In military operations, the goal is to locate and crush the enemy. That's certainly what you'll do in World in Conflict, a real-time strategy game set in World War III. In World in Conflict, you will command forces of the US, the Soviet Union, and NATO in epic battle. The game is about a Soviet invasion of the US, with American cities and towns as the battleground. You will request ground and air units and commit them to battle, destroying the landscape along the way. Developer Massive Entertainment is currently conducting a multiplayer alpha test of the game, which is due to ship later this year, and we caught up with designer Magnus Jansén for an update.
GameSpot: What sort of feedback have you received thus far from the ongoing multiplayer alpha test? Are there key changes or improvements that are being implemented because of that feedback?
Magnus Jansén: The alpha test was great, and we got a ton of feedback on all kinds of things. A lot was balancing, of course, but some of the forum people were very intelligent and well spoken, so several suggestions they made influenced feature decisions as well. It's always insightful (and scary as hell) to get comments from brand-new players who're seeing the game for the first time. The greatest thing for the team was that a lot of the feedback actually was very positive; the testers seem to like the direction the game is taking. After the test, we've reworked some things, like unit features and stats, the overall interface/presentation, as well as level design. The alpha test definitely made us more aware of what World in Conflict is, what it can be, and how we can make it one of the greatest games ever!
GS: What are the plans after the alpha test? Can we expect a more open public beta test anytime soon? Or will there be a single-player or multiplayer demo in the future?
MJ: We're planning on doing both. We really think that we can benefit from a beta test during the last months of development, and a demo is an excellent way of getting consumers to try the game before deciding on whether or not to purchase it. We expect to release the demo sometime around launch, and the beta test will take place sometime this summer.
GS: Massive recently revealed the third faction in the game: NATO. What can you tell us about NATO? How does it differ from the other factions in terms of weapons and capabilities?
MJ: Well, NATO finds itself in the middle of the US/Soviet conflict, trying to protect the European member countries from the Soviet invasion. The three factions all have their own unique sets of units that are equivalent to the other factions' units. Also, there are some tactical aids that are completely exclusive for each faction, and players are, of course, bound to find their favorites.
GS: Will multiplayer allow you to play any faction against another? Or will you restrict it to solely an East/West confrontation, with the US and NATO against the Soviet Union?
MJ: They're map-based, which goes hand in hand with our aim to make World in Conflict a consistent, realistic game experience. Having the US and NATO, for instance, fight it out on Soviet soil just doesn't make any sense in that regard. Still, after discussing this with the e-sports organizers, we've realized that there may appear a need for completely free faction selection on all the maps, so it's definitely something we're thinking of implementing in some way. However, we're not sure what form this would take and to what extent it will go, but we're definitely evaluating the option.
Department of Farmland SecurityGS: Is the "farmland" map seen in the alpha test adapted from a single-player campaign level or was it designed specifically for multiplayer purposes only? How many players can it support?
MJ: All of our maps can support 16-player multiplayer, and all of the maps in single-player are available in multiplayer. The multiplayer mode will also get a number of exclusive maps that have been tailor-made from the start for the multiplayer modes.
GS: What are the keys to success on the farmland map? This really isn't the kind of game where you can win simply by "rushing" your opponent. What lessons can this map teach players?
MJ: The farmlands are levels with very open spaces and a lot of clear visibility. There are hardly any forests or buildings, and the bridges go from weak to pretty much nonexistent. Therefore, infantry is hard to use in the farmlands, armor can face some tough obstacles, and helicopters are dangerously vulnerable to anti-air fire, even though they're deadly against enemy ground units. All in all, the farmlands put both teams in an exposed state, where an aggressive style is a lot easier than a defensive one.
GS: How are World in Conflict maps different from those that Massive has made for earlier games, such as Ground Control, or from standard real-time strategy maps? What do you have to design for in a World in Conflict map?
MJ: When we started on WIC, we decided to really think of the maps as the main characters of the game. They should have as much depth, history, and variation as you would expect from the main characters in a great first-person shooter. I think that we've reached a new level of what part the maps play in the game. The surroundings influence the combat a lot more than they did in Ground Control, and with the great destructibility, you can alter the maps in so many ways. When you compare the serene and picturesque landscapes at the beginning of the game with the barren ruins at the end of an intense round, you can really sense the effects of war. The maps have a great strategic depth while still giving players a sense of their own might and power!
GS: The one thing that we discovered in the alpha test is that World in Conflict can be pretty wild with a large number of players on each team because each person has a role to play. But how does the game scale to one-on-one matches when you can't rely on others for support? Will you give each player more units in that situation or can the computer fill in the other player slots?
MJ: We've been hard at work on a team-play-aware artificial intelligence since the beginning of the project, and it's paying off in spades. The skirmish AI will eat you alive, and the reason for this is that the AI players communicate with each other (sending requests for help, etc.), just like a human team. If you chose to play alongside an AI player, you'll notice the team awareness since they answer your requests as well. So if you don't have any human players you can still experience the team play.
For those who absolutely must control all the units in battle, we have a mode where there are no roles and one player controls all units. It delivers an entirely different kind of experience while still keeping the tactical, action-packed combat intact. We will probably include the few-player settings in the beta, so stay tuned for a hands-on test.
GS: Finally, aside from the new NATO faction and the soundtrack consisting of some of the greatest hits from the 1980s, are there any more surprises waiting to be revealed for World in Conflict? Or is everything now revealed and it's just a matter of finishing the game?
MJ: There are a few nice surprises still waiting to be revealed, but we're not ready to spill the beans just yet! But we encourage everyone to sign up for the summer beta test to try out the game before it launches!
GS: Thank you.