The Foxhole devs are making a medieval warfare MMO that supports 1000s of players at once

Foxhole (opens in new tab) developer Siege Camp has unveiled a new project called Anvil Empires (opens in new tab) that promises to let players take part in massive medieval battles of up to 1,000 people at a time in an open-world sandbox “with no safe zones or other artificial barriers to combat.”

The game takes place in the fantasy realm of Calligo, a persistent world in which three “desperate alliances” exist in a constant state of war. The continent contains an array of different landscapes and dangerous creatures, as well as “dark secrets” of indeterminate types for players to discover.

Medieval warfare is about more than just clubbing people in the face with heavy objects: You’re not going to do very well if you don’t have your supply situation nailed down. To that end, players will also have to build and grow settlements, trade with friendly neighbours and raid enemy bases, build supply and siege camps, and maintain the logistical lines to keep the army fed and fighting. 

Siege Camp (the studio, that is) says the in-game economies are “completely driven by players,” with settlements capable of growing to support hundreds of players at once. All of that will take place separately from the battles (but simultaneously, and in the same world), and will work on an even larger scale.

“Anvil Empires is targeted to support a thousand players within a dense battle and many more thousands across a large persistent online world,” the studio said on Steam (opens in new tab). “Many massively played PvP games either support a small number of combatants on the same dense battlefield or a large number of players spread out across a large map. In Anvil Empires, the goal is to support the best of both, with up to a thousand players marching shoulder to shoulder in a dense environment.”

This scale is enabled by Siege Camp’s R2 Engine, which Siege Camp says “supports up to a thousand players in a dense environment and tens of thousands of simulated and replicated entities in a large world.” The engine has been in development for some years now, and in fact a large-scale tech demo of the engine took place way back in 2019.

“This isn’t a miracle technology that ‘just works’, but takes a practical approach to meet Anvil Empire’s novel design requirements,” Siege Camp said. “The technology will contend with real world constraints like bandwidth and the limits of modern day server CPU performance, but will overcome them by taking advantage of parallel processing, modern day network replication techniques, and application specific optimization.”

It sounds very ambitious, but Siege Camp was able to pull it off with Foxhole, a World War 2 MMO that went into full release (opens in new tab) in 2022 after five years in early access. It too relies heavily on logistics for success, and unlike most other games, manages to make non-combat supporting roles fulfilling.

“Amazingly, the distribution of players between frontline fighters and blue collar factory workers is balanced,” staff writer Morgan Park wrote in his September 2022 (opens in new tab) impressions of Foxhole. “I’ve played a few military sims, including FPSes like Squad, where logistic (or ‘logi’) roles go mostly ignored by players who’d all rather be shooting guns than driving trucks back and forth. That’s not the case in the persistent world of Foxhole, probably because the logi part of the game is just as deep as the frontline.”

There’s no sign of a release date for Anvil Empires at this point, but it’s fair to assume that it’s a long way off. Siege Camp described it as “an incredibly complex game that will require a lot of experimentation and iteration to get right,” and said that, like Foxhole, it’s going to take a lot of iteration and live playtesting to get right.

To get the wheels turning on that process, a free pre-alpha test is set to begin in April. Siege Camp warned that “only a small subset of foundational features will be in place,” and said players will need “a high tolerance for playing early development builds with bugs and incomplete features.” But if you’re cool with all that, you can sign up for the action on the Anvil Empires Discord server (opens in new tab).

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