War, the Game - Obbe Vermeij Interview10 Mar 2015 0
Wargamer.com interview with Obbe Vermeij.
Initially released last year through Desura, and in January this year on Steam, War, the Game has been developed by Obbe Vermeij (who worked on the GTA franchise for Rockstar). We reviewed the game a couple of weeks ago (here) and we also took the opportunity to catch up with Obbe for a quick interview.
Firstly thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions; I’m sure our readers will appreciate it.
Thanks for the opportunity.
- First up for those readers who may not yet have come across War, the Game can you give us an overview of what the game is all about.
War, the Game is a real time strategy in which the player moves armies across the globe as a supreme commander would. The key to victory is gaining local superiority. If you can get your forces focussed at the right place at the right time you will be doing well.
- War, the Game can be described as a RTS cut back to the basics. What inspired you to develop the game along these lines?
In the early days I was obsessed with strategy game. Dune 2, Command & Conquer, Civilization but also board games like Axis & Allies and Diplomacy. What make these games great is that the rules are easy to understand and the challenge comes from making clever decisions. Over the years RTS games have gotten more complicated. Storyline, Tech trees, Silly numbers of units, Silly numbers of unit types all made games less transparent. RTS games became more interactive stories than tests of one's wits. This is fine for some but not what I liked. War, the Game is an effort to bring back the thrill of beating an opponent with cunning and skill.
- The look and feel of the game is striking, and somewhat unusual. How did you come up with this and what advantages (and maybe some downsides) do you think it has?
I always like to try new stuff and always wanted to do a strategy game on a real globe with proper pathfinding. It is more realistic and looks cool. It does mean the controls had to be slightly different from what people are used to. Some people have complained that the controls are great but only once you get used to them. That's the price you pay for trying something new I guess.
- How long have you been working on War, the Game? Has this been a longer or shorter time than you initially expected?
5 long years. Before War, the Game I worked as technical director on Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City, San Andreas and gta4. After gta4 I left Rockstar North to live in Canada with my family. After a break I started work on War, the Game. Initially only at night but later on it became a full time commitment. It is very exciting to have the opportunity to work on your own project and not to have to compromise in any way.
I guess I was hoping it would be less than 5 years but there is just an awful lot to do to release a game and it is just me.
- What have been the biggest challenges faced in developing the game? And conversely, which were the easiest parts?
The biggest challenge was working without feedback. When working in a team you constantly get feedback from your team mates. That makes you abandon bad ideas quickly (even if it is just to stop the nagging). The biggest challenge working by yourself is to be critical of your own ideas.
Working by yourself has the tremendous advantage there are no meetings, no coding guideline documents to maintain and no design documents to be kept up-to-date. Every minute is spent designing or implementing the game.
- Development inevitably involves compromise, are there any features that you wanted to include, but that you haven’t been able to implement as yet?
When I started I envisioned the battles to be more visually impressive. I was hoping to really show the individual soldiers, tanks, ships and planes. I did a fair bit of work but it didn't look great. The realistic look jarred with the abstract board game look so I took it out. This set me back a couple of months.
Since the game was released in January the community have asked for a number of features they really wanted. A few sandbox levels and a scenario editor are the biggest things I added after release.
- What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of the gameplay; the thing that will really stretch the players ability?
What isn't immediately obvious to new players is that the AI is really competitive. When you move your armies around you can see the AI immediately adjusting its army placement in response.
After the 3 tutorial missions the player can play a battle between Germany and France. The player gets to choose which side to play and yet the AI (without cheating) will beat most players on the first try. It is here that players realise the game is not a push-over and get hooked..
- I believe that War, the Game is only available on PC. Any plans for other platforms?
No plans as of yet.
A lot of people mentioned it would be a great game for the tablets. I think the simple controls would indeed make it a good fit. It is already playable with xbox 360 controller so it could go console as well.
For a while I will be 100% focussed on making the pc version as good as it can be.
If a good programmer would come along wanting to do a conversion I would certainly consider it.
- The future? What can we look forward to next from Obbe Vermeij?
I'm not too sure. It's hard to move on after 5 years on one project. For now there is still some work to do on War, the Game.
- Lastly, now is a chance for a name check for all those involved in producing the game. So who are they and who has done what?
It really was just me. The 3d models in the game are purchased on the internet. So are the music and sound effects.
The game is a very reasonable £6.99/$9.99 on Steam and at that price you really can’t go wrong in giving it a punt.
There are a number of game play videos available on the game’s website if you want to look a bit more before committing - http://www.warthegame.net/game-play-videos.html