Interviewed by Dennis Sloutsky
As a huge fan of the movie, a few weeks ago after stumbling upon the awesome Platoon trailer and checking out all the screenshots I could find of the game, I've asked Michele Pakwood of Strategy First to arrange a Platoon interview for your favorite gaming news site (Ehm... Gamer's Hell if you didn't get the hint :P). Thankfuly, she didn't decline and quickly got the interview answers back to me. So prepare yourself to 25 fresh questions about the game that discuss every single bit of it that I could think of. Oh, and by the way, buying this game should be on your to-do list for the month of November, since it truly rocks judging by the preview beta copy I've just received today... Stay tuned for a hands-on preview!
Would you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what was your part in making of the game?
Nabil: My name is Nabil Yared. I am the producer of “Platoon” here at Strategy First.
Can you tell us about Digital Reality and its history?
Nabil: Digital Reality was founded in 1995. Their first game was Reunion followed by Imperium Galactica I. The release of Imperium Galactica II marks an important milestone in the history of Digital Reality. They have received outstanding attention from the press, excellent review scores that have surpassed all expectations.
Currently, Digital Reality is located in a modern office at Budapest, Hungary. They have been growing since 1995.
What is the basic storyline of Platoon?
Nabil: Platoon tells a story of a young man named Martin Lionsdale, fresh from Military Academy with a beautiful fiancée, living happily in the US. When Vietnam erupts, he is also called to arms and separated from his family. The player will play his role, see things through his eyes as the war unfolds and events get more and more out of control. In Platoon, Martin Lionsdale will make new acquaintances, get to know the increasing moral weight of deciding about the fate of his men...suddenly, in a frame of a few weeks he grows up.
How far into development was the game when the MGM license was acquired? Did it change or add any new content to the game?
Nabil: The game was already in an advanced stage when the license was signed, however the idea of acquiring the license had been tossed about for a while, and so the story was written with possible links to the Oscar winning film. Once Monte Cristo signed the license with the MGM it was just a question of activating those links.
Could you give us an example of a typical mission in Platoon?
Nabil: Missions vary in type and style. Some of them involve more grunts and vehicles against well-armed Vietcong soldiers, others demand more care – sneaking behind VC lines and rescuing prisoners of war, for example. Or, another mission is to rescue a downed USAF pilot, which is cut in three parts...and in another you have to cut the road of a bypassing VietCong/NVA armored division.
I understand that I’m not giving away much but I do not want to “leak” any spoilers :-)
What makes Platoon different from other tactical RTS games on the market?
Nabil: For starters, there are no micromanagement or resource gathering. This is a tactical RTS where you control specialist units (engineers, riflemen, medic, sniper, to name but a few). While there are a few similar games out there, “Platoon” is one of a kind. Set in the Vietnam War, it is more grim and serious. With stunning visuals and innovative new features such as Line of Sight and Sound and FOV (Field of Vision). Also, the focus is solely on infantry action, vehicles only come into play in a few scenarios - but they certainly add to the gameplay!
Being a tactical strategy game, does stealth play a big part in successfully completing missions? Please explain.
Nabil: Stealth is an important part of the game. On one mission I was playing, the enemy kept wiping me out. So instead of making a frontal assault, I sent a squad crawling from the rear (made a big detour) and they went inside the jungle and sneaked on the enemy. The VC didn’t know what hit them. I won this fight with no casualties. So yes, stealth is important :-)
Your men’s position (walking, running or crawling) gives you bonuses or penalties, as does the type of terrain your units and your enemies are on (it will modify weapon accuracy and defense). With the effective use of Line of Sight and Field of Vision you will be able to surprise your enemies if you know where to hit them from!
The game looks great (at least from the trailer movie that we've seen)... Could you give us a technical overview of the engine used in the game?
Nabil: The engine is baptized “Walker” after the first project (still not finished) of DR it was used in. Its first real debut is in “Haegemonia”, but after that, it had to be ported from space-fights to be able to support ground battles. New features had to be implemented, like motion capture, skeletal animation, new pathfinding, a physics engine, a new particle system and effect editor as well as unit handling.
The engine itself of course looks splendid... But will there be any SGI generated FMVs between missions?
Nabil: You will have some eye candy before the game starts, an intro SGI. After that, all animations will be presented to you with the use of in game cinematics. As the engine is very sophisticated, Digital Reality used it to create these little cinematics that will keep you in your chair for the rest of your Campaign. :-)
What will the maximum size of game maps be?
Nabil: Maps vary in size. The smallest is 250x250; the biggest is 500x500 – in meters, of course. Believe me, the big ones are really huge compared to your units, there’s many objectives to accomplish on each of them!
What is the maximum amount of soldiers that the player can control in one mission?
Nabil: The number varies from one mission to another. The most you can control is about 25 grunts (you might have a couple of vehicles in there as well).
Vietnam was one of the bloodiest wars ever fought... and Platoon was one of the goriest war movies ever made... How does the game compare to it?
Nabil: The game will not have any gore element in it. You will not see any body parts nor flying limbs, nor torture scenes, etc. The developer’s and our main focus was to give back the general feeling of the movie, in a human way.
Will wounds affect soldiers' movement speed and other stats?
Nabil: Stamina is the only stat that has any effect on your soldier – they could loose health but that doesn’t affect their abilities. You loose stamina faster if you run or crawl or your men are shot at. Beyond a certain stage an icon will pop up above the exhausted unit’s head meaning you that he cannot run/crawl from this point until he regains a bit of his endurance.
Terrain types won’t affect movement speed but they will change your units weapon accuracy and defense bonus!
Are the surviving soldiers from each mission carried on into the next one? If so, is there any sort of experience that they gain and which can influence their stats (i.e.: Close Combat series, where men gained leadership, experience, morale and shooting skills)?
Nabil: That was the original plan, but in the final game only Sgt. Lionsdale will rise in rank as the campaign progresses, your other men won’t gain any new ranks/levels.
It's a 3D strategy game game... How is the line of sight implemented in this game? How would you know that your troops have been noticed by the enemy and vice versa?
Nabil: When you spot an enemy, you will have a scope icon appear above his head. At this very moment you’ll also have an icon appearing on the left side of your screen showing you the type of enemy you came across.
You will know that you have been spotted when you start taking enemy fire. Arrows are pointing at your men from the direction the shots come from, so localizing your enemy won’t be too difficult.
As Platoon is a tactical game, you can pause the action anytime you want, take matters into consideration, issue out new orders and Unpause the action. We strongly suggest players use the Pause button (Spacebar) as you cannot save your game once on an assignment – I know that this may sound hard, but it makes the game even more tactical and fun to play.
Will there be air/mortar strikes that the player would be able to call in order to help his ground troops?
Nabil: During the campaign, there are missions where you can call on air strikes or/and artillery support. Of course, you’ll have other missions at your disposal, where you can use mortars to dispatch enemy units.
Can the player equip each soldier with a different field kit or does every unit come with a standard kit for each unit?
Nabil: Every squad comes with its standard issued equipment. As a player, you do not have control as to what men carry – no micromanagement and inventory screen. The only thing you have to control is the use of special commands (like air strikes, grenades, claymores, sniper rounds, and so on) as they’re limited for a mission and you cannot access new ammunition once on a mission.
Are there any missions in the game following real events from the Vietnam War?
Nabil: Most missions are based on actual real events, like Operation “Shiny Bayonet”
(October 19-23, 1965). I personally think that this is a great idea, as the levels are designed in a way to give back the feeling of these different campaigns the US lead in Vietnam.
Are there any combat locations modeled after real places in Vietnam?
Nabil: Combat locations are as close to real places as possible. We both know how hard it is to recreate details to the letter. Digital Reality gathered thousands of photographs to model building, vehicles, soldiers, and vegetation and to create the terrain for “Platoon”.
How authentic are the weapons/vehicles in the game? Do they have different stats/abilities like in real life?
Nabil: Very authentic. I served in the military and I know how an AK47 and M-16 sound like. And that realism was captured in game as well. You will immediately recognize the distinct sounds of an M-60 MG.
The movie had a great soundtrack, which highlighted the ongoing events... Does the in-game music change according to the events happening on the screen?
Nabil: Yes indeed, there is a large library of sound files and music that comes with the game.
Music is created with the attention to the last bit of detail, as “Platoon” will have different ‘settings’ for each of the missions. The musical pieces are not long, but the use of authentic musical instruments lets you delve in the heart of Vietnam. Digital Reality was able to compose many of them and assigned them to specific events or territories: this means that once in a swamp a new tune will come and play, and as you enter a village, the music will change again – but this is just the basics, you’ll hear the difference! When you encounter enemies and a fight erupts, a war theme will swap place with the actual ambient background piece and off you go with the right mood! :-)
All sounds were taken from actual weapons/vehicles/actors, that particular attention to detail is what DR aimed to accomplish. Our VCs speak Vietnamese, too!
Are there any episodes or characters in Platoon that will be familiar to fans of the movie?
Nabil: Absolutely. You have to watch the intro animation and you’re in for a treat – remember Platoon, fellas? :-)
I’m sorry, but can’t let you know more about the people you may remember from Platoon and see them again in the game...
What are the recommended system requirements to enjoy Platoon in all its glory?
Nabil: Recommended system:
* WINDOWS 98/Me/2000/XP
* P3 1000 MHZ
* 64 MB 3D video card
* 256 RAM
* Directx 8.1
* DirectX compatible sound card
* Internet connection
Will a mission editor be bundled with the game?
Nabil: The editor is user friendly but demands massive time to master. At this stage, I’m certain about not offering it to the daily user, we have to see this possibility in several months.
Are there any immediate plans for a sequel or add-on to the game?
Nabil: It is really too early to tell for now, but we can’t conclude/exclude any possibilities. The game’s concept was to be mod-able and mission-open, so there’s even more possibilities to “Platoon”...but we have to see about this later on. :-)