The Origins of Chivalry

Article written by Kor
Published on 09-28-2008; updated on 08-17-2014

The Origins of Chivalry

After we released the initial Age of Chivalry, which featured eight civilisations (England, Scotland, Wales, France, Brittany, Burgundy, Flanders, Friesland), New architecture we were happy to have finished that work. However, we quickly saw opportunities for improving the game even more as well as introducing new countries. Quite a few alternative set-ups were discussed, varying in scope and number of civilisations. Nevertheless, quite soon, in 2005 (!) we decided that we would mod the Arab civilisations to change into Guelders, Lorraine, Savoy and Genoa.

We dutifully went to work on them, creating more building art, changing more statistics and even working on some new unit graphics. While this was going on, we realised we were working faster than we had anticipated, and so we decided to change all civilisations. With six more countries to introduce, we now picked Switzerland (Helvetia), Austria, Bavaria, Denmark, Bohemia, and Saxony. Initially we were not sure whether we should also change the Meso-American civilisations, as that would increase the workload even more, but Andrew wanted Denmark in while I thought the game seemed a bit empty without Switzerland, and so we agreed to go for a complete change. The planning phase for this was underway in February 2006.

Choosing Sides

So, how did we pick our countries? First of all, we looked at geographic proximity to the countries already included. One of our reasons for starting the modification was the fact that games such as Koreans versus Aztecs held little interest to the historical gamer (at least to us) and so we would be hypocritical if our scope became too wide and we introduced countries unfamiliar to the other countries. Plans to include all of Europe were therefore quickly dismissed.

Burgundy versus Guelders

A prime requirement for the new countries was therefore that they had interacted with many of the other countries. This quickly ruled out the Italian states, which, being protected by the Alps, saw little military contact with Western Europe, excluding their mercenaries, represented by Genoa. Another natural barrier of note was formed by the Pyrenees. While we will not deny the involvement of the Peninsular powers in, for example, the Hundred Years War, the fact remains that they were on the periphery and north of the Pyrenees they generally fought in support of an ally, not to subjugate a country (excluding perhaps Charles of Navarre, but he was a bit mad).

The German principalities were the logical next step; we marked our border at Bohemia, which was necessarily included if only because of the Hussite Wars, which also marks them out as militarily unique. While countries to the east of the Empire were also considered, such as Poland and Hungary, these were quickly dismissed, because they had little contact with our Western European countries; the gap between, say, France and Bohemia was more easily bridged (and historically so – Bohemia and France held strong ties even before King John of Bohemia died at the battle of Crécy fighting for the French).

Customising the Game

When we were making good progress implementing the new countries, we looked for new ways of importing further realism into he game. After a lot of discussion and testing, we stuck with an ambitious new design. Among others, this split both the heavy cavalry and heavy infantry lines into heavy and medium unit groups, with the heavies trained at the Castle and the mediums at the Stable and Levy or Militia Quarters. When the medium infantry turned out to be typically not worth the money, we changed Halberdiers into Halberd Militia and made them the final upgrade to the Footman, a more realistic option considering the halberd's past. Another major change included altering population counts for the higher quality units, like the heavy infantry and cavalry, the siege weapons and military vessels. This was a conscious choice to prevent any fantastic unit from dominating the battlefield, making those who invested heavily into, for example, a Scorpion defence pay the price for it.

Another altered combat dynamic came with archery units and light cavalry. Archers were, with a few exceptions, like English Archers or Genoese Crossbowmen, often ignored. We improved their combat use by giving them greater range, while simultaneously increasing their minimum range, which prevented them from shooting at nearby units. This made it all the more important for any archer unit to be well protected, because units closing in on them could have a field day and easily disperse them. To add to this feature, we increased the movement speed of light cavalry units. This was done because their speed was initially hardly different from that of heavy cavalry, making them less than useful. Their greater speed gives them an actual purpose - dispersing enemy ranged units and priests - while they are still incapable of holding their own against melee foes. And there are plenty of these for them fear, most notably the much improved pike formations.

The Final Hurdle

While initially changes to the original game were rather limited, our skills of manipulating the engine grew as work on the modpack continued. We learnt a few tricks, most notably the idea now known as the policy decision. This idea was developed when we realised the logic behind the technology tree: almost all units and buildings, minus the unique ones, Mounted Crossbowmen were by default available to all civilisations. However, a no-cost, hidden technology launching at the start of the game disabled all technologies and units Ensemble Studios did not want that country to use. We realised a similar technology could launch in the middle of the game, creating a whole new range of possibilities. We decided to create two such policy decisions for every country in the game.

Historically, we were lucky. The 14th and 15th centuries saw a lot of faction struggles within countries, giving us excellent staging grounds for our policy decisions, which would work best if they were more or less polar opposites. As we didn't have enough time to research extensively initially, the policy decisions were made more unique as time progressed. For example the more urbanised states could originally choose between patrician or noble power, strengthening either militias or knightly units, but in almost all cases these have now been adjusted to be more unique, like the Saxon choice between becoming an electorate (Kurfürst) or joining the Hanseatic League.

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