World in Conflict

Recently I got the chance to speak with John Björling, Copywriter and Editor at Massive Entertainment about their hot new game World in Conflict. I wanted to thank Matt at Sierra as well as John for taking the time for the interview.

GVK: What is the background and setting for the game?

JB: The game takes place in the late 1980’s, around the time when the Berlin Wall should have fallen.

In our take on history, this didn’t happen. Instead the Soviet Union invades Europe, and the conflict escalates to a worldwide war. The game begins as Soviet troops land on the American west coast, for a full-blown siege on Seattle.

GVK: What are some of the unit types players will use and are there mega weapons?

JB: We’ve organized the units into four different roles: armor, air, infantry and support. Players can utilize some pretty advanced modern war machinery, including tanks, helicopters, armored transports and anti-air vehicles.

The game is centered on the balance of all the different units, and players have to combine the units and use their collective strengths to conquer the enemy.

But aside of all the infantry and vehicles, players can also utilize some powerful super weapons. Using points that are acquired from helping your team on the battlefield, all the players can order Tactical Aid, which range from various artillery attacks and napalm strikes to carpet bombing and the tactical nuke.

GVK: How is resource gathering handled for the game?

JB: World in Conflict is designed around the principle of letting players jump into any multiplayer game at any time without getting a disadvantage. This is quite new concept in the strategy genre, but it’s common among more action-oriented multiplayer games. All the points that are spent buying units are fixed – all players have exactly the same conditions and the same amount of points throughout the game.

There’s no real resource gathering involved, but players can still manage the Tactical Aid points as they see fit. The game focuses on combat instead, which makes it a very intense experience without any slow build ups.
GVK: What graphic engine is the game using, and what does it allow you to do that was new to the genre?

JB: The engine has been developed in-house, and as such it’s tailor-made for our purposes.

It allows us to have a great 3D camera that can get in close to the action and display some beautiful visuals. It’s a great engine that makes the game look great and run even better, but most of the innovations lie more in design than in the engine.

GVK: What forms of multiplayer will we see?

JB: We’ve focused on team-based multiplayer, and we’ve included three different game modes that encourage players to cooperate. World in Conflict is not about collecting kills on your own – it’s about overcoming objectives together. The Domination Mode has the teams trying to acquire domination over a map by capturing Command Points all over the map.

The other modes uses variations of this – in Assault, the game is played in a set of two rounds, and the teams take turns to act as attackers and defenders.
The attackers then try to capture a successive series of Command Points while the other team tries to stop them.

In Tug of War the fight is focused on a frontline that keeps getting pushed from both teams.

Aside of these team-focused game modes, we’ve also included Few-Player Mode, which allows players to play 1 on 1 and 2 on 2. This is a very challenging game mode that requires a lot of skill and attention from the players.

GVK: How do you plan to implement weather conditions in the game and what can players look forward to?

JB: While we could’ve included dynamic weather in the engine without any problems, we were more interested in controlling the mood.

The maps in the single-player campaign follow a more strict design according to what we want to do with the story, but the multiplayer maps change as the war tears up the environment.

Towards the end of a match, after all the artillery and bombs have rained down on the battlefield, the clouds start to get darker and the colors begin to fade away, presenting visuals that are both eerie and expressive.

GVK: What sort of missions and campaigns will players face?

JB: The campaign is very story-driven and deals with the United States army as they try to fight the Soviet Army on different fronts. The player follows a character called Parker, who meets up with other characters throughout the campaign.

We’ve done a lot of work on the characters andt heir stories, so as the war goes on, you will learn more and more about them.

The campaign is 14 missions long and includes a lot of different objectives. On some missions the player will primarily use infantry and transport vehicles, while on other missions you’re more prone to use air or tanks. There’s a lot of variation, and there’s never a dull moment in the campaign.

GVK: What were some of the biggest challenges in creating the game and your greatest triumphs?

JB: I think there are two challenges in particular that I think we have overcome. The first thing would be the technology.

When you see the game in action, and see how you can move around freely and see all these wonderful details on the models and the environment, you get truly awestruck.

Strategy games usually don’t look this good. This is all thanks

to our tech team, who’ve worked very hard to make this a reality. The fact that you can even get great visuals on lower-end machines as well just adds to my admiration of these guys. The second thing would be just how well the gameplay works. We’ve treaded some new territory here, but the game really is engaging and fun, and it works great for both casual drop-in gamers and the competitive professionals.

GVK: There has been a real resurgence of late in RTS games in terms of scope and quality. What reasons would you give as to the reasons behind this and has it shaped any factors of the games development?

JB: I guess the game industry always has to struggle between doing something the old-fashioned way and trying out new ideas.

It’s a risky business for publishers, but perhaps the right people have realized that you can sell new ideas as long as they’re good ideas that have been handled the right way.

I think it’s great that ambitious developers get the opportunity to make good, innovative games! Our relationship with Vivendi is definitely one of the reasons why World in Conflict came to fruition. Plus, we can use all these other great games as inspiration, which only pushes us to make our games even better!

GVK: Do you have a favorite unit and strategy when playing, and if so, what is it?

JB: I like all the different roles, but at the moment I’m probably most comfortable using either air or support. The support role is quite diverse and the use of that role can change several times in a single match.

It makes for some varied play, and can be a very important role for victory.The air role is also fun to play, and I try to do hit-and-runs to do damage without taking any.

This usually works great, but you have to be observant of your surroundings and never stay in one place for too long ,or the enemy will just use the Air-to-Air Strike Tactical Aid and neutralize your helicopters without even breaking a sweat.

GVK: Thank you.