World in Conflict: Soviet Assault Q&A - Massive Entertainment, Console Ports, and World War III
Lead designer Magnus Jansén catches us up on what to expect from this long-awaited expansion to Massive Entertainment's explosive World War III strategy game.
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Developer Massive Entertainment helped redefine what real-time strategy was with its all-tactics, all-action, no-wood-chopping Ground Control series. The studio then moved on to create the spectacular and critically acclaimed 2007 game World in Conflict, which combined the fast-paced, team-oriented competitive play of games such as the Battlefield series with the tactics of a real-time strategy game, plus highly accessible multiplayer that let you drop in and out at any time. Oh yeah, and given that the game was set during a fictitious 1980s-era World War III between the US and the Soviet Union, you could use nuclear bombs to incinerate entire cities. Massive announced that it was working on an expansion pack and console versions of the game, but the studio saw many changes when its parent company was acquired by another company. After a lot of shuffling around and far too much waiting, World in Conflict is ready to make its triumphant return to PCs with Soviet Assault, an expansion pack that will come packed in with the original game and will offer a new Soviet-focused campaign and lots of new toys to use in multiplayer play. We sat down with lead designer Magnus Jansén to get the details on this expansion, Massive's current status, and the studio's future plans.
GameSpot: We're very glad to hear that World in Conflict and Soviet Assault are back on track and will be available soon as a two-pack containing both the original game and the expansion. How has development of the expansion progressed--had the game already been mostly complete previously? What is the team working on at present?
Magnus Jansén: We started work on the Soviet story right after we shipped World in Conflict. It didn't feel right portraying the Soviets as a silent, anonymous locust horde that invaded the Western world without remorse or conscience. And we did get some flack from the fans for painting such a one-sided picture of the conflict. So we were eager to tell the Soviet story.
During 2008 we stopped working on Soviet Assault for a couple of months due to the whole Vivendi/Sierra/Activision merger and subsequent sale of Massive. Once we got on board with Ubisoft, we kicked into high gear again, and now we're just about finished.
GS: We understand that the Soviet Assault expansion will, not surprisingly, focus on Soviet military campaigns. Give us an overview of the missions in Soviet Assault. What sorts of missions will players undertake in the expansion?
MJ: The new missions are woven into the existing campaign, so it's more of an "add-in" than an "add-on" really. I don't know if anyone remembers the expansion for the original Baldur's Gate, but that's my reference anyway! So you play the campaign and go back and forth between the US and Soviet stories in a manner not dissimilar to the Call of Duty games.
You can of course play the new missions piecemeal if you really want to, but we recommend everyone to play the campaign from the beginning (even those who have already played it) to get the full experience. We even added a new "very hard" difficulty level as an incentive to do so.
The new missions share the fantastic story, visuals, and hectic gameplay of the original World in Conflict, but all of them introduce some new twist or take on the formula. I really don't want to spoil too much.
GS: We're hoping to see some new units and new firepower in the expansion. Tell us about some of the new toys we'll get to play with.
MJ: Soviet Assault is all about getting to play with the Soviet hardware in the single-player campaign. There is an awesome new tactical aid bomb thrown in on one of the new missions, but the main thing for hardware buffs is to experience stuff like rolling through the Berlin Wall in T-80 tanks! Or controlling a battery of 203mm artillery pieces to decimate an incoming battalion.
GS: The original World in Conflict had some very interesting and accessible multiplayer features, like the ability to join a multiplayer game more or less midstream and still make a difference. What kind of new multiplayer enhancements will Soviet Assault offer?
MJ: We've tried to listen to the fans when making improvements to our Massgate service. Things like the ability to automatically recognize people on your friends' list by a certain color. We've also improved things like the downloading and handling of user-generated maps. Then there are more obscure improvements like the ability for a moderator to send chat messages to both teams. The list of smaller fixes and improvements is quite long, and most of those things will improve multiplayer.
But the biggest thing by far on the multiplayer side is the fact that we decided to not split the multiplayer community into two parts. This means that everyone that owns World in Conflict gets access to the multiplayer versions of the new maps via a downloadable update so that we can be one big, happy family online. The multiplayer community is incredibly important to us.
The perhaps biggest "all new" feature, the War Room, is making its way into Soviet Assault via our Web site. So you'll be able to gauge the progress of World War III from anywhere!
GS: Will any of the content from the previously planned console versions of the game make its way into Soviet Assault?
MJ: The vast majority of work that was put into the console versions was not on new features, but on getting the controls, interface, and performance to work. However, a lot of the fixes in Soviet Assault stem from working on the game for the consoles.
GS: Any chance of seeing more World in Conflict products, either on PC or consoles, or perhaps the return of Massive's other well-known strategy franchise, Ground Control?
MJ: We're not commenting on any projects apart from the current release (I bet you haven't heard that one before!) Sorry.
However, I can say that we will most likely not make another Ground Control game here at Ubisoft Massive since Ubisoft doesn't own the rights to that (it was not part of the deal with Activision Blizzard, which now holds the rights to that IP).
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Soviet Assault, World in Conflict in general, or future plans for the studio?
MJ: It honestly (as in "this is not marketing babble") feels wonderful to release this vastly improved and expanded "complete" edition of World in Conflict. The thought of putting the game into the hands of all-new players (and current fans) is extremely satisfying. There's such a huge amount of polish added! My personal favorite is perhaps the all-new difficulty setting we've added to the AI bots. Even skilled players can now start a skirmish game and get seriously owned. And then there's even cooler things I cannot even talk about yet!
GS: Thanks, Magnus.