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Solium Infernum

The Devil is in the Detail - Solium Infernum Interview

We spoke with Senior Technical Designer William Dyce about the upcoming devilishly fascinating strategy game Solium Infernum.

Audio transcriptions

"Hello everyone. Back here again at Gamescom. Here we're discussing Solium Infernum.
I'm here with Will. Will, what is Solium Infernum? Why should people be hyped about it?
So, Solium Infernum is the political grand strategy game from hell."

"It's a game about being the worst possible person.
Essentially a high school bully with an army to back up their evilness.
And we are, as arch-fiends, vying to replace Satan who's gone missing as the new Dark Majesty."

"We are insulting, humiliating, crushing our opponents with giant titans, jewelists and dark magics.
So, we can pick, I believe, among the arch-fiends, what do they bring to the table?
There's eight, I believe, different arch-fiends."

"Some of them confirmed, some of them yet to be revealed, perhaps?
And what do they each bring to the table?
How do they differ from one another and how do they want to take hell over?
So, each of the arch-fiends has their own unique active ability that they can use that no one else can."

"And that is really quite a powerful action verb.
So, for instance, Murmur, the Necromancer, who we talked about before, can summon a legion anywhere in their territory, for instance, which is very game-changing.
No one else can do that."

"On top of that, they have their own starting stats and attributes.
They have their own personal guard and they have their own stronghold, which provides them with bonuses as well.
And each of them sort of embody one of the play styles of the game."

"So, we have Belial, the kind of deceiver, the little finger-esque character.
We have Astaroth, who's all about just smashing everything.
And we have a few others that we're going to reveal as time goes on.
This one here, Lilith, the Scorn, is all about bitterness and spying on your opponents and then destroying them with dark magic."

"Big bird lady, you know, can't beat it.
So, this, I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, but Solemn Infernum, the original dates back to 2009.
How are you guys sort of bringing this to a new audience and what are you taking from the original?
Yeah, so, Vic Davies was the sort of solo creator for the original using Macromedia Director, I think a program designed to make DVD menus."

"And we essentially reached out to him and said, well, what are you doing with the IP?
And he said, take it, you know.
Armello, our previous game, was inspired by Solemn Infernum.
And so, it was a very natural fit for us."

"And, yeah, essentially we have Vic's blessing to take the game and sort of modernize it in certain ways.
Like, there are a lot of things that you can do for, I don't know, accessibility.
Accessibility is sometimes a bit of a filthy word for gamers.
Like, oh, you're dumbing it down."

"But to play the original asynchronously, you had to use play by email.
You had to copy the save file and put it on an email and send it to someone and then copy it back into the save directory.
And it was really fiddly."

"And we can do a lot of quality of life improvements.
For instance, you know, if you have the Steam app on your phone, this will just send you a notification to say there's a new turn for you.
If Steam will pop up something, you can just click on it and go straight into the game."

"And that essentially makes the game a lot more playable and opens it up to a lot more people.
There are some things that we're changing because we love the game and we also feel very strongly about some mechanics.
I wish that was just a little bit different."

"But we've got a lot of buy-in from the original community.
There's a very active Discord that is still playing the game.
They're playing about 10 different games at once at the moment with them and another 10 of this with the team."

"So yeah, they're very excited about the game.
And so far, Vic has been really, really happy with everything that we've shown him.
So he's looking forward to it as well.
Brilliant. I mean, you're talking there about being in sort of 10 different games at once."

"Are these games going to take like a while for players to complete?
And what's sort of going to keep bringing them back?
And what's the multiplayer like compared to the solo experience, I guess, as well?
You can either go to try and take on Hell by yourself against AI or you can grab a couple of friends together and see which of you is the worst, as you said."

"Absolutely. So we have a series of single-player Chronicles, which are kind of story missions, challenge missions for each of the Archfiends that really builds up their lore and also teaches you how to play each of them.
On top of that, you can play Skirmish with the AI and you can play the long-form asynchronous game, either match-made or custom, where you can change how many hours you have to submit your turns."

"The default is 24 hours, but you could say you have 72 hours or something.
And you can also play a Blitz mode where you go five-minute turns and have everyone playing at once with slightly tweaked balancing so that you can get the game done in like 90 minutes."

"So it's very flexible. You can play it in different ways and really the game goes as quickly as your friends.
If your friends are very slow to submit your turns, it could take ages.
I have a game of the original Solemn Infernum that's been going on since Christmas and still going strong. We've really gotten to know each other."

"Not necessarily in a positive light.
But yeah, the game is brilliant in multiplayer because of all the table talk.
You only get two actions to send each turn at the beginning of the game.
So you have to be really careful about what you do."

"But sending someone a message, that's free.
And so if you're able to convince someone to not attack you, to attack someone else, that's very powerful and it doesn't cost you an order slot.
And those order slots are premium."

"So it's all about that gaslighting the video game.
Gaslighting as a game mechanic, I think.
I think that's just the strategy, the genre.
Gaslighting the video game and you put an extra spin on it with the fact that we are literally in hell this time around."

"But for players maybe who are looking to get into it, who have maybe got a long time, draws the strategy but are being pulled to this one, what sort of sells it aside from maybe being drawn to hell and something like that?
Yeah, so as you say, obviously the theme, the setting is very novel."

"This kind of Miltonian vision of hell.
It's very kind of surreally beautiful.
But I think also a lot of us, we grew up in the 90s, playing strategy games during that big boom, and now we're in our 30s and we have kids or we have responsibilities."

"I spent the last 13 years in Europe and I have a lot of friends who are in a different time zone.
It's really hard to sit down for four hours and to set up a multiplayer game of humankind or something like that, civilization."

"But if you have this asynchronous structure, you can much more easily get a game going.
There are a few other games that do this, but this one is really built around it.
It's all about that second guessing what other people will do and trying to get in there first and sabotage them."

"And again, that action economy, the fact that you only have a few things you can do each turn, means that you have very intense decisions to make.
And you can go in for 15 minutes of a day and really get that strategy game fixed rather than having to commit to an hour and a half."

"So it really is about that depth of decision making.
I think Rock, Paper, Shotgun said of the original, the cold glory of a difficult decision.
And that's really what we're going for, that intense, excruciating choice at every level of the game."

"Brilliant. And if you make those right decisions, I guess, if you really do make those cold calculating decisions to get to the enemy stronghold, you take it.
Do you take it and then you get your own bonuses?
Or is it gone for good?
Or are there even ways that players can maybe get their way back in to the game?
So absolutely. I have an example of a previous game with one of the programmers, Jarrus, who was playing as Astrod, the big boof head."

"I was playing as Murmur, the necromancer, and I thought that my magic would be enough to wipe him off the map.
But he actually beat me.
And so I went crawling off to my creative director, Ty, and I said, Ty, I will be your vassal. I will serve you."

"Just help me destroy Jarrus.
And he did.
But within a couple of turns, I was already plotting rebellion.
How can I undermine Ty?
How can I escape?
Can I manipulate someone into getting Ty excommunicated in order to break that relationship?
It's very hard to eliminate a player because hell in our hell, in any cases, it is ruled by the infernal conclave, which has these very strict Kafkaesque rules and protocols that you have to follow, and you can't just kill anyone at any time."

"You have to do a vendetta.
You can get into a feud with them if you succeed three vendettas in a row.
So you can eventually kill someone, but generally you'll make your way to the throne just by humiliating them, having the most prestige, being elected."

"You can also try and take Pandemonium by force, but if you do that, you'll be excommunicated and everyone will try and kill you.
So finally then, I guess, when can we expect to see Solemn Infernum and what platforms will it be available on?
So we'll be doing a single-player demo at Next Fest, so coming up very soon, and we'll be streaming the game at Strategy Fest as well, about a week, and the game itself should be releasing early next year."

"PC only?
Oh, yes.
So we're targeting Steam, and we'll see for other PC platforms.
It is very much a PC game, so that's where we're at for now, but we'll see."

Will, thank you so much for your time."





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