Strategic Command Pacific Interview25 Nov 2008 0
Hubert Cater (Fury Software) and Moon (Battlefront) sit down for an interview of ?Capt Andrew?, a Beta Tester on the upcoming Strategic Command: Pacific Theater project.
Moon: Thanks for sitting down with us. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became involved with the Strategic Command series.
Capt Andrew: My pleasure! A friend of mine recommended I check out Battlefront.com's Combat Mission game. I really enjoyed it, but when I noticed the original Strategic Command, I just had to try it. I downloaded the demo and was instantly hooked. I regularly read the forums, but I rarely post. I guess I'm not much of a ?blogger.? But when I was asked to join the Beta Testing team for the Weapons and Warfare release, I jumped at the opportunity. I don't get paid for helping, but I knew that Hubert and Battlefront took suggestions from the gaming community very seriously ? so I knew that any advice or suggestions I provided wouldn't be falling on the deaf ears of a programmer.
Hubert: Do you play Head To Head games, or are you more of a Single Player?
Capt Andrew: I prefer Single Player, but I do have several Play By Email (PBEM) games going with friends. I find it a good excuse to keep in touch with old friends from the bookcase board game days. I wouldn't consider myself a ?great? player ? probably above average. But with all the improvements to the Artificial Intelligence, playing a game in Solo mode gives me a fun challenge.
Moon: So now you're testing Strategic Command: Pacific Theater. Tell us, what were your first impressions?
Capt Andrew: Wow. That's it, in a word. I mean, there was just so much to take in. My first reaction was really focused on the map.
Hubert: How so?
Capt Andrew: Well, we've been stuck in the European Theater for so long, you really just become numb to the map. But I was really impressed with the map of the Pacific! I knew that Bill101, a forum member, was the co-creator of the main campaign module, ?Operation Z?. The Strategic Command Editor always felt restrictive to me, favoring campaigns in Europe or land-based missions. So I was extremely impressed with what Bill101 was able to do with the map. The map was so thoroughly researched, down to where the roads were, the terrain, the railways, et cetera. I initially had reservations on what the map would like, but I was genuinely impressed.
Moon: What reservations did you have about the map?
Capt Andrew: Well, in the Strategic Command European maps, the Atlantic ocean at times just felt like a wasteland of blue tiles. I was also concerned about how the game engine would be able to handle the issue of one tile islands. Outside of the early hunt for Germany's submarines and the annihilation of the Italians in the Mediterranean, the naval warfare aspect sometimes felt ignored. No offense Hubert.
Hubert: None taken! Well, give us an honest opinion on what you think now...
Capt Andrew: Well, I've had to change hats a little! The ground based combat is still incredibly important, but you really have to pay attention to naval maneuvers now! The game's progression has really come a long way, but the changes to the carriers and submarines was really amazing. It really added flavor to the module in a way that put the proper emphasis on ship combat.
Moon: You're referring to the complete overhaul on how carriers operate? Carriers now have two strength's representing the ship itself, and it's air component, right?
Capt Andrew: Right. I think that was the carrier's shortcoming in the previous releases ? carriers were just too expensive and not very powerful at all. But it's more than that. The flattops were the most important ship at sea, and you have to respect them. You also have the option of deciding which mode your air units are operating in... naval/tactical, fighter combat air patrol, or a mixture of both. You don't want to get caught flat footed when an enemy carrier has launched their torpedo planes at you! It's really nice because it's still super user-friendly, but you now have to make some tactical decisions... because you have to make your choice before you start moving your carriers. It's really a nice touch. Same with subs ? they now have to decide on whether they will Hunt or run in Silent mode before they move.
Moon: You mentioned the one tile islands earlier...
Capt Andrew: Oh yeah. That's been resolved with the use of special forces being able to go into Amphibious mode without being adjacent to a port tile. So now the US Marine Corps and the Japanese SNLF forces can be truly represented.
Hubert: Tell us, which side do you prefer?
Capt Andrew: Well, I enjoy both. I like the chance to ?change history?, but I also like to see what I could do differently as the Allies. Playing the whole ?what if? is a blast.
Moon: But the Japanese didn't really have a chance to win it all, weren't they just trying to gain access to oil reserves and hope to sue for peace?
Capt Andrew: I'm not a historian, but I believe that's a pretty accurate assessment in hindsight. Strategic Command: Pacific Theater really does a pretty good job of combining historical features and game play balance. Initially, I really thought the Japanese were too powerful in this game.
Moon: Go on...
Capt Andrew: Well, you really have to play it (grinning). You have to remember, the US economy was just coming out of the Great Depression, and it took some time for the war economy to really get cranking. This module has taken that into consideration... you'll really notice it in 1943, and the attack on Pearl Harbor really hurts.
Hubert: What do you like about the game?
Capt Andrew: Well, the feel of the game is fantastic. There really is a sense of panic and nervousness right off the start. The game starts with the Japanese hitting Pearl Harbor, and the results are pretty historical. So the game does a great job of bringing up fears of Imperial expansion for the Allies. There was some discussion about the game starting earlier due to the mainland battles between China and Japan, but I like it starting on December 7th, 1941. Since the maps and scripts are already in place, members of the community can easily modify the game to start earlier if they want. But it's really intense for both sides at the start. With an earlier advantage, the Japanese really need to expand as fast as possible and capture vital resources and locations. They're in a race against the clock for sure.
Moon: You mentioned some of the historical flavors of the game...
Capt Andrew: Absolutely. The Quit India riots in British India are represented, and the new unit icons represent units used in the Pacific Theater. As a Pappy Boyington fan, I was thrilled to see Corsairs! And I was really impressed with the way China is represented. That had to be tough to represent the situation between the Koumintang and the Communists.
Hubert: Operation Z isn't the only campaign offered. We've got some great mini-campaigns too.
Capt Andrew: Oh yeah, I've really enjoyed testing those! Some of the smaller campaigns in other Strategic Command games didn't hold my interest, but I've been pleasantly surprised at the detail and thought put into the Pacific Theater mini-campaigns. I don't want to spoil it for everyone, but I have to say that the mini campaigns really stand out this time. You're really missing out if you don't take them for a spin!
Moon: Any suggestions for people new to the game?
Capt Andrew: Well, personally I would just dive right in. Some may want to read the manual, but the game is still very user friendly and not too complicated. I don't think people who haven't played any of the European Theater releases will take long to get into this one. The previous experience helps, but I don't think it's necessary. People new to the game will be in for a treat.
Moon: What about our returning players? Any tips for them?
Capt Andrew: Protect those flattops! Man, I mean you can't just recklessly plow into ships anymore! Gamers that enjoyed the previous releases will really like it, I think. It took some getting used to at first because it really is a completely different situation in the Pacific than in Europe. But I'm sure they'll let you know on the forums. They're a pretty astute group and can sometimes focus on shortcomings... but they know you guys are listening and reacting to their feedback. I think they know you guys are constantly tweaking and improving the game too. They'll be fine, and I'm not sure I'm the one to give them advice! (laughing)
Moon: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us Capt Andrew.
Hubert: And thanks for helping!
Capt. Andrew: No, thank you. Great job guys ? I wish you guys nothing but the best with the release and look forward to what's next!