WP : Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation!
Dmitry “Zak” Zakharov, Project Leader, Silent Storm
WP : Why did you choose to base Silent Storm on the WWII era?
The idea for Silent Storm came about in 2000 when we were wrapping up Evil Islands and Etherlords. Because we already knew the gameplay we wanted to create -- endless tactical options, realistic physics and massive amounts of destruction – we chose a realistic setting to emphasize it. WWII was a logical choice for the drama, squad-based tactics and weaponry that would best show off what the engine can do. It also makes for a very a fun game to boot!
WP : How do you think Silent Storm will stack up against titles like Commandos3 and such, or do you not consider Silent Storm in the same genre?
The genre, gameplay and graphics in Silent Storm are completely different from those in Comando3. Silent Storm gives players complete freedom with a non-linear storyline, selectable squads, and most importantly, no limits on tactical options. Since everything in the game is destructible, nothing stops players from shooting an enemy through a wall, ceiling or floor, or just collapsing a house, enemies and all, with explosives or a bazooka. I think that playing both demos for about 10 minutes will help people see how far apart these two games are.
WP : Why did you choose to have a turn-based battle system?
It was the best system for the game. We know that “turn-based” isn’t a very sexy word in a gaming market that thrives on fast-paced shooters and RTS’s, but Silent Storm is all about squad tactics – and controlling up to 6 people at the same time only makes sense in a turn-based setting. Turn-based also allows for more depth tactically – and that’s what this game is all about. We’re betting that the great graphics and real-time destructions will convince a lot of twitch players that turn-based gaming is still alive and well.
WP : Can you explain the story behind Silent Storm?
You are a grizzled veteran who has seen a lot of action and have been chosen to lead a specialized group of highly trained soldiers to help your side win the war. Beyond that, we’ve deliberately been secretive about Silent Storm’s story --- that’s because, as it unfolds, your overarching mission goals are not clear until you’ve gone through at least half of the game. Throughout the game, players are tasked with disrupting enemy operations, and conducting espionage and counter-espionage behind enemy lines. Conducting these missions will make give players a clearer picture of another enemy that threatens the world. It winds up being a good mix of WWII squad combat (a la Dirty Dozen) with a bit of what-if? thriller thrown in.
WP : How many levels does silent Storm feature? What will the gameplay time be for an average gamer? What is the main “replay” value for Silent Storm?
We don’t know! When I said non-linear, I meant that there is no level or mission count -- we have no idea if it will take a particular player 6 missions to finish a campaign or 24. How much time a player spends in any mission is dependent on his playing style, how many squad-mates he brings along and what kind of weaponry he’s picked up. The missions are dependent on clues, which are usually the objective of any mission. Clues will open up one or more new mission areas or regions; these clues were specially developed to be randomized. This means that we don’t know which ones a player will get in any game, or in what order they will appear, or where players will choose to go when they get them. We spent a lot of time making sure that the story was flexible enough to work with this type of system, and that gamers would wind up with about 65,000 different ways to complete the game. The non-linear mission progression isn’t the only thing that affects replayability though. Squad choices, weaponry and tactics all figure immensely into the equation – Silent Storm’s gaming value is best measured in months rather than hours.
WP : Are any of the missions historically accurate, or are they all fiction? What places across Europe will you travel to/visit?
The game is set in WWII, but the story is fictional and revolves around secret operations behind enemy lines. Towards the final missions of the game, players will also come across a secret organization with a prototype or futuristic weaponry, as well as the dreaded Panzerklein – a powered armored suit with heavy weaponry that was usually mounted on aircraft of the time. For those who are looking for realism, the game offers lots of authentic weapons from the period with realistic characteristics, clip sizes, ammo types and handling. Players will use these weapons indoors and out in England, Germany, Russia and Switzerland, as well as in a couple of secret locations.
WP : How many character classes will you have for each side? Can you play as both sides, does the game play experience change with either side or is it the same game, just from the opposite point of view?
The character classes, or professions, are the same for both sides and include Soldier, Sniper, Grenadier, Medic, Engineer and Scout. Unlike a lot of other games out there, we don’t limit what kind of weaponry or skills each profession can use in the game – in other words a Medic can grab a scoped rifle and snipe away, or a Scout can toss grenades. The consideration, though, is that they just won’t be as good at it as a sniper or grenadier, nor will their skills progress as quickly using these weapons. Players will be able to play two campaigns – one for the Allies and one for the Axis. The story is united, but players will get a different point of view from each since both sides can play their own role in the complete story.
WP : Can you give us some info on the amount characters you can have in group, as well as clarify the group control?
Players can have up to 5 characters (besides the main character) in a squad. They have a pool of 20 operatives to choose from in each campaign, with a good mix of all the different professions. Each member of the squad can be selected individually at any time, and any action can be executed with them. In addition, players can leave them with Action Points, go to another character and even come back to them to complete a turn. Or they can select all of them at once and give a group command – good for things like lining up your characters and having them all shoot at the same spot.
WP : How many types of weapons/armor/and accessory will you have in the game? Explain the RPG portion of the game for us.
The range of weapons is wide and includes Chinese throwing stars, knives and swords, as well as a variety of pistols and rifles, submachine guns and heavy machineguns. There’s also stationary artillery and mounted machine guns in some locations, as well as the opportunity to “pilot” the Panzerklein.
The RPG portion of the game is a whole separate matter, and while it involves weaponry too, it is much more closely linked to character development. Each character has a profession (which does not change). In addition, each character has attributes, secondary attributes, skills and perks that can be increased during the game by using certain skills or weapons. The best example: a scout. The scout requires a good mix of dexterity and intelligence to develop spotting and hiding skills. They also need strength, of course, which is especially good for hurling knives, but not as much as that needed by a grenadier. So, to get a good scout who can provide good intelligence and stealthy kills for the team, he’ll need to throw a lot of knives. The scout will also be hiding, crawling and crouching a lot, which will also develop those hiding and spotting skills, and in turn dexterity and intelligence. Finally as players increase in level, they get access to perks – a special development tree for each profession. Here players can gain bonuses to make the uber-scout – Awareness, Steady Pistol, Melee and Fast Throw. In general, perks offer AP bonuses or other special abilities that benefit a certain profession. The RPG system not only pertains to the main character, but also to all squad-mates. So players can develop all 20 characters in one campaign into different specializations and take the ones they need on different types of missions.
WP : Some of the weapons featured are quite experimental and/or futuristic. What are they and why did you decide to add those? What is your personal favorite character/weapon in the game?
Actually most of the weapons are very real and were quite common during the war, even most of the Panzerklein weaponry was already being used on heavier platforms like vehicles and airplanes. That said, there are a few experimental weapons and even a couple of guns that haven’t been thought of yet outside of any good science fiction setting. We put these in because they fit the story well and they also serve to help accomplish one of the most fun parts of the game – destroying everything! My personal favorites – well for characters it’s hard to say, once the voice-overs were done I took quite a liking to Elf and Ramos – both of who are in the demo. As for weapons – well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise ?.
WP : How large will the maps be in Silent Storm? Can you wonder around finding hidden extra or is it set/linear path? Are the maps indoors, outdoors, or a healthy mix of both?
The largest map will be 128 x128 tiles – this is just for comparison purposes, since the game doesn’t use a tile system. The largest map in Jagged Alliance 2 was 80 x 40 tiles. Players can take any path they like, as there are no restrictions. If something gets in the way – a building, a wall, a tree – just blow it away. Maps will usually have plenty of both indoor and outdoor areas together. Random encounters, which can be skirted or used to further develop a squad’s skills, are usually smaller areas, while mission maps are usually large and have plenty of buildings, woods and other features. We put the focus on action and offering plenty of different paths to try different types of tactics.
WP : Will you be able to drive or call in any type of vehicles for support?
Vehicles exist for the pure purpose of providing cover and offering mounted machineguns. They look great when they’re being blown up! We decided against making vehicles mobile because the gameplay didn’t call for it – there are usually buildings to inspect and having a majority of a squad in one small place makes them a good target for an enemy grenade attack.
WP : What is the current status of the game? When can we expect to see it on store shelves?
Silent Storm is nearing gold status, and is scheduled to ship in the U.S. early in 2004.
WP : Since the demo release, have the fans been suggesting things they would like to see added or things you can improve on?
Yes, the forums have been pretty busy, but much of the talk has been about mod ideas because we are including a map and mod editor with the game. Although we’d like to think that we’ve made the perfect game, we know that there will be plenty of requests for different types of changes. Many of these will be easily implemented with some modding by gamers – some will undoubtedly need a patch or add-on if Silent Storm is as successful as we hope it will be.
WP : Modding these days is becoming a rage, will Silent Storm deliver? What sort of tools will you include, or release separately?
We are including a map and mod editor with the game, which will allow you to create maps and mods. Like Blitzkrieg, we designed the game in an open format so that resources could be unpacked, changed and repacked, meaning that players can change just about anything they want to, from character models to sounds and landscapes, etc.
WP : Finally is there anything you would like to add perhaps something I missed?
Well, I’d just like to add that we’ve put a lot of time and effort into what we consider to be one of our most ambitious projects yet. If you’re reading this and haven’t played the demo yet – get downloading! Silent Storm truly has a lot to offer players of nearly any genre and we hope that you’ll visit our forums at www.nival.com to give us some feedback.
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