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Posted on Jul 28, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Theatre of War by 1C and Battlefront – Interview

Armchair General

ACG: One of the hallmarks of the Combat Mission community is its PBEM functionality. Will ToW have an option to Play By Email, or will it be something else?

[Matt] Being that ToW is a RTS sim (although you can pause it to issue orders) PBEM is not supported.

ACG: You mentioned that Battlefront will be helping 1C take ToW the final steps through development. Is there anything in particular that is missing from the game currently that you’d like to see added?

[MVB] Not really missing, but our main task (and have been asked to do it by 1C) will be to make sure that the game keeps the proper balance between a fun game and a realistic simulation. With our experience from making the CM series we want to make a few improvements here and there which will make the game worthy of the title as a real wargame. The game does that mostly already, but during its development history the design goals swayed from one end of the spectrum to another, and as you know BFC, we are now firmly focused on delivering a realistic tactical experience, so that will be our primary task in supporting development from here on to release.

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ACG: Will there be a scenario editor, quick battle generator, or anything similar?

[Matt] We are still working on those details and should have more info in the coming weeks

[MVB] One thing is certain, though – since the game is based on the IL-2 engine, it will be possible to do a lot of modding.

ACG: The game description includes a statement about "nation-specific unit tactics." Can you expand a bit on what is meant by this, and how it might play out on the battlefield as well as how it might affect someone who wants instead to micromanage each person under his command?

[Matt] The AI is very good (and the scenarios are extremely well designed) and you will notice that it will manage its assets appropriate to the situation it faces. Armored units will try and create breakthroughs, and will utilize their mobility to exploit the enemy’s rear and flanks. Artillery is brought to bear on fixed positions and to soften up defenses and infantry does what it does best.

If a player does want to micromanage every member of a squad, they can do so though, they are not kept from doing that, but you find that by default, they will behave very well and knowing when to go “hands off” and when to help guide your forces, will dictate how well you end up doing.

ACG: How will the role playing aspect fit into a game of this variety? Will it encourage careful planning for each unit, so as to preserve them for later battles? What new skills become available as experience grows?

[Matt] Since this and the next question sort of go hand in hand, see my next answer…

ACG: Obviously you’ve played the development version of this game, or else you wouldn’t have wanted to partner with 1C on this project. Can you recall the moment when you were playing the demo and you realized how great this game could be/already has become?

[Steve] We’ve already let a select few dedicated CMers play the full Beta of ToW. They were hooked within minutes of seeing it for the first time. The common theme of their comments was how much playing ToW reminded them of how they felt the first time they played CM; blown away and instantly hooked. Two of the finest complements any game can ever receive.

[Matt] Let me talk about a key moment that occurred when I demoed the game last weekend. In this battle, I had an ad hoc mixed Russian detachment of infantry, Anti-tank Rifle teams, a single KV-1 and 45mm AT guns tasked to defend a train station against a strong armor heavy German assault with infantry support. My initial disposition was pretty good and the first few attempts by the German AI to breach my trench lines were pushed back. After regrouping and gaining some reinforcements, the Germans concentrated on a weak flank area in one of my trenches and breached my defenses and stormed across. It was at this time, that my KV-1, having been occupied on my other flank, came over to try and stem the flow of German infantry and armor that was quickly gaining a foothold to route my remaining forces. As the KV-1 took round after round from the German armor, it was finally immobilized and the crew, now badly shaken, bailed out, only to be gunned down by MG fire. Nearby lying in a trench, I had the remnants of a 45mm AT gun crew (the gun had run out of ammo repulsing the first attack). One innovative feature of ToW is that you can not only pick up discarded weapons and equipment from the ground, but you can also recrew vehicles and guns that are left abandoned. You can even capture enemy equipment as well. I ordered this gun crew to charge for the KV-1 as the Germans pushed ahead with their assault. Enemy infantry fire cut down the crew as they made their way to the tank, but one guy made the perilous journey and climbed in through the open hatch. Myself and about 5 other guys that were watching the game sat with our jaws wide open as he made his way to the driver compartment to start up the KV-1’s engine (each vehicle has a crew monitor which allows you see what position they are in). Once the KV was running, I guess he noticed that it wasn’t going anywhere, so he jumped into the gunners seat and begun to swing its big turret around to get a rear shot on a German Pz III that had ignored him. We watched as the cannon reload indicator slowly filled up, holding our breaths in anticipation. He finally got the gun loaded, raised his gun just a tad and fired. We literally jumped up and begun yelling and applauding the effort, even though he missed.

The fact that he actually survived the battle and I was able to issue him extra skill points, promote him in rank and even award him a medal and use him in subsequent campaign missions really gives the game a cool persistent world type feel as you become attached to various units and even individual soldiers. At the completion of each campaign battle, depending on your performance you are award various points to apply toward the skill advancement, promotion and on occasion awards to all of the surviving units. Captured equipment and vehicles can even be carried forward into subsequent battles.

In CM, that sort of thing is simply not possible and it is these key moments and RPG elements that will keep you coming back for more. Maybe its watching as different armor plates and equipment on your tank get blown off, perhaps its noticing that your friendly fighters will actually dogfight with enemy bombers in the skies above you, or then again it could be the feeling you get when you rotate the camera around an enemy tank and you can actually see the penetration marks all over the hull and turret, that will win you over. There is just so much to see and do in ToW that it will keep you coming back over and over.

ACG: The game is slated for an end-of-2006 release – is there any reason we shouldn’t expect to see this in our holiday stockings?

[Matt] Progress is going very well and that release date is still the one we are shooting for.

ACG: We will certainly be keeping an eye on the final development of this title. Thanks to Steve, Matt, and Martin for taking the time to share your perspectives.

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