Q&A: Eidos arms up for Battlestations: Pacific
We chat with Eidos about the latest in the Battlestations series, as well as its plans for future editions of the franchise.
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The follow-up to Battlestations: Midway, Battlestations: Pacific is the latest game in Eidos' historical action strategy series. The first installment ended with the Battle of Midway, and this second helping takes off right where the first game ended. If you're playing as the US, you'll experience the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Battle of Okinawa, but you can also play as the Japanese for a "what if" take on historical events.
We recently caught up with the game's development team from Hungary, and in addition to playing the game for a hands-on preview, we spoke with external designer Alastair Cornish and global brand manager Trevor Burrows about the game.
GameSpot: Tell us about the game's story and how you've balanced fact and fiction.
Alastair Cornish: Well, the coolest thing about that is the Japanese campaign and the fact that it's new, but I like that the team hasn't just made up what happens. It's based on the plans that were drawn up should the Japanese have succeeded and things had gone their way. So it's a really cool alternate history, but not a "way out there" alternate history.
GS: How was the original Battlestations received in Japan?
Trevor Burrows: It was pretty well received. Of course, the Xbox 360 market in Japan is quite restrictive compared to Europe, but generally we did manage to get a really nice fan base.
GS: And the subject matter wasn't too controversial?
TB: Not really, because of the way it's presented. It's not emotional like you're going to kill [individual] people. It's just the strategic side of things, a historical representation of the battle.
GS: Pacific starts at Midway and finishes at Okinawa. Do you think this will be the conclusion of the Pacific theatre for the Battlestations team and then look at moving on to Europe?
TB: Well, we're always looking at different plans for the future of the series. Just like Call of Duty started off as World War II, and then gradually once they felt it was time to move on to something different they just did that. I think that's the same as Battlestations. Just making sure that we do everything we can--what people want--and then if it grew to the point where we think that it's the right time to move on to a different arena, then that would be the case, but there's nothing of course confirmed right now.
AC: The fans have mentioned things like Battlestations: Atlantic, so that would be something to discuss with the team. Then there are also other things the engine could do, like you don't have to go forward--you could go all the way back to the age of piracy kind of thing, or going on to space. There are so many things you could do, but it's all up for discussion for the team really and what we feel we need for the game.
GS: Have you got any downloadable content planned for Pacific?
TB: That's something that we'll always be evaluating. We understand the importance of DLC, but we haven't got anything we can confirm right now.
GS: Are you planning a public beta for Pacific?
TB: [We] can't confirm that right now.
GS: Can you explain a bit about the multiplayer modes and what we can expect?
AC: I can't I'm afraid. It's still under wraps until the specific demo session is planned for that.
GS: How hard was it to balance the American and Japanese forces?
AC: That kind of thing is an ongoing concern of the team. Obviously we're pre-alpha at the moment, but it's something that they really keep an eye on. The team pretty much have a good pedigree in regards to that. They have proven chops in that area if you like, so it's obviously something they keep a close eye on. It's very important that no unit overshadows another, but they obviously all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Just as in the first game you wanted to launch certain types of bomber against certain types of ship, it's the same in this. That balance is maintained.
GS: You were saying the campaign is roughly double the size of the original game. Do you know how many hours it will take to complete it?
TB: In terms of content, it's twice the size of Battlestations: Midway, so it's really quite a lot. Just to clarify as well, multiplayer is being completely revamped and is going to be proportionately as big as the single-player campaign.
GS: How do you balance the degree of player and AI control?
AC: It's a real balance between the AI doing everything for you and nothing for you. The general way things work on Battlestations is that the AI does an OK job at things, but when the player puts his focus somewhere, that's when he really swings the tide of battle. Talking about the island capture mode, if that was really important to me, I would stay there and help the guys by shelling the bunkers and oncoming defenders.
If I put my focus there, that's more likely to succeed, and succeed faster, and that's basically the ethos of Battlestations, to use the map to generally send the fleet here and send the planes there. They'll do the job, but then it's up to you if something's going wrong over here or needs to go better. You jump around at the press of a button to wherever your attention needs to be.
GS: So you can't just leave it running, go to work, come home, and the battle is complete?
AC: No, exactly. It's that fine balance really of engaging the player while not overwhelming them with stuff to do, and the first one was quite well received for that.
GS: Thanks a lot for your time.