Greeting warriors of Calradia!
With the recent release of e1.6.0 and well over a hundred game updates under our belt since the start of early access, we figured it’s about time that we discussed some of the progress made since our previous blog post back in April before turning our attention to some of the future plans for the game. Oh, and fair warning, this is a bit of a big one so you might want to grab yourself a drink and make yourself comfortable before reading on!
Over the past few months, dozens of new scenes, items, animations, icons, artwork, and sounds have been added to the game, greatly expanding the options and experiences available to you while journeying through Calradia. Additionally, several new features and systems were introduced, presenting you with fresh challenges while giving you greater control over key aspects of the game.
Some of the additions could be considered to be a bit more substantial, such as; Crafting Orders, which provides more purpose and meaning to the extensive weapon crafting system by allowing you to explore a new career path within the sandbox; Keep Battles, which expand sieges with the addition of climactic battles in the heart of besieged castles; Party and Kingdom War Stances, which allow you to assign orders to subordinate parties to dictate their approach towards hostilities; and Duel, a new multiplayer game mode that pits you against other players in single combat.
Meanwhile, other impactful, but perhaps a bit more subtle, additions were made, including; unique rewards when joining a kingdom for the first time; ransom offers for prisoners; revised cultural bonuses; more difficulty options, including an Ironman mode which restricts your playthrough to a single save file; new quests; the ability to abdicate a throne; various quality of life and UI updates, such as the overhaul of the Kingdom Wars tab and the introduction of an event log; Encyclopedia and Party screen tweaks; AI combat improvements; settlement production icons; and the ability to pick and choose specific troops in custom battles.
Of course, none of this will be news to you if you have been following the development of the game from the patch notes or Development Update videos, so let’s move on to discuss some of our plans moving forward!
Usually, around this time of the year, we’d be sharing our plans for gamescom with you. However, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic making meeting you in person in Cologne this year all but impossible, we have decided to forgo participating in gamescom related activities this time around, including the online event. Instead, we feel that our time would be best spent keeping our heads down and focussing entirely on the development of the game, without any additional distractions.
With most of our employees now having received their second vaccine shot, we have started to make plans for a phased return to the studio. Naturally, the health and well-being of our team are of utmost importance to our decision making and we will be taking many safety measures. This, combined with the many new faces that have joined the team since we started working remotely makes planning the seating arrangements a little trickier, but we want to assure you that, just as at the start of the pandemic, we are well prepared for this transition and work will continue on the game unabated.
Switching the topic back to the game, in the short to medium term we intend to focus on the following priorities for singleplayer. However, please be aware that this is not an exhaustive list and you should expect a few additional surprises in addition to the planned features outlined below!
The battle terrain system was initially announced in Development Update #7 and it was great to see the positive feedback that it received! The feature will provide a more strategic and unique experience for each and every battle by associating specific scenes with campaign map regions rather than terrain types, while also taking into account party positioning and orientation within the region to influence the initial battle setup.
Since the announcement, we have continued to work on the system and have notably increased the pool of field battle scenes to better support it. However, due to the sheer scale of this feature and the amount of work required, you can expect to see updates to this through the addition of new scenes long after it is made available to you.
While adventuring through Calradia, it is almost guaranteed that you will pick up a companion or two to accompany you on your journey. These characters can fight alongside you in battle, or assist you with crafting, questing, or governing your fiefs. They may also be assigned to lead caravans or clan parties to earn you additional coin or influence. As your campaign progresses and the bonds between you and your followers develop, we feel that it’s only appropriate that you should be able to reward them for their loyalty and service by elevating them to the ranks of the nobility, if you so choose of course!
While the Mount & Blade series has always emphasised fighting alongside and commanding your troops from within the thick of the battle, nothing speaks against establishing some order before you clash with your enemies!
This feature will allow you to assign troops and heroes to formations, as well as, give them orders and position them during the deployment phase for both battles and sieges.
Alongside Order of Battle, we are working on the Banner Bearer feature, which will allow heroes to bring their banners to battle and have them carried by soldiers within their formation. Not only will this make battles more colourful and visually diverse, but there will also be gameplay effects for the soldiers marching under each banner.
Another means to increase the variety of encounters and make AI party leaders feel more distinct are party templates. Currently, party leaders pursue largely the same “effective” template through their recruitment and upgrading of troops. We will explore and implement a greater number of templates that may be assigned to AI party leaders based on their cultural and character traits.
The sandbox simulation includes many significant life events, ranging from the death of a comrade to witnessing the birth of your child. Whether these are ill or good tidings, they are currently communicated quite abstractly. As such, we intend to give them more life and improve overall immersion by introducing several cut scene notifications, similar to the existing execution animation.
Looking a bit further ahead, we will continue to make progress in many other key areas of the sandbox, with some of our longer-term priorities being:
Sieges in Bannerlord are quite dynamic events that can play out in a number of different ways, with one outcome being defenders sallying out to break the siege. Currently, the game will initiate a standard field battle for these encounters, which can be a little immersion breaking and isn’t truly befitting of the event. In the future, we want the sally out action to have its own dedicated mission that plays out on the relevant siege scene, making these unique events a bit more special. Forth Eorlingas!
As always, and as our recent patch notes can attest to, work continues on adding a variety of new scenes to the game. In addition to Towns, our current focus is on creating scenes for the Battle Terrain System. Naturally, you should also expect to see improvements and updates to existing scenes, as well as, the addition of some new, more specific scenes.
The setting of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is one of turmoil, with the Emperor murdered and the Calradic Empire heading towards civil war. It should come as no surprise that such times of change provide opportunities to actors that would otherwise have stayed in the shadows. They may just need the right hero to help them press their claim...
Yup, you heard that right! A portion of the dialogues in Bannerlord will be voiced in English. This will focus on areas that you are likely to experience often or in a meaningful way, such as greetings and conversations from the main storyline.
Of course, we will also be working on maintaining, balancing and improving all of the existing singleplayer features and content. This is including further AI fixes and improvements, for sieges in particular, as well as, a continued effort to improve performance across the board. This extends to the polishing of any newly introduced content, such as War & Peace reasons, and balancing existing mechanics like Birth & Death rates, skill experience gains, and armour effectiveness. It also covers the addition of smaller mechanics, like an AI death chance in simulation battles, an option to respec perks, and the ability to retire the active main character.
Furthermore, we will continue to expand content such as issue quests, music and sounds, animations, models (including crafting pieces), artwork, and so forth.
Moving on to the multiplayer side of the game, these are our current priorities for the short to medium term. However, just as with the singleplayer plans outlined above, this is not an all-encompassing list!
The matchmaking system will allow you to play the game in a more competitive setting and be assigned ranks based on your performances in both Skirmish and Captain game modes. This system will be much stricter than the current match finding system when it comes to pairing evenly matched opponents against one another, allowing you to test your skills against other players on a more even footing.
The progression system will reward you simply for playing the game! You will be able to use your hard-earned points to unlock skins for your troops and sigils for your profile. Eventually, this will be expanded with further customisation systems that will reward you for your multiplayer engagements and escapades!
A rudimentary version of voice chat was already introduced to Skirmish mode quite recently, however, we would be the first ones to admit that it is a little lacking. We intend to improve this over time by giving you more options and control over the voice chat system, allowing you to communicate with your teammates more easily and effectively.
Voice chat isn’t really for everyone, and it certainly doesn’t help when it comes to taunting your opponents! Thankfully, this is something that we have already taken into consideration with the Cheer and Shout systems. Cheers will allow you to express yourself to your opponents and teammates through a number of different animations and sounds. Meanwhile, Shouts will open up another method of communication with your teammates through a variety of combined audio and text commands, allowing you to suggest where to attack and defend more quickly and efficiently, and all without waking up everyone in the house!
Of course, it is all well and good discussing the ways that we intend to improve teamwork and communication in multiplayer, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a bit of healthy competition within the team either right?! With the introduction of the Most Valuable Player (MVP) system, the best performing player in each round will receive an MVP award which will be displayed for all to see and admire, giving you that extra little incentive to push yourself to try and outperform your teammates.
Similarly, a new end of match screen is in the works which will give a more detailed summary of each game, including awards for players that achieve impressive feats during a match or otherwise excel in different areas of combat and the game mode.
The flag capture system will be reworked to take away some of the emphasis from the flags. This will be achieved by having nearby enemies slow down the rate at which flags can be captured, with the aim of promoting a more free and open fight around the flag without needing to constantly hug the flag pole. This change also aims to ensure that rounds will no longer end while a fight is taking place under a flag, switching the focus in those moments from the flag to the combat.
Alongside the more major updates outlined above, work will continue on improving all other aspects of multiplayer, including; an overhaul of the score calculation system to better account for damage dealt and objectives achieved; a rework of the entire scoreboard; the addition of multiple projectile mangonels to Siege, as well as, ballista aiming and performance improvements; a new single life game mode; general gameplay improvements to each game mode; new badges to track your accomplishments; updates and changes to perks; and a host of new maps.
Additionally, we will continue to work with our community combat testing group to further balance and refine the finer details of the combat and character class systems. More details on this will be shared in the next Development Update video, so make sure to give our YouTube channel a follow to ensure you don’t miss out on that!
Finally, later down the line (and possibly after the full release of the game), we intend to share custom server files to allow you to host your own multiplayer game servers.
Of course, not all of the game’s features and systems are restricted to just singleplayer or multiplayer, and so, here’s just some of our plans for specific updates that will affect the entire game:
The Battle Ambient Sound System will group and merge distant battle sounds to single sound events, reducing sound-related calculations by up to 70%. This means that even low-end machines will be able to hear the distant roars and clashes of crowded battlefields without giving up on performance. The system will also allow us to sculpt more refined distant sounds in the future, so hurray for high-end too!
To further improve sounds, we are also working on transitioning to Quad Ambiences. Quad Ambiences will provide a depth of directionality to our ambient beds without adversely impacting performance, meaning that you should be able to tell which way you are facing even with your eyes closed. And as a pleasant side effect, it also means that ambients will sound much better on 5.1/7.1 surround sound systems too!
We are pleased to announce that localisation of the game is ongoing for English, Turkish, Simplified Chinese, Brazilian-Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, and Spanish.
Additionally, together with our partners, we have been working on not just direct translations, but also on building a system that can support the game’s dynamic texts that have variable characters, objects, genders and grammatical contexts.
Modding support continues to be a key priority for us, with many recent changes made in direct response to the feedback from our modding community. We intend to continue fully supporting modding through improvements and additions to our existing modding tools, alongside new, and more detailed documentation and guides over on the Bannerlord Modding Documentation website. We can also confirm that Steam Workshop is planned as a future update meaning that you will be able to access and share mods with ease.
Whew! So that was quite a lot to get through, but it still leaves a couple of big questions unanswered. Mainly, when will the game be fully released, and on what platforms? Well, we want to be up-front at this point by saying that early access will continue on into next year, with our current estimate for the full release being Q2 2022. We are fairly confident that we will hit that target, however, if we feel the game still isn’t ready at that point, then we will delay the release. As for platforms, we can confirm that the game will be coming to consoles, however, we are unable to share any further details on this just yet.
And finally, we just want to take a moment to thank you for your continued support. Whether it’s through backing the game in early access, sending crash dumps and creating bug reports, sharing feedback over on our forums, or even just taking the time to read this post, we truly, truly appreciate it. Thank you!