Unity of Command 2 "won't be panzer porn"

By Owen Faraday 20 Aug 2015 0

If this teaser image aspect ratio is any clue, then UoC2 will be debuting on Nokia nGage.

Tomislav Uzelac set the grognardy corners of the internet ablaze last year when he confirmed on his blog that Unity of Command 2 was underway. The original Unity of Command is nothing less than an instant classic -- an operational level WWII campaign with an aggressively streamlined combat model and the most modern approach to graphics and user interface ever seen in a wargame. It was a truly revolutionary game whose inviting graphics ushered an new generation of players into wargaming and whose brilliant (and devious) scenario design kept old wargaming hands pleased, too.

I've personally played every campaign Uzelac & Company released for Unity of Command more times than I'd care to admit publically -- and I'm still going back every so often for another go. Clearly, I'm excited about more Unity of Command. In his reveal post last November, he promised "monthly" updates on his progress -- he's posted a grand total of three such updates. Not enough for the true believers. I decided to go chase up an update on my own.

"Unity of Command 2 is still coming," Uzelac told me--to my great relief--last week. But if you're holding your breath, hopefully you're some sort of free-diver. "A release in 2016 is not impossible, but if it would make the game substandard in any way, we will hold it."

Uzelac, you may have inferred, is something of a perfectionist. You can see it in his scenario designs: achieving the highest victory rating in some Unity of Command battles requires a brain surgeon's touch. One reason the game is taking so long is that Uzelac is completely overhauling his already-lauded UI. "There's a lot of things that I wish I could have done with the first game's UI that you'll be able to do in the new game. For example, you'll be able to check the combat odds against any unit on the map without having to move one of your units adjacent to it. That was one thing we found people did a lot in Unity of Command: move a unit next to an enemy, check the odds, undo the move, try another, undo, try another... if we can streamline that activity for people the whole user experience will be better."

Professionals study logistics

I talk to a lot of strategy game designers and it's not often that you hear one talk like Uzelac. Making a game that is comfortable and convenient to play is as big of a priority to him as historical accuracy or challenge. "The game really has a flow to it," Uzelac says. "When you get into that flow and you're ordering moves and attacks and there's a real rhythm to how you're playing, that's what I want to achieve."

Uzelac thinks that the biggest interrupter of your flow in Unity of Command was the AI. "Watching the AI's turn is always a little painful in a [turn-based] game," he says. One of his big (and as yet unimplemented) ideas for Unity of Command 2 is a more streamlined way for the UI to take its turns, moving groups of units at once in a formation, saving the one-piece-at-a-time impulses for decisive movements. I mentioned to him that watching the AI move big echelons of units all at once might produce a visually dramatic effect.

"I think so too," he said. "I think a lot about the effect that sort of thing has on the player. Wargame designers always talk about mechanical design but you never hear about interaction design. How the user interacts with the game, both passively and actively, isn't even a consideration for a lot of designers, I think."

Before he can get to those touches of polish, Uzelac has to finish the game's design document, something he says he's been agonizing over but is now "fairly complete". Unity of Command 2 won't be tied down to one theater like its predessor, and Uzelac intends to cover all of Europe and possibly North Africa as well.

"My ideas about what will be in is fairly definite. But it all needs to be tested in the engine. That's how we make the final call, we play the engine prototype and ask 'how does this feel?'" Uzelac ultimately decided on the Eastern Front as the focus of the first Unity of Command because the engine modelled it well. "Stalingrad was perfectly suited for the engine and mechanics. There was a lot manuevering and encirclements in the theater, historically, and it was a scenario that let both sides take the offensive."

Unity of Command insists on punctuality more than your mother and 7th-grade algebra teacher put together.

That focus on high-level maneuvers and logistics is something Uzelac sees as a hallmark of the franchise. "Unity of Command is not panzer porn," he says. "So many wargames place so much emphasis on tiny differences in equipment, and realistically those decisions were never in the hands of the generals anyway. The people deciding which panzer division got which tank were sitting on production boards back in Germany two years before the battle started."

On the move from 2D to 3D, Uzelac is conscious that Unity of Command has a distinct look and feel. The new 3D graphics will be "recognizably Unity of Command," Uzelac says. "There are real challenges that come with that change, though. If you can zoom into the units, what do their faces look like? That's a real problem we had to solve -- how do you make a 3D face for the bust that still has the feel of the original game?"

We'll be checking in regularly with Uzelac over the next year or so as he gets further into Unity of Command 2's development, but you can follow him yourself on Twitter.

Comments

Loading...

Log in to join the discussion.