Q&A: John Randall on Codename Panzers: Cold War
Stormregion's community manager chats about the development process of the upcoming RTS PC game, how it differs from the company's previous titles, and much more.
Codename Panzers: Cold War is the latest game from Stormregion. Based in Hungary, the developer made its mark in the World War II real-time strategy genre with Codename Panzers Phase One, Codename Panzers Phase Two, and Rush for Berlin, which all managed to stand out thanks to their innovative and tactical gameplay.
Now with the new setting of the Cold War and a complete overhaul of the graphics engine, Codename Panzers: Cold War is looking like it's going to get just as much attention from RTS fans early next year. We had the chance to speak with John Randall, community manager at Stormregion, to learn more about the upcoming game and some of the unique features of the game's single-player campaign.
GameSpot UK: Tell us a little about the development team here at Stormregion and your approach to working on Codename Panzers: Cold War.
John Randall: There are about 120 people at Stormregion in Hungary, and every aspect of the game, including sound, is done in-house. We've always had our own in-house proprietary engine, the Gepard Engine, which we've used in all our games. Now because we wanted to add physics to the game we completely rebuilt the engine from the ground up.
The engine is the main feature of the game; it dictates what happens elsewhere, so our coding team, programmers, designers, artists, and writers have been working hard around it to deliver the game. We also have our own cutscene team, and all the music for the game was composed here. The majority of the team are guys who came through from previous Stormregion games, and those who aren't come from other games studios in Hungary. Everyone is pretty experienced in their field.
GSUK: What can you tell us about the storyline behind Codename Panzers: Cold War?
JR: The story begins in 1949 with an accident called the Tempelhof incident, which takes place during the Berlin airlift. In the game's alternate-history timeline there's a midair collision between a US cargo plane delivering supplies and a Soviet fighter that creates an international incident. This is the excuse both sides were looking for to start the fight and leads to a huge Soviet invasion of Western Europe. You play as the NATO forces, trying to hold the Soviets back and lead to a Western victory.
GSUK: The previous Codename Panzers games were set in World War II. Why did you make the era shift to the Cold War?
JR: We wanted to evolve the Codename Panzers story; we've done Europe and North Africa and wanted to give players new experiences. The Cold War is interesting and exciting, and no one else has really touched the early stages. There are other games with Cold War themes, but they're all more "modern warfare," so I think the era we chose was unique.
GSUK: Your previous games had several factions whose campaigns came together to tell the game's story. Why the focus on the single NATO campaign this time?
JR: We've streamlined the story. That's why we have one main campaign. It follows a set path and storyline and is not divided. In our last game, Rush for Berlin, there were 25 missions divided between four campaigns, so we decided to do 18 missions in one campaign. You get the same amount of gameplay, as the missions are longer but have one big story arc. We feel it's more focused this way.
GSUK: What new things has the change of era given players in Codename Panzers: Cold War, as opposed to Phase One and Phase Two?
JR: There's a different tone to the Cold War, as well as new units and technologies. All the new tanks and aircraft, including things like helicopters, really open up new gameplay elements. It's a different style of battle and war.
GSUK: How many units are there in the game, and what was the inspiration behind them?
JR: There are about 40 on each side, and they're all historically based, though some are prototypes that never went into production. Everything has some sort of foundation in historical fact. What actually makes each side unique is the technology and equipment they have access to. The way the Soviet units were designed as opposed to how the NATO troops were designed makes them very different to play.
GSUK: Cold War uses added equipment rather than vehicle upgrade buildings to develop units. What kind of scope is there for upgrading vehicles in the game?
JR: There's a large amount of scope. You can change the guns on tanks, giving them increased accuracy and power or increased effectiveness against specific units. Flamethrowers are very effective against infantry, or you can equip antitank shells to deal with enemy armour. You have things like camouflage, which reduces sight range and makes your units harder to see by the enemy, and radar dishes that increase your detection range. Amphibious abilities will allow you to cross water and goes places other units can't. You have the ability to totally customise your equipment depending on how you want to play.
GSUK: The game also has a slightly different approach to resource gathering. How does that work?
JR: Prestige points are the money in the game and can be used to buy reinforcements, equipment, and external support. You earn them by meeting objectives in the game and killing the enemy. Resource gathering of the traditional type where you're mining or something like that is very passive; this is very active. You have to attack the enemy and kill them, as opposed to just finding a nice gold mine and mining it.
GSUK: You've mentioned the new Gepard 3 graphics engine that you've developed for the game. It has some impressive-looking features, including time-of-day lighting, real-time shadow effects, and reflections. But how does the engine treat buildings and structures? And what additional effects will that have on gameplay?
JR: It's a big part of gameplay; objects in the game all have different properties, so they react in different ways. Buildings are fully destructible. They crack and crumble in different ways, whereas metal will bend under stress. You can also run over and destroy enemy cover so they have nowhere to hide and gain bonuses from. It's going to play a big part in lots of different areas.
GSUK: Many gamers might be worried about their machine's ability to cope. What system specs will they need to have?
JR: That's not final yet, but we want to make it so it's not unattainable. You won't need a supercomputer to play it. We're trying to optimise it as much as possible so it can be played on as many systems as possible and stay as far from the top end as we can but still maintain the same level of graphics. We're keeping the game DirectX 9, but to be honest, we've done so much with it, we're happier this way. Using DirectX 10, you can end up cutting out a bunch of people.
GSUK: When will Codename Panzers be released?
JR: In March next year, so players will be able to get their hands on it really soon.
GSUK: Thanks for your time.
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