SAGA Post-Launch Interview with Slava Zatuchny

Questions by Garrett Fuller, Industry Relations
Questions by Garrett Fuller, Industry Relations
Answers by Slava Zatuchny, Marketing Director for Silverlode Interactive

In the beginning there was only one type of massively multiplayer online game, the MMORPG. However, as time has passed we’ve begun to see other genres aside from the RPG attempt to break into the MMO gaming sphere. The latest on this last has been SAGA, an MMORTS created by Silverlode Interactive. To find out more about this recently released game, Ten Ton Hammer’s Garrett Fuller interviewed Slava Zatuchny, Marketing Director for Silverlode. Enjoy!

Eight months of beta-testing has led to a crash-free release for SAGA.

Ten Ton Hammer: SAGA has successfully been put on the marketplace for consumers to buy. How are things running in the game?

Slava Zatuchny: As far as MMO launches go, we’re top-tier. No server crashes in weeks. There are, of course, some bugs in-game, but we’ve taken care of the bugs that we considered most important. The SAGA development team is getting bigger and bigger, such that we’ll be adding a lot of content, features, and of course meticulous bug-fixing for years to come. We feel that the SAGA we’re releasing is (after eight months of beta-testing) finally ‘ready’, but by no means ‘complete’.

Ten Ton Hammer: SAGA has been classified as an MMORTS. Can you tell us about the design of the game from a player’s standpoint?

Slava: From a player’s standpoint, as you say, I think the easiest way to describe SAGA is “World of Warcraft, but with armies…” Not literally, of course. But we tried to combine everything we liked in MMOs with everything we liked from our favorite RTS games. So, take a standard RTS, say Age of Empires or Battle for Middle Earth; that means mass battles with buildings and tech upgrades and troop upgrades and multiple factions and special abilities and ranged vs. flying vs. melee and walls and gatehouses and cavalry and campaign trails and PvP mode… and everything else you typically find in an RTS (big breath!). Now make that game persistent, where the cities you build and the battles you fight are all part of an MMO world that keeps going, even when you’re offline. Your buildings are constructing, your resources are being gathered, your peasants are working, your guild war is continuing… Add questing (both solo and multiplayer partying with friends), XP for your troops (like MMO characters) to level up, thousands of weapons and armors won in quests, an auction house, a constant online player community, in-game email, more than a thousand preset quest scenarios, etc. and you can start to get a feel for what an MMORTS has to offer.

Ten Ton Hammer: There are several factions in SAGA; can you talk about how they fit into different play styles?

Slava: SAGA currently has 5 races/classes, so to speak, which fit into 2 opposing factions. The Order is made up of three sub-factions: Light (Giants), Machines (Dwarves), and Nature (Elves). The Brotherhood are the sworn enemies of the Order, and have two sub-factions: Magic (Dark Elves) and War (Orcs). For those of you who notice an imbalance (3 vs. 2), here’s a bit of a spoiler for our friends at Ten Ton Hammer: We’re working on an expansion set, which will release a new sub-faction to join with the Brotherhood, and restore balance to the world. Search the quest storyline for hints about this new mysterious faction…

Anyway, back to the question at hand. The five sub-factions correspond to very different play styles:

War (Orcs) is aggressive and strongest in melee, both in attack and defense. War is typically played by commanders who most value honor, courage, and strength, and are strong in all facets of battle, especially in rush attacks and capturing enemy buildings.

Magic (Dark Elves) is proficient in the dark arts. The Dark Elves have powerful spells, but their troops have less hit points and armor. Magic players are masters of control and subterfuge, a formidable combination.

Light (Giants) are strongest in defense, healing, and flying units. They are champions of justice and order. Light players are cooperative and social, and are a good complement to any team battle.

Nature (Elves) is powerful at ranged attacks, is the fastest faction, and has reasonably strong magic, but is weak in melee fighting. Nature players make quick strike attacks and are good at tactical maneuvers on the battlefield.

Machines (Dwarves) is the faction of industry and technology, powerful at ranged attacks, but slower than their Nature faction allies. What the dwarves lack in magic they make up for in guns and steam-powered tanks. Machines faction is best played by methodical, calculating players, who form careful plans and execute like clockwork.

Collecting units is one part of the business equation for SAGA.

Ten Ton Hammer: Players have the chance to collect their units and build their armies, similar to a collectible card game. It seems very exciting for gamers, how does it work?

Slava: SAGA is free to play, with no subscription fee. That being said, we encourage players to buy Booster Packs from our website (, which each provide 10 additional troops and/or spells to a player’s army. That way, players can pay as much or as little as they choose, without ever having to regret the subscription fee that just keeps on deducting even when they don’t have time to play.

If players want to spend fifteen dollars a month for a ‘subscription’, at least in SAGA they get to have the fun and excitement of owning and opening a bunch of booster packs. If they’re lucky, they’ll get a Dragon or a Mech Giant or even an armored zeppelin…

The collectible model has worked for years in tabletop strategy gaming: think miniatures games like Warhammer, or card strategy games like Magic: The Gathering. It’s only natural that an RTS would utilize the same model online. Even players who aren’t used to collectibility seem to warm up to it very quickly.

We, the developers at Silverlode Interactive, have been careful about making sure that players who spend more don’t have an unfair advantage. Players willing to spend some time trading in the market, or questing for treasure to trade for troops and spells, or buying troops with gold earned through resource collection, can achieve exactly the same result as a player who buys a lot of booster packs.

In any case, we find that players with the better strategies typically win, regardless of who has the rarer troops.

Ten Ton Hammer: SAGA has a great interface for players to build up their cities and territories. Can you tell us about the design of world building in SAGA?

Slava: A well-built, carefully designed city and territories makes a huge difference in SAGA battles. The most obvious features are walls and defensive structures like towers, keeps and strongholds, which fire at your enemies and can be vital to success on the battlefield. Less obvious is the role of houses, which (as usual) provide housing for peasants, but also can summon peasants during battle, and increase the morale of your troops in general. Farms increase troop stamina, lumber camps and stone quarries for building hitpoints, etc. Not every feature we intended has been implemented just yet, but it’s all coming soon.

The buildings themselves also serve as the interface elements, when not in battle. Clicking on the market building (oddly enough), takes you to the in-game auction house and market interface. The stronghold is where you organize and equip your armies, set orders for your peasants, and send out espionage against your enemies. The temple is where you resurrect fallen troops, the pigeon roost for in-game email, the university for tech upgrades, etc.

Each city has four shrines round about it. If all four are captured or destroyed, the battle is lost for that player. This helps prevent players from hiding inside their cities rather than defending their lands. On the other hand, it’s not a great idea to let your enemies pillage your outlying gold mines and lumber camps and farmlands either. SAGA is persistent; it’s going to cost money to repair those buildings, not to mention the resources the plunderers have made off with.

Capturing enemy buildings is an essential part of SAGA battle. Capturing buildings increases your command points, and lowers the command points of your opponent. Command points are the value that determines how many units you can field at a time. More command points = larger army on the field = victory.

Ten Ton Hammer: SAGA is an independent game, what is it like building the entire world from the ground up and seeing it grow to launch?

Slava: It’s unbelievable. We’ve gotten the chance to make the game of our dreams, and we won’t stop until it’s the best game we can make it. I made movies for years before creating SAGA. It’s not much fun to watch the movies I make. But playing SAGA is great, I’m a total addict. We’re all thrilled to be lucky enough to be doing what we love best.

On a less effusive note (that last paragraph was more enthusiastic than I like to be in a printed interview), there are a lot of questions that I’ve been waiting three years to get answers to, and it’s a relief to finally have them answered. Is MMORTS the future of RTS? (It absolutely is.) Can we stay in budget without cutting features? (No we can’t, so we kept the features, raised the budget…) Will SAGA development ever end? (No, it won’t. We’re making an MMO, so prepare to work on it for the rest of our lives, patch after patch, expansion after expansion…)

An expansion for SAGA is already in the works.

Ten Ton Hammer: Talk a little about the elder gods and the lore in SAGA. What would you like players to know?

Slava: Interesting you would mention the Elder Gods… They’re all dead in this, the Second Age of Gaia. Or are they? One Elder God is still imprisoned in the center of the world, watched over by daemonkind.

The five factions in SAGA each have a God, and each have their own Gods’ interests in mind. Each of the five younger gods created their chosen race to inhabit the world, and the Saga of endless battle and war began. The allegiances of Order and Brotherhood formed an imbalance that will right itself in time.

The backstory will come out more and more as the story unfolds through the quest lines. We have many quests to release over time, and the story will lead to expansions and new alliances in the future. Player involvement in the story will keep things spontaneous, as quest lines are completed and faction objectives are met. I’d better not say any more about this just yet…

Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any plans for material post-launch? Expansions, patches etc?

Slava: *laughs* Yes, yes, and yes. Our team is growing every month. We have big plans for SAGA in the future. Expansions will add new factions, new features (such as tournaments in the very near future), and weekly patches will continually add content and balance as the Saga continues…

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers at Ten Ton Hammer about SAGA that we have not covered?  

Slava: Check us out at SAGA’s a little different, but if you know RTS and you’ve played an MMO, you’ll catch on fast. The RTS is dead. Long live the MMORTS.

Do you truly think MMORTS’s are the future of MMO gaming? Let us know on the forums!

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