(This was originally published on the MacGamer site in December 2010. Since then, Virtual Programming has published the third Majesty 2 expansion pack, Monster Kingdom.)
Majesty 2: Fantasy Franchise Given a Second Chance
With Virtual Programming releasing both Majesty 2 expansion packs, Kingmaker and Battles of Ardania, this week (and promising near-simultaneous publication of the third early next year), we thought we’d take a look at the story of a plucky little fantasy property that could have ended up on Skid Row but instead found itself with a new home and a new purpose in life.
When the original Majesty was released in 2002, it quickly gained cult status for its brand of quirky humor and its mélange of strategy and role-playing elements. The first mission set the tone for what was to come, with a royal advisor sounding like John Cleese and imploring you to find the stolen Magic Bell, Holy Book, and Eternal Candle. However, it wasn’t a task that you, as the king, could dirty your hands with, forcing you to build guilds and produce some heroes to do the job.
Of course, like any heroes, they weren’t about to look for your sacred stuff without a financial carrot on a stick, so you had to entice them to go on quests on your behalf. As they wandered the kingdom, they encountered monsters and grew more powerful during those battles. Each of the game’s subsequent missions offered the same basic template, although you soon found yourself juggling multiple objectives and ever-more-difficult-to-entice heroes, along with basic kingdom functions to manage. The role-playing/strategy hybrid nature of the game was something many players enjoyed.
Unfortunately, Majesty’s original developer, Cyberlore Studios, moved on from the games business, leaving the property orphaned. Enter Paradox Interactive, who just happened to not only publish games but also love Majesty. (We know: quite a coincidence.) As Mattias Lilja, Executive Producer at Paradox, told us: “We thought we could make something of Majesty 2, both in a business sense and from a gameplay point of view. We were old-time players of the original and had spent many hours enjoying the indirect control RTS and the quirky humor. When we found a similarly Majesty-addicted studio in 1C/Ino-co, we decided to go for it.”
He continued: “We also talked to the makers of the original game, and with a sweet mixture of praise and cheap liquor we tried to pry all the juicy secrets from them. No, seriously, we did talk to them but not in any official fashion where they had continuous input on the project.”
Let the Tweaking Begin
1C is a Russian development studio known for its long line of historical and fantasy sims and strategy titles, including another Paradox-published effort, Elven Legacy, which Virtual Programming also has in the works for Mac OS X. As Majesty 2’s design got underway, the focus of the original game shifted ever so slightly, Lilja noted: “To us, the core of Majesty was the lovingly disrespectful take on the fantasy genre and the indirect control of units. We decided to go with that and take Majesty 2 in the direction of more RTS and less sim.”
He added: “Majesty had a very dedicated but shrinking following, and we needed to broaden the appeal of the game. Going more RTS was our answer to that challenge, so Majesty 2 is an RTS first and foremost. The indirect control the player exerts over his troops makes for a very different experience from most RTS games. The hero advancement does not get in the way of the RTS gameplay; instead, it plays out as part of the player’s efforts to facilitate the growth of his base.”
Lilja also pointed out that a more RTS-centric game brought with it further tweaking: “Revamping the class system made sense since we went more for RTS. That required a bit of streamlining for a tighter gameplay experience.”
He added: “The RTS plays differently [from other games], due to the indirect control/bounty system. As Majesty of the realm, your power over your subjects is not absolute. Loyalty is nowhere to be found, and compliance with lordly commands is highly conditional on adequate incentives. Bribery is the name of the game.”
However, there was a concerted effort to ensure the tone of the original didn’t change. “Majesty 2 rests firmly on the staples of fantasy that we all love, and also loves to poke fun at. This we inherited from the original game, and it was one of the reasons why we were interested in it in the first place,” Lilja said.
Words of Wisdom
So, does Lilja have any advice for would-be monarchs and their bribery-laden plans? He replied: “I usually wait until the heroes have gained enough levels before I get them together in parties. So after a while I have a few high-level parties that can do the heavy hitting, while less experienced heroes can respond individually to lesser bounties.
“The exceptions are wizards: I try to get them into parties with a cleric as soon as possible, to give them access to much-needed healing. The mages in Majesty 2 are a cocky bunch, more interested in showing off than staying safe behind a shield wall. That’s where I step in as sovereign and rule with an iron fist — or in the case of Majesty2, bribe them to do my bidding.”
What does the future hold for this franchise given a second chance at development? Lilja gave us some thoughts: “We have announced the third expansion for Majesty 2, called Monster Kingdom. It adds a twist to the game, as the player needs to find very unlikely allies. In the not-too-distant future we plan to announce even more titles set in Ardania, the world of Majesty 2. Stay tuned!”