Operation Barbarossa - The Struggle For Russia

By Scott Parrino 01 Sep 2009 0

Operation Barbarossa ? The Struggle for Russia

Developers Ralf Zenker (Designer/Programmer) and Ronald Wendt (Designer/Artist) from Binary Evolution Studios share some of their thoughts on the development behind Operation Barbarossa - The Struggle for Russia.

Historical Context

On the 22nd of June, 1941 at 03:15 hours Germany attacked the Soviet Union with 153 Divisions. Operation Barbarossa was the code name given to Hitler?s surprise offensive against the Soviet Union, which was the largest military operation in history, up to that time.

Operation Barbarossa ? the Struggle for Russia takes the player back to the start of the ?Eastern Front?, where he takes command over a part of the military forces of Germany or the Soviet Union. During the game the player commands his forces through a series of historical missions that lead him to locations like Moscow, Berlin or the Caucasus.  Included in the game are three campaigns, covering the initial Barbarossa Offensive from the German side, the Soviet Counter-offensive and the German ?Case Blue? Offensive in 1942, as well as several separate single and multiplayer scenarios such as The Drive on Stalingrad, Dubno-Brody, Zitadelle, Smolensk, Wintergewitter, and Kharkov 1943.

Motivation

We love to play deep turn-based strategy games, but due to the fact we have less time to play such games in our lives now, we felt there was a need for a mission-based strategy game on a division/regiment level where each mission would take no more than an evening to play out.

Having such a game, we could play it for one mission with a decent playing time and leave the game with the feel of success after finishing the map. Next time we could get back and continue with another mission, with our previous success carrying forward in the campaign and giving us some continuity.

Modern Techniques

When we planned Operation Barbarossa -The Struggle for Russia, older titles of this style did not attract us anymore or had issues with modern Windows systems.

We also wanted to use modern technology so we decided on a fully interactive 3D environment. To avoid playability issues with this technique we kept a close eye on the readability of the maps and units.

We also added a particle system to visualize the weather and combat effects.

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Snow and Smoke.

Ease of use

The next important thing for us was to make sure the players could easily get into the game. While the game should be challenging we still wanted the rules to be fast and easy to learn.  To understand how to control the game should take as little time as possible.

To achieve this we used plain and simple menus and a fixed set of icons. In combination with tooltips this guarantees fast access to the game and an intuitive interface.

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Icons & Tooltips.

All actions that can be done with a unit on the map are shown by different cursors as soon as an action can be taken.

A set of information windows provides a good survey over the battle and the fighting conditions while you control your army.

Our tutorial campaign helps newcomers to get into the turn-based strategy of Operation Barbarossa -The Struggle for Russia and learn how to use the different types of units.

Finally, three levels of difficulty allow the player to adjust the game challenge as his skill grows.

Evolving units

At the start of each campaign, the player gets a set of core units.  He will take these units all the way to the end of the campaign. After completing a mission those units can be improved at the start of the next scenario.

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Unit Improvement.

Also in each battle the units receive experience points. With a certain amount of experience points they reach a new level giving the player the option to upgrade the unit?s abilities. For instance you can get a higher anti-tank defence to make a unit specialised in tank combat.

So with improvement and upgrades you can create unique units. These units should be used in situations matching their specialisation to get the best out of them.

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Unit Upgrades.

Different armies result in different tactics and strategies on the maps and give you a new gaming experience with each variant you try.

Strategic Aspects

In Operation Barbarossa -The Struggle for Russia, bridges are a high priority whenever rivers form a natural defense line. Heavy equipment relies on bridges and there is no chance of crossing a river with a tank division without a secured and intact bridge. Therefore destroying bridges can be a very effective defensive action, at least to slow down the enemy advance.  Infantry can cross rivers but at higher movement cost and the risk of high losses if it is engaged in combat while crossing.

In some scenarios there are railroads that connect important towns. This connection can be used to transfer units over large distances using operational movement.

All this leads us to an important unit of the game - the engineers.  They can blow up bridges and they also can repair them.  In addition they can build bunkers to establish new lines of defence.

Engineers can also destroy railroads and thus reduce operational movement.

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Engineers in Action.

Historical Reference

All of the scenarios and campaigns are designed based on the historical record.

To ensure the maps have the right distances and locations old and modern maps were used as well as satellite photographs.

The weather and supply were adapted to recreate the situations and the feel of the operational circumstances. Victory conditions reflect the historical efforts made by the armies.

Over 150 detailed 3D unit types were built from blueprints and photographs to keep them as accurate as possible.

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Lightwave ISU-152 screenshot.

For players interested in history each mission in the campaigns and most single-player maps provide additional information about the consequences after the battle or important related occasions.

There are also several remarks when towns and other areas are conquered throughout the campaigns with interesting facts and trivia, so the game is packed with history.

The Editor

As we always loved doing scenarios for games we played and liked, we wanted to give the players access to all features they need to do the same with Operation Barbarossa -The Struggle for Russia.

The editor allows anyone to create own maps no matter if they are fictional or based on historical battles.  It?s easy and quick to make a fictional scenario and even for a historical scenario most of your time will generally be spent on research rather than in the editor.

You can decide which units fight on each side, which weather conditions there are and how many resources each side is given.  You can create your own landscapes with rivers, hills, towns, roads, bunkers and so forth. In short, all that makes a map and scenario complete.

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Editor.

Now we hope you enjoyed reading these thoughts about our development of Operation Barbarossa- The Struggle for Russia and we hope will have as much fun playing it as we had during development.  We look forward to meeting you at the Matrix Games Forums and discussing our game!

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