9th Mar 2008 | 10:20
Eidos' big scale war sim Battlestations: Midway was a long, long time in the making. In some ways it lived up to the years of development promise (blowing up big boats in planes), but in others it clearly missed the mark (cough, rubbish multiplayer, cough).
Thankfully, it looks like the blokes behind the follow-up, Battlestations: Pacific, know all about the criticism aimed at the first (not least because we told them), and they promise they're paying close attention to fan feedback when plotting out their second battle plan.
We spoke to producer, Adam Lay, and studio head, Attila Soross, to find out more.
The first game took place in the Pacific theatre. What's the story and background for the follow-up?
Lay: Battlestations: Pacific will take the players to the Pacific theater of the Second World War. Playing either as the Japanese Empire or the United States, the main goal is to control and dominate the whole Pacific Ocean.
Looking at it from a chronological angle, the game takes place from the attack on Pearl in 1941 to the bloody battles of Okinawa in 1945. The content and unfolding of events in the Japanese and U.S. campaigns will vary considerably.
In the Japanese campaign, players will start from the attack on Pearl Harbor. They will experience first-hand the surprise attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor. They will get an opportunity to continue their advancement and seize important territories around the Pacific, and eventually break through the U.S. fleet and sink their carriers at Midway, changing the course of history, and resulting in their victory over the U.S.
The U.S. campaign will play very differently. Following the victory at Midway, the U.S. saw a reverse of fortunes and advanced fast towards mainland Japan, freeing key locations of the Pacific of Japanese control along the way. This is a historically accurate campaign all the way through to the end and players will be able to take part in some of the most memorable battles of WW2.
Midway had a famously long development time behind it. What did you learn from your experience working on the first game, and its reception after release?
Soross: We have learnt a lot from making Battlestations: Midway. It was an ambitious project right from the beginning. We set out to create an epic game, which blended action and strategy gameplay elements in a historically accurate context that worked both for console and PC players.
I think overall the game succeeded in delivering a unique and innovative experience, however there was also a number of areas for improvement that we have since identified and are working on addressing for Battlestations: Pacific.
For instance, improving accessibility is a key objective for us. The first game had a steep learning curve with limited assistance for the player, and this is something we want to make sure is well balanced in the next game.
We have been shaping the sequel to respond to what we have heard from the Battlestations community and learnt from the reviews. We're building on the feedback and our own hard-earned understanding of the game and we are aiming at improving the Battlestations experience both in terms of accessibility and replayability, while maintaining the fundamental unique mix of action and strategy gameplay elements, which were well-received in the first game.
We have plans for a full Japanese campaign alongside a new US campaign, which takes the players from the Battle of Midway onwards, and we hope this will provide a lasting and memorable single-player experience.
We have laid great emphasis on offering players a variety of multiplayer game modes and customizable settings, which we believe will please fans of the first game and will appeal to those who are yet to try it.
Subsequently, what are the main goals for the next game?
Lay: We want to address the accessibility. The tutorial was a common criticism from the feedback we gathered on Battlestations: Midway. Although it was very thorough, it was also very long. Players often complained that by the time they got into their campaign, they had forgotten a lot of what they had been previously taught in the tutorial.
The nature and potential scope of the game means there is a lot of information to portray to the player. Within Battlesations: Pacific we have broken down this information and it will now be presented to the player via pre-mission briefings, and whilst in game; as and when the players need it.
How have you built on the scale of Midway?
Lay: We have been listening very carefully to our fans and great online community to make sure we deliver the best possible content, and we can reveal that Battlestations: Pacific will include many of the most highly requested units. Players will be able to control the F4U Corsair and the F6F Hellcat fighters for example.
The game will also include a range of new bombers, destroyers, landing support ships, controllable land-based shore batteries and AA guns. We are also very excited about the Kamikaze planes which can be controlled for the first time when playing as the Japanese; We think that these units will provide a new gameplay experience and will change the way multiplayer games are played.
An example of a kamikaze plane is the deadly Ohka suicide rocket plane. Players can also expect to get new rocket and missile technology. Basically, there are too many new units to list here, in total people can expect to find in excess of 20 new units, not including the new battleships.
Midway had you hopping between boats, subs and planes. Where has your focus been for the sequel; building on this core mechanic or adding even more war machines?
Lay: Both really; for example landing craft and paratroopers that can now be deployed within Battlestations: Pacific. Players can capture various locations in the game, both in single and in multiplayer modes.
A few examples are airfields, radio and radar stations, shipyards. All of these bases have different abilities: players can use airfields to launch air attacks, shipyards to repair damaged battleships and so on.
Furthermore, these bases also dispose of stationary defenses which will provide additional gunfire against enemy forces. From a visual point of view, players will now be able to see individual troops landing and fighting for the control of the islands.
In the PC and console versions, how are you taking advantages of each platform's strong points?
Lay: Our objectives are to make sure that the two versions of the game are tweaked and designed to be optimised for the platform they are running on. We understand the different requirements from PC and console gamers, and we are planning to tune the controls so that they make the most out of what each platform has to offer.
What are your plans for multiplayer?
Lay: For Xbox 360, we plan to incorporate some Clan support, and for both formats a ranking system, that will award players with greater ranks as they progress through the multiplayer game.
Multiplayer hosting will now include a greater number of actions to allow player to customize their multiplayer experience further. All of the multiplayer modes can be played alone or with team-mates against the AI.