Act of War: Direct Action Q&A - Final Thoughts
You can expect modern-day spy thriller intrigue and plenty of huge battles in this soon-to-be-released strategy game. Project manager Alexis LeDressay explains.
Combine the resource-gathering, building, and army battles of real-time strategy with a story from a well-known "technothriller" novelist, and you'll get Act of War: Direct Action, the soon-to-be-released game from developer Eugen Systems and publisher Atari. This new game will feature three different playable factions and a single-player story that could have come from a modern-day novel of international intrigue, courtesy of the developer's collaboration with novelist Dale Brown. For a final discussion of what to expect, we sat down with project manager and Eugen cofounder Alexis LeDressay.
GameSpot: Now that development on Act of War is more or less complete, tell us your thoughts on how the game turned out. What do you hope players will enjoy most about the game?
AL: In the single-player campaign, [we think players will enjoy] the pace and rhythm of the whole experience...not just the pace of the gameplay, but also the size of the maps, the magnitude of the events and scenarios, the timing of cinematics, the story being interlaced with the gameplay, the size of explosions, the immediate impact of your actions, and so on. I wanted it to feel like a fast-paced action movie, and those who want to play it that way will have a great time!
The multiplayer mode is slightly different, though. I tried to make a game that I, myself, will want to play over and over and over again. The story and cinematics and graphics are irrelevant here; this is all about gameplay and balancing and playability. And I hope that everyone will enjoy it as much as we do every day in the office!
GS: Tell us about the process of working with novelist Dale Brown to create the story of Act of War concurrently with his novel of the same name. How has collaborating with Brown helped the story, and are there any plans to work with the author on future projects?
AL: When we first met with Dale almost a year and a half ago, we had only a vague idea of what we were looking for in terms of story. We knew exactly where we were going in terms of atmosphere and spirit, and Dale captured this precisely in the synopsis he came up with after those early meetings, while also fleshing out the universe and characters and events in a way we could never really have done ourselves. This was, of course, invaluable when we sat down with the cinematics director and screenwriter to create the game story. Throughout the game development process, we've been working with Dale to validate details in the scripts and gameplay and story, and I think the result is awesome.
GS: Tell us about the decision to go with live-action cinematic sequences in the game (as opposed to prerendered animations or in-engine sequences). This isn't a common choice in games anymore. What did having live actors acting out the sequences add to the game?
AL: We wanted Act of War to be the ultimate technothriller, so realism and authenticity and suspension of disbelief were really our key words. We felt immediately that no matter how much effort we spent on computer-generated cinematics, it would never be "the real thing." So it was kind of a no-brainer to do live-action cinematics. This has been a little hokey in the past, as it just gets disjointed when you constantly move between a polygon world and the real world, but with the graphical quality we had in-game in Act of War, we felt it was the right time to make this move. We can move almost seamlessly between the two without it being disturbing to the player.
GS: Tell us about what you think Act of War will offer novice players who aren't already hardcore real-time strategy fans. One very obvious aspect of the game is, for instance, spectacular battles with huge explosions. Are there any other features for novices that will help them enjoy the game a bit better?
AL: We've tried to create a game that's easy to get into and learn on the surface, with simple, intuitive commands, and a straightforward interface and overall mechanics. But under the surface, there's depth and detail that will take many hours to explore and master...if you like.
The earlier parts of the campaign are a little more focused on the noninteractive aspect of the game (such as the cinematics), before the characters in the game figure out what's going on. In addition, this first handful of missions gradually eases you into the concept of real-time strategy games; base-building and resource management are eased into pretty gently.
However, once the heroes reveal the plot and go after the bad guys, the interactive aspect is brought more to the foreground. So this is "when it hits the fan," if you like. So, overall, it doesn't really matter how experienced you are; you'll still experience a really great technothriller story, all-out action, and fantastic graphics in a pretty user-friendly environment.
GS: And tell us what you think Act of War will offer expert players. We imagine, for instance, they might get a kick out of the ability to garrison units in destructible buildings or in using the alternate resource of hostages (rather than constantly mining).
AL: Oh, definitely. These may sound like small, insignificant details, or just "nice features," but they can have dramatic impacts on the outcome of a game between expert gamers. The variety and dynamics between different units and upgrades, the differences and pros and cons between the three sides, and the pace I mentioned before... These are all things I haven't really seen in other games before, and they will require plenty of experience to fully appreciate.
GS: We have to ask: Now that Act of War is complete, what are the future plans for the game? Is it looking like it may have the grounds for a sequel or franchise? Considering the tie in to the work of a well-known novelist, any plans to extend Act of War, as a property, into other media besides just games?
AL: I can't really say too much at this moment, but, of course, we're looking to expand not only the Act of War experience, but also the universe and franchise. And we're investigating several different options as to how this can be done.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Act of War?
AL: It'll be on shelves March 15 in the US and March 18 in Europe. And I'd like to extend a big thanks to our very active online community. Your enthusiasm, help, suggestions, feedback, and support have been a great encouragement these past couple of weeks. I'll continue to see you online!
GS: Thanks, Alexis.
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