Interviewer: Thomas Cap
Interviewee: Joakim "Greven" Bergqwist, Senior Game Designer
Hi. Please take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what is your part in making the game?
I am an ex-military man, who spent a decade at the University reading Military History, Political Science and Philosophy. I have been with the company more or less since 2000, when I started out as a Beta tester for Europa Universalis I. Since that day I have designer or been co-designer in a design team for most of our released titles. I write the Game Design Documents, design core and lush features, conduct background research, design game logic and game flow, and am part of the team that balances the gameplay.
Can you talk in short about the game plot, and the story behind the game? Did planning for the sequel start before or after the success (for a "hardcore" game) of the first game?
Well it came after the success, but I remember that we talked about it already at the release of Hearts of Iron. We already then felt that there were things that we wanted to change. Things that we thought would not only improve the game, but also make it more the game of our original vision. Among things here I would say game handling, interface, and pedagogic game flow.
Game modes – multiplayer, co-op, campaign, special scenarios (D-Day, Stalingrad anyone?), QuickPlay – can we expect some (or all) of these generic game modes to be in the game?
Yes many of these feature will be in and its part of making the game more easily accessed and simple to use for casual gamers. One feature I want to emphasize is the battle scenarios, which will fill very important needs. You can now play a game from start to end in an hour or two. These scenarios can work either as a regular scenario, building units etc, or be more stringent and more boardgame like with no production, but instead having reinforcements and replacements arrive historically by events. Also these scenarios can be linked so that you play the whole war in pieces through the eyes of a famous general as Rommel or Patton for example.
Thinking of the (few) Panzer Sims I know 2d maps populated with pixelated units come to my mind. Will HoI 2 be all strategy or do you have plans for the graphic engine as well?
We will polish and perfect what we have, but this game is based on the same engine as its predecessor. I think that the graphics in the game will look better and have more feeling about it.
To what degree did you reconstruct and stick to the actual events and the timeline of WWII? Will players alter history?
The basic game idea has not changed. This is an alternative history game, where the basic framework is correct, but where you can make the difference and deviate from the course of history.
I heard that you can also alter your countries political system. Can I really introduce Karl Marx’s ideas in fascistic Nazi Germany? How hard will this be and how long will it take?
Yes there is a political system in which the player has a tad bit more control that in the original Hearts of Iron. However the road is long, tedious and slow, especially the one you suggested. I think movements between extremes would need a lot of luck to happen.
More on politics. Diplomacy – what role does it play in the game, what alliances are possible and can you actually leave or join the big three ones (Axies, Allies, Komitern)?
In Hearts of Iron 2 you are no longer confined to one of the ‘big three’. You can craft smaller alliances, which is particularly interesting if you are a small country like Sweden, Romania or say Colombia. We have also added a lot of diplomatic actions that has been tried out, tested and refined in other games. We have added an open negotiation system and trade is now conducted through direct trade agreements between two countries.
Resources – How are they harvested, how important is micro-management, can the player automate the economical part of the game to concentrate on the tactics?
The resources themselves has been left intact, but we have changed the way production is ordered and visualized. One of the things we did not find optimal was the way production was handled. We believe that we will reduce micromanagement a lot in Hearts of Iron 2.
Taking a closer look at the two alpha screenshots you already published one will notice that there are more resource icons than in the first game. Comments?
Well one should always analyze Alpha screenshots from the point that thet are Alpha screenshots. But they there are more icons, some of them are actually icons for game values that were there in Hearts of Iron but which were not visualized the way we wanted.
What is the (approx.) number of missions included in the game and what is the average length of each mission?
As it is now we have projected 10-15 battle scenarios. However I know that the large modder community will start producing ever more the day the game is released.
Will units be able to gain more experience and learn more skills throughout the game? If yes: How does it, basically, work?
Units will earn experience for fighting battles. That will make them better, and at some point they will turn veteran. Experience will influence performance in combat. However, if the player replaces losses, the unit may turn green again.
How does technical progress work? Will units be auto-upgraded when a new tech is available? To what extend can you influence research?
The player can now set replacements rate, model upgrade rate and priorities and then these things will happen automatically. Research works as in the original game regarding choosing what you want to research, but the research rate depends on the quality of your research teams.
Will there be unique units (in addition to the nation specific ones)? Can we expect to see ships like the Shinano (the largest aircraft carrier during WWII) in action?
No. I prefer a structural system where anyone in theory could build any unit type in the system. Shinano, for example, it would never have been impossible for say the United States to build such a ship. They didn’t, but that was a doctrinal choice rather than a question of technical inability.
While we are talking about ships and planes. Many players of the first game weren’t too happy about the importance and usefulness of the naval and air units. Was this improved and what can you do with these units now?
Aircraft now works in an abstract system. You now give orders to aircraft in a base. Say that you have a German base in Northern France then you can give them order to perform missions in Southern England. Now these units will do that by themselves. You do not need to micromanage them anymore. The naval system is also mission-based but with a tad bit more player interaction, especially when come to amphibious landings. Also naval combat has been changed to get a more realistic naval battle where carriers are more important.
What about mod-freaks? Will they be able to edit more maps or even campaigns of their own?
Yes to a degree they can. They cannot change province borders or names, because these are burnt into the map. However political boundaries, what is supposed to be shown of the map in this specific scenario etc are all moddable things.
In Germany (and other countries) Nazi symbols like the infamous Swastika are banned and may not be used, not even in a game. Will there be different versions of the game or will you leave them out at all?
Well, the swastika is banned in many countries and when we release Hearts of Iron we found that we really did not need to use that symbol. Instead we have a historical flag that is quite accurate and we use contemporary symbols without the same political tension. We are quite happy with this decision.
What are the system requirements for HoI2?
You should be able to play it on a 800 MHz machine with standard components.
The original Hearts of Iron was recently banned in the People's Republic of China. Do you feel that you maybe really distorted Chinese history and their role in WWII? Will this cause you to change anything about HoI2?
No absolutely not. On the contrary I think it clearly show first what rough times China had endured. With the Japanese occupying Taiwan and Manchuria and setting up puppet-states. We should not forget that also Korea was occupied during this time. Second it clearly depict that both nationalists and communists defended China and threw out the aggressors, then in the end it also show the remarkable feat of the Communist, who against bad odds and foreign support wrested the control of the country out of the hands of rather corrupt elements. I do not think it is a secret that the present government have a very strong opinion of what is a correct portrait of their history. I don’t agree of all their views, but then again neither do I disagree of all of them.
Thanks for your time. Any last words to our readers? :)
The game is starting to look very good, and within soon we’ll have the first multiplayer game internally at Paradox.