American Conquest: Divided Nation Interview (PC)
Strategy Informer: Hi, can you introduce yourself and can you tell us something about your role in creating American Conquest: Divided Nation?
CDV: Hi,My name is Shaun Fletcher, and I am the technical lead of Revolution of Strategy and of the Divided Nation project. We are a small team, and my responsibilities include leading the graphics team, and supervising the programming effort. Revolution of Strategy is a young development studio, committed to our vision of a better kind of strategy game -- more realism and detail, combined with improved visuals and fun gameplay.
Strategy Informer: This is the third installment of American Conquest. Can you tell us the plot in a few words?
CDV: Divided Nation takes over where its predecessors left off, beginning with the War of 1812, as the player faces the massed redcoats of the British army with a ragtag crew of militia, US regulars, and even the pirates of Captain Lafitte, to fight for the existence of their nation. The action then leaps forward to the War for Texas independence, allowing the player to fight as the Texans or Santa Anna's Mexican army, including the famous Alamo siege. The player is then taken to the fields of America's biggest war: the Civil War. Here we explore the length and breadth of the war, and offer the chance to fight as its greatest generals and to lead vast armies across its most famous battlefields. For example, the player will take on the role of Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson as he tries to save the day at Bull Run, and defend the Cemetery Ridge against the huge charge of Pickett's Confederates. Additionally the player can also work to build and defend his own town against the forces of the AI or other players, in our interpretation of a classical RTS gameplay.
Strategy Informer: The American Conquest game series are taking us on an American history tour. What was the inspiration?
CDV: Revolution of Strategy took over the task of continuing the American Conquest series with Divided Nation. GSC Gameworld had done a superb job of portraying the first centuries of the European settlement of the New World, and it was up to us to find the next chapter in this story. As we studied the history of the United States into the 19th century, one war stood out as the definitive struggle. How could we resist the epic scale and unique tactics, equipment, and uniforms of the Civil War? Shiloh, Gettysburg, Antietam...these provided a unique opportunity to bring these battles to life. This decision made, it was also decided that we should represent the years between the War of Independence and the Civil War, and the sheer color and iconic nature of the Texas Independence Struggle, especially the Alamo, left us with an easy choice.
Strategy Informer: What would you point out as the best characteristic of the game? What has changed and what stayed the same compared to previous titles, concerning gameplay, combat modes, units, AI and so on?
CDV: The biggest change, and to our minds the best aspect, of Divided Nation is the focus on battles. While the classic "Build and Fight" style of American Conquest is still represented, the campaigns and single missions focus solidly on bringing to life the battlefields of the period. Of course there is more to a battle than fighting, and the building of field hospitals, kitchens, munitions depots and even fortifications feature extensively throughout the game, as does ensuring that your army is supplied properly. The other thing that Divided Nation brings that is new and unique, is a more realistic representation of the range and effectiveness of weapons of the time. Troops will no longer slug it out a few inches apart, and Muskets will no longer have miraculous accuracy. Cannons will fire the length of battlefields; though rarely hit their target at that range. This brings a quite distinct and, we believe, exciting feel to the battles. Finally, as far as units go, we have offered a huge range, allowing the diversity and color of the period to show. The Zouaves and militias of the civil war, the Napoleonic style of the Mexicans and the buckskins of Texas rangers. Other units show the technological changes of the times, new heavy artillery, Gatling guns, even the earliest submarines feature.
Strategy Informer: What about the game engine? Can we expect changes knowing that huge battles with up to 30,000 soldiers will be involved?
CDV: The game engine has undergone many changes. Some of these are concerned with improving the ability of the game to represent huge battles (up to 40,000 troops, and in the Gettysburg Pickettís charge mission, with over 150 cannon on each side) on topographically based maps. We also added the ability to construct and destroy field fortifications, and such things as trees and walls can provide cover from enemy fire. On the AI side of things we developed an all new battle AI, with the aim of letting the player fight the battle as he pleases, knowing the enemy will react accordingly. In the popular Random Map mode, an all new and effective AI has been developed to give even the best player a run for his money!
Strategy Informer: How much time will it be necessary to finish the game? How many campaigns can we expect this time? What about the levels of complexity of the game?
CDV: There are altogether 55 missions (43 single-player and 12 multiplayer) on 30 unique battle maps, many of which are quite large. Some battles will take many attempts and a long time to complete, some others are much smaller in scale, and some easier to complete. Complexity and scale, as often in reality, increase with time, so it's a good idea for the player to begin with the earlier campaigns of the Texas Revolution and later move on to the great battles of the Civil War. Even so, troops are delivered in their regimental formations, and the engine allows the player to group these further, so even the largest of battles is manageable once the player is familiar with the game. Sometimes the player is faced with a more difficult task -- to regroup and reform scattered troops, and this will require the best efforts of even the most experienced player to succeed.
Strategy Informer: Is the game more resource management based or is it more about battles and combat?
CDV: Divided Nation is much more focused on the fighting of battles, but there is an important element of management of supplies by using wagons, depots etc, and the organization of troops, which should keep players occupied when the battle has not yet begun. The game also features a traditional Build and Fight mode which has a full resource gathering and management system.
Strategy Informer: What kind of game is harder to create? A history based game such as this one or fiction based game?
CDV: Each kind of game presents its own challenges. As fantasy or science fiction games require a great deal of imagination and work to create a believable world and playable system, a historical game requires a huge amount of research to find a way to recreate as realistically as possible the events of history. Perhaps the greatest challenge is to engage the player in what feels like a recreation of what are, in reality, huge battles, and to create the right atmosphere and look of the setting as it existed. For the Civil War, for example, we created over 100 researched units, and more than 10 new types of fences and walls, dozens of trees and more than 50 new buildings, all in an attempt to bring that period to life. Battlefields were painstakingly created using historical data and topographical maps, fitted to the available scale and detail of the game.
Strategy Informer: Is this the final American Conquest game? Are there any more historical events that you can present in American Conquest series?
CDV: The Divided Nation project has been an exciting thing to work on, and itís very possible that we will explore these themes further, and touch on the others so far not approached, in a future release.
Strategy Informer: What is the minimum system requirement?
CDV: Minimum 2-3 CDs - Standalone 1 GHz Pentium 256 MB RAM 100% DirectX compatible sound and graphics card 12x CD-ROM drive Win 98/ME/2000/XP 2.5 GB free disk space Latest video and sound device drivers Recommended 2-3 CDs - Standalone 1.6 GHz Pentium 512 MB RAM 100% DirectX compatible sound and graphics card 12x CD-ROM drive Win 98/ME/2000/XP 2.5 GB free disk space Latest video and sound device drivers Internet Multiplayer game - 56K+ Internet Connection LAN Multiplayer game - tcp-ip LAN connection
Strategy Informer: Multiplayer?
CDV: Divided Nation features full multiplayer support, both LAN and Internet, with 12 fantastic battles, and four nations on the near infinite variations of the American Conquest random map system that players know and love.