Q&A: Silent Storm developers

Nival Interactive's turn-based strategy game will hit store shelves soon. Public relations manager Dmitry Kolpakov discusses its development.

Silent Storm is a soon-to-be-released World War II strategy game that lets you bring a small squad of skilled troops into battle. It also lets you do things like blast through walls or blow up entire buildings, if you wish. The game is scheduled for release next week. We sat down with Nival Interactive's manager of public relations, Dmitry Kolpakov, to discuss the game.

GameSpot: Thanks for taking the time for this interview. Tell us about what Silent Storm is supposed to be and what Nival Interactive was attempting to accomplish with the game.

Dmitry Kolpakov: In a nutshell, Silent Storm is a true 3D game combining turn-based tactical combat and role-playing elements. You take command of an elite squad intended for rapid assault raids and covert operations behind the enemy lines during World War II. The game features two campaigns for the Axis and the Allies, along with loads of authentic weaponry, a nonlinear story, fully destructible environments, and graphics previously unseen in the games of this kind.

GS: We know that Silent Storm takes place in World War II but that it has some unrealistic sci-fi elements, such as powered armor suits and laser guns. Why did you choose this setting?

DK: Silent Storm relies heavily on the undercurrent of secret operations of both Axis and Allied military intelligence agencies during the war. The plot also carries a glint of sci-fi and alternative history. After a while you realize that there is a third power in the conflict, a secret organization striving to take the upper hand in the world using dreadful über-weapons, including robotic Panzerkleins, laser guns, and rocket-based technologies. As you investigate these threats and get acquainted with the goals of the organization, your ultimate objective gets much clearer.

GS: How does the story unfold?

DK: The nonlinear character of the story adds additional flexibility to the game on strategic and tactical levels. Every time you start the game, the mission randomizer scatters clues and information throughout the plot. If you succeed in retrieving such information, new missions, locations, and objectives become available to the squad. Silent Storm also has an endless number of so-called random encounters, which give you a chance to get more skills and experience in skirmishes with enemy patrols--you can fight gangsters and marauders before going against professionals in the main missions.

GS: Why did Nival decide to model the turn-based combat system as it did?

DK: Silent Storm's combat system was designed to be as realistic as possible. The game features bullet tracing and collision detection according to the properties of penetrated materials and all obstacles in the way, as well as realistic trajectories, speed, and piercing performance for each type of bullet or other projectiles used. More than 100 weapons including knives, daggers, mines, grenades, rocket launchers, pistols, SMGs, rifles, and MGs of different war-era modifications open great tactical opportunities in a fully destructible environment. Apart from standard weapons, your characters can also acquire such rare examples as a Sea Devil sniper rifle, katana sword, kukri knife, shurikens, stunning rifle, Lewis MG, and many more.

GS: How did you go about designing enemy AI?

DK: You'll fight against a variety of enemies. These opponents have a level system and skills identical to those of your own characters, so the real differences will be in experience, level, and AI complexity. Tougher hostiles usually defend vital points and key positions; they're accurate and smart and wear distinctive garments, such as SS soldiers, sergeants, and officers. The goal in implementing this AI was for opponents who would act realistically and who would use their current situation to their tactical advantage. For instance, if you blow a hole in a wall, smarter enemies will take this into account and may use the breach for flanking and surprise moves.

GS: Describe the game's mission structure. How did you intend for the missions to be?

DK: You can decide which mission to take. Depending on the mission objectives, you may be required to defend HQ from impending enemy attack, steal documents, capture an informer, infiltrate into a secret lab or facility, investigate suspicious areas, or eliminate the threat to a scientific installation. The list of possible objectives is long and defined by a present strategic situation.

GS: Silent Storm features an impressive-looking 3D engine, something that isn't common for a turn-based strategy game. Why did you decide to use such an engine for this game?

DK: We developed a new engine for Silent Storm that meets all standards for modern games and uses the most up-to-date technologies. It helps us create a truly 3D, interactive world with multistory houses, underground structures, and facilities with fully deformable geometry and realistic object destruction. For example, houses and objects collapse when deprived of supports, columns, or lower stories, and there are chain reactions, where a random shot fired at an ammunition depot can have serious consequences. We implemented skeletal animation, inverse kinematics, advanced animation blending and motion, and rag-doll physics to make our characters look and act almost like real people. We also implemented 3D sound with Dolby Surround 5.1 support to let players locate shots fired by ear.

GS: What are the system requirements for this new engine?

DK: The minimum system requirements are Pentium III/Athlon 600 MHz, 128 MB RAM, and GeForce2 MX-type video card, with recommended specs of a Pentium 4/Athlon 2.2 GHz, 512 MB RAM, with GeForce3 128 DDR configuration.

GS: Why did you decide to make a turn-based WWII strategy game?

DK: The work on Silent Storm started in September 2000, although we had the idea for the game much earlier. We wanted to apply our experience from the Rage of Mages and Etherlords games while testing ourselves in a new genre. A shortage of turn-based titles helped us make up our mind, so we decided to create a game that takes place in World War II--an era rich in significant historical events, deadly weapons, and scientific breakthroughs; the last great war in the history of humanity.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Silent Storm?

DK: We attempted to create Silent Storm with beautiful graphics, well-designed gameplay, deformable environments, and freedom of choice on strategic and tactical levels. All in all, we made a turn-based game that feels almost like a real-time game. You have enough time to think over your actions and make use of appropriate tactics that actually work as they would in real life. We think Silent Storm targets the gamers that enjoy serious strategy games. But that doesn't mean that novices aren't welcome. We've attempted to implement a good control scheme, plus a tutorial, to flatten out the learning curve and make it accessible for a wider audience.

GS: Thanks, Dmitry.

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