On April 11, the global strategy Revival: Recolonization was released on PC in full. App2Top talked with Sergey Ulankin, head of console and PC publishing at HeroCraft, about how development was going, how successful early access was, about working with VK Play, and much more.

Revival: Recolonization

Alexander Semenov, App2Top: Hi. The history of Revival development, as far as I know, is not easy. How many years has the project been in development?

Sergey Ulankin

Sergey Ulankin, HeroCraft: The earliest ideas were in 2016. But the development was in full swing in 2018.

How many people were involved in the development of Revival?

Sergey: The development team mainly consisted of the "old-timers" of Revival, people who worked on the first parts that were released on push-button phones.

Its population grew until 2023. At its peak, 10 developers were working on it. After early access, the team was reduced to six people: most of the content was done and there was no longer a need for an enlarged team.

But these are not all the people who were involved in the work on the game. At different stages, the team was assisted by different departments of HeroCraft: specialists who gave the project a lot of expertise in interfaces, static graphics, art, and video. And, of course, a marketing team of 10 people is working on the game. If we count all the people who somehow had a hand in Revival: Recolonization, then I think we'll get about 40 people.

Did you mention the "old-timers" of the series, is this the Kaliningrad team?

Sergey: No, the Kranodar office was directly responsible for the creation of Revival: Recolonization. At the end of the noughties, he made Revival in Java, and at the beginning of the tenth, Revival 2, which was released, including in the Symbian version. These were also 4X strategies about the development of their civilization.

Revival 2

And 10 years later, you decided to return to the series again! Why?

Sergei: There was a whole range of reasons: I wanted to make a big game, there was a suitable intellectual property Revival, and the 4X niche is quite interesting. However, the development of a project in the genre, although promising, is quite difficult. The genre requires serious competencies. Projects of this genre are played by serious people who are ready to give the project both their money and under a hundred, sometimes more than one, hours of free time. So there are a number of business reasons, plus, of course, the enthusiasm of the developers, their desire to make just such a game.

The original Revival, judging by the screenshots, was as close as possible to the legacy of Sid Meier in terms of setting. But the novelty, although it adheres to the same genre, is completely different in character and features. Tell us about the USP, what do you consider to be your key features?

Oh, a lot has been done to distinguish her from other representatives of the genre.

The first, of course, is the unique post-apocalyptic setting for such games. There was a place for cyborgs, zombies, a man with a stone axe, and a conflict with a crazy AI.

Other unique features include terraforming (which, by the way, did not immediately appear, it was also introduced to stand out from other games of the genre), and the active participation of the climate in all aspects of the game — battles, economics and so on.

Basically, Revival: Recolonization puts more focus on the combat system, detailed, fun. In early access, for example, we didn't even have any other victory conditions other than military. If we take the same Civilization, then the combat system there is somewhat simplified. In Revival, the battles are such "Chess 2", where you need to keep in mind the climate, positioning, territory, and features of the armament of units.

Revival: Recolonization

The market for 4X strategies is quite saturated right now. There are many projects. Recently, for example, Millennia from Paradox was released. Aren't you afraid of competition? 

Sergei: I do not agree that the market is saturated. There are projects, but we cannot say that there are many of them. There are big and successful games — Civilization or Age of Wonders. But they come out once in a long time period, and then they are supported for years by content. Valid practice for both businesses and players. But these are "colossi", but can you immediately name at least five 4X projects over the past year?

I can do it for the year before last — Old World and Humankind.

Sergey: Both came out even earlier, in 2020, but neither you nor I will name the last one.

In other genres — shooters, for example — many times more games are released: in different settings, with different chips, at different prices. So it is definitely impossible to say that the 4X market is oversaturated.

Therefore, to answer your question, no, we are not afraid of competition with Millennia. Paradox is definitely the number one publisher in the genre. But, as I said, the niche is not oversaturated. There is such a paradox here: there are not many projects coming out, but they are all of high quality, and they are fighting for a lot of players' time.

Plus, although probably part of our potential audience intersects with Millennia, but we focus primarily on those who are looking for something fresh in a rather orthodox genre.

Okay, let's get back to the development. What was the most difficult part? Can you share three or four main challenges that the team faced during the creation of the game?

Sergey: The most difficult thing is to finish the development. No kidding. When you are doing a project of such scale and such deep study, sometimes it is difficult to stop — you want to deepen the systems, add new features, new combat units, new eras, new technologies. And with each new feature, the balance has yet to be reworked, and the AI has to be reconfigured so that it can use the new features of the game. For a small team, this is a colossal task that can drag on indefinitely. Therefore, at some point it is necessary to make a decision: here we stop, and release a project with this content, and we are happy with it. We decided that this version of Revival: Recolonization is coming out today, and we are proud of it.

This is perhaps the biggest difficulty. But there were, of course, smaller ones: how to hire suitable specialists with expertise in the genre, how to maintain documentation and transfer knowledge in such a complex project. From the point of view of the publisher, it is difficult to stand out in the market, it is difficult to convince people to buy a new game for $ 30, and not "Tsiva" at an 80% discount. This is a really serious challenge.

Revival: Recolonization

The game is being developed on Unity. In your development diaries, you have repeatedly written about the difficulties with optimization. What is the result? And how do you rate Unity in general, how suitable is it for 4X? Or is it better to do a similar title on something else next time?

Sergey: Most of the company's games are made on Unity. There was no question about it: we are very proficient with this tool, we have a lot of expertise in this engine. There were difficulties, of course, but this is a workflow, and there are difficulties on any engines. In addition, it is the most common engine for small teams, and it is just convenient. At the same time, I will not say that we are tightly tied to Unity, we have games in our portfolio on other engines, for example on Unreal, and right now we have a Godot project in development.

I was pleasantly surprised by two things while I was following the development of the project. At some point, the team very noticeably tightened the graphics level. Around the same time, the interface was redrawn. Can you tell me how it happened?

Sergey: Yes, of course. Everything is simple about the graphics — the work of wonderful modellers who, before the release, gave their best to make the game look as advantageous and original as possible compared to other 4X.

Interfaces are also a difficult task, and in general this is the most subtle part of any 4X, because communicating information is very important for the genre. Before the early access release, we, together with our ArtBox specialists and their UI experts, worked through all the screens in terms of convenience and clarity. A lot of work has been done and we are pleased with the results.

Now let's talk about marketing and promotion in general. Since the public announcement, you have focused on active work with communities — regularly released updates on the progress of work on the game, launched Discord. How difficult was it and by what forces was it carried out?

Sergey: It's not difficult to launch, it's difficult to maintain, We really put a lot of emphasis on communities, released many different demo versions, conducted playtests, participated in several Steam Next Fest (then it was still possible). And it helped us put together a product that fans of the genre will like. As I mentioned, we have a publishing team that runs several projects. We usually have about six games in our work at the same time, which is being worked on by wonderful specialists in content, PR, UA and the community. Since our resources are, in principle, limited, we try to use everything as much as possible, relying on the most effective. We pay a lot of attention to influencers, festivals, and the purchase of advertising, for which we have a huge expertise that has been gathering for years.

Revival: Recolonization

Which of the channels turned out to be the most effective for you in terms of building a community?

Sergei: We are constantly adjusting, adapting to the realities, trying to do what is convenient for the players. We have a community on Steam, we have mailing lists, we have Discord. But what is considered effective here? Informative — mailing, live communication and memes — Discord, exchange of experience — forums.

It's cool that you regularly informed potential audiences about the progress of development (and continue to do so now), but did it turn into early access sales?

Sergey: Within the framework of early access, sales went below expectations. At the final stage, before the early access release, we did the maximum: we lit up at the PC Gaming Show, at the Next Fest, entered the Asian market, and made a good campaign for influencers. But it so happens that you do the maximum, and this is not enough. You can search for reasons for a long time: Is this the cost of the game? An early access exit? The summer release, with which we got into a huge stream of parallel information guides? But all these are rather excuses, and the fact is that sales went worse than our expectations. But despite this, we did not abandon the project, behaved like a good developer and publisher, completed all our agreements with the community, released updates, added features. And so, we are going to release it in full. After which, hopefully, the audience will be more interested, and we will be able to continue the development of the game.

So the early release didn't work out?

Sergey: From a business point of view, it did not go well, we went into negative territory in terms of medium-term income and expenses. From the point of view of the product, it's great, the game looks great, it's played great, and we've done everything we promised.

When preparing the questions, I also came across the fact that I could not find publications and videos about the game from media and streamers, except for a couple of non-core ones. What is the reason for this?

Sergei: With weak early access, obviously. We had good contacts with streamers, including target ones, who play the main representatives of the genre. But we didn't take into account that the 4X that came out earlier already have a mountain of content attached, they can be played endlessly. The early access game did not really interest the target influencers against this background. But we had good cases with non-genre game influencers, say with Splattercatgaming. But, yes, we underestimated the complexity of the niche.

Revival: Recolonization

Another question I can't help but ask is the lack of a game on Steam. Russian Russian language, and the fact that the work with the community is conducted in Russian — from the outside, without knowing the details, such a decision looks strange. Can you tell me what this is about?

Sergey: In principle, we have already said all this publicly: by agreement with Astrum in the Russian Federation, the game is an exclusive of the VK Play platform. They received a high—quality product from a Russian developer in their catalog, players from Russia and CIS countries had the opportunity to purchase the game without any problems, and we received a receipt.

You're talking about VK Play now. Is there an opportunity to share the conditions under which you work with them?

Sergei: This is private business information. I can only say that they are good partners. We did not meet pressure from them on how the product should look, we were not forced to redo the game to meet any criteria for the platform. And they appeared in the life of the project at the right time, and helped the team make the best product. All this is very valuable.

Which platform accounts for more purchases now — Steam or VK Play?

Sergey: In absolute numbers, of course, on Steam. Just because there is a global audience there, which is bigger. At the same time, VK Play covers only the local segment of players from the Russian Federation and neighboring countries.

The Gamersky Games team also helps you in publishing the project. Why did you decide to turn to additional publishing at all?

Sergei: We decided that enlisting the help of partners in the Asian market would be a better solution in terms of the quality of this outlet. We did not want to just translate the project, but sought to make a high-quality local output, which is difficult to do on our own. Therefore, it was much easier and safer to do this with the help of third-party publishing. Gamersky made this exit at the highest level, besides they have their own powerful marketing tools.

Revival: Recolonization

Why did you decide to work with Gamersky Games?

Sergey: They are very prompt, flexible, and do a range of all marketing activities on their side. It is also an interesting partner because Gamersky is not only a publisher, but also a major media outlet with its own influencers, with its own outlets to the audience.

What are the release expectations?

Sergey: We expect good sales — such that for at least six months you can keep the game team and stay in the black by releasing updates and add-ons for the game. We hope for an influx of new audiences — at least those who were afraid to buy the project in early access. They can be sure that the project in version 1.0 is a high—quality and polished game. Well, we expect those who will come to the game with the addition of new localizations — French and German.

What to expect after the release? How long do you plan to support the title?

Sergey: It all depends on how the game shows itself in terms of sales. The product is 100% complete. But if we see the feasibility, primarily financial, if the game turns out to be an operational plus, then, of course, we will work on porting to other platforms and release various add—ons - at least for a few years. In this case, we have no restrictions — we will expand the project as long as it is interesting to the audience and as long as it is interesting to developers.

Great! I wish you success and thank you for the interview!