We discuss this unusual online strategy game with developer S2 Games.
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The success of games like EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot proves that massively multiplayer online role-playing games are here to stay. But even though online RPGs keep getting more popular, most other games are still sticking to traditional multiplayer, instead of going with the same kind of large scale that online RPGs are famous for.
One of the few non-RPG games that will offer large-scale multiplayer play will be Savage, a hybrid game that will have the same kind of planning and payoff as a real-time strategy game, but will also let you play it as a first-person shooter. The game will take place in a fantasy version of earth in which greedy, barbaric tribes of humans, who have pillaged the land and drained it of its resources, are at war with the beasts of nature, who have discovered the secrets of magic. Though Savage will have the elements of a traditional real-time strategy game, such as building bases and collecting resources, it will let players play as either commanders who help build and manage their bases or as soldiers who charge onto the battlefield and fight other players or neutral monsters in real time. The developers intend to eventually release editing tools that will let creative players modify the game and create their own settings for it.
To get a better idea of what Savage is about, we checked in with S2 Games' Jesse Hayes and discussed how Savage will be played, how it will be modded, and how it will change over time.
GameSpot: Thanks for taking the time for this interview. Would you please introduce yourself, and describe what you do?
Jesse Hayes: My name is Jesse Hayes. I am one of the co-founders of S2 Games and I work with lead programmer Sam McGrath and owner Marc Deforest.
GS: How did you first come up with the idea for Savage? Were you inspired by any specific strategy or action games?
JH: The initial concept for a game seamlessly mixing the RTS and FPS genres was proposed by Marc. We spent about a week and sketched out the very basic outline for how the gameplay would work, and took it from there. The decision to create this game was an easy one for us, because we are all big fans of Quake, Counter-Strike, Warcraft, and Starcraft. We can honestly say that we're creating the game that we want to play.
GS: Fantasy settings aren't as common for real-time strategy games as real-world or sci-fi settings. Why did you choose to go with fantasy for Savage?
JH: We feel that the fantasy genre has more lasting appeal than typical real-world scenarios. This gives us the freedom to be creative and it also allows us to focus on fun gameplay, avoiding the constraints of real-world rules.
GS: Savage is intended for multiplayer games with up to 64 different players. Considering that it's going to be a fast-paced game, what kind of measures are you taking to make sure that players don't suffer performance problems, like slower frame rates or lag, even in big games?
JH: We've made sure that our network code and graphics code are optimized enough to handle large games. The engine makes heavy use of level-of-detail technology to ensure a consistently high frame rate, and our graphics code takes full advantage of features available on cards such as the GeForce and Radeon. Our network code employs several compression techniques to ensure that a minimum of data is sent as the action is happening. Level design also plays a key role. A good level designer can dictate where the action will take place with careful placement of obstacles, resources, and other elements, ensuring that everyone isn't occupying the same place on the map at one time.
GS: Savage is taking an interesting approach to the traditional real-time strategy game, since it'll have both a "RTS mode" and an "action mode." Can you discuss the differences between the two modes?
JH: On each team there is one commander, and the rest of the team members are action-mode players. The commander is the one in RTS mode, and he sees the world from a bird's-eye view, with full freedom to scroll about the map. The commander can select units by clicking on them and assigning them tasks, or click on structures to research new upgrades, just like in a traditional RTS. The players in action mode, on the other hand, are right down there in the gameworld, moving and fighting. The action-mode players are the commander's units, and he is able to select them from his screen and give them tasks to carry out. As an action-mode player, you will receive information from time to time about a task the commander wants you to carry out, like attacking an enemy or traveling to a location. It's not required that you accept these tasks, but it's generally a good idea (unless you have a really incompetent commander, in which case your team can vote him off and elect a new one).
GS: As you mentioned, players in Savage can play as either commanders, who manage the base, or as single action units, who fight on the field. Can you discuss the role of the commander a little more? How will playing as a commander be different from playing a conventional real-time strategy game?
JH: In most aspects, the commander's role is similar to your traditional RTS. We are choosing this route because we know it works. There is obviously a reason most RTS games follow the same basic set of guidelines. With Savage, we won't take away any of the RTS elements the gamers are used to and love. The only difference is the commander organizes real human players instead of computer-controlled drones.
GS: Can you discuss the role of the single-unit action mode? Will it play out like a traditional first-person shooter? What sort of weapons will players be able to use?
JH: The action mode is very similar to a traditional FPS game. However, we are placing a large emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, with fewer ranged weapons. It's important to keep in mind that action players have at their disposal any item the commander has researched for them. This not only includes new weapons and stronger characters, but also devastating siege weapons that will become very important in the later stages of a game.
GS: Could you discuss some of the differences between the more technologically inclined human faction and the magic-using beast faction?
JH: The humans' abilities are based more on technology such as magnetism and electricity. These include things like electrified weapons and stronger defenses. The beasts use more natural methods derived from their surroundings such as plant life, poisons, and other earthly powers.
GS: Savage has an interesting back story that involves the conflict between barbaric humans, who have ruined the land in search of resources, and beasts, whose affinity with nature lets them use magic. How will the story come into play during the actual game?
JH: We feel a compelling back story is important in order to immerse the player into the world of Savage. We want you to be enveloped in this fantasy world as you play. Although we are focusing mainly on multiplayer, we plan to support this ongoing story on our Web site using statistics from actual online games. As you play online, you will have a direct effect on Savage's lore.
GS: We understand that Savage will also support "mod" code, allowing players create their own settings and content for the game. Can you discuss how you intend Savage's mod tools to work?
JH: We would like to give users full access to all the interface scripts, models, skins, sounds, and gameplay source code, although this decision is still pending. Creating a mod for Savage will be much like creating a mod for Quake or Half-Life. We are very interested to see what the mod community will come up with. Since releasing the game source code means players will also have the ability to modify the RTS aspects of the game, we may start to see a whole new breed of mods whose creation wouldn't be possible with a traditional FPS.
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add about Savage?
JH: Savage has a great team of dedicated artists and programmers behind it. We all take great pride in what we do. We respect the input of everyone on our team, and I think this will be the key to Savage's success.
GS: Thanks for your time, Jesse.