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EndWar Developer Interview

24 Sep 2008  by   Paul Younger
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Some people may like a good RTS, and there are others who’d prefer a bit of time playing a strategic board game, such as RISK, or Stratego.But how does one transfer these epic board games to the digital age and give wannabe commanders a platform to work from, and a live battle front to swell their chests at.

We know EndWar will do that, and so we decided to speak to the developers behind the game to see where they’ve drawn their influences and how the game will work. 1. Where did you get the idea to create a massive, destructible, interactive gaming world that players across the globe could join?

Ubisoft wanted to expand the Tom Clancy franchise and bring strategy gaming to consoles. At that time they looked to who did massive battles best, and the person they found was Michael de Plater, one of the key developers behind the outstanding Total War series. At the same time, dev team members were brought in from various Clancy franchises, such as the Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter series. The collaboration between all the team members combined with the goals defined by Ubisoft led to what EndWar is today.

2. It must be one of the biggest and most ambitious projects you’ve undertaken. How long has it taken, from conception to completion?

EndWar has taken about four years to develop.

3. How important is the storyline? Does the storyline drive the game, or is it secondary to the gameplay? That is, do you really need to know what’s happening within the story to play the game?

EndWar’s story experience has two phases. First up is a nine-mission single-player “Prelude to War,” where you switch sides mission to mission, get to know what equipment and tactics each faction has to offer, and directly participate in the events that cause World War 3 to erupt. Then, for the second phase, you choose which faction you want to play, and from that point the story emerges from your actions, as you write the unique war story of your military career in World War 3. Expect grudge matches with enemy commanders, and the grief of seeing your favorite unit obliterated making a heroic last stand. It’s up to you to lead your battalion to glory (or at least survival) and carry your faction to victory on the battlefields of 2020.

4. We know that the game is broken into factions, we also know that there will be a frontline that updates every 24 hours. How complicated is something like that to implement? How will players be able to see where and how they’ve effected the position of the frontline?

It wasn’t easy putting all this together, there were a number of technological and design hurdles, but Ubisoft understood that this would be a very ambitious title. As a result, the team was given an unprecedented level of support. Players will be able to see the battle lines of WWIII shift according to their actions both online and in the game.

5. What do you think makes a game like this successful? Is it the fact that the world is completely destructible, is it the ease of game play, or is it something that can’t be described?

Things like a destructible world and ease of game play can help influence people to try your game, but at the end of the day it’s good old-fashioned fun that will dictate whether or not it’s a success. We believe that EndWar is a blast and is accessible to both veteran and rookie strategy gamers. Hopefully, this combination of fun and accessibility will ensure a good future for EndWar.

{PAGE TITLE=Voice recognition, command chain and more on page 2}
6. What engine have you used for the game?

EndWar uses a heavily modified version of the Unreal engine.

7. How does the voice recognition system work? Does it matter if people have different dialects or accents, or does the system work on phonemes and intonations?

We worked with Fonix for the voice recognition system. Throughout the entire process Fonix was very helpful and worked closely with the dev team to ensure that the voice command system was as accurate as possible. The voice recognition system in EndWar was tested and proven accurate with multiple languages and accents from all over the world. We had people from 11 different nations in the dev team alone to help us test the system.

8. We saw the game before and at Ubidays, and each time we saw it there were some major changes to gameplay and graphics. Can we expect anything more in the final boxed version? Are there any surprises?

We’re almost done. Right now the team is focusing on bug stomping. We hope to put out a finely tuned and polished product. As for surprises, they wouldn’t be a surprise if we told you, now would they?

9. Talk to us about how the game works on a basic level. What’s the command chain, will different factions have different weapons, are there upgrades?

At the core of the game is an easy to learn combat chain with three core units: tanks, transports, and gunships. Tanks destroy transports, transports can shoot down gunships, and gunships destroy tanks. Of course, the game gets much deeper than that when you factor in the hundreds of upgrades along with the role of infantry (riflemen and engineers), artillery, Command Vehicles and off-map support such as air-strikes. Different factions will have access to different upgrades.

Also, a note on the combat chain: it can’t be broken, but it can be bent.

10. There have been a lot of discussions on how games have been a bad influence on kids and society. How do you think games like EndWar are perceived by non gamers, and do you consider the feelings of parents when creating games?

Games aren’t the only entertainment medium that portray violence. A game like EndWar is far tamer than some of the stuff Hollywood is putting out, such as the SAW series or Grindhouse. Also, game like EndWar focuses on strategy not violence.

11. What do you say to people who say you are responsible for glorifying war and desensitising people from the real horrors of war?

We’re reflecting current events, not fomenting them. It just happened that a lot of the things we made up for the story in EndWar became a bit more timely than anticipated. Still, we’re trying to live up to the Clancy name, and a solid grounding in realism plays a big part in the Clancy franchise. Plus, we’re not going out of our way to show the gory side of war. Again, our focus is on the tactical and strategic aspects of combat, not the violence and gore.

12. I’m a huge Risk board game player, and I can’t help but draw similarities to the two games. Would it be fair to say that you’ve drawn influences from both board games and the brainstorms and ideas of the development team?

Definitely, Michael de Plater is a huge fan of board games and pen and paper games. During development on EndWar he and other members of the dev team drew influences from all over the place. All you have to do is look at what’s on the desks of key dev team members. They’ve got GURPs, AD&D, collectible card games, military reference books, comic books, graphic novels, the list goes on and on. Every bit helped to fine tune what EndWar.

13. Are there any plans to include or work on downloadable content for the game?

Yes.

14. If so, what would you think about adding or enhancing?

There’s plenty of stuff we have in the works for DLC, we just can’t go into detail on it just yet.

15. Is there anything that you wanted to add to the game that you just couldn’t because of time, technology or any other reason?

Of course. There’s no such thing as a game that ships with every single feature on the dev team’s wish list. Sure, you can get all those ideas in, but then you could end up spending ages on a game and never get it shipped. There comes a point when you have to make some hard calls to ensure that the game gets done within a realistic timeline.

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