Q&A: World in Conflict's Nicklas Cederstrom

World in Conflict designer talks about the game's single-player campaign, character interactions, and '80s movies.

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World in Conflict, the upcoming action-oriented real-time strategy game from Swedish dev house Massive Entertainment, has been garnering plenty of attention for its fast-paced multiplayer design, but few details have been released so far about its single-player side. GameSpot AU caught up with lead designer Nicklas "Cece" Cederstrom at last month's GO3 Conference in Perth, Australia, to talk more about what solo campaigners can expect.

GameSpot AU: Why has all the focus on World in Conflict been on the multiplayer side thus far?

Nicklas Cederstrom: When the project started out, it started as a multiplayer game. We wanted to get that right first, so we focused on that and spent the first 16 months on getting the feeling that it's going to be a great multiplayer game. When we knew what we had was really good, we started focusing on single-player, and we've been working on that for over a year now.

GS AU: So is it a multiplayer game first and foremost?

NC: No, absolutely not. It's 50-50. It has a rock-solid and very interesting single-player campaign, but with the added depth of multiplayer.

GS AU: Why did you decide to lighten the RTS elements in World in Conflict--such as having no resource gathering?

NC: First of all, we wanted to make a great game that a lot of people will play. Massive has done two games before--Ground Control I and II--and they both got great reviews, and everyone that played it loved it. But it didn't reach the mass market. This time around we decided to focus on a setting that we knew would draw more people, a setting that we all fell in love with from Red Dawn, the old '80s movie. We decided to make a game that's easy to get into, and we focused on action--this is an action game. Personally, I don't even call it an RTS, because it's just pure action.

GS AU: If it's not an RTS, what would you call it?

NC: That's hard. Internally we sometimes call it RTT--real-time tactics. But basically I would just say it's a come-together-with-your-friends action game. We want it to be the Counter-Strike of RTS gaming. So in multiplayer, we have 20-minute matches, so that you know when you get into a match it'll be 20-minutes or shorter. You can play two or three games in your lunch break--if you do a traditional RTS, you can be in a match for up to four hours or 14 minutes.

GS AU: Tell us more about the single-player storyline.

NC: World in Conflict is played out in 1989, and the Cold War has gone hot. When we set out to make the game, we really wanted to have a plausible war scenario. So what we did was contact Larry Bond--who is the Tom Clancy cowriter--and he's a Cold War-era expert. We asked him to write for us a plausible invasion scenario for the Russians coming into the US. So he made up this great story, where the Soviet Union is on the brink of economic disaster--they go to the UN to try and blackmail them to give them unconditional aid. Of course, they refuse, and the Russians invade Europe. In doing so, they attack NATO and kill a lot of US soldiers, which draws the US into the war in Europe. The Russians then do a sneak attack on the western coast of the US, where they arrive on civilian ships like tankers, but they have military hardware with them. They invade Seattle, and it goes from there.

When we came to the single-player, we decided we really wanted to have a great story. And great stories are told from the perspective of people, so we decided to have a strong line of characters that we follow throughout the war. You are not the supreme commander in our game--you are basically one of the guys in the trenches fighting for your life and your men. You are playing a character called Parker--he's anonymous, he never speaks, and you never really see him. The leader of the pack is Colonel Sawyer. He's an old school military man that's been in a lot of wars. With him is Bannon, a West Point graduate--he's basically come out from military school, he thinks he's the best. We compare him to Hudson in Aliens--because he's so cocky in the beginning, but by the end he's going "Oh my God, we're going to be screwed." It's going to be the character of Bannon that's really interesting to follow, as he goes through so many things in the war. And finally we have Webb--very straightforward, calm and cool.

GS AU: How do these characters interact with each other?

NC: We have different game mechanics to do that. First we have some in-game cinematics, and there are a couple on each map setting up scenarios and breaking up the middle of the game to tell you the story. We also have message boxes in missions for dialogue that's going on throughout the game. We also have two other game mechanics that will drive the story forward, but we're not talking about them right now.

GS AU: In the World of Conflict multiplayer, players have to take different roles, which then affect how much support units will cost them. Will there be roles in the single-player game?

NC: No, we made a decision early on to not have the roles in the single-player. So what we are doing are essentially faking roles in some maps. For example, if we have a helicopter map, we'll give you the air role, but it's not really that because we allow you some ground-based vehicles as well. The cost is independent of the multiplayer.

GS AU: Will your single-player comrades' actions be scripted or dynamic?

NC: It's different on different maps. We will full-script them and let them loose depending on which map you are on. On some maps we are testing to have them totally free, but it's always risky, because they can of course decide to complete an objective you haven't got to yet. It's dangerous, but we're trying it out.

GS AU: One of the coolest things about the multiplayer demo was the ability to use a nuclear weapon. How will that fit into the single-player campaign?

NC: We can't say how it will exactly play out yet, but there is a nuke in the single-player campaign.

GS AU: How long will the single-player campaign go for?

NC: Final length hasn't been decided yet because it's still a work in progress. But I'll guess it'll be between 15 and 25 hours, depending on how hardcore you are. It depends on how many side objectives you complete and how aggressive you are. As from now, we have 14 maps in single-player.

GS AU: The single-player game only focuses on US. Was there any discussion about including the Russians?

NC: We talked about it early on, but when push came to shove, we decided to focus on one campaign. For me and many of the guys at Massive, the key line from World in Conflict is that war is coming home. And home for many is the US, because we are all so familiar with their culture, and we have seen it all in movies. So having the Russians invading the US, that was the core of the game in my opinion.

GS AU: Thanks for your time.

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