Call of Combat - Wargamer.com interview17 Mar 2015 0
Despite the odd horror story Kickstarter remains a popular way of getting the funding to bring your new game to market and a few weeks ago we came across one called Call of Combat. To follow up our news item on the game we thought readers would be interested in hearing a bit more about this game and so here we present to you an interview with the games developers KAVA Game Studio.
The Kickstarter still has a few days to run so if you want to support this game into production, now is a good time to do so. They even have a demo.
Firstly thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions; I’m sure our readers will appreciate it.
- First up for those readers who may not yet have come across Call of Combat can you give us an overview of what the game is all about.
It’s a multiplayer real-time tactics game set on the Western Front in WW2. It is about outsmarting your opponents, collectively, as a team.
Our goal is to recreate small-scale infantry combat and the tactics that go with it. Each player controls a single fireteam (4 soldiers) and has to make good use of terrain cover, suppressive fire, outflanking and manoeuvring to achieve the mission.
Importantly, playing the game is a team effort, as you’ll be able to achieve little with just your fireteam alone. In an average game you will be playing together with 4-5 other players on the same team. Teams are organized in a hierarchical chain of command. At the top of the hierarchy will be a mission commander whose job is to make a battle plan and coordinate the action of all his subordinates.
- Secondly what about KAVA Game Studio? What is the background of the company and who is involved? A chance for the people involved to get a name check.
KAVA has been founded by Florian Käding who made the original Call of Combat game in 2002. He carried the development by himself for over 10 years after which he decided it was time to rebuild the game on a more modern foundation. He brought together a team for that task. Antoine Meurillon is the game designer, he tweaks and balances the gameplay and designed the new interface. Marcel du Long has created the unique look of the new Call of Combat. Wessel van der Es is the technical artist, making sure the game looks good at all time. Jonathan Doorenbosch is a talented 3D designer; a lot of the environment is his doing. Brett Lilley is a long-time fan of Call of Combat and now spends his time as a software craftsman, always striving for a better game.
But there are more people who have helped us or are still helping us and without whom we would not nearly be there: Erik Vader, David Belli, Vitor Hugo, Marco Schoenmaker, Alex Downham, Frans Baud, Tijmen Brommet, Lucas Lodi Dias, Martin de Haan, Hans Krill, Marcel Herkelman, Zino van Hamersveld, Christian Wirtz, as well as Bram van Lith and Stephanie van Geel from Game Drive.
- So what has inspired the creation of Call of Combat?
A game from 1999 called Chain of Command which ran for 2 years, but had an amazing gameplay. It was this game which inspired the development of the first version of Call of Combat (2002) and on which our lead developer Florian Käding eventually spent much of his time over the last 10+ years, both personally and (more recently) professionally. The first version was run as a completely community-funded hobby project and only taken down after being online for more than a decade.
Yet there always was this idea to recreate Call of Combat not as a hobby project, but with a bigger and more professional team. So more than ten years after our lead developer discovered Chain of Command and developed the original Call of Combat, we are trying to create a modern and grander version of the game. There are few games out there that focus on small-scale infantry combat and team play as Call of Combat does, so we really believe there is room for such a game in the wargaming scene.
- What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of the gameplay; the thing that will really stretch the players ability?
There are two answers to this question, an individual one, and a social one.
Rushing in almost guarantees defeat. Soldiers are vulnerable. Each player has to plan ahead carefully before moving in. This means positioning your soldiers wisely in preparation of the attack, providing the needed suppressive fire and making good use of cover. When under threat, on the other hand, it can be beneficial to fall back and use defence-in-depth tactics in order to buy time and delay the enemy. It is important to learn quickly that you cannot use your men as mere cannon fodder whom you can easily replace by “producing” another batch.
Good team communication can really augment these tactics, and we want to provide an interface to make communication efficient and straightforward. For example, to coordinate the assault on an enemy position or while carrying out a surprise flanking manoeuvre. Moreover, each team will be hierarchically organized and, at the top, the commander will have the responsibility to lay out the battle plan upfront, and coordinate everyone’s actions during the engagement by distributing orders.
- How long have you been working on Call of Combat? Has this been a longer or shorter time than was initially expected?
If we take the original game into account, the formula has been honed for over 13 years. This revived version of Call of Combat, however, has been in development since early 2013. Initially we worked on the project part-time, researching the technical base, doing prototyping and working on some of the grander game design questions. However, at the start of 2014 we went into higher gear, expanded the team and started building the game for which there now is a demo available.
There have been no specific setbacks development-wise, but starting up the studio, building the team and getting everything up and running at cruise speed took somewhat longer than we initially hoped and expected. But considering that we started from scratch and we now have a playable demo, we are not unhappy about the progress we’ve made in the last year or so.
- What have been the biggest challenges faced so far in developing the game? And conversely, which have been the easiest parts?
Line of sight, suppression and cover are crucial elements to the core gameplay of Call of Combat, but they are not too commonly found in this type of game. The main challenges were to balance these novel aspects, make them quickly understandable for new players and clearly visible and readable for veteran players. This was one of the main challenges we encountered. It is an ongoing effort as we still have plenty of ideas on how to improve these usability aspects.
Secondly, Call of Combat is a wargame, but at the same time it is a competitive multiplayer game that is played in real-time in short rounds of up to 30 minutes. This is a fairly unique mix of strategy and action that is not very common in this genre. It is not always easy to communicate this in short soundbites or with some gameplay screenshots, as people quickly draw parallels with some of the bigger WW2 RTS games on the market. Yet, this is not a good comparison for many of the reasons mentioned above, as the focus in Call of Combat is on infantry combat and real squad tactics. So one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is making potential players aware of the unique blend of gameplay that Call of Combat has to offer and explaining how it is different from your run-off-the-mill resource-gathering RTS.
Few things are very easy in game development, but the use of a modern game engine like Unity3D has, on the other hand, at least helped us deal with some of the technical challenges that are inherent to game development. It provided us with all the tools we need for the 3D rendering, so that we could focus more on the implementation of actual mechanics. Looting mechanics were easier than we thought, no?
- You are funding development through a Kickstarter campaign? Whilst this is a popular strategy it does have its risks – so why choose this route?
The original game was kept alive by a rich and vibrant community. Crowdfunding felt natural as it allows the community to be more engaged in the development than with any other type of funding. We also figured that running such a campaign would be a good tool to assess the appeal of the game and “test the waters”’, so to speak.
- Whilst we obviously hope that you reach your targets, what happens if you do not meet your funding goals?
With this public demo, we have already been able to establish that our gameplay has potential, as we are getting only positive feedback. Whatever happens, we want to deliver this game to the community. Reaching our funding goals would obviously allow us to create the feature set as described on our Kickstarter page much more quickly, but we really believe in this concept and we will fight so that it sees the light of day no matter what.
- Some independent developers comment that they have real trouble making potential customers aware of their games, how do you plan to overcome this?
By getting interviewed by Wargamer.com :)
We made a playable and enjoyable demo for the Kickstarter so that players can experience the concept. We are getting positive feedback, but it has not been tried out enough, so we are still pushing the demo to writers on video game blogs and news websites, YouTubers, etc. Properly nurturing the player base that we do have is another of our priorities, as we truly believe that having an active and competitive community is essential for the further growth of the game.
- How far progressed is game development at present? And, inevitably, do you have a rough timescale for release as yet?
As you can experience in our current demo, the base of the gameplay is there and players are having fun, even if it is still a bit rough. As we work on polishing the experience, we will start implementing all the community features that complete this game: complete clan system with internal hierarchy, commander battle plan interface, levelling system. If things go well, we can expect to have a version including all this in the summer.
This is a multiplayer game. it will be maintained, bugs will be fixed and we will be continuously improving it with new content for as long as the community supports us. We really want to create battles on other fronts, and represent other nations, such as the British or Russians for instance, or resistance forces such as the Maquis in France. Lastly, due to its focus on infantry warfare the game is very suited to recreate historical scenarios that take place in less typical settings, such as during the Battle of France for example or on the Italian front.