Chain of Command - Wargamer.com interview25 Feb 2015 0
I sometimes wonder whether, as a site whose readership whilst definitely at the “grognards” end of the scale is also pretty diverse, whether we pay enough attention to RTS games. Well at the start of the year Chain of Command from BitBunch popped up on the radar and we carried a press release of theirs to bring them to the attention of our community. The game is at an early stage in development which will, hopefully, give us chance to give it coverage through to release and beyond. We start with an interview.
Given that the game is still someway off release this is very much an overview, however, BitBunch tell us that the following pictures are the stage some of the vehicles in the game are currently at and they’re looking pretty good to my eye.
And so onto the interview …
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 Chain of Command can you give us an overview of what the game is all about.
Chain of Command is an operational level wargame set in World War 2 featuring large-scale battles playing out in continuous time. The gameplay is about planning your maneuvers and drawing orders on the game map and overseeing their execution during battle and taking personal control of subordinate units if required.
The game is played on highly detailed topographic maps that can be zoomed in until you can see individual vehicles, buildings and other features. Our proprietary 3D engine uses a spherical Earth model to visualize the environment.
We are currently in the pre-alpha stages of development and the various elements of the game are starting to come together. It's a very exciting time seeing our vision come to life, but we still have a long way to go.
- This is a World War 2 game and that is an extremely popular period to set games in. So what do you think Chain of Command brings that will be attractive to players – the unique selling point if you like?
The core concept of Chain of Command's design can be deduced from its title: hierarchical structure. All aspects of the games are designed around this concept:
The graphics engine uses hierarchy in its level of detail to visualize an entire planet from high orbit down to a few hundred meters above the ground. Units are visualized hierarchically as well: as you zoom in you will see the front-line of army groups split into individual armies that split into divisions, that split into regiments etcetera.
The interaction with the game follows this same structure: depending on your zoom level, you will be able to give orders for a particular unit in the command hierarchy and have the AI work out details for its subordinates.
Chain of Command is unique in how it makes you feel like an actual commander.
- I understand that you are going for an Early Access option for the game. Why have you chosen this strategy as opposed to, say, a limited beta followed by a general release?
In our current stage of development the more innovative aspects of the game are still unpolished. By going for an Early Access option we intend to attract the early adopters who can give us the feedback we need to make these new features really shine.
Our innovations go against some established conventions in the genre, so trying out different methods of introducing players to the gameplay mechanics of Chain of Command is essential in making it accessible.
The trend of involving your customers early in the development process is something that we will see a lot more of in the future. For a smaller developer like BitBunch, trying out innovative approaches, getting early feedback is essential. Waiting until beta would be too risky for us.
- How long have you been working on Chain of Command? Has this been a longer or shorter time than you initially expected?
We had the initial ideas for the game a long time ago but now technology has advanced enough to allow us to create our vision. The game has now been in development for 2 years during which we worked on the technology part-time. The other time has been spent on several projects that provide us with the income to fund the development of Chain of Command.
Even though we are very happy with our progress so far, it has taken us longer than anticipated to get to this point. External projects required more time than anticipated which slowed down development of the game, but also increased the amount of funds available.
- What have been the biggest challenges faced in developing the game? And conversely, which were the easiest parts?
The biggest challenge so far has been assembling the team. It took a lot more time and effort than we had anticipated to get quality people on board. But after we succeeded, things started to roll a lot faster, so in the end it was worth the effort.
The easiest part has been the software development. As seasoned engineers with almost 20 years’ experience in developing high-performance software each, we had a clear vision of what we wanted to build and most things have worked out very well. There are still a lot of challenging steps ahead, but from a technology point of view, we are confident of success.
- Development inevitably involves compromise, are there any features that you wanted to include, but that probably won’t make it to the release version?
We have a very ambitious roadmap, but in our current stage of development we have not yet had any reason to cut out major features from the game.
- What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of the gameplay; the thing that will really stretch the players ability?
If you happen to be a General in real life, you should have a definitive advantage over other players in Chain of Command. The game is built on top of a simulation layer so there are no “game-y” loopholes to take advantage of. In the game, you have to make your decisions based on less-than-accurate intelligence, your intuition on what the enemy is planning and your experience in knowing what your own forces can accomplish. Being able to think like a General will be the key to victory.
- Lastly, now is a chance for a name check for all those involved in producing the game. So who are they and who has done what?
Rogier van Beek is our illustrator and has worked on various pieces of concept art and illustrations.
Anton Gorobets is responsible for PR/Marketing and community management.
Thomas Dogger is our resident 3D artist and is working on various in-game assets.
Serge van Keulen, a co-founder of BitBunch, is working on the simulation, rendering and AI parts of the engine as well as being involved in game design.
George van Venrooij, the other co-founder of BitBunch, is working on data processing, simulation, game design and historical research.