SunAge20 Oct 2005 0
The Wargamer?s Jim Zabek recently had a chance to chat via email with Roman Pfneudl, CEO of vertex4, which is working on a new strategy game called SunAge. When not working on his duties as CEO Roman also spends time coding the game.
The Wargamer (WG): Can you please give our readers a brief introduction to SunAge and what the game is about?
Roman: SunAge is a sci-fi RTS game, featuring three different races, each with their own campaign that follows a strong storyline. The game has a strong focus on overall tactics, and less focus on micromanagement, since all units are controlled through uniform squads. SunAge features all the classical elements of an RTS, like basebuilding, upgrading, resource extraction, and of course intense battles. But we also introduce new concepts like connection lines, and alternate modes for the units, as well as other interesting features to make a unique experience.
WG: Please describe the storyline and how it affects the game.
Roman: Let me first say that the storyline of course has a large impact on the races and locations that the game is taking place in. But most of the specific functionality of units, and especially tweaking of stats and so forth are done with a multiplayer perspective in mind. This is something that we are quite aware of since multiplayer must be very balanced to play at all, while the single-player can easily be tweaked with the amount of units the player encounters and so on.
The story begins on Earth inside a huge dome that?s shielding the inhabitating humans from the Sun. There?s a lot of tension between this 'Dome Confederacy' and a bunch of outcasts living in the wasteland called 'Raak-Zun'. The Raak-Zun is essentially a religious cult following a doomsday prophecy. The story later takes place on an alien planet that could be mankind?s new place to live. But the snake in paradise is the vanguard of robots that defend the planet - 'The Sentinels'. There are other elements to the story, but I would rather not spoil the plot by giving away too much.
WG: What inspired you to create SunAge?
Roman: Actually it was a demo for the first Command & Conquer that more or less triggered the development of this game, back in the old days so to say :). When I saw a lot of tiny tanks and a lot of even more tiny troopers running around, I knew that was definitely something I wanted to play, but after a few tries I figured, even more than playing the game, I wanted to code something like that. Well, so I got started.
WG: You mention that one of the features of the game is that some of the units will have dual functionality. Can you describe some of the units in the game and how their dual roles will function in the game?
Roman: Yes, this feature is quite important for the gameplay for a number of reasons. It encourages the player to climb the tech tree to upgrade his units to get alternate modes, and the modes themselves add a lot to the overall strategy since the player always has a choice in how to use his units and this adds a lot of diversity to gameplay. When shifting modes, the unit basically gets new functionality to handle different situations. For example, the scout unit can go from a fast attack unit to a non-attacking unit that can see deep into the FOW (Fog Of War). This deep scan enables the scout to spot for long range shooters, like artillery and snipers, and attack the enemy at a distance. Drone troopers can use shields in their alternate mode to block enemy shots, and another robot can stop moving and shooting and instead 'suck' the energy from enemies around it. Some units change their weapon type and this makes them more powerful when shooting different kinds of armour types.
WG: Please describe Connection Lines and how they affect the game.
Roman: In SunAge we have four kinds of resources but only the most common is accessible from the start. This means that the player must expand his base to reach far away resources in order to create more advanced units and buildings. This is where the connection lines come into play, because there must always be a connection between a building and the main energy source in the base for the building to work. The connection lines also open up the FOW which is essential for the combat system, since most units can shoot further than they can see. Also we will have special 'surge attacks' that can be activated from the main energy source and spread out through the network which can affect units. So you can see that the network is quite important, but can also be an Achilles? heel since they are quite vulnerable to attack, and a severed network at the wrong place can mean that units constructing buildings, resource sites, or even turrets will stop to work until the network is reestablished. This is where it becomes very interesting for the player to attack these lines. The bigger one is, the more vulnerable, and this creates a very nice dynamic in the gameplay.