Available: 21 October 2003.
Best Price: N/A
Developer: Related Designs
Publisher: CDV

Interview by: Andreas Misund Berntsen

I must say I’m not a big history buff, but I’m actually a bit fond of the American history, and particularly the colonial era. Not many games have been about that era, but No Man’s Land seems to be a very interesting alternative to the more fantasy based real-time strategy games of late. The developers at Related Designs were kind enough to answers our questions, and now you can check them out (Big thanks to Achim who has provided us with this opportunity to speak to them!).

Hi, please introduce yourself and your company to our readers.

My name is Thomas Pottkämper and I’m one of the Managing Directors of Related Designs. I’m also the project leader for “No Man’s Land”. Related Designs is one of the leading German developers for real-time strategy games, existing since 1995. Our biggest success so far was our Wild West strategy game “America” which has been very successful, especially in Europe.

The concept of No Man’s Land sounds very interesting. Could you elaborate a bit about the story, setting etc?

In NML the player will experience 300 years of American history from 1600 to 1900, separated into 6 exciting storylines. In the first chapter the player must play the role of captain Carvinez who must investigate into why no more gold is coming from the Spanish colonies. The second chapter will let you control a tribe from the Woodland Indians which has to battle against the English and later on you play as the Prairie Indians defending itself against the Settlers and their railroad.
The last chapter is about a fictitious chronicle of the Sanders family which arrive in the midst of the 17th in New England. From there they move on to the Southern States experiencing the War of Independence and later go westwards to take part in the building of the railroad.

NML won’t have any historic missions. We only use historic events as our setting (like the War of Independence) and try to tell an exciting story in the style of Hollywood (like in Mel Gibson – The Patriot), which will hopefully excite the players.

Why did you choose to go with this era, and what kind of historical research was needed to take on a project like this?

Already our first strategy game was placed on the American continent. We at Related Designs have a great interest in historic settings, as can be seen within our next game called Castle Strike (see below). For NML we have done a lot of background research: we read several books, browsed through the internet and also have taken lots of movies as a model (1492, Mel Gibson – The Patriot, The Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves, etc.).

Could you tell us about the six different nations, their abilities etc?

Each of the six nations (Spanish, Englishs, Patriots, Settlers, Native Americans, and Plains Indians) has different strengths and weaknesses. The four „European” nations are similar in some respects, but play very differently. The Spanish, for example, dominate the seas, the English have the strongest infantry, and the Patriots the mightiest artillery. The Settlers and the Patriots are lacking in maritime might, and the Natives only have canoes. On the other hand, the Native American units are fast to build, move quickly, can swim, and, in some cases, dive or camouflage themselves, and, of course, can walk through even the densest forest, which is a tremendous tactical advantage. The Plains Indians can pack up their tents and so move an entire village. All of their important units are excellent riders. Also, they are the only nation with mobile observation posts, which are difficult for foes to detect – but they can’t build fortifications.

The nations also have varying resource demands; for example, the Spanish need a great deal of gold, the Patriots eat a lot, and the Native Americans use a lot of wood.

The great variety of units (for example, the Native Americans have as assassin who can bury himself for surprise attacks, acting as a sort of movable trap) also contributes to the fact that each nation feels completely different to play, especially since each nation also has three unique elite units (for a total of 18! See below for details).

These are just a few of the elements that help to make the six nations distinct and the game as a whole deep and varied.

Could you tell us about a couple of the missions you like the most?

We don't want to give away too much, so here's just *one* example:

The young William Sanders has inherited his uncle's Railroad Corporation, and railroad tycoon Henry Starr is jealous. They are competing for the contract to build a huge stretch of rail, which will be awarded to the first company to complete a rail line between two cities. When the player starts laying rail (which he can't do until he's built a base camp), he'll be attacked by Henry Starr's men -- and they don't fight fair! As if that weren't enough, the construction has disturbed the neighbouring Indians, who, unfortunately, guard an important gold mine....

Can William Sanders overcome the obstacles and win the contract? Buy the game, and find out! :-)

What kind of graphics engine did you choose to use in No Man’s Land, and what kind of neat features does it have?

We use our own state of the art 3D engine. It’ll be able to smoothly render huge amount of 3D objects, handles real-time shadows for ALL objects, advanced particle effects system (big explosions, fire, surf, etc.) as weather effects and very detailed buildings. We are especially proud of our terrain system which enables us to use very detailed ground textures that can be seamlessly blended between each other. Of course we also use and support the capabilities of modern graphics cards (T&L, vertex shaders, motion blending, etc.).

The music from the No Man’s Land trailer sounded great. Can you tell us about what kind of audio we can expect?

NML has a roughly one hour long, movie-quality Soundtrack. Each nation has one or two pieces, plus extra music for combat and special atmosphere (e.g. night levels). The music was created by two up-and-coming German musicians (www.dynamedion.de), who are currently writing soundtracks for several promising German games.

What kind of multiplayer modes will be available?

No Man’s Land offers the following “classic” game modes (2 to 8 players):

* “Death match” (no alliances)
* “Team death match” (Team vs. Team)
* “Domination” (Several distributed flags must be held for a certain time)
* “King of the hill” (A flag on a hill must be defended for a certain time)
* “Hero assassination” (The opponent’s hero must be eliminated)

No Man’s Land offers the following unique game modes (2 to 4 players):

* “Defend / destroy a railroad track”
(A player must build a railroad within a given time, while the opponent tries to prevent this).
* “Railroad challenge”
(The player who first completes the railroad wins. This is especially fun if the routes cross)

How much is left of the development, and what are you currently working on?

The game is almost finished. At the moment we’re only fixing some minor bugs and are optimising some little things - so you can be pleased about a finished NML pretty soon.

What are your future plans? Could you tell us a bit about Castle Siege and TAP (internal title)?

Sorry, but I’m not allowed to talk about TAP at the moment, since it’s still confidential – but expect some news on this pretty soon... :-)
Castle Strike is also a 3D real-time strategy game playing in the medieval ages. In an exciting storyline you play as one of three different nations: the Germans, the English and the French. The focus is on building and conquering huge castles. You’ll also have lots of action and huge battles going on. You’ll be surprised... :-)

Is there anything else you’d like to add, before we wrap this up?

We hope to fulfill the high expectations that many gamers have for No Man’s Land. The game has everything a modern RTS should: exciting single player missions, a historically rich settings, a satisfying story build around heroes; many new ideas (the railroad, bounty hunters, elite units, etc.), comprehensive multiplayer modes, and, of course, a cutting edge 3-D Engine.

The most important thing, though, is that it’s already lots of fun to play! :-)