EE France Interview with Rick Goodman

An interview with Rick Goodman, founder of Stainless Steel Studios, done by Swim of EE France. Empires Heaven got exclusive access to the interview for our English speaking fans. Coming soon, actual live mp3 interview!!

Q. What are the main resources ? In your interview to Gamespot, you only talk about farm products, animals and lumber, even though there were 5 different resources in EE.
: In Empires, civilizations harvest 4 resources. Wood, stone, food and gold

Q. Will these resources evolve through the ages, like in Rise of Nations?
We thought about doing that, but because we cover a thousand years, we felt we would make sure that all resources would be available in the beginning of the game and the end of the game and we set it not to introduce resources in the middle of the game.

Q. Empires has the first second generation 3D RTS engine. What does it actually bring?
Well I think that the answer to that question is really about graphics not really about game play. And we don't look at it as enhancing game play but we figure enhancing graphics is an important part of our job. Especially in single player, Sp, for example you can play a single player game and you can zoom into the eye level of your troops and you can zoom around and rotate the camera freely just by holding both mouse buttons down. So that makes it really easy to maneuver the camera, but that's something you do to just increase your visual enjoyment of the game. It's not something that's required or you even want to do in a say a multiplayer game. But say in a single player game when you're playing in a campaign and you have time to look around and see the world from a different perspective. I think it's quite interesting, when people sit down with the game for the first time, we often see them play a lot with the camera controls. Just to see what they can do with them.

Q. You said the players would have complete freedom with the camera, which is fully rotatable. Will it be easy to use?
Yes it is, One of my rules of thumbs is I never want to force people to play the game using their left hand if they're right handed. Assuming they're right handed like myself. So we make sure that you can do whatever you want to do with one hand in this case its a simple mouse control where you hold down both mouse buttons at the same time. And you can move your mouse and you have basically full control of the camera in game. Just by controlling your mouse.

Q. Are the keyboard shortcuts customizable?
All the shortcuts and all the hotkeys are fully customizable and you have a separate page for each civilization because they have so many unique special abilities that we have customizable hotkeys by civilization. And we have got them all setup to our defaults, but if you want to make changes to them you're welcome to go in there and customize it to your own preferances.

Q. Will the counters be as powerful as in Empire Earth? Will there still be a kind of “rock, scissors, paper” balancing?
The game has some of that in it. But what I think is the most special part of the game is the units that don't have counters in any other civilizations. So you have rifle grenadiers in France, saboteurs in France and Germans have the sergeant and the English have special trebuchets and swordsman that can raise their shields. None of these units are available or shared in each civilization. So winning the game is much less about RPS and much more about how you control the special units in combat. There are some RPS so you recognize when you play in WW1 for example, than tanks are stronger than men. And men are good at destroying anti-tank weapons. So certain things that people expect out of their historical game and accuracy elements remain. But I think its much more about building the armory which gives you access to the unique units in each civilization. And how you use the unique units that make it more interesting for me. So we really allowed player to have a lot control over combat, so it's not about commanding your troops into combat and than when they get into combat and scrolling away and tweaking your economy. You're really going to have to watch combat and participate in the combat process. So the player with the most skill is the player who is going to win the combat.

Q. How about the AI? Is it better than Empire Earth’s? IF YES, what are the updates that were made on it?
Well, we spent last year and half updating the AI, but I think to give you one example is Empire Earth a lot of people complained the fact there was too much cheating in the AI. So that when they played the game they noticed some problems the way it played. We felt it necessary to do some cheating in the game so the AI could always beat the human player. So on the high levels it was very important you don't lose your ability to compete. So what we done in Empires is we cut that back as much as possible. It is still important to us that the AI can always beat you but we've cut back on the cheating very dramatically and we added 10 levels of difficulty. So now as you go from difficult level 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 you can incrementally make it a little bit more of challenge instead of having to jump from easy to hard to really hard. So now you can find a level of difficulty much easier that suits your level of play than you ever could in our previous product. The last thing I wanted to mention is that we really designed it so you can play multiple AIs, so we think the most fun we'll have is playing 3, 4, 5 AIs instead of just 1. So that's a change this gives the player the ability to conquer one AI, get rewarded, conquer the next computer player and reward and counter the third and fourth. That's the way we like to play. So now you are going to have a big challenge because we've made the game easy to play with multiple AIs and the level of difficulty for each AI is easier now because you now have 4x the number of AIs to play.

Q. How about the starting age : is there a random starting age? IF YES, what do you think will be the most common game settings : random starting age like in EE or start at first age, like any other RTS?
: Well we don't have a random starting age setting but we have the ability for you to choose which ever age you want to start in. But that's probably something we should think of implementing. But my guess is that the middle age will be the most popular, and the 2nd most popular will be WW1. So if you choose the middle age you can certainly play through the pre-modern era ages or continue on to play the whole game. And if you play WW1 you are definitely in the very modern era where you have access to land, air, and sea, capabilities right off from the beginning. So I think those two will be the most popular, but which is the final really depend on the gamers want.

Q: In Empires, all the civilizations are completely different (graphically and functionally). Will there nevertheless be custom civilizations like in Empire Earth?
We thought about that, but we thought there was an interesting dynamic there if we modeled each civilization historically, accuracy, based on our research, based on what we thought were the key elements of each civilization, and that really doesn't lend itself well to customizable civilization. Than you lose the whole reason that they like to identify with each civilization. So if you create civilizations out of pieces of the other civilizations than that kind of went against the historical realism that we wanted to create in this game so we took a change in direction, and we're sticking to modeling each civilization as accurate and realistically as possible and not creating a kind of sand box mode for you to create your own cause that kind of takes away from some of what we wanted to create in this game.

Q. What will be the maximum population limit?
In Empires we thought creating a population limit that is for each player so you pick a world population limit, and we divide it by players so that you know what your limit is. But we've increased the population limit so you can customize it to anything you want. In fact we increased the limit so high that it's virtually unlimited if that's the game you want to play and that's important because now it unlocks the ability for players to play big epic colossal long games if they so choose. And not to be limited by what the designers decided is the best settings. So you can pull that constraint and play the game the way you want to play it. But for a fast action game you might want to set it very low.

Q. How about the scenario Editor? Empire Earth’s editor was and still is one of the most powerful. Will there be some extra features in Empires’ one?
Yes we worked on the scenario editor and enhanced in many ways partly to make it easier to use and partly to make it more camera friendly. So you can script your in-game cut scenes with more precision and more ease. So for example to place a camera all you have to do is move the camera position in the game with the mouse to where you want the shot to be and press a button. And that records your camera position. And than you record another camera position and another camera position. So you're actually looking at the scene exactly the way you want it. And than we record the camera positions and we connect them up so the camera rotates to those 3 positions for you automatically. So its very easy to create a powerful story. And another thing that we have done that's cool is all the special units in the single player game that aren't available in multiplayer they all have ... animations so if you use these characters in the scenario editor and record your own voice, brother's voice or your mother's voice, they'll all be speaking a part as well.

Q. Is there a planned date for the beginning of the beta test?
Rick: We're going to have a beta test but it's going to be based on certain selected closed members who we have on a specific list. So it's not going to be an open beta test. It's going to be a closed beta test.

Q. What are the planned system requirements?
What we're shooting for is a 600mhz PC with a TNT2 card or better. That should get you up and running pretty well. 128 megs of RAM.

Q. I heard there is three campaigns, but I saw four campaigns, so what is the reality?
The reality, there're 3 grand campaigns and they cover 3 different civilizations and they cover the entire time frame of the game. So the first campaign involves Richard the Lion heart and he's a prince and he has 3 brothers. And he eventually ascends to the throne of England. And you follow his exploits from becoming prince to becoming king in age of ... and intrigue. The second campaign puts you further forward in time in 1500s 1593 to be exact. When you control Korea and it is your role to save Korea from the Japan invasion against 100 to 1 odds. So you have to come up with a battle plan strategy to defend Korea against this mortal enemy in late medieval age. The third and final campaign puts you in command of Patton's tank core, during WW2 from Pattons' invasion participation of invasion of Morocco to up to the Race for Berlin. What's neat about this campaign is players get to use combined land, air, and sea forces to refight the battles, and we even take you to the shores of D-day in a Real Time Strategy Game. That's a first ever in RTS game.

Q. What do you plan to update until the final version?
Well we're finishing up on the game now. There's a lot of the art, sometimes we do the art passes 2 or 3 or even 4 times because we just take it out and redo it until we're very happy with it. That's the way we try to get to a triple A quality of art. So there are probably some art things that are being redone until they rise to the high standard we have. Another thing the programmers are working on is optimization because we want to reach a broad audience. So the game needs to run a low end system, a pretty low end system, and that's what we're working on now. That takes time too. That's a very important process that happens at the end of development. And but your right in other areas the game is very very complete.

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Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is a game by Stainless Steel Studios and published by Activision.