By: Scott “TheGoodEvil” Allred
You must be getting sick of this question but, can you tell the Empire Earth 2 onlookers who you are and what your position is at Mad Doc?
I’d be happy to. Hello everyone, Dr. Ian Davis here, CEO of Mad Doc Software, a.k.a. The Mad Doctor and Creative Director on Mad Doc’s Empire Earth 2.
How will borders work? Will they be static or expand in proportion to buildings you build like in Rise of Nations?
With Empire Earth 2, our goal is to create a truly engaging, rich gameplay experience which brings key challenges and a true sense of realism to the table for hardcore fans. It seems to us that in the real world, borders simply don’t expand in proportion to buildings – it just doesn’t happen. We wanted Empire Earth 2 to more closely mirror the real world. As such, it made sense to us to create and implement our own system, the Territories System (in which borders do not move) which we feel pushes the game toward the historical realism we’re striving for, while adding loads of additional gameplay. (Read on below to find out why I absolutely LOVE the Territories System we’ve implemented --- I think fans will agree that it’s a superior system).
What are the purposes of Territories and how will they affect the game?
I love the Territories System, to me it really pushes the game toward historical realism and is the foundation for a lot of additional gameplay. Let’s start with the basics: maps are divided into Territories that players claim and compete for (these become economically important and are important for military strength). What I really like is that the Territories System gives players another goal in the game: it makes you want to take over specific areas on the map, it entices you to go out there and get land. So right off the bat, there’s a great deal more depth of strategy and play.
Here’s how the Territories System affects what you do in the game: the player needs to have a City Center on a territory to control it. But, there can only be one City Center per territory (so to take one from someone else, you need to destroy their City Center - and then take that one as your own). And here’s where it gets tricky: if the territory isn’t adjacent to any of the territories you already own, you need to build a fortress to claim it. You also need to keep in mind that you lose a territory if someone takes out your City Center and builds one of their own in its place (or captures yours). Plus, there are some very real advantages to owning a territory: you enjoy a population cap increase from having the City Center, as well as morale and fervour bonuses (these increase fighting abilities on your home territory).
Here’s an example of how it enhances the gameplay experience: let’s say you enter a foreign territory, and there is no particular penalty to enter. But let’s also say that you also have an alliance with another player, and this alliance specifies that you don’t have border permission - in this case, you may be prohibited from moving civilian units, military units or both types onto their territory. You can see how this changes things a bit, and depending on the mission, map size and number of territories, the gameplay experience varies as well, which adds even more to the experience.
So, there’s a lot more going on with the Territories System in place, and with the introduction of the Crown System (rewards players who achieve military, economic, or imperialistic supremacy) and the Diplomacy Screen (allows players to offer treaties, barter for land passage rights, trade offers, etc.) you get a real sense for how this all comes together to keep diehard fans happy for a pretty long time.
Will Empire Earth 2 have resource limitations, or will you be able to fashion your economy based more on your style of play rather than research?
While your points here aren’t mutually exclusive (you can have resource limitations in the game and fashion your economy based on your style of play and/or research), the great news is: there are no limits to the resources in Empire Earth 2. In fact, you can pretty much mine resources all day long if you wish. Note that you can only mine at a certain rate, so you’ll still need to expand and take new territories in order to have easy access to additional resources. Basically, how you’d like to take advantage of the resources available in the game is up to you (and of course, your opponent/s!). In addition, as we all know, to some extent, these kinds of games require research. Yet it’s important to note that the player isn’t a slave to research in Empire Earth 2.
In the game, the technology is its own resource. The currency for research is its own resource. You can see how this moves along...Let’s look at what this may mean in the game. In Empire Earth 2, the standard resources are: food, stone, wood, and gold. In addition, we’ve added some special resources that change over time (these are introduced in certain epochs throughout the course of the game). As the game progresses and you epoch up, depending on what epoch you’re in, you’ll find and need: tin, saltpeter, iron, oil, and uranium. This has an interesting effect in the game - it creates this really cool dynamic: when you advance to a certain stage, you may find you’ll need to go out and claim specific new resources. Essentially, you’ll be making choices that affect your experiences. If you choose the setting that distributes resources around a map unevenly so that certain areas are, for example, rich in oil, you’re going to find that this experience is multiplied. Naturally, just like in the real world, this is going to create some pretty interesting conflicts.
Will there be unit counters in Empire Earth 2, what style counters will be implemented (rock-paper-scissors, attack types e.g. bash vs. slash, slash vs. pierce, pierce vs. bash).
We’ve done a really great job of streamlining the balancing in Empire Earth 2. We’ve balanced the game with an eye toward making the rock/paper/scissors weighting more stable. So, just to give you a quick example, the benefits are less extreme, and beginners aren’t wiped out by more experienced players too quickly. We think players are going to appreciate the fine-tuning we’ve put into place here.
Will troop’s micromanagement be completely human controlled and not a style of “your units will fight what they are closest to?”
Once again, we’ve tried to keep things in the player’s hands in Empire Earth 2. So, yep, you guessed it, in Empire Earth 2 you can set your unit stance, and they’ll behave just as you like. It’s as simple as that. It’s all in your hands! You can, if you choose, set your units on an aggressive stance.
And let’s not forget what we’ve done here to aid the player with micromanagement throughout the game. As I’ve said before: one of the most important resources in a game like Empire Earth 2 is the player’s time, and with features like the Citizen Manager and Picture-In-Picture window (PIP), we’ve made it easy to keep track of your empire and what’s going on in the game. The Citizen Manager is one of my favorite new features, it really does let you manage bigger empires more easily and keep using strategy in your economy, even when your empire is enormous. It lets you focus on the strategy of your economy and battles. I like to say it lets you manage your strategy, without micromanaging. And again, we’ve offered players a choice here -- using the Citizen Manager is optional. Yet I have to confess – now that I’m used to it, I simply can’t play the game without it.
How will age advancement work? What kind of structure do you have in place to ensure ages don’t just fly by?
Ok, once again, we’re trying to give fans some choices in how they play the game: the campaigns are designed to run in sequence – but they don’t have to be. So, you can play the campaigns in any order you wish. As for the missions within the campaigns – these are fixed, in sequential order. Seems natural that you have to advance to move forward in time and advance to the next scenario.
In skirmish and multi-player, you can choose a Game Pace that suits your tastes. You can choose a slow paced game in which epochs take a lot of time, or a fast paced game in which you may be able to go through all time in the course of one large game.
How many unique units will each civilization have, or will there be any truly unique units at all (not just different art)?
There are over 40 separate unit types in the game (land, sea, air). All tolled, this translates into more than 350 different combat units when you take into account the number of civilizations in the game. Some of the unique units players can look forward to in Empire Earth 2 include: Hoplite, Partisan, Legionnaire, MI-6 Agent, Minuteman, Teutonic Knight, Jagdpanther, Royal Elephant, Bedouin, Mameluke, Dragon Song, Samurai, Ninja, Hwarang, Hwacha, Bola Thrower, and Quetzal Warrior, among others.
We’ve done a lot of work here to keep things interesting. As a result, there are lots of things to look forward to within the units as well. In the crewed units, for example, we don’t just have a trebuchet driving around the map; there are soldiers who drag it, push it, pull it, load the ammo, and crank it back with a winch. I also really like different HERC units. Each type of leader (Military, Economic, Imperial) has a unique set of powers - this really keeps you on your toes.
There’s a real nuance to what we’ve done here as well: each region has its own set of powers and abilities – civilizations have their own unique attributes – it’s this kind of detail that converges quite well to keep things fresh in the game.
Can you give us some of the bonuses we might see in some of the civilizations that will be in the game?
In Empire Earth 2, each civilization has a set of custom bonuses, as well as bonuses that are shared by all civs within the same region. Here’s a classic example: the British construct merchant ships and trade carts at reduced cost, and they happen to have better warships. As part of the Western region they also receive bonuses to their universities and technology research, and when they capture enemy buildings they get additional war booty. Additionally, each civilization also has three unique units that it can access during the course of the game.
Throughout the course of the game with the Crown System, Tech Tree, Leaders, and Wonders, players can also customize the types of bonuses they receive. It’s an important note, as it can really change the dynamic of how they play the game -- it allows the player to adapt and react better to the changing circumstances of any particular game so there’s less pre-determining going on. It entices you to play a bit more “by the minute.” To me, it just seems to make the game much more fun.
The Crown System is intriguing to say the least, can you give your fans a little taste of what the “crowns” will do and how you get them.
We’ve had some fun with this one, introducing the Crown System in the game to temporarily reward players who achieve military, economic, imperialistic or cultural dominance, diplomacy. The Crown System does a lot of things I like, it adds strategic goals and it makes for some pretty exciting gameplay. As you might imagine, I’ll get a message like this: “Cbold has won the Military Crown!” Now, here’s where things get interesting, because I can choose to chase him and try to win the Military Crown next, or I can change my strategy and go after the Economic Crown instead. I’d likely try to get a bonus that will counter his Military one.
Here’s how it works: when a player wins a Crown, he/she only has that Crown and whatever Crown Power they’ve chosen for a limited amount of time (about 5 minutes). At the end of that time, any player who is qualified (has all the techs for that branch researched) is eligible for it, and the eligible player with the highest score in that category will receive the Crown. It’s also important to understand that the bonuses associated with winning a Crown aren’t going to overwhelm the game; the Crown System is only one part of Empire Earth 2, and I have to say, we’ve really worked hard at balancing the Crown System in with all the other game systems. I think hardcore gamers are really going to enjoy this one, it keeps the gameplay fresh.
What type of audience do you hope to bring into the ranks of Empire Earth 2, is it a casual players game, or a hardcore 1337 RTS players game? Can you give some features that will help to bring the players you want into the fold?
Ah, good question. And I’ve got a good answer: BOTH! Empire Earth 2 is a game very clearly designed to appeal to and assist casual gamers in their gameplay, while offering advanced players more depth and strategy to keep them engaged. To me, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Look, our goal here is to give all our players more, while making it easier to digest and control the game. To its core, we’ve made the game more elegant – bringing players features like the Citizen Manager, War Planner, and the PIP, among others. As I’ve mentioned, the Citizen Manager is an easy tool set designed to make sure your citizens are working in the right place at the right time; takes the tedium out of managing lots of citizens in a big empire, yet leaves all of the strategy in place. With the new War Planning feature, players bring up a map of the entire level and create war plans for allied troops to use at the same time. This works well for team based multiplayer matches, as well as with AI in the single player campaigns. The best part: it’s up to the player, really, to use them as they like. Keeping track of everything can get fairly hectic, so we created the Picture-In-Picture feature as well (players can key locations for view in the PIP window, and important events will also automatically show there).
These can all be used across the single player campaigns, historical campaigns, and nine multiplayer modes over Internet and LAN. Also, with Empire Earth 2, there will be bigger battles over many ages, and hardcore gamers can expect "non-cheating," adaptive, more dynamic AI to give them challenges that seem more human. Ambient weather like fog and snowfall will affect gameplay and force players to adapt to changing environments. There is also a lot more depth of strategy and play, and with the introduction of the Crown System, hardcore gamers will have a great gameplay experience. We’ve also added in the new Diplomacy screen, which allows players to offer treaties, barter for land passage rights, trade offers, and more. All in all, we think there will be more than enough innovative gameplay to keep any strategist happily occupied for quite a while.
We’ve also got a few things up our sleeve that allow players to make adjustments in the game, or if you will, “handicap” things as they wish. Essentially, we’ve given players a lot of flexibility in how they play the game – in how they use the AI. We’ve created 15 epochs in the game, and we’ve set it up so that players can start wherever they want. We’ve also given each player the ability to start at a different epoch, which means you can basically handicap the game however you want. We took it a step further as well: each player can choose a skill level (from 1-5) and each player’s AI can be set to a difficulty level (also 1-5). When it all comes together, players can pretty much set the AI level (difficulty level) and play the game as they like. These options should keep things pretty interesting - and keep the gameplay fun - for a wide range of players.
Has the “reorganization” from Sierra to Vivendi slowed the game’s release date at all?
Not one bit---it’s been smooth sailing, and we absolutely love working with the Vivendi Universal Games team. It’s been a blast.
Could you rivet us with tales of your exploits in Empire Earth 2, maybe a tight battle or something that made you cringe with fear or bellow in triumph?
A couple of months ago I was playing in a multi-player game against some expert RTS players who had been given a chance to play Empire Earth 2 for a day or so. They were great players, but I assumed I’d kick their butts since I knew the game so well, so I think I took them a bit lightly.
The game was a Sole Survivor Conquest game in which only one of us would be left at the end. We also played on a small map with only two territories per person (of course, you start with just one). It was a Quickstart game, too, so we had some rudimentary bases and troops. I started my economy up in full gear, crafted a largish force, seized a second territory, and began a blitz on the guy to my west. I built a bridge and thought I was sneaking up on him, but he had arrayed all of his artillery on the other side of the bridge and my troops got hammered as they crossed the bridge.
I had to retreat back to my territory, but I hadn’t really made many defenses yet. My economy was starting to churn, but he kept the pressure up and took my northern territory. But he assumed I had more left than I did, and when he hesitated on the push I sent him a timed treaty offer (timed treaties cannot be broken with the default settings). As soon as he accepted, the guy to my south started attacking. I put up some defenses and rallied my troops down there, and just barely held him off. I would have been crushed but another player attacked him from the south. I was down to two citizens, one artillery piece, and two infantry. When I saw him getting attacked I gave him a short Timed Treaty offer, too (but it would last about 5 minutes past the end of my other treaty).
I had about 5 minutes to rebuild while West and South dudes fought other battles. I was advancing in tech very quickly (I had both Universities and Temples garrisoned to the Max), and I epoched up a couple of times. My army was smaller than the other guys’ but tougher, too. The West guy had just crushed the other players (besides South), and the treaty ran out with him, catching him off guard. I sent South a warplan, and we pushed up...I quickly reclaimed the north territory. West came storming in, but I had more defenses set up than before, and South’s troops took the brunt. Still I was left with just three military units and a dozen or so citizens. But all three teams were wounded badly. West kept sending in Bombers, but I built lots of anti-air. South launched an ill-advised attack on West and they both took some lumps, too.
Now I had a bigger pop cap, and I built up, and when my treaty with South expired, I swept in hard, and took his city centers out in short order. West had a lot of his troops tied up in a battle with South’s remaining (landless!) army, so I swept back up through the north and went straight into West’s base. I softened it up with spies (disabled all the production centers), making him have to bring his army all the way back. By the time it got there, I had a foothold, and in a brutal battle I outlasted him and won the game with one spy, three tanks, two infantry, and one artillery piece!
With all the other RTS titles on the market can you in 50 words or less describe why Empire Earth 2 will be more kick-ass than the others, or will you take the modest approach?
All due respect to our competition – with the amount of kick ass work we’ve put in here - I’m not feeling too shy (and I’m a pretty humble guy). Here’s the simple, unadorned truth from my perspective:
Empire Earth 2 lives up to its billing: Epic. Conquest. Evolved. It’s 15 epochs, spanning 10,000 BC – 2230 AD, 14 different civilizations, and a greater number and variety of buildings and units than any other game on the market. Simply put, it’s kick-ass, cutting edge AI (it is one brilliant, adapting opponent, and IT WILL NOT CHEAT); kick-ass weather (imagine your plane’s downed by poor visibility; your forces surrounded in a blizzard); kick-ass graphics (come on – we’ve got over 40 separate unit types - land, sea, air- translating into over 350 different pieces of art for the units alone!) Even a quick peek at the sheer sum and depth of what we’ve done is inspiring; we’ve added innovative features -- smart, core streamlining features that really do make the gameplay experience quite exceptional. We’ve pushed the envelope with the game AI, rewritten every single line of code, and those features – the Diplomacy System, the Crown System, Territories, the Citizen Manager, the Picture-In-Picture, the War Planner – I can’t wait to see the impact they have on the players. When you get your hands around the Crown System, Tech Tree, Leaders, and Wonders, when players start customizing the types of bonuses they receive throughout the course of the game, when they get how the handicapping works, when they start bartering and trading and seizing territories, when teams start using the War Planner, that’s when things are gonna get interesting. I can’t wait for them to get a taste for the new “Sole Survivor & Quick Start” modes. And we didn’t forget the details in this game, even the musical score is exceptional. I have to say that when players get this, I mean, really get this game, I think they’re going to find out what the Mad Doc Team is all about: creating a truly exceptional gameplay experience for our fans. I think we’re doing that quite well with Mad Doc’s Empire Earth 2. I’m supposing that’s more than 50 words...sorry for that one.
Well I’d like to thank you on behalf of all RTS gamers in the world for your time, knowledge, and above all your game! Thank you very much.
Ah, thank you for the kind words and for allowing me to check in with everyone, it’s been a pleasure. And I’ve always got to thank the fans as well for their support and excitement – I hope they all know that we’re here pushing hard to bring them something really special. So listen up everybody, because Vivendi Universal Games and Mad Doc’s Empire Earth 2 is coming – and man, I can’t wait to see fans get their hands on it!