Available: Q3, 2003
By: Lesta Studio / Buka Entertainment

Interviewed by Dennis Sloutsky

Today, as the next part of our Buka week Russian invasion, we've managed to have a chat with Liudmila Mazurova of Lesta Studio about their upcoming WW1 themed real time strategy game The Entente: World War I Battlefields.

Please introduce yourself and your company to our readers.

My name is Liudmila Mazurova, I am a Project Director on The Entente: World War I Battlefields. Lesta Studio that develops The Entente is a game development and video production studio based in St. Petersburg, Russia. This game will be published by Buka Entertainment company – one of the leading publishers in Russia. Over 10 years of studio’s history we took part in creation of many famous game titles, but The Entente is our first independent project.

Please introduce The Entente to our readers.

We often wish we could turn back time and change the history. "The Entente" is a real chance for everyone to alter the way of the World War I! The Entente is a real-time strategy game set in Europe and it is based on the events of the WWI: the plot carries us to the military events of 1914-1918. In this game you become not only a witness, but a powerful and wise army commander as well. Its main focus is on battle strategies, formations and tactics, and also economics. While playing the game you should create and control the army and fight against enemies to change the history of Europe in the beginning of the XXth century. Each detail of the game is bound to give us a truly realistic picture of that historical period: from the interface and up to authentic look of all buildings, landscapes and units. Everything in the game is based on of archive photographs and historical chronicles. So along with gaming pleasure you will also have an opportunity to enlarge your knowledge of history. This PC-platform game features a non-linear campaign mode, a historical battle mode and a multiplayer mode.

Which sides are playable in the game?

You may lead the forces of one of the following European countries: Russia, France, Britain, Germany and Austrian Empire, i.e. three countries of the Entente Agreement versus two hostile states.

Does the game simulate real historical battles? If so, please give an example.

Yes, the game represents real historical battles. I’ll give only a few names of the campaigns that we are working on:
- The Battles of the Marne (1914)
- Gas attack at the battle of Ypres (1915)
- The Brusilov offensive (1916)
- Battle of Jutland in the North Sea (1916)
- Tanks of the Somme: The First Battle Tanks (1916)
- Battle of Gallipoli (1916)
- Battle of Verdun (1916) and etc.

What is the size of a typical battlefield?

Battlefield map resolution is of three types: small (9,600x4,800 pixels), medium-size (19,200x9,600 pixels) and large (28,800x14,400 pixels). Military campaign battlefield maps correspond to the historical references.

How many unit types are included in the game?

The number of unit types is constantly increasing, and believe me, they are really numerous and diverse. We have both “classic” units used in The Entente as well as some specific for the World War I. A short list of the units is the following: workers, soldiers (troopers, flame throwers, chemical engineers, machine gunners, snipers), officers, horsemen, airplanes (spy planes, fighters, bombers) and dirigibles, observation and barrage balloons, ships (destroyers, cruisers, battleships) and submarines, light and heavy tanks, artillery, howitzers, anti-aircraft guns, armed vehicles, pillboxes, and etc.

Are the units unique to nations selected? Give us some examples of those.

The units are unique for each nation. They were created basing on the historical references. I may name some exotic units, for example, the Austrian Empire has Tyrolean riflemen and hussars, the Russians have Cossacks and female rifle battalions (fierce and brutal, capable of lowering enemy moral).

How many troops can fight on one map?

We have a really impressive unit quantity. Up to 80,000 units can fight on one map with 10,000 units visible on screen space.

Can surviving troops be transferred from one mission to the next and upgraded?

No, they can’t, but the player will have a lot of opportunities to upgrade units and economic infrastructure during the gameplay.

Do the units have a moral status that influences their behavior in battle?

Yes. The units have such feature as morale. It will say on persistency in carrying out the orders. If the morale is low, some unit may refuse to attack or may even escape from the battlefield. If the moral status of the units is high, the units may attack enemy troops with numerical superiority. Morale is influenced by economic status of the nation (poor supplies, provisions and housing, and also field-allowance), military experience of the units and their officers, overall situation on the front, and special agitation arrangements. Low moral may cause large losses of military personnel. As you progress through the game, each officer in your army will gain experience and become more valuable to you. You will decide who will be granted the power to take fortune into their own hands. In the middle of a battle involving thousands of units you cannot be everywhere at once! You have to trust your men and pray your confidence is justified. Also in The Entente we implemented a feature of group AI. The units may be grouped into hierarchic military elements (for land forces it is company, battalion, and regiment). The main task of group AI is to ease the control over the large quantity of units and take over the routines like maneuvers, formation, and deployment thus allowing the game player to focus on the main seat of war.

What are the resource types available in the game and what are the specific types used for?

Six resources are the basis of The Entente’s economic system. They are food, wood, iron, gold, oil, and electricity. I wouldn’t say this set of the resources is a unique one and that it differs from the other RTS games, so the reader may easily guess what they are used for. All these resources are needed for economic development and army creation and later for maintaining it. The nations have their own specific nutrition resources - they are growing crops that are most typical for each nation.

Is the gameplay linear or dynamic?

First we planned to make gameplay linear, but currently we are elaborating it as a non-linear campaign game, so the player will have more fun using a possibility to change historical sequence of events.

Which game is The Entente most similar to: “Sudden Strike”, “Age of Empires” or “Close Combat”?

I think, it has features of all these games but it has its unique possibilities and features of its own. It totally complies with the laws of this game genre and at the same time has its individual innovations.

What are the unique features of the game?

Well, it is one of the first RTS games, based on the events of the World War I. Most people are not familiar with this period of the history and consider it to be not very significant, but this war really changed old tactics and methods of leading the warfare and brought the new concepts. This war comprises not only old-style units (like horsemen) and almost a full spectrum of modern military unit types (airplanes, tanks, submarines and etc.), but also some units featuring only WWI: gas engineers (the action takes place before the first gas protocol), flame throwers, dirigibles and military balloons. The game is based on the true historic references - both campaigns and all units. The game impresses by the amount of units you can control. We are working hard on the AI – it is an essential element of a strategy game. Thousands of units are able not only maintain their formations - a great bonus for the gameplay - but they also react intelligently to game situations according to their characteristics. Units do not just stand on their own but they try to find something to do around them: infantry digs trenches and builds bridges. Units can hide in the buildings and protect them fighting for each house like in real life. In the game you will see realistic visual effects (explosions, fire, debris). Some houses have animation and that contributes to the realistic picture of the game.

Is this a 2D or 3D game?

It is a combination of both: 3D landscape, 2D sprites (units and buildings). Sprite graphics rendered from true 3D models allows us to make beautiful and detailed units with great character animation.

Does the game have a “Line of Sight” feature, and if so how is it managed? What about Fog of War?

Yes, we have a smooth Fog of War feature implemented. I would say, it is created in a way resembling the one used in “The Cossacks”.

What are the multiplayer modes that are included with the game?

You can explore several different single-player campaigns that can be replayed or extended by playing with your friends in cooperative mode or, play against other LAN or Internet users in various multiplayer modes. The Entente has not only the classic multi-player modes but also the other multiplayer modes (2 to 8 players): death match, skirmish, and the cooperative mode with customizable units.

How many players can play the game over multiplayer?

Up to 8 players can take part in a game.

Will there be a mission editor bundled with the game?

No, a mission editor will probably be available in add-on releases, because that one we are using now may be a bit too complicated and raw.

When can we expect a playable demo of the game to be released?

We expect to release it in the third quarter of 2003.

Any last words for our readers?

So, dear Reader, prepare yourself to lead your infantry and cavalry, move fierceful tank divisions, occupy air space with your air-units! Knockout gameplay will make you sit at your computer day and night cutting out the history of the early 20th century over and over again.