Available: March 2004
Developer: Wings Simulations
Publisher: JoWood / Encore

Interview by: Patrick "Rhett" Moore

Hello, please introduce yourself, and what exactly you do in the development of Soldner: Secret Wars.

I am Teut Weidemann, designer of Soldner - Secret Wars, and also the CEO here at Wings Simulations. My task is the keeper of vision, the guy who knows everything about the game. I tell each and every person on the team what to do when and where =).

Please briefly introduce the concept of Soldner for our readers.

Soldner is a multiplayer military tactical shooter using modern combat technology. We use huge landscapes serveral million square miles big, which is fully destructable. To achieve this we give the player over 60 personal weapons ranging from pistols, sniper rifles, aussault rifles to various grenades and launchers. In addition there are over 70 usable units in the game, from jeeps and trucks to tanks, helicopers and jets.

While there is a single player element, Soldner main focus is on multiplayer. The team’s philosophy is to see Soldner as a service to the MP gaming community. That’s why we listen to our fans. Soldner will incorporate many features that are direct suggestions from our community. We will keep doing this even after release.

On whose side do you play? Can you switch sides later on, or is there an additional campaign whitch lets you play with the 'Opposing Force'?

In Soldner, you play on your own side. You’re part of a mercenary squad, hence the name: Soldner, which is german for mercenary. In MP two of those Soldner teams fight each other for various goals. In single player your team is hired by various countries to fullfill tasks for them.

From what we've read until now the single player campaign is dynamic, does it mean there are multiple endings to the game?

Yes, and no. Yes we have a dynamic system which generates scenarios that you can pick. Results of playing those missions will influence the next couple of missions etc. But no, we do not have multiple endings, as there is no real end. You can play as long as you like until you earned the best equipment for your team or until you run out of weapons to equip your team.

Not a lot of information has been given out about the AI and your squadmates, how are they supposed to act in firefight and other combat situations?

The AI in Söldner is used for single player mode only. Enemy AI has audio and visual sensors which they react to. Every item and unit in the game makes noise with certain ranges, to which the AI can react.
You make noise depending on your actions. Sneaking makes much less noise than walking or running. So you can sneak up behind bots and they won't notice. Changing weapons or reloading of course does and will cause reactions in bots.

Bots do know terrain and cover, and will try to take advantage. They will use vehicles and helicopters. They have situational memory which they communicate to their teammates, so when one sees you his team will know where you are (we assume teams have comunication devices).

To command your teammates you can either use the AGS system (Advanced Gesture System) for general commands like follow me, spread out, fire at will etc. For more detailed commands you enter what we’ve dubbed the Tactical Commander Mode, or TCM. Here, you can order your team mates with simple point and click commands. The TCM mode shows the battlefield from above through the eyes of your personal spy satellite.

And what about stealth situations? Will they be able to take direct orders to suppress all fire, and will stealth be an important part in the game on the part of the player?

As expained above our sensor system does allow stealth in single player. In multiplayer noises can still play a role in sneaky situations. Stealth is only important if you choose to play that way. Usually you do this when you encounter superior forces in SP with your team.

Obviously, there will be an intricate AI in the game, with Survival (A Cooperative MP mode against computer opponents). My question is, will there be AI controlled bots (in any game mode) for people with slower connections? Or perhaps a Skirmish mode?

Actually we will postpone the co-op MP modes. The AI bots are working in MP but the testing of them in most modes is so demanding that we had to postpone them either to the add on or after release. I know this is one of the favorite features of some players, but please be patient, we will work on survival modes.

Skirmish isn't planned for release, and the only bots currently being used in multiplayer are hostages.

As I was reading and learning more about Soldner, JoWood's future plans for Soldner are amazing. Please describe the multiplayer game modes you plan on including in the game.

With the intial release the major MP modes will be Conquest, Hostage Rescue (with the extraction variation, ie. get an item instead hostages), Bomb Runs, CTF (with a “capture the vehicle” variation), and Team Deathmatch.

However the modes are scripted in python and can be easily modified, something we call CMM, or Customizable Multiplayer Modes. We expect many good variations coming from the MOD community and will of course expand them ourselves with our monthly freebies.
This is part of our service, that we will update the game in the coming months with goodies, new weapons, new units, new modes etc. For the Add On we’re also planning to have online persistent campaigns, but we will anounce details about this at a later time.

I've read about an enormous amount of driveable vehicles that will be available in the game. How will all of these 70+ vehicles and aircraft be implemented throughout the game (single and multi player)? Will you be able to have AI-controlled or real squad mates manning vehicles together with you, a-la Halo and BF1942?

We have 70 vehicles, but there might be slightly more in the final retail version. We plan to offer a huge variety of vehicles, from civilian cars, jeeps, trucks, APC's, light tanks, main battle tanks, various helicopter types and jets, even VTOL's (vertical take off and landing). In MP most vehicles can be manned by more than one. In fact some vehicles can only be used fully with teammates. For example a main battle tank like the T-90 will only have 70-80% speed and reloading times when you drive it alone. As soon as a teammate enters you will drive and your teammate will shoot, but with 100% speed and reloading time.
Some vehicles even allow transporting up to 16 players. Some helicopters have 8 passengers and you can parachute out of them. Some have machine guns you can use while your teammate drives.
In singleplayer bots can do this as well, but driving and flying will be up to you, the player.

What about controlling these vehicles? Will the controls be detailed (simulation style), or just the normal move-and-shoot controls?

We’re somewhere in the middle. Our flying physics are close to be realistic, but the interface helps to make it a little easier. Still you need to train to fully master a helicopter for example. Even firing an Abrams tank on the move isn't as easy as it sounds, some skill is involved. Our physics engine makes sure the feedback is real, our control system makes sure you can fully control each unit with mouse and standard keyboard keys.

Promised customization of individual soldiers looks to be promising in the sense that it'd be possible to have a unique character of every player. How big will the palette be, of faces, sunglasses, hats, camo, and so forth?

We once calculated the amount of variations we theoreticaly have, but the number was staggering and really a theortical value (over millions of combinations). To be truthful some items don't look too different, I mean a camouflaged trouser of a soldier doesn't look too much different between russian and US uniform, but a jeans or Jason mask will. So I guess we have something like 65,000 real variations. So far in the beta tests which runs currently I havent seen anyone running around like I do :)

We have something like over 20 faces, 10 jackets, 5 trousers, serveral boots, gloves, some sun glasses, backpacks etc. As you can also change the camouflage of your soldier and thus the whole colored appearing there are enough variations so you or your clan can look unique. Oh, one more thing: the commander of a team can change the camouflage for his team, overriding your choice. This makes identifying teams much easier.

Speaking of camo, will the woodlands, fields, houses, trees, and anything else that can be theoretically used for your advantage completely destructible like your website promises? How about making your own 'hiding spots' - would one be able to create holes in the ground and the like where he could take cover from enemy's bullets?

Most items are destructible. Currently only the large rocks, the terminals where you buy weapons, the flags of Conquest or CTF and the mission items are indestructable, otherwise it would mess up the gameplay. Everything else is destructable. Houses, bushes, trees, fences, units etc.

Craters currently are in testing, as they mess up some gameplay issues. If we cant fix it we need to postpone them, but currently it looks good that they are included.

So to answer your question: people already do this in the closed beta. One guy planted a C4 on a tree, blew it up and the tree fell on a house, laying on the roof. The guy then walked over the tree onto the roof and had a nice hiding place. Other guys mess with bomb packs so that dozens of trees are suddenly falling, creating a maze of tangled leaves, wood and trees, creating litteraly a jungle. Its nice to see creativity with fully destructive environments.

Well, last question. Is JoWood planning any expansion packs or addons to be released in the future (or maybe an editor?) besides the 128 player servers?

We plan monthly freebies; this includes maps, weapons, units and added features, or things the community demands. We will add ladder support, VCR functions and more players per server after release. Currently there are 2 add ons planned, not only with new maps and units, but with gameplay enhancements. We see Söldner as a service to the MP community. This game will be served as long as its going to be played.

Thanks for your time and effort in Soldner, and all extra time spent doing this interview. After trying the beta version I will remain a fan of Soldner for a long while.