Interviewed by Dennis Sloutsky
First of all, I would like to thank Achim Heidelauf, the game's producer down at CDV for making this interview happening, as well as providing some exclusive screenshots of the game.
Hello, please introduce yourself and your company to our readers.
The questions are answered by Attila Banki-Horvath lead designer and Janos Ibranyi designer.
The team had been formed in 2000 by five members. Soon four new members have joined and helped finishing SWINE. More members have joined since then and now the team consists of 14 members: 3 designers, 5 programmers, 5 graphical artists and one musician.
Please briefly introduce the concept and storyline behind Panzers?
The idea was to create a game which conveys the atmosphere of a real WWII battle. Therefore we decided to create a 3D RTS game with several tactical elements as realistic as it can be in a computer game. High polygon vehicles and objects, realistic sound and graphical effects help entering into the spirit of the battle.
After selecting a nation you control a hero and his detachment. On the German side you assist in the invasion of Poland and finish the campaign with the occupation of the west side of Stalingrad. The Soviet hero plays an important role in the defense of Moscow, in the reoccupation of Stalingrad and his detachment will occupy the Reichstag in Berlin. The Anglo-American allies land by gliders in Normandy behind the lines to prepare the landing on the beaches, then they advance through the bocages and finally repel the last German counterattack.
Is Panzers a tactical game like Platoon or more “arcadish” like Sudden Strike where losing one soldier usually doesn't affect the gameplay much?
In Panzers the health and damage values will be adjusted so that the soldiers won't die suddenly from one strike :). Compared to Platoon, in Panzers you have to spend less time with micro-management, several actions are automated or can be set automated. Our game is more tactical game than Sudden Strike but more action oriented than Platoon. Panzers is the golden mean.
Which games, movies or books have influenced the game development the most, if any?
We are fans of WWII military vehicles since we were children influenced by movies like Kelly's heroes, Dirty Dozen, The guns of Navarrone, Das boot, Stalingrad. Later came the Enemy at the Gates and Saving Private Ryan. Besides movies we've got countless books about certain tanks, airplanes and about different forces like the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, Fallschirmjäger, SAS, Rangers and finally but not lastly we use the Internet. You can read veterans' stories on the Net and with some exceptions you can find any information on units you need.
Will the game be played in 2D or 3D?
It'll be completely 3D: the scene, the units, the buildings, the trees and all the decorative elements. All the effects are also 3D.
A lot of hardcore RTS gamers can't stand the new genre of 3D RTS games because of the bulky camera controls. How will the Point of View controls be managed in the game?
Our previous game SWINE was also a 3D RTS game with free camera control and we made an effort to make it simple. Apparently we succeeded as we haven't heard anyone on forums complaining about the camera controls of SWINE. In Panzers there will be additional aids to make it more comfortable. Besides free camera control there are a few preset camera positions which can be recalled by pressing a button and the player can define some more as well. By pressing the proper button the cameras tilt, height and direction can be recalled. Free view allows us to zoom in onto a detailed, high polygon unit or any object to inspect and we can have an overview of the battlefield too by zooming out.
What kinds of units will be used in the game - all realistic or some fictional too? Can you give us some examples? What about the weapons?
There are squads of soldiers in the game wearing the national proper uniform. Squads consisting of 2-5 soldiers can have 10 different types of weapons (e.g. bazooka, flamethrower, sniper rifle) on each side. Furthermore they can be equipped with various equipment (e.g. radio, magnetic AT-mine) to make them versatile.
As for the vehicles, there won't be any fictional just the real ones scaled correctly. There are tanks, self propelled and towed guns, trucks, airplanes, gliders, landing crafts, armored cars, jeeps all realistic. New developments appear in the game not before it was actually produced.
Just a few examples from the list:
- the most famous Tiger (PzKfw VI ausf. E) tank
- Wespe self-propelled artillery
- Ju-87b "Stuka"
- BM-13 rocket launcher placed on a Zis-6 truck together known as "Katjusha" or "Stalin's organ"
- the successful T-34/76 Russian tank
- Il-2 "Sturmovik" ground attack plane
- Sherman M4A3 and the Firefly version
- M26 Pershing
- Churchill III tank
Will it have a linear or dynamic campaign?
We know that a linear game can be better and more varied than a non-linear one as you can see in Mafia, a brilliant example. In the campaigns of Panzers mostly map follows map but some missions include two maps and you can travel between them freely. What about secret maps? It is a secret yet :).
What is the maximum size of game maps?
Our programmers made it possible to create a map as large as 1024x1024 meter. I wonder if we'll ever need such a large map. Testing SWINE we learned that the size of the map doesn't really matter as completing even the smallest map can contain plenty of objectives. More than 30 maps will provide more than 50 hours of exciting gameplay.
What kinds of missions will the player have to complete in order to finish the game?
Most of the missions are historical events like landing in Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, Stalingrad, Kursk and "commando" missions like the assault on Eben Emael fortress. There are a few fictional missions as well which could have happened in the war. Missions include some adventure elements like finding the right arm of the statue of Stalin in Sevastopol in order to find out the location of a secret ammo store and include mass tank battles.
How many missions will there be in the final game?
There will be 12 German, 8 Soviet and 10 Anglo-American missions.
How smart will the enemy AI be? Can you tell us where it possibly surpasses AI in games already existing on the market?
At last we can implement the ideas that we couldn't in SWINE due to the short development time. Some examples for the "army-level" AI:
- Protects areas and buildings considering priority
- Sends reserved units where they are needed most like groups suffered heavy losses
- Decision making to retreat, advance or hold position based on assessing the human player's force
- Transporting munition supply and sending repair car and traction truck before final need
Well balanced armies by combining arms against armor and men too
What graphics engine are you using for game development?
Gepard - the graphics engine of SWINE - is being updated, partially rewritten and most importantly extended with advanced technology.
What are some of the particular strengths and unique features of this engine?
Everything you've seen in SWINE has been optimized, the real time shadow (and self-shadow) is complete and there are new features under development but we'd like to keep them secret for some time.
What kinds of multiplayer modes will be included with the game?
There is Deathmatch, Kill the leader, Hold the line and some others, a quite unique amongst them that we'll reveal later.
How many players will be able to play the game at once?
The battle is fought between two teams of players. Up to eight players - human or computer controlled - can join one of the teams.
How far along into development is the game at this stage and when do you project it will be complete?
On one hand a lot of the objects are already complete with textures on them, on the other there are subjects that we have to talk over and over again not to make the game too complex (as we always want :) and to make sure the game system will work perfectly.
Where will the game be distributed after it's complete - do you have local publishers/distributors in most territories?
CDV handles the world wide publishing. Partner companies will publish the game in some countries like France. More details about that will be official later.
When can we expect to see a playable demo of the game?
We've got a playable demo in schedule next year for E3 which will be available for the public a little later.
Any last words for our readers?
The World War II is going to break out at the end of 2003! ...Again.
Don't miss it!
Thanks for your interest!
The Stormregion Team