Chatting with Tribe Nation developer Jindřich Skeldal

by MaddOx
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In the ever-evolving landscape of video games, few genres captivate the blend of history and strategy as eloquently as Tribe Nation, the latest offering from independent developer Random Worlds. Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous Gallic Wars, this real-time strategy roguelike game promises to immerse players in an era where strategy, survival, and historical intrigue intertwine.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Jindrich Skeldal, the creative mind behind this ambitious project, to delve into the game’s conception, its unique mechanics, and what players can expect from this blend of historical authenticity and innovative gameplay.

Join us as we explore the genesis of Tribe Nation, the challenges faced during its development, and the exhilarating experience it aims to offer to strategy enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

First off, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role in the development of Tribe Nation?

My name is Jindřich Skeldal. I have been a game developer for almost 30 years. I did games for PC, XBox 360, iOS, Android and VR. At the beginning of my career I also worked as a game journalist for print media and for Cech Public TV. Mostly I work as a solo developer (7 Mages, Fish Odyssey, Theatre VR) but I occasionally work with other teams. This is how I participated in Dreamkiller or Beat Saber.

What sparked the idea for Tribe Nation, and why did you choose the Gallic Wars as the historical backdrop?

To be honest, I usually work on my own ideas. But this time it was an investor who came up with the idea for the game. He previously worked as a press spokesman for the Czech Ministry of Defense so he is close to military themes. I examined the idea, made some changes and wrote the final design documents. There is so much undiscovered on the Celtic age!

Tribe Nation combines roguelike elements with real-time strategy. How do these genres complement each other in your game?

You represent a tribe that decides not to bow to Caesar. At the same time, you know that you can’t beat him, so you fight your way through all of Europe to escape him and to find a new homeland. All this with the Roman legions hot on your heels. You travel from stop to stop, each with a short, five-minute real-time battle that takes place on a single screen. Hexagons of battlefields are randomly generated, as are loot and battle events. If you get defeated, you have to try your luck with another tribe and start over.

Tribe Nation gameplay

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in designing the game’s mechanics and how did you overcome them?

The Celts perfected the art of war. They only used one 70cm sword (90cm with a rounded tip when mounted), chain mail (which they invented) and helmet with cheeks, and an ellipsoidal shield that covered them from shin to shoulder. This is how they can stand in a phalanx formation. It was so good that Romans copied everything from them. So one challenge was to design tribe development (RPG elements) with one kind of sword, shield and armour.

How important was historical accuracy in the development process, and how did you balance this with gameplay?

It was very important! In general, the way of fighting corresponds to the time before Christ. However, I’m letting the fictional Celtic tribe learn! This is their evolutionary advantage. So they can use things that exist in their age anywhere in the world but the Celts don’t usually use them. It takes the form of a rare or legendary upgrade. 

For example, they can learn “Mane Ride”. They took over here from the Germanic tribes. One warrior is on a horse and one is grabbing the mane and making long jumps. In the game, it reduces horse resource requirements to half.

As a developer, what’s your personal favourite feature or aspect of Tribe Nation?

I like that every element in the game has its irreplaceable place. Each element can be used to create a win strategy.

Who do you see as the ideal player for Tribe Nation, and what do you hope they take away from the game?

The only thing I would hope as a developer a player takes away from the game is the amount of time they had fun. Plus that Celts were not tree huggers. They were mainly warriors! I think the game could be fun for FTL or Slay The Spire players, or Ultimate General: Civil War players, or someone who likes C&C: Rivals’ idea but wants something similar on PC and in single player. Generally it can be fun for anyone who likes to think about combinations that beat the system.

How has community feedback shaped the development of Tribe Nation so far?

The game was announced on January 9th, so we don’t have much feedback yet. However, I hired a dedicated community manager to communicate with people. She and I are the only full time people on this project. I hope that describes how much I value player feedback.

Tribe Nation screenshot of gameplay

Can you tell us about the sound design and music in Tribe Nation? How does it enhance the gaming experience?

Sound design is very important to make a mood but I will also use it to tell you what is happening on the battlefield.

What elements have you incorporated into Tribe Nation to ensure high replay value?

Every pass during the game is different. Every battle map, every loot, every shop shelf is randomly generated.

Are there any plans for post-launch updates or expansions? Can you give us a sneak peek into what might be in store?

There are no plans yet for what will happen after the game’s launch. It’s too early for that. Personally, I would like to see multiplayer in the game. Internally, I try to design everything symmetrically so that it is easy to replace the computer brain with a human brain on the other side of the network.

How do you think Tribe Nation fits into current gaming industry trends, and what sets it apart from other RTS games?

There are not many serious games about the Celts. I believe the combination of single-screen real-time (or stop-time) strategy with the roguelike genre is unique. I think there are plenty of small design elements in the game that are also unique. It will be a good addition to “five more minutes and I go to sleep” games. 

What advice would you give to aspiring game developers who want to create their own unique titles?

Love your game! Do the best you can! Never say “This will be enough for people.” That’s hardly a way to stand out.

Tribe Nation gameplay screenshot

What was the most fun or unexpected moment during the development of Tribe Nation?

For me personally, it was the time I had to say goodbye to leather armour. After years of designing fantasy RPGs, I must admit that leather armour is nonsense.

If you could have any historical figure from the Gallic Wars era play Tribe Nation, who would it be and why?

Personally, I would like to meet Caesar because he has done incredible things. He must have been an interesting person. Smart, educated, charismatic, excellent at self promotion. His personal quality was exceptionally well suited to the time and place in which he lived.

But even more I wish all the Celts would play this game and see why the Romans defeated them even though they were the better warriors.

And there we have it, our first Q&A of 2024. We’d like to thank Jindrich for taking the time out of their busy schedule to answer our questions. If you want to check out the game for yourself, you can find it available to play on Steam right now. And, should you want to join the Tribe Nation community and offer your feedback on the game, or just chat with other players, you can head on over and join the official Discord server.

Keep an eye out for more interviews hitting the site soon by going over to our Interview section and bookmarking it so you always know where to go.

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