18 September 2014

Interview: Hearts of Iron III Interview

Amid speculation about whether Hearts of Iron III will be more of the same or something really new, Jim Cobb goes straight to the source to get some answers.

Published on 11 SEP 2008 8:31am by Scott Parrino
  1. Paradox Interactive
  2. Paradox Interactive

The announcement of the third iteration of the World War II grand strategy game, Hearts of Iron, has caused comment, speculation ad even criticism at this early date.  Although development is still in early stages, we went directly to lead developer Johan Andersson of Paradox Interactive for some clarification.

The Wargamer (WG):  After two versions and multiple add-ons for the Hearts of Iron series, why do a third?

Johan Andersson (JA):  For Hearts of Iron, we have a really strong community and we wanted to create a new product for the community. This has been a title requested for quite some time so we have plenty of feedback and information about what gamers want from it but the key aspect is that we have our own ideas and vision for the game.

WG:  One criticism of Europa Universalis III was that historical events didn’t play the strong role they had in earlier games.  Will this be true for Hearts of Iron III?

JAHearts of Iron III is a shorter time period than Europa Universalis III so gamers tend to want to play it more historically realistic. We learnt from EU III: In Nomine to let players control historical decisions instead of having them wait for historical events, thus giving players more control.

WGHearts of Iron III is said to be more “accessible”.  Some commentators equate “accessible” to “dumbing down”.  How do you respond to this statement?

JA: We’ve never dumbed down any game previously, but have continuously worked on making our games more accessible through the interface. For us, making it more accessible means creating an easier learning curve for newcomers to the game that veteran players don’t have to go through – they’ll be able to jump straight into the gameplay. What we’ve added for Veteran players will only become apparent when you’ve played for some time.

WG:  We hear mention of 10,000 provinces.  Hearts of Iron already is criticized for too much micro-management so why increase the number of elements to manage?

JA:  10,000 provinces are not a management problem, because the actual management decisions are made on a region level, and there are actually fewer of these, meaning that for a lot of the big strategic decisions the player will actually have less micromanagement. What this amount of provinces does add to the game is in the combat, by making the battlefield 'bigger' we actually make it easier for the player to manage the battle rather than just march big stacks at each other.

WG:  Speaking of micro-management, will changes in the UI make matters simpler?

JA:  Yes, we have quite a few ideas and plans for the interface. Compare EU III with the origional Hearts of Iron. In EU III we added tooltips that are more obvious, processes for automation etc. 

WG:  Naval combat is not Hearts of Iron’s strong point as fleets disengage after light casualties.  Will this flaw be improved?

JA:  Yes, we have a completely new design that will be interesting for the advanced players that should be more realistic. I believe in keeping an abstracted simulation that still takes the essences of World War II naval battles into account.

WG:  What other changes in the military model will we see?

JA:  Unfortunately we can’t answer that question yet since the design is not 100% finalized.

WG:  Hearts of Iron II’s tech tree represented a simplification over the original.  Will this trend continue?

JA:  Yes, we are trying to keep the technology as streamlined as possible so it is easy for players to see exactly where they are going with research. In Hearts of Iron III, we held the overall technology goals to be similar to Hearts of Iron II and we have divided them up. So instead of a single model that is the same of every country, we have various components, allowing for different countries to have different tanks. At the start as Germany you may want to focus on speed and mobility for early conquest and then switch to armor and guns if the war goes badly.

WG:  What will the timeframe for Hearts of Iron III be?

JAHearts of Iron is all about World War II so it will be the same as previous games 1936 until 1948.

WG:  Are any other components being changed?

JA:  This is another one that we are not quite ready to reveal yet.

WG:  Recently, we’ve seen a spate of strategic World War II games.  Is Hearts of Iron III an answer to this?

JAHearts of Iron is often referred to as the strategy game that created the Grand Strategy genre and seeing copies pop up is the best form of flattery. We know a lot of people have been looking forward to us pushing the boundaries of Hearts of Iron further. 

WG:  When not working on Paradox games, what games do you play?

JA:  I’m an impulsive gamer, and often find myself wanting to try something new out at 11pm at night, so I tend to use GamersGate a lot to download and try out new games and old classics.

WG:  I remember when Paradox began as a small Swedish game company.  Now Paradox with its affiliate Gamersgate is a major player in the computer gaming industry.  To what do you ascribe this growth and has it had downsides?

JA:  We’ve focused on what we do best and haven’t been afraid to launch into new business initiatives. We’ve worked really hard to keep our fan base happy and also have great long term relationships with partners worldwide and that has been key. But with all that said, while Paradox as a company has grown, the size of the development team has been fairly constant since our start.

Thank you for your time in answering our questions.

 

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Concept art for the game.

 

About the Author

Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he deals with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online, Ganesquad and Gaming Chronicle. If you're looking for a PBEM patsy, contact Jim; he never wins.