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How Kingdom Under Fire 2 survived a shifting game market for 7 years

Kingdom Under Fire 2 is a survivor. Many games die on the vine as production passes the three-year mark, but Blue Side's MMO sequel to the oddball action-strategy hybrid is now well into its seventh year of development. Enduring false starts, major changes to the fundamental design of the game, the rise and fall of consoles, and the wild transformation of the MMO market worldwide, Kingdom Under Fire 2 remains and its coming to PlayStation 4 and PC in the near future. Barring any sudden changes of course.

Sang Youn Lee, the producer and Blue Side CEO who's stuck with the game over the years, doesn't need any more sudden changes. The game is, finally, right where he wants it. Guiding a demo of the game E3, Lee demonstrated how Kingdom Under Fire 2 plays in 2014, so long after it was first conceived. In large missions, it looks very much like Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders, Blue Side's original Xbox game. You control a big, flashy hero wielding a sword and command legions of troops on a field, a more intentional and less wantonly chaotic spin on Dynasty Warriors' massive conflicts.

It's been modernized of course. The troop customization and commands relegated to text-heavy menus back in 2004 is now done on the fly through simple button or keyboard commands. Surrounding that formula are the trappings of an MMO. Cities like Accolade where you can pick up quests, an open field for wandering and getting in small skirmishes, and big mission areas. It's all very pretty,generically high fantasy but also lovingly detailed. Nothing about it looks like a game that's been struggling to release for nearly a decade. What happened?

A number of things brought Kingdom Under Fire 2 low. The studio began work back in 2007 with an estimated budget of $15 million. Planned as a solo Xbox 360 game that would then be expanded as an online-focussed PC game, Lee explained that the studio's Asian investors demanded that the game come to PC first to capitalize on the then exploding Korean MMO market. Rift, Tera, and others were raking in cash and so the shift was made, reimagining Kingdom Under Fire 2 to accommodate those trends. Character customization and wild, fashionable costumes were in, but Lee insisted the game lose none of its focus or story so a $15 million project ballooned into a $50 million project.

After the shift to PC in 2009, Blue Side began to reassess its plans to bring Kingdom Under Fire 2 to consoles and set out to make a PlayStation 3 version. In 2011, though, Blue Side was approached by Sony about the PlayStation 4. When I asked if this was a frustrating moment, Lee set up straight, his eyes wide: "Yes!" Something of an understatement.

Now, finally, Kingdom Under Fire 2's journey is almost over. The game will be out on PC and PS4 this year.

[Images: Blue Side]

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