Quite a few fans of the real-time strategy genre have agreed that the actual strategy element of games in their genre is lacking. Pyro Studios are developing an exciting game called Praetorians, which takes place in the age of Caesar, where you will actually need to use more advanced strategy to win. This could definitely be an interesting game for fans of that time in history, and fans of the real-time strategy genre in general. Javier Arevalo was kind enough to spend some time answering our questions, so for that we would like to thank him very much.

Starting off, who are you, what was your role in the development of "Praetorians", what have you and Pyro developed in the past?

My name is Javier Arevalo, I'm the Project Lead on "Praetorians". Prior to this project, I was the Technology Lead on "Commandos 2: Men Of Courage", and a software engineer on "Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines".

Please, briefly introduce Praetorians, its gameplay and some details.

"Praetorians" is a real-time Strategy game based on the military campaigns of Julius Caesar. We are bringing a more strategic type of gameplay to the genre, with less emphasis on resource gathering and economic management, and more combat options and features.

Praetorians is aimed to be Mission based, can you make some example of Praetorians missions?

There's this mission where Caesar sent a small, fast army through the Cevennes mountains during winter, taking the Gauls by surprise on the other side. That was a feat that nobody thought could be pulled off because of the terribly bad weather and snow, but Caesar figured it out and won. We have taken that as inspiration for one of the missions in the game. Another mission portrays the Siege Of Alexia, during which the Romans, while assaulting the fortress of Vercingetorix, had to build an outer wall to defend themselves against the Gaul allies. In fact, most missions are similarly inspired by battles and episodes of the Roman campaigns.

How does Praetorians compare to an average RTS?

It's much better than your average RTS game, heh... seriously, we believe that the gameplay concepts in Praetorians show how the RTS game is going to evolve in the future. Up to now, the strategy involved was, essentially, gather more resources than the enemy and build a bigger mass of units to overcome him. That's a fine idea for a game, but it's terribly limited and is leaving the RTS genre stuck in the sand. We're bringing as much as possible of the large-scale strategic elements such as surveillance, use of terrain features, and fortress sieges, along with the traditional interface and exciting gameplay of traditional Real-Time Strategy games.

Please some (more) words about the combat system and will the environment affect combat units?

Scenery plays a big role in the way players will devise their strategy. The maps in Praetorians contain features such as rivers, forests, tall grass areas, bridges... all these features affect units in different ways. Some units like cavalry can't go inside a forest; ranged units, archers for example, gain bonuses when shooting from higher ground. Visibility is also affected, with some units that can hide inside forests or tall grass; given the importance that we place on scouting, this is a key element that every Praetorians player will have to take into account.

What was your aim developing the title, what did you want to simulate, what did you want to bring to the end user?

Our initial goal was to give the player a feel for what it was like to be in charge of a piece of the Roman army. As we researched the history of the Julius Caesar campaigns, we found out that the small scale skirmishes and cunning tactics, were just as engrossing as the decisive large battles and fortress sieges. You can see that reflected in mission designs such as the ones we have talked about before. The Roman generals would try to gain as much support as possible from the tribes of the lands they invaded, and we also included this concept in some missions.

The best description I can give about Praetorians is that "it is inspired by history and shows it from a gameplay point of view". We take these realistic elements and exaggerate them to guarantee an exciting gameplay experience. Examples of this can be seen in the design of the unit special abilities: the Roman infantries can throw their damaging pilums before entering battle, medics can heal units after a battle, heavy infantry can use the famous "turtle" formation to protect themselves against arrows, scouts can use their trained animals to explore the terrain ahead...

What is going to make Praetorians special?

The combination of troop-based combat and the rich behaviour of units is quite unique. Each of Praetorians' three civilizations include a range of unit types with unique abilities, and each unit's strong and weak points are quite clear from their design. There is not a artificial rock-paper-scissors unit superiority cycle (which is the norm in many RTS games), it's all about building the combinations of troops that you want and using their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. This is where surveillance and scouting play a big role: knowing your enemy's plans allows you to create a proper counterattack.

What graphic engine is Praetorians using and what will be user point of view?

The graphics engine in Praetorians was developed specifically to support the gameplay design and cinematic experience we had in mind. One example is the point of view: even tough the gameplay requires the camera to be fixed to a particular angle, we developed a full 3D engine with immersive cameras. We use these cameras during in-game cinematic sequences that drive the storyline, explain mission objectives, and so on. The game point of view supports three different zoom levels, which we have specifically made sure that remain perfectly playable.

One of the goals of the graphics engine was to support hundreds of fully animated 3D units simultaneously on screen. After testing the game on a range of PC hardware and graphics cards, we're quite happy with the results. We believe that with Praetorians, we have raised the bar on what the players will expect from RTS graphics engines.

Which multiplayer support is expected, LAN and in particular, Internet?

Multiplayer gameplay over the Internet is fully supported along the lines of traditional Real-Time Strategy games. Up to eight players can battle it out, free for all or team battles. You can also add CPU players that will recognize alliances and help their friends.

What is expected to be Praetorians retail price and why should the end user be glad to spend such an amount for it? When will it be available?

We are seeking a release date of November 2002.

Thanking you for the time spent, any final wise word?

Enjoy it!

Additional Resources:

Praetorians Movie
Gamer's Hell Praetorians Screenshots Gallery
Eidos Praetorians Homepage
Pyro Studios