Exclusive interview of CRS, WW2OL development team (july 2010)
Par soloje - Edition du : 08 July 2010 - Créé le : 30 June 2010
Through Amy-Lynn "MOTORMOUTH" Engelbrecht, 39-45 Stratégie came into contact with the executive producer of the Cornered Rat Software (CRS) team.
We will learn more about Battleground Europe : World War 2 Online : its development, its close and more distant future, and finally the different ways of approaching this game full of possibilities.
Our editors Arzok and Denis_48 have lots of questions, so sit comfortably in your Somua tank, and unplug the phone!
39-45 Stratégie : First we would like to thank you for accepting to answer to this interview. To us, WWII Online seems to be the best video game ever made about the battle of France!
Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Cornered Rat Software : My name is Al "RAFTER" Corey. I'm the Executive Producer at Cornered Rat Software which is Playnet's game studio.
39-45 : Let's talk about your development team and the way you work. The team seems to be small for a video game like this one, could we have more details about its composition?
Al Corey : We're small but passionate, and every member of the team does the work of multiple people. Even our producers do double duty as game and community managers. Our teams are made up of two or three people, with the exception of the coding team which is made up both host and client coders.
39-45 (Arzok) : To give an idea of your work to players, could you tell us how much time is spent to model a new vehicle or new building and other stuff like that?
A.C. : It really depends on the model. The complexity of creating items in our game is enormous. Creating the geometry and texture for a tank or plane is the easy part. But that's only about 1/4 of what goes into a model in this game. What's left are things like LOD, damage model, effects, fire points, DOFs, colliders etc.
When all that's done, the model gets sent to production who builds the data (such as how much hp does it have, how heavy is the flywheel, how is the mass distributed, how much inertia did the road wheels have and more). There are hundreds of data points, or, in the case of planes, thousands. And, of course, it's inevitable that the model has some stuff that isn't quite right, gets sent back to art, who fix it, then send it back to production for more testing until it's ready.
39-45 (Denis_48) : Now let's talk about the future of your game.
The graphics look really better now in the new 1.31 version, but still are not at the current level of other action games and FPS. Do you plan others graphics improvements in the future? For example, for vehicles or infantries.
A.C. : BE can't really be compared graphically to any modern FPS. Our huge arena imposes limitations on graphics in order to be playable. Call of Duty type graphics in a world as huge as ours would only be playable on Nasa computers! The improvements we've made from 2001 to now are huge. But, yes, we're always planning new stuff, and an infantry redo is definitely on the list of things we want to do.
Arzok : The development time of the 1.31 version has been very long. Do you think that the next developments will be faster?
A.C. : The 1.31 update was a long one, and not the norm. We prefer to publish updates on shorter cycles.
Denis_48 : All the simulations in the game (planes, armours, guns ballistic, ...) try to be realistic. Do you plan to improve this part of the game in the future?
A.C. : Our team does a lot of research, whatever you are now imagining is probably factors less than what we actually do. I would wager we have one of the most complete libraries of WWII vehicles and weapons you'll find anywhere. We use original declassified documents and we've make fact-finding trips to museums and we get data from restoration projects. We use historical data for vehicle creation and weapon ballistics and everything is based on a really advanced component-based damage system that moves the game towards simulation.
Our engine and assets have been used by military contractors for various projects and we continue to work on that part of our business. We also get some help from our community. For example, after an extensive research effort from a player, working with a team restoring Churchill tanks, we have the correct internal mantlet values for the Churchill marks III and VII.
Arzok : Impressive!
Denis_48 : Players usually like to use new “toys” in a game, like new armour or weapons. Do you plan to add new vehicles or infantries in a near future?
A.C. : That depends on what you consider the near future. Game development cycles can vary in length depending on the complexity of the upgrades and additions. We do plan on introducing new equipment and features. There are a couple of fairly significant additions and upgrades for this year.
Denis_48 : For several years now the battlefield has been set in western Europe. Do you plan to create a new operation theatre, like the eastern front, soon?
A.C. : Our development and production teams have planned a series of expansion packs to follow Battleground Europe, first for the European theater then eventually taking gameplay outside of western Europe and into new theaters such as North Africa and the Pacific. However, we have yet to source out a publisher or secure funding for this huge project so it remains on the "To Do" list.
Arzok : CRS never wanted in the past to model prototypes like B1-Ter, or S40. But assuming that your game is partly an alternate history, can we hope any change on that? Indeed, if continental France continued the fight, these unit would have been produced and would've fought!
A.C. : In all honesty, the list of weapons and equipment actually used during the Second World War is so huge that we would be hard pressed to get it all in game. It's unlikely we'll veer off into "alternate" history when it comes to equipment.
Arzok : Do you plan to create some specials events, for inter-mission, where French forces could fight against UK forces for instance?
A.C. : We have a dedicated group of volunteers that create special events. Sometimes they focus on recreating real scenarios, and sometimes they design unique ones. We recently played out a mini-campaign on our live server that mimicked the post D-Day invasion days. It was a very successful experiment in dynamic game management and we're eager to try this out again.
39-45 : Lots of new players are surprised in-game because they can't go out of vehicles or take up fallen weapons, any modifications planed on this feature?
A.C. : We do have an, as yet, unpublished bail-out type feature planned. Picking up and reusing weapons remains on the long term list of things we'd like to develop.
Arzok : The strategic aspect of the game seems underdeveloped compared to its tactical aspect, focused on cities. Do you have ideas of developments to give a more strategic aspect to the game?
A.C. : We feel our current strategic gameplay features go well beyond standard MMOs by providing players the opportunity to shape and move brigades and more. We do plan on adding more features to increase these opportunities.
Arzok : It is possible to play with 3D glasses for a more intense experience. Do you plan in the future to optimize the game for this tool?
A.C. : We do not currently support 3D play.
Denis_48 : From your point of view, what has allowed this game, which was initially quite confidential, to last that long? Especially considering all the amount of MMO's that have come out and disappeared since 2001!
A.C. : Having and keeping team members who believe in the dream of producing the best WW2 MMO possible is the only way to remain successful. A lot staff came to the company from our player community and that almost guarantees that they have a passion for the game and the future promise of where it is headed. The players themselves also provide much of the fuel that keeps the passion burning. Having thousands of voices urging the team on can be a great source of inspiration.
Denis_48 : Now, how to deal with WWIIOL.
The game is quite confusing and difficult for a beginner. From your point of view, what could be added to help the “newbies”?
A.C. : The learning curve in BE used to be pretty intimidating to new recruits. We've worked very hard over the years to make it easier for new players to learn how jump into the game and be effective from the start. We've implemented a tutorial system, starting with the basics of movement and chat, working up to combat training for infantry, armor and air. We will continue to add new sections as often as possible.
We've also created some Squad recruitment tools that help new guys find a team of veterans to mentor them through their initial few sorties. Add to that our dynamic mission orders, contact reporting, the ability to easily group infantry through the use of Mobile spawning, a dedicated group of volunteer trainers and easier ways to find a fight, pwning in BE combat has become much simpler.
39-45 : For the offline practice module, the development of a basic AI which can manage a few enemy units would allow an easier contact for beginners. Is this development possible?
A.C. : Not currently, no.
Denis_48 : The financial cost is unique regardless of the time played per month. Could we expect some changes for casual players (a few hours per week)?
It would add to the community players who would like to play WWIIOL, but who can play only a few hours per week.
A.C. : We've been examining several new subscription models. We hope to announce it before the end of this year.
Arzok : WWIIOL is a massively multiplayer game. But a mode allowing limited deathmatchs between few players with direct IP for example, would be an easy way to familiarize the players with this excellent simulation. Is this possible?
A.C. : We recently added "instancing" to WWIIOL as a way to create the tutorial zones for new players. We have plans on expanding instancing to support all kinds of new options, and will eventually be replacing our old training server with a training instance on our live server.
Arzok : A last and more personal question, among all the units that can be played, what is your preferred one?
A.C. : I'm partial to the British light machine gunner (I can hear the cries of CRS bias from here! ) because of my Canadian heritage and proud family service in a machine gun corp. I'm not out of the ordinary though. We've run polls and found that the number 1 and 2 reason people choose sides are heritage and friends/squads. The rest of the staff are equally divided between ground and air, and, of course, Gophur has always had a soft spot for the Navy.
39-45 : Thank you for answering all these questions ! And long live to Battleground Europe!
Battleground Europe, a magnificent game, the greatest MMOFPS on World War 2, continues to be frequently updated by a team completely devoted to its cause!
Thus, developers have big plans for the game, a great ambition. In light of the answers, some changes to the game will be announced in the coming months. 39-45 Stratégie will do its best to inform you about it, and explain more about the game and its mechanisms (well, it will probably be published only in French... but Google Translate is your friend )!
The game requires a paid subscription, which may put off some players. However, there are many free trial periods! More information about it on the game official portal!