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|2 SEP 2004 at 12:00am|
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If the success of titles such as Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, Civilization, and Risk are any indication, then the modern day theme of GolemLabs' SuperPower 2 should be in high demand. The game is a geopolitical strategy game set during modern times, complete with detailed economic, political, and military game models set around real-world events. The Wargamer's Chris Abele recently spoke with Jean-Ren?outure, president of GolemLabs, about their upcoming strategy game.
The Wargamer (WG): Could you briefly introduce yourself and your role at GolemLabs and in developing SuperPower 2?
Jean-Ren?outure (JRC): Hello, my name is Jean-Ren?outure, and I?ve been designing games for four years now (crowd says ?Hello Jean-Ren?). I?m one of the founders of GolemLabs, and like many founders, I wear many hats, from president of the company to cleaner of the kitchen. In regards to SuperPower 2, I am the de facto designer from the experience of the original SuperPower. You can say I serve the roles of designer, political and economic consultant and producer.
WG: For the benefit of those who haven?t already heard of the game, what?s the SuperPower series all about? What do you consider a comparable game (Risk, etc.)?
JRC: SuperPower 2 is what we call a real-world strategy game. We call it that because it?s entirely based on real data from the CIA, the U.N. and the United States Military. Our goal was to make the game realistic enough for players to play real-world events and ?what if? scenarios.
Someone also compared it to Risk on speed. You play any country of the real world, and manage that country?s political, economic and military spheres to achieve the goals you set for yourself, which could include conquering the world, eliminating rebels, becoming a regional economic power, etc. Oftentimes, playing a smaller African country allows you to play more political or economic-oriented games. Some games are more focused on the internal situation of your country, while others are very international. It depends on the scenario, the setting and the number of players, because the game also supports 32 players in multiplayer sessions.
WG: The first SuperPower game was released in 2002. Why did you choose to make a sequel?
JRC: The idea of the sequel was around even before we shipped the original SuperPower. We knew we had a winning concept, and we knew it wasn?t complete. SuperPower was our first game, and it was in a new genre. For a team of three, we were proud of actually finishing it. We knew some things could have been made differently, and we knew some ideas worked. The most important thing, the overall game vision, was working with gamers. Everyone gave us the same critique: great idea, poor execution. We wanted to push the concept as far as we could push it, so we figured if SuperPower brought in enough revenue, we?d hire a complete team and redo everything around the overall idea.
WG: The first game was not well-received by the gaming press. In SuperPower 2, what have you done to address the previous game?s shortcomings? Has fan input contributed to the sequel?
JRC: The reception of the game devastated us, especially since people were starting to hype it so much. A week before launch, some fans were telling us we were going to bury the Civilization franchise, and the week after, I was receiving death threats and voodoo dolls. We worked like crazy, releasing three patches in two weeks, and responding to everyone. We?ve never hidden from the game or its shortcomings, and in the end, I think we?ve turned the situation around. We stuck by the fans and the consumers, and made the game enjoyable. Now, of course, we?ve learned a good deal from that experience, and we?ve worked hard not to repeat it.
A lot of people contributed. We had a general idea when we started SuperPower 2, of course, but we?ve used input from the fans, the press, DreamCatcher (our publisher), etc. In the end, the game is what is important. Whatever idea works is the idea that gets in the game, whoever that idea came from. When we arrive each morning, we leave our egos at the door.
Obviously, there?s a lot more testing this time around. We?ve worked on the core engine code first, which has been running since fall 2003. We?re playtesting every day now, and adjusting the game based on the comments and the experience of testers. We?ve also changed the way the interface works and the way the information is presented. There?s a lot more feedback and the information is presented in layers of importance rather than by theme, so the player automatically knows what?s important. This way, new players can start right away, and experienced players still have the ability to tweak their actions on a deeper level.
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