East India Company

By Scott Parrino 22 Jun 2009 0

Interview with The Wargamer ? East India Company

The Wargamer's Jim Zabek recently got a chance to learn more about East India Company from Kim Soares, Lead Designer of East India Company.  Kim has been gaming since 1979, has been a game journalist since 1996, and started designing games in 2005.

The Wargamer (WG): For readers unfamiliar with East India Company, can you please provide a brief description of what the game will be about?

Kim Soares (KS): East India Company is a unique combination of trading game and wargame. Background is historical: During 16th-18th centuries several European nations had their own East India companies. These extremely powerful companies dominated the highly profitable trade from East Indies. The companies were nations within nations, having extensive privileges, rights to declare war against other companies and more.

The player will take charge of one of these companies, aiming to lead her company to be the greatest one.

WG: There is a great deal of excitement within our staff and readership about East India Company.  The burning question on many people?s minds is: when will the game be released?

KS: Good to hear that! The game will be released 28th July in North America and few days later in Europe.

WG: Are you using a proprietary graphics engine (if not where does it come from) and can you tell us about how you crafted/adapted it for East India Company?

KS: We are using engine called Storm3D, which is originally made by another Finnish game developer. We licensed the engine already back in 2004 and have since then pretty much rewrote it almost completely so that some 90% of it is now our code.

WG: What games/movies/literature inspired you to create East India Company, and can you tell us about how Panzer General and Chaos Gate specifically might have impacted the game?s development?

KS: Wilbur Smith novels gave the nudge to look further into the history of East India companies. We saw at once that they were great subject for a game, combining tycoon type trading with great power, nasty attitude and naval warfare.

The original Panzer General and Warhammer 40000: Chaos Gate are a couple of my all time favourite games, yes :-)

The logic that replacement crew lowers the experience of the ship is directly inspired from Panzer General. I often use Chaos Gate as an example when discussing  the difficulty level of games, as it?s CG could be played on a level where the game would automatically save to the only save slot available whenever one of your marines died. That was hardcore, but it also made it very sweet to succeed. However, none of the games have had any direct impact on EIC.

In addition to difficulty levels, we also made different modes for EIC (arcade, normal, simulator) which affects the difficulty but also the play experience. This way we want to cater to different audiences, as some players enjoy a more fast approach and some crave for more realistic take on the subject.

 

WG: How many hours will a typical campaign take to get through?

KS: Running through and auto resolving all naval battles will result in approximately 15 hours in the Grand Campaign that spans 200 years of in-game time. But that is trying to play it as quickly as possible. Average play time is somewhere between 50+ hours, but if you play a lot of naval battles you can easily reach 100 hours.

If you think that is too much commitment to a single campaign, you can always choose to play just a 100 or even just 50 year campaign, too.

 

WG: Trade is clearly going to be an important component of East India Company.  Can you share some details on how the economic model of the game will work?

KS: Most of it revolves around Main Trade Items (MTI), the campaign mission import quotas and dynamic prices. MTI?s like ivory, spices, silk, and tea are the most valuable items in the game. They are also items you are required to import set amounts in a given time frame, as specified in campaign missions. Campaign missions span from 15 to 50 years, with increasing amounts of MTI?s to import.

Price dynamics are easy to grasp: A port that produces MTI will get some amount of it each month. The more there is available, the lower the price you have to pay for it. On the other hand, the price you get for it when you sell it into your Home Port will depend on the amount you have sold there recently: If you import huge amounts of tea to your Home Port, the price you get will drop as you flood the market. If you don?t import tea to your Home Port for some time, its price will go up.

Playing to this price dynamic would be easy, were it not for those import quotas and rival companies. Other companies can also trade freely on the same native ruled ports as you, which can mess the prices and even leave you with nothing to buy.

Because of this, it is imperative to conquer some MTI-ports so that you can secure your access to specific MTI?s. And when you rule the port, you can upgrade its Trading Post, which not only gives you discount to the price you pay but also increases the amount of MTI the port generates.

WG: From reading your blog it is clear that a lot of effort has been placed in creating a robust diplomatic AI.  Can you tell us more about what challenges gamers can expect from the AI?

KS: Someone reads my blogs? Cool! Seriously, yes, we have worked quite hard to create diplomatic AI that would feel logical and not just be a vending machine for pacts. Basic thing is that everything has a diplomatic price: pacts, alliances, MTI?s, money, ports, relationships between other companies?

We have provided players with a ?diplomatic power bar? which shifts according to the value of items on the table, giving clear indication how likely the AI company is to accept or decline.

AI companies take a multitude of things into account, from inter-company relations to the fact that at one point they might value something and at another time disregard it completely. For example, you can even trade ports you rule through diplomacy. Ports are hugely valuable, but if the AI company thinks it already has enough ports it will not put any value to your port. Or if you are offering a port you have just captured, the AI company will not want it, as it sees it as ?hot?. After all, the previous owner might want to re-capture its port soon enough.

There are loads of these kinds of logical elements and they make the diplomatic AI tough negotiating partner.

 

WG: Many of our readers enjoy playing not only the game as it is, but also community-created mods.  Have there been any plans to allow for fan-created mods, and if so, what kind of preparations have you made for the community to modify the game?

KS: We just recently revealed that EIC is going to moddable after all. There are dozens and dozens of values players can tweak, from grape shot damage to campaign mission import quotas and diplomacy values. Ship textures are accessible as well.

WG: Is there anything else you?d like to share about East India Company that we haven?t asked about?

KS: Well, I hope people will have an open mind when they first play EIC. We have noticed that some people approach the game as a pure trading game or a pure wargame, which is kind of natural as games usually are one or another. In EIC, that will result in defeat in the campaigns. You have to take fresh approach as we have trading and war  hand in hand and neither can exist without the other. When people get that, they tend to be really excited because of that fresh approach.

WG: Thank you for your time!

KS: Thank you!

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