn’t know was so widespread. Something else that is surprising is how different players play. We get feedback from player A that some unit is completely broken and useless, while player B thinks the units is awesome, maybe slightly over-powered. Sometimes, as a developer, you think in terms of “the players” or maybe player types/groups but in reality, all players and play-styles are unique and you need to figure out how to enable as many as possible to have a good time.

What was the biggest challenge while developing the game? - Heinsen (Reddit)

The complexity. There are a lot of moving parts (literally) and so many systems that are all interconnected. On the one hand that is what you want: You want everything in the game to influence everything else because it makes for a deep gameplay experience. But at the same time, it is really, really hard to make it fun, balanced and not exploitable.

We’ve been making games for 20 years, but this is the first time we've often left meetings with more questions than we had when we went in. Everything is more complicated and more complex than you would expect. It became a running joke: Nothing is ever easy when you want to make an RTS that can be up there with the greats.

This is. . . you know what? It just is! Ain’t no one got time for an explanation. Feel free to guess though.

Are you working on pathfinding currently and how high of the priority list is it currently? - Uliysess (Discord)

The new path-finding system will be in the Beta. It is currently in our internal QA. The new system is very cool. Faster than the old system, more powerful and much more flexible. It’s probably one of the most advanced systems in any RTS, the scientific papers it is based on are fresh off the press ;-)

The big challenge we have with Iron Harvest is that many different units need to find many different paths in an ultra-dynamic environment. For example: A big mech can go through sandbag barriers and even houses, but it can’t use a narrow bridge over a river. A light mech can go through a wooden fence or a chicken house and it can use the narrow bridge, but it can’t go through a house. Infantry can’t go through a wooden fence, but they can leap over it, if its not too high. They can also jump into and out of trenches, which is something mechs and weapon systems can’t do. When a wreck of a mech blocks a bridge, some units can destroy the wreck and make a way for themselves, others can’t.

Now imagine this with a couple of hundred units sending thousands of path requests on a map that changes 8 times per second and you get an idea why it took Thomas, our Technical Director, a couple of months to rework the system ;-)

Is there an order of factions in the campaign, or are there 3 separate campaigns? - luk_zloty (Discord)

It’s one overarching story. The order is: Polania, Rusviet, Saxony.

Is Iron Harvest "base" campaign a closed story, or you end it with a cliffhanger? - luk_zloty (Discord)

I would call it an “origin story”. It has an ending, but we’re also setting up the world for future factions and heroes. It is no secret that we would love to add more factions to the game and continue the story. So, let’s say: At the end of the third campaign, the first overarching story had its conclusion, but we also have plenty of opportunities for new stories.

Any plans to expand upon barbed wire and sandbags? For example, with Mech traps, tripwire and mines. - PASHA (Discord)

Mines are the last type of fortification on our list. That doesn’t mean there can’t be more, but we would only add more if there is a strong desire or need to add more. Let’s see what the Beta feedback says.

Are there plans to update how garrisoning a building works? E.g. Infantry evacuating as soon as a building loses a tiny part of it. - DeadPixel (Discord)

Yes. Now, each building has only one “room” inside. In the future, building have multiple “rooms” and if at least one room is intact, units stay in the building. So, it will be harder to get infantry out and this will depend on its size.

Does angling a mech's armor do anything to reduce/stop the damage from incoming fire? - Axelyoder (Discord)

Most mechs have lighter armor on their backs, so if you can get behind them you will deal more damage.

Is it going to be possible to upgrade your units? - Jnc3 (Discord)

With heroes, you can invest a skill point for each level up in different skills. Normal units have a veterancy system in which they sometimes gain special abilities.

Are there any plans for more "offset" skirmish/multiplayer maps? For example, one player starts with prebuild defenses and has fights multiple players. - tomasz_exe (Discord)

There will be different game modes but we’re not sure about asymmetric maps. We feel that people who play competitively might not enjoy maps that force them into a certain role. There WILL be challenge maps that focus on offense or defense, though.

Any plans for a player controlled or NPC airforce? - Axelyoder (Discord)

No. We like the idea, but for now we stay firmly on the ground. Well . . . <spoilers> an airship might feature, but you can’t control it.

Are there any plans for mobile buildings? - Axelyoder (Discord)

Not directly, but we like the idea and it would fit the world of 1920+. If we hopefully do more factions, this might be an option. Polanian already has a large, fast transport mech that works like a moving bunker. The “medic tents” are also a similar idea in that a medic squad can transform itself into a building that can be used for healing units and that shortens how far units must run when they retreat. So: Medics run to a place, become a stationary building. Probably doesn’t count as a “mobile building”, though.

Are you still planning a co-op campaign, a co-op scenario mission or both? - NOOBIAN (Discord)

Planning & implementing. We’re laying the technical foundation as we speak.

What sort of balance changes do you hope to add in future updates? Are you aiming for a slower paced combat system or faster? - TheFloridaLeague (Reddit)

We envision combat to play out in a way where decisions matter. We want to keep the pace of combat slow enough that the challenge is to come up with a versatile and effective strategy rather than being able to perform the necessary click per second rate to pull it off.

Will Heroes be part of the multiplayer? - 2Sk3tChy (Discord)

Optionally. The idea is that all players can, if they want, chose one of their faction’s heroes to be part of the match. Depending on which hero it is, the hero will enter the game only after a certain time. This ensures that a strong mech hero won't be overpowered in the early game.   

Would you like to develop a Warhammer 40K game? - Kaada (Discord)

Hell yeah, we would! Many in the office are big Games Workshop fans. Perhaps one day we’ll get that opportunity.

This is in the office of our game director Jan, and distracts us during meetings :P

When can we expect big maps or 8 player maps? - tomasz_exe (Discord)

We only promised 6-player maps, but we’re testing an 8-player map now. We’ll have to see how it goes. If the tests are successful, we might add it to the beta.

Do you plan on making extremely large walkers, I’m talking like AT-AT size, down the road?  - Jeffy (Twitter)

There are some big mechs coming for the late game, see below. The only limit is what is practical for game play. We don’t want the mech blocking out the entire screen and stopping you controlling the rest of your army.

Da big 'uns are coming!
Info: Fan-Art Winners

Thanks to 2Sk3tChy who live streamed the contest in order to get us some democratically chosen Winners! 

Blackwood came first and won a $100 Steam voucher with this fierce take on our three factions.

HoshieArt came second by capturing Anna in all her fieriness to win a $50 Steam Voucher.

RitteninRot came thrid and won $20 with this hand-drawn depiction of our three faction’s infantries.

Congratulations to you all and enjoy your early Christmas presents.

We are extremely impressed by the fan dedication on display during the whole contest. All the entrants were fantastic. We think the contest was a success and so, once we are closer to release and have some great prizes to offer, we hope to do official Iron Harvest contests next year 
Info: Content Creator Wanted
Are you a content creator who can write, make videos, and build communities?

Do you want to work in the games industry? Well we might have the job for you!

You can check out the full details and apply here.

We’re looking for a Content Creator & Community Builder willing to work in Bremen, Germany, who can help us present Iron Harvest to the gaming world in the best possible way. Please share this with anyone you think might be interested.

Looking Ahead

2020 is going to be a big year for us, so much will happen and we’ll start to outline it all in next year’s DevBlogs. We’re excited and also looking forward to seeing our backers play the Beta in February/March. We hope you are too. Thank you for all your support this year and we wish you the best of Holiday seasons.

If you've already claimed your early supporters game, please also join us in our Backers Discord Channel. for all the latest news, info and discussion. You'll find the link here. 

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