Recently, I spoke with Alan Wilson, V.P. at Tripwire Interactive, about the follow up to the World War 2 Action game. Alan was kind enough to speak with me about their new game which looks to be a big hit.
Questions from Gareth Von Kallenbach
Skewed and Reviewed
1. What is the background and setting for the game?
The setting is straightforward enough – The Battle of Stalingrad, August 1942 to February 1943. It was probably the most brutal single battle in human history – over 2 million casualties. The battle was the most unimaginable meat-grinder and the stories of the surviving soldiers are extraordinary. In this setting, the single-player game will follow through some of the key actions within the overall battle, some of them iconic locations, others less well known. The player will follow in the footsteps of the German attacks into the city, right to the banks of the Volga – or trace the steps of the Soviets who first held the city, then went on to destroy the German 6th Army.
2. What are some of the locales gamers will see in the game?
The ones we have revealed to date include the Grain Elevator, Station 1, Pavlov’s House and Fallen Fighters’ Square. Each has been recreated as true to the original as we can manage, based on the available research materials. There are a few more we haven’t shown off yet – 10 in total.
3. What are some of the weapons we will see and how will vehicles be featured?
Well, there will be a good range of weaponry for the infantry – rifles, pistols, sub-machineguns, light and fixed machine-guns, smoke and frag grenades for a start. Includes the German MG-34, the Soviet PPSh-41, Nagant revolver. The SVT-40 and G-41 semi-automatic rifles. Add scopes to some of the rifles and semi-autos for snipers. Various forms of artillery on call, from mortars, through medium artillery and up to rocket artillery barrages.
We’ll start with two vehicles – the German Panzer IV G and the Soviet T-34 76 M42. You’ll be able to play with 3 players in a vehicle, or lock it so you can tank solo. In either case the other crew positions will be taken by AI. You’ll be able to see the complete tank interior, the other crew members, watch the animations, use vision slits and periscopes – and, of course, all the weaponry.
4. What forms of multiplay does the game include and will the be co-op play?
Yes, there will be co-op play through the single-player campaign and in “Skirmish” mode. There is the enhanced and improved version of RO’s original objective-capture gametype, in the new Territory gametype. We are putting in Firefight – our own take on team deathmatch, as people always enjoy some casual slaughter. And the new Countdown gametype. In Countdown, the players get a single life per objective. If you die, you are waiting for your team to capture the objective or to defend it. If the attacking team captures it, everyone respawns and goes after the next objective on the map. If the defenders win, swap sides and respawn. This way, the players aren’t in a hurry for everyone else to die, so they can respawn – they are in a hurry for their side to win.
5. What engine is the game using and what are some of the new features it will offer gamers?
The game is built on Epic’s Unreal 3 Engine, with a bunch of additions of our own, as always. Everyone likes to add their own unique touches! We’ve built in a number of graphical enhancements, extra lighting gimmicks and so on. We also re-built our own projectile ballistics system, so that we have the true-to-life ballistics (bullet drop etc) for bullets and tank shells, as well as all the mantling, the cover system, morale and all the rest. But take a look at the screenshots and video materials coming out to get any idea of the look!
6. What can you tell us about the A.I. in the game?
The AI has learned a huge amount since RO1. Obviously we have to have the AI capable of everything the human player is – mantling, knowing when to take cover, tactical awareness – all of that. That tactical awareness also deals with understanding the objectives, when to be aggressive and when to hold back. On the harder difficulty levels, the AI will be smart – and their morale high. Part of it is also that morale element – you may actually be able to break their morale and getting them fleeing. Of course, if you insist on getting too many of your own guys killed, they may start refusing to follow you, as well.
7. Blending action with a detailed plot can always be tricky. How have you attempted to create this element, and will scripted events be a part of the game?
We’ll be using some scripted events, mostly as a basis for tutorial elements built into the game, as well as a few key moments. But the way the campaigns are set up – historically – we are telling a different story. We’re telling the history of the battle itself and the part played in it by some units. That needs an explanation of the military situation, rather than a complex piece of storyline narrative introducing a new character or two. So we won’t be breaking in to the action on a regular basis with aggravating cut-scenes!
8. What are the biggest obstacles you faced in creating the game and the biggest success?
I think every department will have its own challenges and successes to talk about. For me, the biggest challenge is always authenticity. This runs everything from the individual weapon models and soldiers’ uniforms, through the look, feel and layout of all the levels and on to details such as the detailed functioning of a WWII-era tank. The research has been a huge challenge, made harder by the fact that the City of Stalingrad was largely reduced to rubble – and there is a distinct lack of pre-battle photography of the city to work from.
The vehicles themselves were a big challenge. The amount of work that has gone in to each is scary, to get the level of detail we want in them. Modelling the exterior is hard enough, but the interior is a nightmare. It isn’t like there are many of these left to go and inspect, nor plans to work from. There isn’t a completely intact (interior) Panzer IV on the north American continent, for instance. So the modellers have to use what they can get and try to reconstruct from photos and descriptions. Other details like the functioning of the brake-and-clutch steering levers on the T-34 need to be modelled, so that the player can see them functioning. The first vehicle must have taken us 9 months. Getting quicker as we go, but there were a lot of small technical issues to solve.
9. What formats will the game be released on?
PC initially, and probably Mac. We’re looking at console options at the moment.