Life Is Feu­dal: MMO

A me­dieval MMO built on grit, pas­sion and Rus­sian de­ter­mi­na­tion


ou may sense some­thing of Ge­orge R. R. Martin in Life Is Feu­dal. That’s no co­in­ci­dence: A Song Of Ice And Fire ig­nited the imag­i­na­tion of Bitbox CEO Vladimir Piskunov back in 2010. The first book was his favourite, since the fairy­tale el­e­ments were kept to a min­i­mum; Piskunov was cap­ti­vated in­stead by the earth­i­ness of its uni­verse. Here, he says, was a world of “blood, dirt, steel, courage, in­trigue and be­trayal”. In­spired, too, by the PvP pol­i­tics and back­stab­bing within the likes of Shad­ow­bane, Dark­fall and Eve

On­line, he set out to cap­ture those el­e­ments in his own dream game: a me­dieval-themed sand­box MMO.

Pas­sion and pocket change kept Piskunov and his small team buoy­ant un­til they at­tracted an in­vestor in late 2011. Bitbox Ltd was sub­se­quently founded, and de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ued with an ex­panded group of 13 em­ploy­ees. By early 2014, Bitbox had be­gun early al­pha tests, set­ting up servers and invit­ing in 800 play­ers, but Piskunov quickly re­alised that a fully fea­tured MMO might be beyond the re­sources of such a small team. “We were un­able to keep up an ad­e­quate pace of de­vel­op­ment while fix­ing bugs – es­pe­cially bugs that ap­peared af­ter play­ers had crossed a cou­ple of server nodes in our game.”

It was then that Piskunov had a brain­wave, sug­gest­ing Bitbox could re­lease a smaller-scale ‘pocket’ ver­sion of

Life Is Feu­dal, giv­ing play­ers the free­dom to change the rules as much as they liked – hence ‘Your Own’. De­signed for smaller groups, or for lone play­ers keen ei­ther to tinker with the game’s Cre­ative mode or to ap­ply out­landish mods, Life Is Feu­dal:

Your Own would, Piskunov reck­oned, be a com­ple­men­tary ex­pe­ri­ence to the forth­com­ing MMO. Within 48 hours of its Early Ac­cess launch, it had re­couped its en­tire de­vel­op­ment costs. Its player count has held steady at around 300,000 since, and Bitbox has been able to amass a team of more than 70 staffers to work on the ver­sion of

Life Is Feu­dal Piskunov first con­ceived. In a game with so many sys­tems, it’s an am­bi­tious un­der­tak­ing. Since the orig­i­nal build, Bitbox has im­ple­mented mounted com­bat, guild in­ter­ac­tions, throw­ing weapons, terraforming im­prove­ments, and even a craft­ing skill that lets you brew your own al­co­hol – not to men­tion con­stant op­ti­mi­sa­tion to pre­pare it­self for run­ning the full-fat MMO. Bitbox has, Piskunov says, learned to lis­ten to and en­gage with its com­mu­nity dur­ing the course of the project – go­ing as far as to al­low play­ers to vote on de­vel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties. That’s un­der­stand­able when you con­sider the in­vest­ment of the game’s most ded­i­cated fans: there are sev­eral Steam pro­files boast­ing a playtime into the thou­sands of hours. “Some play­ers just want to be dis­tracted from their daily ac­tiv­i­ties for an hour or so. But those who re­ally want to live an al­ter­na­tive life in a me­dieval set­ting have no other op­tion but our game,” Piskunov says. It’s clear, in other words, that Life Is Feu­dal isn’t just the game of his dreams.


“Minecraft for grown-ups” is Piskunov’s catchy el­e­va­tor pitch, though he con­cedes it doesn’t come close to cover­ing why so many play­ers have fallen for Life Is Feu­dal. The ex­pan­sive world of the MMO will sup­port more than 10,000 play­ers, and fea­ture...

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