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.
BITBOX HAS IMPLEMENTED MOUNTED COMBAT, GUILD INTERACTIONS, TERRAFORMING AND A CRAFTING SKILL THAT LETS YOU BREW ALCOHOL
“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 large-scale battles alongside a vast range of other systems including