Interview

Men of War: Assault Squad Interview (PC)

Men of War: Assault Squad was the recently announced second stand-alone expansion for Men of War, the best WW2 RTS to emerge in the wake of Company of Heroes. But what do we really know about it? Well we launched our own Operation: Overlord during 1C's Prague'n'Play 2010 event, and we kidnapped ourselves our Russian by the name of Chris Kramer, who may or may not be the Managing Director of Co-developers DigitalMindSoft. Let's see what he has to say for himself...

Just out for a stroll dear, won't be too long

Strategy Informer: So, what was the underlying principle behind Assault Squad? What are you hoping to achieve with it?

Chris Kramer: Well, we saw that the community mainly was interested in multiplayer and we see a lot of co-op based games that create a lot of fun for gamers and are really popular, so we wanted to create something similar for our RTS where instead of playing competitively you can play together with a bunch of friends. I mean you can set up a game but eventually it just gets boring as there are some players who are better than others, and so the outcome is always the same.

With Assault Squad, we're taking the co-op that was available in Men of War to the next level: people can now play together against the AI through fifteen different missions, that are all challenging. They're all roughly at the same skill-level, but the player can actually decide how difficult they want it to be. In the original campaign, only the last couple of missions are really interesting, with the early missions acting more like a tutorial. We wanted to address this and bring in a more competitive and streamlined online gameplay experience.

Strategy Informer: So apart from this 'Skirmish mode', what else will Assault Squad bring to the table? Will there be another story-based campaign like Red Tide?

Chris Kramer: No there won't be another single-player campaign in that sense. We're including this skirmish mode with its fifteen missions, but we've also completely revised multiplayer. All of the existing game modes have been re-done, almost from scratch. We've been listening to our community and trying to make game play more fast paced and easier to control and easier to understand.

I mean we had this game, and people were looking at it but weren't seeing how unique it was, they were just treating it like a normal RTS, so our presentation wasn't that great. So with Assault Squad we wanted to give players a completely new feel for the game, but also allow them to customize their matches how they wanted. We've basically been polishing what we've got, and we've also kicked out some game-modes in favour others.

Strategy Informer: Why have you been developing these different facets of the game separately? Surely this skirmish mode and enhanced multiplayer could have been bundled in with, say, Red Tide?

Chris Kramer: Well when we first started working on Assault Squad, we decided to take what's best with Men of War, and through out what's worst about it. So we re-worked just about everything, every gameplay-file, every aspect of the game we re-visited and re-worked. So if you had put Red Tide into Assault Squad, it wouldn't play the same as it does now, we'd have to completely re-work that too. Also, it's 1C Company's game, not ours, and they really wanted a new beginning for the game to bring it out to as many people as possible.

Strategy Informer: I've noticed that the graphic engines seems to have been vastly improved in Assault Squad, what changes have you made there?

Chris Kramer: We've increased field of view, with improved textures, explosions, blooming, lighting and we also have new water shaders. We've really improved the whole feeling of the game. Also we've added new units, as well as polished the ones already there. We just wanted to give it a more interactive feeling, and a more interesting and better looking feeling.

Strategy Informer: Do you see yourselves continuing to build on Men of War in this fashion? Or are we working towards a sequel here? What are your plans?

Chris Kramer: Right now we're really just focused on showing that we can bring Men of War to the next level, and if we achieve this I'm pretty sure we're going to continue the series. I don't know what plans Best Way have with this genre or Men of War, but it could be very likely that DigitalMindSoft will be continuing.

Men of War has yet to give us a decent Normandy-like experience, perhaps now is it's chance?

Strategy Informer: Not so long ago there was an issue with patching that fragmented the online user base for a while due to delays and unofficial patches. What steps are you taking to make sure that doesn't happen again?

Chris Kramer: Well the problem was with communication. DMS had actually nothing to do with the patching process, so all we did was try and make things less messy. For Assault Squad we've streamlined the patching system, and we also have an exclusive testing system as well so we can get the game to the players at a very early stage, and we've created over 20 patches already without any problems. And we're going to continue the same way after the release - we're not going to create twenty patches! - but we want to keep supporting the game the best we can.

Especially with Steam, for some reason Steam users are being left out and we don't know why. We don't know why Steam is taking so long to update its version of the game - it's actually very annoying and very disappointing for us as we see our game having so many problems that we're unable to do anything about. With Assault Squad, Best Way will not be involved in the patching process so already that's one company less in the whole process. When we want to release a patch, we want to release it to all communities at once, Russian, Western, Steam... that's something we're working towards.

Strategy Informer: I assume Assault Squad is going to be classed and priced as a stand-alone expansion - what do you see its longevity being? How much game-time can a player get out of it on its own?

Chris Kramer: The average game time is about 40-50 minutes per skirmish map, which is a fairly long time, but the real longevity will come from the multiplayer. We're putting a lot of energy into the multiplayer side. The new units we've put in, including 'special' units increase the level of tactical choice players have. We ourselves have played skirmish for hundreds of hours and we can still enjoy what's there, so we've achieved that in some respect. Obviously we don't want to create a game that can be played forever, as we want to sell more games, but we put a lot of effort into making the game more replayable.

Strategy Informer: Do you see the Men of War series suited to the more story-driven gameplay as we've seen so far, or do you think it could ever enter the realm of, say, Theatre of War where you just have your army and you fight battles and everything is more dynamic.

Chris Kramer: I think that if we were to continue the series we could see Men of War go in the direction of Total War, but on the other side we're not so much focused on single-player anymore. We think the future of PC Gaming is with online multiplayer, either competitive or cooperative. I mean we could try and create a campaign that could be played online, that would be our aim for any sequels. But right now we're trying to polish what we have.

Strategy Informer: How much cooperation has there been between the team working Assaults Squad, and the team working on Vietnam, the other Men of War expansion?

Chris Kramer: Actually , I only heard about Vietnam not too long ago... but the main engine is made by Best Way, and they've handled all the support and everything for both titles. I think they are going to be two completely separate games though. I know they're in the same franchise and use the same engine, but they're made for different markets and focus on different aspects of the game.

Why iz zere a giant V hanging in ze sky?

From what we've seen and heard, Assault Squad really will take Men of War to "the next level", as Kramer says. There's little that hasn't been improved or overhauled or tweaked, and we imagine great things for this series if they can keep this up. Check out our hands on preview.

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Comments

By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on Jun 05, 2010
V4ndall
Mmm superb ;]
By Rabone (I just got here) on Jun 06, 2010
Rabone
Out-fucking-standing work DMS! Can't wait this masterpiece :D