WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
I'm Alastair Cornish, and I'm a game designer with Eidos.
WP: When did you get involved with Battlestations?
AC: Right at the beginning of Battlestations: Pacific, so a couple of years ago, and then some.
WP: Has Pacific been in development since Battlestations: Midway? Was there a lull? How do you get from Battlestations: Midway to Battlestations: Pacific?
AC: The team pretty much got cracking on it right away. Obviously the first thing is that it's the next iteration of the engine, so while the game and documentation are being done, the engine's kind of being revamped and upgraded. We've got increased particle limit, updated water physics, all-new weather systems, new vegetation system, this list of changes really goes on. From there, we started getting forum feedback and we review the feedback, see where there are opportunities to improve on Midway, and then it's into the fine-tuning phases to see what works, what doesn't, and try to make the game as accessible as possible.
One of the big things is that we've doubled the content so the Japanese campaign's a whole other kettle of fish. It's as large as the U.S. campaign, and they'll all be spoke missions so it's not as if you'll play the same mission from the other side. There are completely unique missions for the Japanese campaign.
There are five multiplayer modes, and there are about 94 different scenarios in multiplayer, and you can play those all offline in skirmish mode against the AI. Yeah, there's lots to do! (laughs) It's really content-heavy.
WP: What has changed about the game concept? What's to stop people from saying, "This is Battlestations: Midway with a new skin"?
AC: I've already covered a few of these points. At its heart, Battlestations is and always will be a game based on a really fine blend of strategy and action, a 50-50 mix of giving orders on the map screen and jumping into the action. The other pillar is air, sea and undersea combat, and last is a kind of authenticity and realism, while obviously gameplay is still king. That's not going to change.
What is going to change is, especially the content, as I've said. It's a true sequel. It's the next version of the engine, so there were a lot of technical achievements there. Double the content, so previously you played the U.S. campaign with a narrative structure. Now there's a U.S. campaign and a Japanese campaign and the narrative structure is gone now so you don't follow a single character. It's more fitting of the way that you play Battlestations, jumping between units at will, so it fits that much more. Skirmish mode, which fans really clamor for, that's all new. Island Capture is a massive thing now; it's not just the name of a new mode. You can actually land marines on beaches and support them as they go up the beach by shelling bunkers and command buildings and enemy army. There's just a huge amount of content, so it really is a true sequel and a big jump so fans will get a huge kick out of it because they've driven so much of it. The forum feedback has dictated a lot of what we've put into the game, from minor things like cockpit views or specific units they'd like to see to larger things like the skirmish mode, which is a really big deal.
WP: Can you talk a little bit about the skirmish mode?
AC: Absolutely. At its core, it's the multiplayer mode, but it's available in single-player against the AI, so a lot of people who played Midway said, "I've finished the campaign, I've got the best rating that I can get on all the missions, so what is there for me now outside multiplayer?" They really want this skirmish mode, so we gave it to them. So now if you've got a gold medal on every campaign, you've got high scores, if you've completed the side objectives in every mission, then you can go into skirmish mode. It's going to be different every time because the AI is going to play differently every time. You can even use it as a practice ground for multiplayer if you like because, like I said, it's the same concept. It's something the fans have been clamoring for, and we're happy to give it to them.
WP: You're showing the game on Xbox 360 and PC, but even on the PC, you're using the 360 controller. Is the game identical? Do you have to use the game controller, or can you use a keyboard and mouse or a proper flight stick?
AC: You can set up on the PC however you like. The way to look at it is, if you build a racing game for the PC, the best way to play it would be with a wheel. Similarly, with Battlestations: Pacific, we think the best way to play it is with a gamepad. However, you can bind it to a keyboard and mouse or you can bind it to a flight stick, whatever you like.
WP: Are there any differences, content-wise, between the two?
AC: No, not content-wise. It's kind of down to technical details, really.
WP: What about downloadable content? Are there any plans for that? I know when Battlestations: Midway came out, Xbox Live hadn't fully matured yet, but now that DLC is standard, what kind of expansion options are you looking at with the game?
AC: We do have DLC planned. I'm afraid I can't talk more about it this time, but we do have DLC planned for all versions, for all SKUs.
WP: Talking about multiplayer and skirmish modes, what is the maximum number of players that you support?
AC: It's eight players, so 4v4. Island Capture mode, which is really the crown jewel of the multiplayer mode, is probably the best example of the 50-50 split between tactics that Battlestations: Pacific offers. You have a pool of resource points that you spend, so something like a PT boat might be 50 resource points, a battleship might be 200 or 300, so it's kind of balanced that way, but that means that the player is free to compose his fleets however he likes. He can concentrate on air power, he can spend it on a fleet mostly comprised of destroyers, he can invest it in a couple of battleships, or he can go crazy and have a massive flotilla of PT boats. You can really mix and match and come up with your own tactics.
Then there's competitive mode, which is a quick-play mode where you try to outscore your opponents. There's siege mode, which is very much scenario-based, so you may have a crippled fleet who are being repaired and one side plays the defenders trying to give them air cover and the other side comes in and tries to destroy the fleet, try and kind of whittle down their points. There's duel mode, which is fairly straightforward, kind of a deathmatch where you try to kill the other players, and there's escort mode, which is another scenario-based mode where you obviously escort a unit through a situation while the enemy try and take them out.
WP: What about in general, the World War II setting? There have been so many games set in WWII that it almost seems a bit overexposed. Why choose the Pacific Theatre of WWII? Why not another war for the sequel to Battlestations: Midway?
AC: I think the team just really felt that there was more to offer, more to get out of the Pacific Theatre. With Midway, we knew that we really had something. It was well received, we had lots of opportunities to improve it, but we also had the opportunity to explore more action in the Pacific. I mean, a really good example of that is the Japanese campaign. The first time around, it was the U.S. campaign told from one man's viewpoint, very character- and narrative-driven. Now the U.S. campaign is free to jump between units. There's a much more epic feel to it, and of course there's the whole Japanese campaign in there, so that's an example of how much more there was to explore and more to tell.
The other thing is that while there are other games that use the WWII theatre, there really aren't any other games that offer this blend of real-time strategy and action, so we've got something unique there as well. Players may have experienced WWII, but never like this, from a commander's seat and into the cockpit of a Zero the next second and switching between them freely.
WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?
AC: Really, it's one war but it's two epic sagas and over a hundred war machines to fight in. Double the content. I think I've given a "Thank you" to the fans on the forums. As I've said, we've had really vocal fans but really articulate fans. They told us what they want to see, why they want to see it, what works, what didn't, and they've driven so much of what's in the game.
Accessibility is one thing that we haven't talked about. We knew with Midway, we had something that was good, but we wanted to make it easier to get into, broaden it out to a wider audience, so we've done away with the long tutorial. You learn in-game, you learn as you go, so you're taught how to bomb in the middle of a life-or-death mission, rather than having to sit through a tutorial. If you want to go away and do some training on your own in a lower-pressure environment, you're free to do that as well. It's so content-rich and there are so many modes. There's something here for everyone, really.
Battlestations: Pacific will be available on Xbox 360 and PC in Q1 2009.
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