Interview With 'No Name War' Project Manager

by The Six Billion Dollar Man on Jan. 14, 2003 @ 12:10 a.m. PST

Two years ago AMC Creation started to work with 'No Name War' (NNW) and its a PC RTS war game with an concept based on combining the RTS with RPG elements. According to player's options, the stress can be moved either on pure real time strategy or on RPG-influenced strategy. In the last months, AMC Creation came up with a brand new 3D engine, improved graphics and a more ergonomic concept, so we thought it was time to sit down with Project Manager Marcel Neamtu and cop a feel...

1. Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation!

R: Marcel NEAMTU, Project Manager.

2. How long has No Name War been in development? How many people do you have on your design team for NNW?

R: It’s still hard to say how long is NNW’s development process. Five years ago I formed a team made up of people aiming to work in the industry of PC games, and to do a good job, of course. Two years ago we gave up the 2D engine and started work on the present 3D version, which suits our expectations in what regards to quality. There was a long period of testing and experiments (or, to put it more accurately, to learn how to solve some difficulties). It was both time and money consuming, but it was worth doing it, as that meant our professional growing up period.

The AMC team is made up of:

  • 1 project manager
  • 2 designers
  • 3 graphic artists
  • 6 programmers
  • 2 advisers on humanities (history, mentalities, languages, etc.)
  • 1 PR person
  • 4 collaborators

Each member of the team has a solid professional background and is motivated in joining AMC team with the purpose of finalizing the current project.
Our goal is to achieve a better communication both between management and members and among members themselves.

3. What is the background story to NNW?

R: The Earth was left behind some 1000 years ago after cruel wars left most resources exhausted. A Ktonian (this is the name the humans have taken after leaving the Earth) ship is now sent on a mission not far from the planet, gets damaged and has to land. It seems at the start to be just a matter of survival - building a base, calling for help and finally going back. But the no longer interesting place, the ignored planet, as it has been considered so far, becomes the stage for the most unexpected wars. An alien race is discovered as well as humans whose ancestors were opposed to leaving the Earth, leading an archaic life, wrapped in superstitions and the practice of magic…

4. What can you tell us about the Graphics engine in NNW?

R: The graphics engine is designed to allow a high level of detail. We think that the RTS classification of games leaves no excuse for outdated graphics – a generation or two behind say first-person shooters. Graphics detail may not be the cornerstone of a RTS game, but this is no reason to leave the video card's awesome power wasted. Following this philosophy, we developed an engine that handles very well the 100.000+ polygons ordinarily found on screen, the 2k x 2k textures commonly found on the buildings, and full mesh skinning. All this while providing detailed real-time shadows and an advanced lighting model – when was the last time you saw a real-time game with 30 or 40 visible light sources?

5. What sort of sound standards with you support?

R: This is still under development, thus not much can be told about it. We feel that the sound plays a very important part in how the user experiences the game, so we are committed to high standards here as well. What we can say at this moment is that there will be CD quality EAX – based sound, and very likely a non-repetitive soundtrack, driven by the world and events around the player.

6. What are the system requirements for NNW?

R: The minimum requirements are as follows: 800 MHz processor, 128 MB RAM, and 32 MB 3D accelerated video card on AGP 2x bus (e.g. GeForce 2 or ATI 7000 series). The recommended system should have a 2GHz processor, at least 256 MB RAM, and a GeForce 4200, ATI 8500, Matrox Parhelia or similar video card on AGP 4x or 8x bus.

7. Will you support the mod community with NNW? Will there a map editor packaged with NNW?

R: There will be considerable support for this. There will be a full-feature map editor, but this is only the beginning, as there will also be support for adding your very own units and buildings. To this end, we will release the complete tool package that we used to build the game (exporter, NNW – specific objects, other tools) for at least the graphics program used by us. While the map editor will be released with the game, there may be a small delay before releasing these additional tools. Even if this happens however, the MOD community have nothing to worry about, in fact the delay may only be caused by the time it takes to put all of our tools in a more user-friendly form.

8. What are differences between the three races? For example their technology

R: The three races are different in almost all important viewpoints for a RTS game. The base management system, the way they extract and process resources, command systems, tech-tree, weapon types, the number of buildings, the interaction with the NPCs and so on. The technologies the three races are counting on are different; the Ktons are an advanced humanoid race in the classic sense of the term and the Khloona is a predator race with a technology based on (several types of) energy. Everything is modulated; they reproduce quickly, have highly evolved weapons, but are not always that efficient. The Qaldars are in fact a multitude of tribes living either in mobile bases (like the Dreadnought), in well-defended zones, or even in various hidden locations; they take advantage of their mobility.

9. Can you give us some more info on this feature: Three different races, with specific behavioral patterns and able to learn from player’s actions, accessed through different interfaces, partly customizable.

R: Each tribe has its own menu plus the graphics, display of certain information, and positions of commands for each population are different. Due to the particularities of each race, if one tactical is suitable for one, it will surely be unsuitable for another. For example, the Ktons will be able to attack the Khloona’s HIVE by surprise and can destroy it if enough firing power is available. On the contrary, the Qaldars won’t be able to do this; they are mobile, well informed and have camouflaged scouting units but it will be hard to catch the Dreadnought, which is going to become, at the final stage of the game, the most powerful unit (with regard to firing power).

10. What will the resources be in NNW?

R: There are several resource types, the main one being minerals (in the classic sense). Technological resources gained from specific RPG actions and ‘human’ resources are notable (for instance one can hire a Qaldar tribe to carry out some missions or tasks). Last but not least, ‘information’ resources can be vital to winning battles.

11. How are you planning to implement the weather changes? Will it be random or will it follow the seasons etc?

R: There will be seasons. Weather effects range from desert-like environments to snowy fields and icebergs. The climatic changes are according to each season; storms on the waters, sandstorms in the desert, rainfalls, snowing, and foggy landscapes are all present.

12. How many different types of terrain will you have in NNW?

R: Almost everything one may find in nature. Fields, canyons, mountains, hills, peninsular strips, marshes, streams, green forests: everything that can please the eye and affect complex tactical decisions. It is a RTS game of course!

13. In the single player missions, will your progress and actions in a particular race be felt in the second and third races?

R: The evolution of your main character is the most important and the metamorphoses he goes through will affect the way he confronts problem. If something is important for one race, and for another that something is not, the priorities will change.

14. Do you have to play the single player campaign in a specific order? Or can you just pick a race and go for it?

R: In single-player, passing from one race to another is pre-established. This happens according to the story, and the story also sustains the process. But one may load any map from a finished campaign and can play it again, if one does not choose the campaign mode.

15. Will you have a skirmish and multiplayer mode in NNW? If so, how many maps will there be for you and your friends to wage war on? Can you use single player maps as well?

R: Yes, there will be skirmish mode and some other modes, including the cooperative mode in multiplayer in which players control a base and the troops in it. For instance, one player will deal with the offensive, another with the defensive, and another with the base management. In single-player mode there will be 18 maps and the multiplayer will have around 25. Taking into account that the World Editor will be an easy tool to use, one may create many maps in a short period of time. Any map type can be used in any playing type.

16. What multiplayer options will you use? For example TCP/IP direct play, ipx LAN, and Internet. How many players will be able to be in a multiplayer game?

R: NNW will use DirectPlay, which actually means TCP/IP, IPX, Direct Modem, and Direct Cable. As to player limit, I have not decided yet; the support is designed for up to 16 players. We’ll see after the testing.

18. Can you give us some info on the buildings of NNW? How are they mobile, what kind of offensive/defensive capabilities do they have?

R: There are units that are mobile but have the role of a building as well (for instance, the Qaldar Dreadnought with a huge capability of fighting, about 15 cannons). Also, certain buildings can be considered units, such as the Khloona’s Hive, which has a very powerful anti-air device, or the Accelerator Gun (Ktonians), which launches energetic loads far distances. The bases, mobile or not, have defensive weapons that are able to handle an enduring attack.

19. How about the units? Are you planning to have standard units like light tank, medium tank etc how many variants of each? Or will you be able to customize your own units?

R: We have not adopted the idea of creating several unit types from the same class (as in light, medium or heavy tanks). All units are complementary by their role and action type; the only customizable units are the characters and heroes one creates or hires (e.g. mercs). The most adaptable is the commander, as players can allot him additional weapons or modify the inventory of items he carries (in battles/quests).

20. Infantry is a necessity in any RTS, what infantry will NNW have?

R: Usually in RTSs the infantry has the humble role of being the cheapest and weakest war unit. In NNW, they are very specialized and do their job very well, are the most efficient units and will take on the crucial role of winning a battle or completing a scenario.

21. In many RTS the naval side has been for lack of a better word… disappointing. How are you going to get around this with the naval side of NNW? What will be different from what we have seen so far?

R: The vessels will be rather expensive, but strong and with a wide range of action. In the water resources are abundant, hence the importance of having vessels. Not to mention the Ktonian carriers, which can be used for various actions. They are in fact vital when one wishes to control the waters.

22. All games always promise that their AI is the best of the best, how will your AI stand up to this classification? What are some of the features of your AI that you think make it unique/special

R: We think it is not possible to term any particular game’s AI as “the best of the best” in an objective manner. While the flaws of a particular game’s AI may be obvious, it is nevertheless difficult to rank them, even from a strictly technical point of view. Not to mention that from the player’s point of view, definition of a “good” game AI is one of the most fiercely disputed issues. Some may appreciate a game whose AI poses no problems and provides little more than animated targets for the player’s units. Some may want an AI that is hard to defeat, but still the player wills to do it 9 times out of 10. Then some may want Kasparov and Deep Blue together against them, and the list goes on. Under such circumstances, we’ll simply come with an alternative that avoids the pitfalls that all too often plague game AI, and leave it to the players to rank our efforts. Thus, of the things we’ll keep away from is the unpleasantly common approach of grossly cheating. Another thing we don’t like (and at the very least try to minimize in NNW) is to have a bunch of units performing the most amazing feats of stupidity the moment you take your mouse from them. We want to give the player the feeling of being in command of a highly trained army of professionals, not of running a kindergarten for tanks.

23. Are you planning to implement a unit limit? And the limit to the amount of units that can be selected at one time?

R: This is still an issue under discussion. I do not feel so far any need to limit the number of units on map, but after the beta testing we’ll decide which is the optimal number of units. Everything depends on the power of the systems that plays NNW; as a matter of theory, 150 units are sufficient. The maximal number of selected units is 20 and I do not believe one needs more, because in NNW it is not the number that matters, but the unit types and the tactics used.

24. Will your hero unit be able to play in single player and multiplayer battles or will you have to create a separate hero?

R: One cannot play the hero from the single player in the multiplayer mode. One needs a new hero for each mode; otherwise we may encourage the player to cheat. I can say that in single player the Commander will preserve his gained characteristics if the current scenarios started over. In multiplayer mode we offer the possibility to save the current map so that players may continue the fight during a future session. The next map reload will not be conditioned by the existence of all players from the previous session.

25. Can you give us some more info on this feature: “Keep your army alive at the end of each campaign and continue improving it in the next battle or scenario”?

R: I cannot give you more details right now. These features are still in progress.

26. Can you give us more info on the spectacular atmospheric events that cause your units and your battle plan to change? Give us some details/examples.

R: An electrical storm may cause the Ktonians problems with electrical installations (they can get broken); instead, the Khloona may accumulate energy. For the Qaldars, this may become a reason to convert Adepts (via Qaldar priests). The fog can hide a Qaldar Shipper, and he will become more effective, but a Khloona detection unit will be hindered from normal functioning. Each atmospheric effect can benefit a race and cause trouble to another, as said.

27. How realistic will the game world be? Can you knock over trees with tanks? Leave smoldering crater? How will the indigenous wildlife react etc?

R: The NNW becomes an ever-changing Universe after starting a mission, the trees may be split into pieces after explosions, craters may appear, tanks traces can be seen imprinted on the soil, the birds suddenly leave the trees when they feel the danger, wild animals may attack when getting closer to them; all these signs are meant to warn you that something has happened in a certain place, or somebody has been there, so one must stay alert.

28. How will NNW deal with unit wreckage? Will it disappear/vanish after the unit is dead or once destroyed will their carcass stay behind?

R: If it is an organic unit, its body will decompose and gradually vanish; scavenger animals can do the job too! A mechanized unit or a building will stay there for a long time, unless a unit that extracts resources recovers it. Any wreckage unit can be transformed into energy.

29. What camera angles will be in NNW? Free roaming? Classic “Looking down”?

R: There will be four types of camera in NNW: a free camera, a classic one (most familiar I guess), an action-driven camera, and an fx-camera. I can’t tell you more right now but I’ll be happy if all of you will be satisfied with this system

30. How will the unit upgrades go? Will it be standard upgrades for all or will there be specific upgrades? Will you be able to capture enemy tech and incorporate it into your tech tree?

R: There are standard upgrades for all units and singular upgrades for some veteran units or characters. Each race has its own tech tree and in many situations one may use weapons from the enemy to develop them into new ones.

31. What will the role of the neutral units be in NNW? Will they sell you things? Will you be able to hire them for scouting etc?

R: The player will be able to interact more with the NPCs than in most other RTSs; one may buy or sell weapons, information, various items, one can set up or break alliances. The NPCs’ influence should be considered, as they can offer alternatives to solving situations and they can be of most importance when completing the game.

32. How is the game play in NNW? Your standard left/right click interface?

R: The commands have been already settled: left click to choose a command, right click to move or attack. The interfaces are ergonomically construed and the shortcuts are placed logically (even though any player can modify them). There is a primary interface with the basic commands as in any RTS and an interface to configure the characters, for dialogues, for items and for logs. They are not complicated, but rather intuitive for a RTS /RPG player.

33. What are some of the weapons NNW will bring to the table?

R: Highly specialized units and plenty of intelligent weapons.

34. With the impending release of Command & Conquer Generals, How are you planning to win fans over to NNW?

R: With dynamic actions that make events more spectacular, the storyline, RPG and fine graphics.

35. Will we see a public beta/preview prior to the game appearing on store shelves? Any specific time frame?

R: A preview is to be ready in April. Nothing about the beta testing yet.

36. Finally, is there anything you would like to add? Perhaps something I missed? Or just a little quote for all the RTS gamers out there?

R: Total Annihilation and Fallout2 are the games that have left the best impression on me. We’ll see if NNW can rise to their standard.

37. Thank you for taking the time to answer our annoying questions!

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