Available: Europe: October 2003 / USA: Q1 2004
Developer: Nival Interactive
Publisher: Europe: Jowood / USA: Encore

Interview by: Kurt Knudsen

Silent Storm is a true 3D tactical turn-based Role-Playing-Game set against the backdrop of WWII. As the conflict rages on the frontlines, you’ll be leading a small multinational squad behind enemy lines to gather information and wreak havoc on your enemies while trying to thwart a mysterious new rising power whose plans are even more horrific than anything the world has yet witnessed.

Hi, thank you for taking the time to allow us to interview you. Could you please introduce yourself, and perhaps what you do?

Dmitry “Zak” Zakharov, Project Leader, Silent Storm.

What engine are you using for this game? If it’s an in-house engine how long has it been in development?

We started on the Silent Storm engine about 3 years ago with the goal of creating the best turn-based engine available. It has a ton of technical features that allow us to do things in the game that either haven’t been done before or are just beginning to be implemented in other PC games – of any genre! The features include a realistic physics system for structures, an advanced damage model and accurate projectile trajectories as well as Real-time destruction of nearly anything in the game. Rag doll animations and inverse kinematics assure lifelike movement and death scenes. Dynamic lighting and shadows add to the realism and create the right atmosphere as well as Dolby 5.1 surround sound that will give you audio cues as to where your opposition is hiding. These are just a few of the things that the engine is capable of, but I won’t spend too much time talking about it - seeing is believing!

What does the engine take advantage of? Any special hardware features on some of the newer cards?

It takes advantage of your computer’s memory :-). It actively uses pixel and vertex shaders when they are available for per-pixel lighting with shadows, bump mapping, specular lighting, ambient occlusion and point lights. Now, if you’re not familiar with any of those, it basically means that you get transparent glass, great light effects, reflections, shadows and great looking characters and environments. The engine doesn’t use any special DX9 class hardware feature, but it definitely takes advantage of the higher performance that such hardware offers. As I mentioned before – it is one of the most advanced engines not only for the genre, but also for computer games in general.

How will this game perform on a low-end system? At or below your minimal system requirements.

If you play the game on the min. or lower specs, it won’t use any advanced rendering techniques like shadows or per pixel lighting. The most critical requirement is memory. We strongly recommend at least 256mb ram, although it will run with 128mb - but in some cases lag is inevitable. On lower-end graphics cards we recommend using 16 bit modes. We were able to run the game on a Riva TNT2, which is far below our requirements, at around 10 fps.

How does the character editor work, and how difficult was that to create?

The character editor is based on LifeMode’s Head Technology and wasn’t difficult to implement at all. We wanted to be able to give each player the chance to customize his main hero as much as possible and also have that character be able to interact in dialogues on-screen, with lip-synching and emotion. What we did was give you an option to use our pre-fab characters (who are also pretty cool!) in order to jump right into the game, or you can create your very own main hero by choosing from a list of selections including name, nickname, nationality and profession as well as the ability to tweak the attribute and skills sections. You then move on to the real fun part – creating your “head”. Moving 8 different slider bars determine skin color, age, hair, eyes, brows, facial hair, glasses and “damage” (scars and such). There’s a lot of flexibility to the system so you can usually come up with a pretty good likeness of yourself, or get as wild as you want. You can also choose voice types and uniforms. LifeMode basically gave us (and you) the ability to easily create custom characters within the game and then bring them to life inside the game itself.

How open-ended is the game? A lot of people hate linear games; do you offer something that gives a lot of possibilities to end the game or individual missions?

“Open Ended” was the game’s first working title :-). Silent Storm was designed from the ground up to be open-ended, from the story itself to the tactical gameplay to weapons usage. The plot consists of different objectives and clues that are shuffled randomly at the beginning of a campaign – meaning that even we can’t say how many missions you will have to take before reaching the end of a campaign – it all depends on what clues you get, in what order and what areas of the strategic map they open up – and many times, they will open up more than one area. One of the greatest aspects of the game is that you are completely free to make tactical decisions – if an enemy is located on a floor above you – shoot him through the ceiling. You can destroy just about anything in your way, meaning that the only limits are firepower, ammo and action points. Weapons, and to an additional degree, character professions, also add to the tactical freedom by giving you a wide range of characters that use different types of weaponry with greater or lesser skill. The best examples would be the scout and grenadier. A scout is much better at using melee weapons like knives, throwing stars and swords than any other profession – after all a scout is meant to be silent, but deadly. A grenadier, on the other hand, is good at blowing things up with grenades and bazookas – usually he’ll be a rather big chap who’s personality is as loud as the weapons he uses. You can begin to get a feel for what kinds of tactics you would choose for each operative when using him or her in your squad. To take it a step further – you choose your team – and you can choose to load up on one type or the other or balance them out.

What does this game offer that other Turn Based games such as Fallout don’t?

Silent Storm is full of innovations. Aside from the non-linear story, unlimited tactical options and wide range of different weaponry, Characters are given more depth by many options that haven’t been available in other games. First you have many more movement options – not only can you walk, run, crouch and “slither”, but you can also climb onto buildings or fences, jump from windows or any other height for that matter and strafe enemies without losing your target. If you use a certain type of weapon often, you will get more effective with it as your familiarity with it increases – this lies with a specific weapon, as even if you pick up another one of the exact same model – you will not be familiar with it. You can also have a character target an enemy for several turns – the longer you target him, the more accurate the shot will be – you risk, of course, that the enemy will move out of the field of view before you have made your shot. As I said – there are many more innovations in different areas, but many of these are covered by different questions here – Your squad members will have the widest range of options available in any game in the genre.

What can WW2 buffs get from playing this game? Is the game historically correct? I think I saw some guys suited up in Mech outfits.

Silent Storm does have a story that delves into the fantastic, but it offers loads of WWII-era weapons, and plenty of historical atmosphere. You’ll be able to pick up and use over 75 authentically modeled pistols, rifles, and anti-tank guns – and that’s just a small taste of the common and somewhat rare weaponry that you’ll be able to find. We brought in a military historian to make sure we got the specs right, including things like clip size, weight and damage parameters and even sent some of the team out to a shooting range to try some of the different types to get a feel for how they operate in real life. As for the mechs – what we call PK’s or Panzerkleins, most of them also use real WWII weaponry – although the guns we mount on the PK’s were most often mounted on airplanes and other vehicles :-).

Is the scenery true to life? Are the location in the game from real life places, or is it more of a fantasy world/country?

Silent Storm ‘s main locations are based in England, Germany and Russia, although towards the end of the game you’ll have a couple of secret locations to travel to. The environments are designed from scratch, but we went to a lot of effort to make sure that each location closely resembled whatever country it is located in and of course they are true to the time period. Ultimately, the environments are central to providing the WWII atmosphere as well as supplying a good place to try out all kinds of different tactics.

Do you control only units? Or can you hop in tanks and humvees?

You control all of your squad members all of the time. You will run across various cars, trucks, motorcycles and even trains during the game, but they exist purely for destructive fun – meaning you can use them for cover, blow them up, or blow other things up with them if they happen to have a gun mounted. There are a couple of different weapons systems that you’ll be able to “jump into”. They include heavy artillery and machineguns as well as the dreaded Pazerklein.

What skills can be improved over time? If some aren’t standard, such as Strength, can you explain what they do?

Silent Storm has a four-tiered character development system consisting of attributes, secondary attributes, skills and perks. All of them can be upgraded or increased over time as you use them. When you create a character you can make slight adjustments to your attributes, which consist of Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence. These are all linked to your profession, secondary attributes and skills. Now, if you want to be a grenadier, it would help to have more strength, while brains aren’t that important , while dexterity is a good thing for an engineer or scout, so you want to make sure that your attributes correspond to your chosen profession. Some of the more “exotic” skills include Interrupt or Hiding – the first of which is your ability to get the jump on an enemy and the second your ability to hide from them. You also have a familiarity rating for each weapon – the more you use a certain weapon, the more familiar you will become with it, even if you pick up another weapon of the same model – you won’t be familiar with the new weapon. The most important thing to remember is that the more you use a skill or weapon, the better you will get at using it, the more bonuses and perks you will get and it will also affect your secondary and primary attributes, like Shooting or Strength – the more you throw grenades the stronger you will eventually become and the more you remove enemy mines the more dexterous you will get. Perks are another bonus system, and you will get points after leveling up that you can spend to give your character bonuses in combat – for instance you can choose a bonus for a medic that will allow him to heal critical wounds better, or for a scout that will increase pistol accuracy. The skill system seems a little intimidating when written down, and we certainly spent a great deal of time getting developing it, but once in-game, it becomes rather intuitive, and you find yourself looking forward to picking out your next perk and watching your skills and attributes grow.

What kind of weapons can we expect, anything out of the ordinary?

Just about anything a WWII-era secret operative could wish for. We have over 75 authentic weapons in the game from throwing knives to rocket launchers. Each has its own ammo type and clips also and will have to be reloaded with the correct ammunition. You’ll have a standard set of weapons back at your base, but you can pick up anything you like while in the field, including weapons from dead, or unconscious, enemies. There are a couple of unusual weapons, which will only be available in random encounters. One of them is a katana sword – the ideal weapon for a good scout. There are some other unusual ones too, but you’ll have to play the game to find out for yourselves :-).

Is there anything else you would like to add that I didn’t touch on?

We always appreciate any and all feedback that we can get on our games so if you’ve got comments or wishes, drop by our forums at www.nival.com and participate! We make games for you – so let us know what you think.

Relevant Links:
  • Demo: available (199 MB)

  • Preview: available

  • Exclusive screenshots: available