GDC 2003: PeriMeter update

1C exhibits the latest version of its real-time strategy game at the GDC.

We checked in with Russian publisher 1C at the ongoing Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California, to see an updated version of its upcoming real-time strategy game, PeriMeter. PeriMeter's most distinct feature is its focus on terrain and terraforming. There are no resources to hunt and collect in the game--all buildings and units are powered by energy, which is provided by energy collectors that can be built only on flat land. The hilly terrain of PeriMeter's maps doesn't provide a lot of naturally flat land, so the player can use basic builder units called brigadiers to flatten out an area of land and create space for energy collectors, research buildings, and more. We watched as the brigadiers and their bulldozer-like subunits moved soil from one part of the map to another, flattening a large expanse of land.

With enough energy collectors, players can activate a defensive energy shield, or "cupola," over the perimeter of their base. This perimeter prevents any enemy units from entering the base and is entirely impervious to attack. The disadvantage of using the cupola is that brigadier diggers can no longer work, and even the player's own combat troops cannot breach the barrier. The cupola is an effective shield, but there are two ways of breaking through it. One way is by expanding a base close enough to the enemy's base so the defensive shields can clash and interact with one another. The player with an advantage in energy can breach another player's cupola in this manner. Another way is to launch underground earthquake-like attacks that can damage or destroy the energy buildings powering the barrier. Knock one or two out and it will break down the shield, allowing troops to invade. The underground attacks also make use of terrain deformation. Shockwaves ripple and crack the surface of the ground in the direction of the attack.

Unit creation in PeriMeter is unique. There are only three basic units in the game: soldiers, officers, and technicians. The player can build a number of these infantrymen and combine varying numbers of them to morph them into tanks, mobile mortars, rocket launchers, and other vehicles and units. Different vehicles have different recipes. For example, in the version we tried, it takes four soldiers, eight technicians, and four officers to morph into one tank, which comes armed with a powerful laser cannon. The morphing process is fully reversible, a feature that 1C's Anatoly Subbotin stressed would "eliminate the problem of useless units." With the ability to morph infantry into vehicles and "de-morph" them back into their constituent parts, players can change up their units and strategies on the fly. It's worth noting that the morphing isn't instantaneous, and it requires special morphing energy, which prevents players from changing their armies around with reckless abandon.

The graphics engine of PeriMeter is quite advanced, and it's capable of impressive detail in the terrain and three-dimensional explosions with full particle effects. Players can zoom in and out on and rotate the map freely, and they'll need to do so often to see around some of the mountains and hills on the various maps.

The developer, KD-Labs, plans to have two factions in the game, one of which is more technologically oriented with high-tech vehicles. The other, unfinished faction will have psionic powers, with more ability to bend the terrain and take control of the world's resident fauna, the filth monsters. The different varieties of filth range from swarms of giant wasps to humongous worms that tunnel underground and resemble the sandworms of the Dune movie. Currently, PeriMeter has no North American publisher, but 1C is working on getting a distribution deal in place. We'll have more details on PeriMeter as they become available.

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