Neptune's Pride: Hardcore Strategy Without Hard Work

Recently a group of ex-2K Australia employees decided to create their own independent studio, Iron Helmet Games. Their first game, Neptune's Pride, is in open beta. It's a 4X strategy game played through your browser.

This weekend, Blend Games had a chance to talk with Iron Helmet's founder Jay Kyburz about Neptune's Pride, his reasons for leaving 2K Australia, and what it means to be "hardcore."

Why did you and your co-workers decide to split off from 2K Australia and form Iron Helmet? You mentioned in your initial email to me that there had been "big changes at 2K" - are they related to your departure?

Yes and No, I can't speak for everybody, but I wanted to get back to actually making and releasing games. 2K is very focused on the big budget blockbusters that take hundreds of people and years to make. 2K had 4 studios around the globe working on Bioshock 2. Even during the first Bioshock, Irrational Games felt like a small studio. It's the small studio culture that I miss.

Neptune's Pride, Iron Helmet's first project, is a 4X strategy. That seems very different from Irrational/2K Australia's previous games, which were generally action titles. What made you decide to try out a new genre?

We've been making FPS's for along time now, and we did seriously consider building an open world FPS in Unreal similar to <>Bioshock, but in the end we decided the new studio needs new problems, new challenges, something different. 4x is one of my favorite genres and I wanted to have a crack at it.

We are also watching the social gaming thing very closely. Those Facebook games that are making so much money could be much better if the games behind them were more substantial.

In your email to me, you stated that Iron Helmet is committed to making "old school hardcore strategy games." On the other hand, the website for Nature's Pride states that the game streamlines some typical strategy actions like researching technology and building units. Whenever I hear the phrase "hardcore strategy," it makes me think there's going to be a huge amount of micromanagement. Is that a faulty assumption?

Yeah, we use the term "hardcore" because to do well and enjoy the game you will need to actually sit down and think about the games mechanics, build a strategy, and negotiate with other players. I don't think hardcore has to mean the game is hard work. We'll be streamlining the game so you can focus on interesting decisions rather than clicking around the interface allot.

What additional features are you looking to add to the game as the beta progresses?

There are lots of features still to add, we've only been working on NP for 4 months. It's in beta already because we wanted to have something out there and playable as soon as possible.

The feature I'm most excited about it the Alien designer. Before the start of a game, players will be able to chose a set of abilities that will set them apart them from other players. It will give something for players to build a unique strategy around.

Do you see Iron Helmet developing primarily for the PC? Do you think a game like Neptune's Pride could work on consoles?

We don't see ourselves locked into the PC and will be looking at all platforms. NP is already playable on the PS3 through the browser, and we will begin work on an iPhone port soon. We are particularly excited by the rumors of Apple's tablet, it will be the perfect device to play our games on.

Pete Haas

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.