Making History II

By Scott Parrino 13 Aug 2009 0

The Wargamer's Jim Zabek recently had the opportunity to chat with Ralph Gerth of Muzzy Lane Software. He?s the Game Designer and Art Director for the Making History series. Before joining Muzzy Lane, Ralph worked as a Lead Artist at LucasArts and UDS, a Swedish developer. In addition to his work on the first Making History, Ralph?s games credits include: Jedi Knight, Grim Fandango, Sam & Max, Dark Forces and Futurama.

The Wargamer: Making History was well-received as a solid mix of strategy gaming and educational software.  Who would you like the primary audience to be for Making History II and have there been any architectural changes to the game to move in that direction?

The priorities for Making History II were pretty straightforward: add lot more activity to the overall gameplay, increase the production values and build upon the design principles we established in MHI. The entire game has been reworked but not necessarily reinvented.  While I do expect the new look and extended features will appeal to a wider audience, our intent is not to make the game easier or more simplistic in order to make that happen.

Making History is generally regarded as a strategy game that?s complex without being complicated. I think much of that perception is due to our UI and that initial impression a player gets when they first enter a game. We put a substantial amount of effort into usability so new players can get comfortable fast. 

I understand the renowned historian Niall Ferguson was consulted as you crafted this sequel.  How significant were his suggestions and what impact did they have on the development of the game? 

As an historian that specializes in economics and a proponent of counter factual histories, Niall?s input has been both inspirational and uniquely informative. Much of our time has been spent just discussing the gameplay mechanics and how they relate to historical events.  Since one of the core design philosophies of Making History is to allow players to change history, it?s incredibly interesting to hear Niall?s perspective on events that might have altered the outcome of WWII.

Niall wrote an excellent book that covered many of the WWII era themes that are prevalent in Making History II. Some of the most valuable conversations we?ve had with him related to many of the newer features in MHII. Topics like demographics, civil unrest and financial systems are areas where Niall?s detailed knowledge has been particularly helpful.

Please tell us about some of the changes you?ve made to pre-war buildup and how those choices will affect a player?s country as the game progresses.

Making History II is almost as much about the economics of war as it is the actual battles. There are benefits to avoiding war and large standing armies are expensive.  Decisions on when to expand your industries, generate wealth, or begin a military buildup will be critical.

We believe most game players enjoy the process of shaping the nation?s economy and making choices like where to concentrate their aircraft factories and which new technologies to pursue. An early start also provides more opportunity to change the course of history. With that in mind we?ve significantly increased the variety and number of options players have for managing their nation. Cities now have an array of specialized buildings for industrial production and tech research. At the region level we?ve added many new construction projects for transportation, food and resource production, and defensive infrastructure. Each project is intertwined within a deep research tree that spans technologies from subsistent economies to the industrialized world.

Peacetime is also a period when nations will compete for trade agreements to ensure a steady supply of industrial raw materials. The new trading system has been completely revised with bartering and price fluctuations influenced by market supply and demand.  The UI is designed for easy management of your stockpiles so small iterative trade actions are not necessary. In MHII trade is not only a vital to your economy; our testing has shown it can also be a lot of fun.  

The numbers and roles of military units appear to have been greatly expanded.  Can you share some insight as to the kinds of units players can expect to see and their role in the game?

We?ve almost doubled the number of new unit types in MHII including many on both ends of the scenario timeline like Bi-plane Bombers, Zeppelins, Carrier Jets and Main Battle Tanks. On top of that players can research a variety of improvements that allow additional capabilities within the same unit type.  One of the biggest changes from MHI is the new properties we?ve added to every unit. Like all other areas of Making History II, our goal is to increase the depth and entertainment potential of the military gameplay. Units now receive damage and reinforcements, gain experience and suffer declines in morale.  Players can keep track of their most successful forces throughout the game. As soon as a unit goes into production it immediately receives a name so players can see they are constructing the USS Iowa or the 19th Airship Squadron.

We?ve also installed a rules involving naval and air basing. Air combat missions must be made from constructed airstrips and ships are now required to return to port for supplies.  Carriers are in effect floating airbases so players can now order multiple missions from a single ship simultaneously.

Overall, there are a lot more options for a player to consider when issuing military orders. That?s another reason why we?ve been careful to keep the UI presentation clutter free and easily digestible.

Can you tell us about how infrastructure and supply will work in the game?

In Making History II both regions and military forces have dynamic supply states. A newly conquered region receives an organization penalty so that as your army pushes deeper into foreign territory, the supply rate to each newly seized region will be reduced. Military forces get resupplied at the rate set by the region where they are located. This means if a unit is in a region that is supplied at 50% it can only be supplied at a rate of 50%.  In effect this simulates the concept of an extended supply line since the supply level modifies the unit?s combat ability. The penalty does phase out over time. Nations can also develop technology and make transportation infrastructure improvements that increase rate of supply to a region.

Each individual unit will now carry their own supplies. So when paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines of control and cutoff from any supply source, the units will consume whatever it carried into battle until a supply path can be achieved. Supply paths are used in MHII to incorporate trade interdiction gameplay in the form of trade corridors. For some nations, the struggle to control sea regions should be as active and important to success as the land conflict.

Can you tell us about the multiplayer aspect?  What changes have you made, and how many players will be able to participate?

The turn-based gameplay of Making History II opens up some exciting opportunities to enhance the multiplayer experience.

Making History II is a turn-based game with simultaneous resolution similar to the board game Diplomacy. This allows us to circumvent one of the largest drawbacks to playing a grand strategy game in multiplayer mode ? the need to have everyone present when the game is active. Traditionally many strategy games used play-by-email and hot-seat features to facilitate multiplayer mode. Being a turn-based game, we can take advantage of certain benefits those classic multiplayer options offered. Namely the ability to maintain the pace of a game over a long time period by allowing players to do turns when they are ready.   

At Muzzy Lane we?ve developed a web-based game delivery system that will make it easy to create new Making History II multiplayer games and share content. Players will be able to go directly to the Making History Gaming Headquarters website, start a game with friends or play any of the existing games they are already a part of. The service will maintain the games and notify players by email when a new turn is pending.

In addition to multiplayer support, Gaming Headquarters will assist with providing the latest versions and updated content from Muzzy Lane or from one of the Making History mods. The site will handle all the setup issues that are common impediments to playing other users customized offerings. With contemporary features like friend?s lists, groups, and conversation areas, Gaming HQ will operate to some degree like a standard web community for all things Making History.

It?s been many years since I use to share PBEM (Play by Email) games of Empire Deluxe with a group of friends. In some respects it was one of the best strategy gaming experiences I?ve ever had. We made alliances, planned invasions and coordinated massive assaults. It wasn?t simply that it was easier to work with a human player; the fun came from the interaction with real people.

With our new technology, I?m expecting more people will begin to prefer the multiplayer experience over the single player one. I?m looking forward to it.

Diplomacy was a key aspect in the original game, but alliances were generally constrained to similar ideologies.  What changes have you made to this system and can you describe the kinds of dynamics players can expect to see in Making History II?

Relationships in Making History II evolve over the course of the game. Nations that begin as historical allies can end up at enemies if a player makes choices far outside the character of the nation they represent, like the USA attacking Mexico or Canada. Ideology is just one factor of many that is evaluated when the AI considers requests like alliance offers, military access treaties and trade deals. Each type of decision will have a number of inputs that determine the response. Most of these factors are dynamic so that conditions may increase or reduce a nation?s diplomatic influence. We?ve also expanded the use of leadership character modifiers to invoke some measure of unpredictability.

On the domestic side, Making History II assigns ideological values to your population. This represents both your government support and the political opposition. It?s also possible for nations to fund the growth of political opposition in other nations. A high level of anti-government sentiment can undermine a weak nation?s stability and lead to coups, civil wars and rebellions. This can function as a tool for manipulating the internal affairs of smaller nations in order to bring them under the direct influence of the more powerful and large nations. If, for example, a major power instigates a successful coup, the target nation could become its puppet state.

Gamers may now choose from every nation on the map as a playable side.  How counter-factual will the game be?  Can tiny nations rise to become regional or global powerhouses?

To the degree that Making History II diverts from real history is in part determined by what a human player does. Though the game isn?t scripted to follow a strict historical path, the nation AI is provided with character properties and motivations that are consistent with their WWII behaviors. If left alone, Germany will always end up being an aggressor but it may not decide to invade on Poland September 1st, 1939. That may come earlier, a little later or they might choose to take out Denmark and Norway first. When playing a nation like Denmark, it?s probably impossible to fend off a German attack even if you know its coming 5 years ahead of time.

Players inherit the geopolitical and domestic challenges associated with the nation they choose to play. Italy in Making History II has a weak industrial base just as it did in real life. This condition makes it difficult for them to achieve their goals of conquest. Smaller nations are more often forced to rely on alliances with more powerful nations in order to even survive. In this way someone like a Romania might have expansion potential at the expense of the USSR. In every Making History game, a-historical opportunities can evolve that offer unexpected and entertaining outcomes. As we like to say, don?t just replay history, make history. It is a game after all.

The Wargamer would like to thank Ralph and the folks at Muzzy Lane for the opportunity to learn more about the game.

Readers intersted in visiting the official website can find it here.  Keep checking back with us as we continue to follow this exciting sequel.

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