Interviews

Interviews
End of Nations: Not Your Mama's RTS

Suzie Ford | 11 May 2010 13:10
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End of Nations has set itself a mighty goal: Break ALL known conventions when it comes to real time strategy games. Our exclusive look at EoN comes by way of Joe Bostic, Steve Copeland and John Fitzgerald. This ain't your mama's RTS game, folks. Read on!

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1. Please introduce yourself and tell us your role in the development of End of Nations.

John FitzGerald, Art Director.
Steve Copeland, lead Designer
Joe Bostic, Design Director

2. End of Nations is billed as a massively multiplayer online real time strategy game. RTS fans seem happy. Why bring the MMO aspect into the mix?

Steve C: Many gamers were also happy with RPG before the advent of MMORPG, which was a really great, new kind gaming experience for players. So, we feel that contentment is no reason to settle with the status quo. While developing RTS games for the past many years, we've accumulated several grand ideas about what would take RTS to the next level, but these ideas were simply not feasible at the time. With new technologies, we're now able to design a game around these grand ideas. These are things that will make RTS more social, more convenient, more massive, and more fun.

3. Do you mean massively multiplayer in the sense that thousands can be playing simultaneously in 2-player matches or do you mean something different?

Steve C: We're approaching "massive" from many angles. Many thousands of players will exist in and affect the same living, persistent game world. Many dozens of players can have their army involved in the same battle at the same time. We're not yet revealing the exact limit. There will be so much more to do in this game world than just play matches (though we have those too).

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4. How many players (to date) have you been able to have simultaneously playing on a single map?

Joe: We've had in excess of 50 players simultaneously playing together on one of our bigger maps. We didn't run into a technical limit, but rather ran out of available people to join the battle at the time we ran the test.

5. What made you decide to make the world a pretty place rather than the more typical RTS look?

John F: The map that we showed is a large-scale social battlefield zone. This map is intended to be seen early on in the player progression so we wanted to create an environment that was familiar and inviting for newer players. These larger zones will also be an area for social gathering and mission giving. Because of the amount of playtime and the types of mission associated with a map of that size we didn't want to turn on too much of the depressing grit and grime of warfare. We wanted to save those more typical battle scared lands for more specific missions and battlefields the player will experience later in the game. Ideally, this will give the player a sense that they are progressing deeper and deeper into the overall war effort.

Joe: There is a range of battlefield types and some of them are quite gritty, but for the most part the player is fighting over the world that has a familiar look. Post apocalyptic war-ravaged and barely recognizable as Earth battlefields are not the norm in End of Nations. Instead of that kind of depressing environment, we want to convey that the world is still a place worth fighting for.

6. For RTS fans, what specific RTS features are in EoN?

Steve C: Instead of features, I'll talk about gameplay. Vehicle micro-management will be very familiar to RTS players as will the need to employ situational tactics. Superweapons, map control, and counters are also things that will be familiar to classic RTS players.

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7. For RPG fans, what specific RPG features are in EoN?

Steve C: Many of our missions will play like classic RTS missions, but the player's freedom in mission choice is much more like an RPG. EON has spoke-and-hub style mission chains and story threads lead the player throughout the game world. Which missions you accept are up to you and you can go to a location just to battle or you can go there to complete a mission. This openness and non-linearity is much more like how an RPG game would approach missions. The game world has many factions of NPCs that may react to the player differently, depending on his past actions. Deep, persistent development of your headquarters, army, and technologies also have an RPG-like feel to them. With a game of this scope, we have the opportunity to develop characters and story more deeply than in a standard RTS, many of which have 15 or perhaps 30 hours of hand-crafted content.

8. What will MMO players find that's familiar?

Steve C: MMO players will be familiar gaming in a persistent world with thousands of other players. They will find many opportunities to cooperate and compete on a large scale. Grouping and coalitions will function in a way these players might expect. Manufacturing and trade are important in EON. The game continuously saves everyone's progress. MMO players will also be familiar with what our game doesn't have (but is prevalent in peer-to-peer RTS), such as desyncs from people attempting to cheat, map hacks, players disconnecting to avoid loss, or waiting in lobbies to start a game.

9. Explain the basic premise/story in EoN.

Joe: End of Nations is about the rise of an oppressive and totalitarian one-world-government as it attempts to gain control out of the chaos of worldwide economic collapse. Initially, the general population welcomed the stability of this new regime, but it soon became apparent that the worst fears of critics of a one world government were well founded. Where the Order of Nations imposed stability, virtual slavery was imposed, dissent was crushed, people voicing opposition disappeared in the night. And then it really started to get bad. The player takes the role of an independent commander that joins with the remaining free forces to fight against this global enemy.

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10. Walk us through character/commander creation.

Joe: You specify the name of your commander and choose your commander's "class" (aka, archetypes). The name is how you are identified in the world, naturally. Your commander class defines the look of your army and the capabilities and general tactics you will employ in combat.

11. What character archetypes are represented in EoN? Which is your favorite and why?

Steve C: We have classes that specialize in tanks, artillery, and assault. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Each has access to a wide variety of vehicles and structures and is self-sufficient. For greatest effectiveness, players will want to bring allies to the battlefield, using each class represented to realize their complimentary capabilities. My current favorite is the assault class, which a finesse player can really extract a lot out of.

Joe: As the player defeats enemies and completes missions they will gain experience that results in gaining "levels". As with RPG games, gaining level grants more options and tactics to the player. They can access more battlefields, gain more commander abilities, gain access to more advanced units, and a more advanced base headquarters (HQ). Point value limits for entering battlefields keeps a lower level player competitive against a high level player. The higher level player will have more options in battle, they won't necessarily overpower a lower level player.

12. How does the 'level up' system work?

Steve C: You earn experience by destroying enemies and completing missions. As you gain experience, you can complete more advanced research. You will have some tough decisions to make on which path to take in advancing your tactical capabilities, i.e. how you are going to sub-class. You will also gain the ability to bring more vehicles and structures (or larger ones) to bear on battlefield, for a larger overall loadout.

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13. What's your favorite map so far?

Steve C: Our game world's environment is still in development, and to that point you haven't yet seen what is currently our most attractive and mind-blowing location, which I think will be revealed soon. My favorite for gameplay so far is our first Team vs Team map which is a great merger of competitive and co-operative RTS play. It showcases many firsts in RTS and we're very excited about what this means for gamers.

14. How does the command base work?

Steve C: Each player has their own personal Headquarters that they will grow, evolve, and customize over many months of gameplay. This HQ holds the spoils of war, including their massive collection of vehicles, from which they will build strike teams. Construction and maintenance at the HQ will affect the player's manufacturing and combat capabilities. We're not yet discussing details around the structures players can build and upgrade in the tactical battlefield.

15. One of the more interesting pieces of information you've revealed is the ability for players to 'drop in' to play with their friends. You don't mean that EoN has a semi-casual mode do you? :)

Steve C: The key here is that most of the game world is live and persistent, whether or not the player is present. If you join a battle late or leave early, the war rages on. Some scenarios do have a beginning and end and it will be up to a player to decide if he wants to wait for a clean start or join a battle in progress. The game has diverse content, both in PvE and PvP. Players will decide how casual or hard core they want to be and there will be many challenges appropriate to their skill set. We believe that both kinds of players will appreciate the convenience of drop-in play.

16. Tell us about the world map interface and the 'dashboard' that players encounter when entering the game.

Joe: This "dashboard" is what we call the War Room. It serves as the command center where the state of the world can be tracked, battles in progress can be observed, and even see what friends, guildmates, and the population in general is up to. There will also be news feeds, A/V media, announcements, world status updates, and anything else relevant to understanding the state of the world and where you are needed to help complete your missions and assist other players that are looking for more group members.

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17. What about PvP? How large or small scale will PvP be in EoN?

Steve C: We will have diverse battle sizes for PvP and the largest will require dozens of players to join the battle as allies.

18. EoN is billed as a persistent world. How honestly 'world changing' are player led events? For instance, if a guild takes over an entire zone of the world map, will it stay persistently theirs until they lose it?

Joe: There are territories that can switch sides through player actions with the result being access to arms dealers, new missions, new vehicles, and title awards for the victors. Primarily this is through the team PvP battlefields that we refer to as the "meta-game", but PvE players can also contribute to their faction's victory in the meta-game. This is largely a new concept in RTS games, but has been explored in MMORPG games through castle sieges and realm-v-realm battles. Players can opt-in to this aspect of the game if they choose, but for players that prefer a more static world PvE experience they have that available as well.

19. Anything else you'd like to add?

Joe: Creating End of Nations has been a dream of mine for quite some time. It is quite exciting to see Trion and Petroglyph make End of Nations come to life. Combining RTS with aspects of RPG is quite a challenge and an adventure. It reminds me of when Dune II (the first RTS game?) was being built. We were combining a bit of the strategy game genre (which were turn-based at the time) with Populous (which was real-time). We see a similarly surprisingly fun result with End of Nations.

John F: I've worked on many RTS games, I'm an RTS gamer, and I've been a long time fan to Petroglyph's past titles. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be working on this project! I truly feel that a hybrid of MMO and RTS elements will be a major step forward in the evolution of RTS gaming. It is always challenging and incredibly rewarding to be working on a new and original IP. The player faction vehicles speak to their commander classes and work together as an overall resistance army. The Order of Nations vehicles, bosses, and strongholds are aggressive and sinister. There are some fantastic original ideas for battlefields that we're starting to explore and implement that we're all excited to show off. Over the course of the game it will be visually exciting to see modern combat lead into an alternate future where epic scale vehicular based combat is the preferred method of warfare.

End of Nations is honestly one of the most exciting and compelling games coming in the next year. We'll be following this one closely!

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