Empires: Dawn of the Modern World Q&A
gaming press has already begun to praise Empires: Dawn of the Modern
World for the balance it has achieved between societies with very
diverse abilities and tech trees. How did Stainless Steel Studios
achieve that balance?
Goodman – Game Designer
Stainless Steel, we have a five-phase methodology for game balancing.
Our process commences first with the establishment of base unit
families. This is followed
by the preparation of unit relationship diagrams.
Then, we enter and analyze spreadsheet data.
Lastly, we perform in-game tactical testing, followed by in-game
strategic testing. Each
step in the process is exacting and detailed.
This process was designed to ensure that the role and lethality
of every unit in the game is carefully assessed against every other unit
in the game. Each phase
introduces progressively more variables into the play balance equation.
On previous titles, this entire process took over a year to
this game has challenged the heart and soul of our design methodology.
In fact, almost everything we have learned over the last five
years about game balancing is now obsolete or invalid.
Empires: Dawn of the Modern World has forced us to start from
scratch and develop an entirely new methodology.
The reason is this: we used to be able to compare the combat
strength of e.g., German cavalry to English cavalry; the German tech
tree to the English tech tree; the German economy to the English
economy. We knew that if
each of the individual components was balanced, then the entire
civilization was balanced.
reason this methodology works so well just happens to be its very
undoing when applied to Empires: Dawn of the Modern World.
The civilizations are entirely unique, so, by their very nature,
civilizations should have un-balanced economies, technologies, units,
wonders, and abilities. Each
civilization has marvelous strengths but also weaknesses.
One civilization’s dominant economy is balanced by another
civilization’s powerful technologies.
We want to achieve exquisite balance “on the whole”, instead
of on a unit-by-unit level. We
think this makes the game fun to play and is a hallmark of a
challenging, deep and competitive title.
were the different societies chosen, and how will all of these societies
-- particularly the United States -- fit within a game that spans 1,000
Alenson – Lead Designer
One of the posters we have up around here for inspiration is a 6 foot tall historical timeline that lists all of history’s great civilizations. It shows the cultural roots that they arose from, their periods of dominance and the branch civilizations that sprouted up from their eventual decline.
called a Civilization tree but it really looks more like a bed of
snakes, where the biggest fattest snake represents the biggest strongest
always enjoyed it, mostly because it’s a really fun reference.
we started brainstorming ideas for a project after Empire Earth, Rick
pointed to the poster and said, “I want the new game to be like
this.” Instantly, we all
agreed that that made for a really great goal and all the team’s work
was directed at bringing that poster to life for players.
the Civs was easy. After
selecting our timeline, we checked the poster for the biggest strongest
Civilizations of their day. Then
we researched them and did a design review on which ones would be the
most unique and fun for players to experience.
The discussions on this took a long time.
I know from the forums that everyone has a favorite Civ that they
insisted absolutely has to be in this game.
It all boiled down to fun. What’s
the point, we asked ourselves, in giving players Civilization options if
they all end up playing the same way in the game?
I don’t think you’ll find two more different Civilizations
than the English and the Koreans, and what’s more important, they are
both lots of fun to play. Once
gamers experience the Civ’s we decided on, I’m sure they’ll agree
that we chose correctly.
the last partial question asks: how can we get the US into a game about
1000 years of history. For
us it was easy but it turns out that gamers perceive this as some sort
of revolutionary idea. We
went back to our friend, Mr. Poster, and traced the cultural and
historical roots of the US. (Hint:
the US was colonized by England.) When
the appropriate Age comes in the game, the English player’s
civilization is offered the opportunity to continue on as the United
States and take on the attributes of that nation.
By the way, the English player also has the option of continuing
on and becoming the United Kingdom, if desired.
This is the way history works.
Civilizations rise and fall and evolve.
And from the great Civilizations of the past new one constantly
arise. All we did was put
this into the game for players to experience for themselves.
And this touch of realism makes the game a lot more interesting
then seeing Frankish aircraft patrolling a WW2 sky.
Empires: Dawn of the Modern World carry forward any innovations from
Echino – Multiplayer Designer
1st thing we did in the early design stages of Empires:
Dawn of the Modern World was
create a master document of all the innovations from EE and decide upon
which ones we liked best and which we believed could be improved. We
felt we had a good grasp on what worked well and what didn’t and in
the end we decided we definitely wanted to continue developing games
that span a large amount of history. Empires:
Dawn of the Modern World accomplishes
this and then some by spanning the most exciting time periods in human
history (Medieval Age - World War Two).
a doubt, the biggest innovation we carried forward was the choice
of playing a Tournament or Standard game variant.
After all, why limit your potential audience to players who like
to build large empires and play defensively when you can also create a
game that appeals to hardcore gamers who love rushing and playing
shorter games? We knew our fans who enjoyed the standard “Empire
Builder” variant liked the mining limit on gathering mineral resources
and the realistic turn rates of units, so we carried those and other
innovations forward for that variant to allow players to play more-epic
games. For the Tournament
or “Action” variant, we increased the number of miners allowed per
mine and speed at which units turn, and decreased the cost of going from
one age to the next. These
and other design decisions give the Action variant a faster pace.
Together, the two variants make Empires:
Dawn of the Modern World a game for everyone!
Steel Studios, led by Rick Goodman, has a reputation for helping
establish the Historical RTS genre. What are some of the best
qualities of the genre, and how do you think it will evolve in the
Bishop – Lead Multiplayer Designer
main advantage historical RTS games have over other strategy games is
simply realism. People relate to an archer or a knight more than some
random alien. This realism
factor also makes the game easier to learn. People intuitively know the
strengths and weaknesses of English Redcoats or Sherman Tanks. They can
jump right into a game without even reading the manual. A smaller
learning curve is always a welcome sight in a strategy game. It provides
for a much larger user base to enjoy the game. The recreation of famous
battles is another realism-related advantage historical RTS games offer.
Players can recreate Waterloo or D-day and play them out, or even change
small factors and see what happens.
Game Designers have a long list of desired features, which has always
been tempered by what is technically feasible. We’re going to see more
and more of these amazing concepts implemented as hardware progresses
and these innovative features become both viable and practical. The sky
is the limit for future RTS games as the genre is relatively young.
it getting harder to keep RTS titles interesting as the market continues
to see more and more of them released?
Is a saturation point inevitable?
Goodman – Game Designer
team at SSSI is comprised of life long gamers.
So, like most of you, we play almost every game we can fit into
our busy schedules. We feel
it is important to play and understand what makes each game fun and
interesting. These games
often inspire us to consider entirely new ideas and approaches, which
can lead down interesting paths. But
in the end it is always our design vision that ultimately guides us in
our creation of the end product.
do RTS developers draw new fans to the genre, particularly since the
games are inherently difficult to develop for the console market?
Frison – Multiplayer Designer
think the real difficulty here is one of interface - that is, how
players control the game – and I believe that problem will be solved
in the next generation of consoles.
We’ve already seen mouse and keyboard peripherals for some
current machines, but they’re not nearly ubiquitous enough to have
made a real impact on the market. Hopefully,
the next round of consoles will come out of the gate with full
keyboard/mouse support, making RTS on console as fun and playable as it
is on computers. Once the
necessary tools are available, I don’t see how there’d be any
difficulty in attracting players.
the meantime, I think it’s important to market to as diverse an
audience as possible, including some non-traditional outlets.
For instance, you may see advertisements for Empires: Dawn of the
Modern World running on the History Channel, reaching an audience that
– while not normally all that interested in video games – is
nonetheless fascinated by history, and is therefore a prime demographic
for our game. Part of the
key here is reaching people who may not have otherwise considered
themselves as gamers, but who, when given the chance, would find
themselves really enjoying certain games (or even whole genres).
course, it is then important to make the game itself accessible to these
new players if the developer intends to keep the new buyers around as
future fans. Variable
difficulty levels, including some which are very easy, are important
here, but equally vital is a user interface that makes learning the game
quick and painless. Help
text should be abundant, and menus should be designed to be navigated as
easily as possible. The
hardcopy manual should be clear and concise, with a table of contents.
Developers should never assume that a player knows the
conventions of the genre and should plan accordingly.
If they do, they might just acquire a new fan.
kinds of units will there be in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World?
Are there any that may come as an unexpected surprise that
history buffs may get a kick out of seeing?
Goodman – Game Designer
civilization commands forces comprised of units and weapons that were
available only to it during history.
the Medieval period, for example, England commands the Oil Smithy
who can set an entire battlefield ablaze; and the Longbowman, who is the
only archer who can down a charging knight.
French civilization trains the heavily armored Crusader, a knight
who can fight as well as convert its enemies on the battlefield.
The French Berserk, who can attack multiple foes at once with a
well-thrown axe, can hide in forests and also attack from within them.
USA’s 50 caliber machine gun crew can entrench itself to lay
down a massive wall of fire. Paratroopers
and war materiel drop from C-47s deep behind enemy lines.
can produce some of the 20th century’s most powerful
weapons of war, including the King Tiger tank, the V1 and V2 rockets,
and the famous 88mm high velocity AT gun, which, just as in WW2, can be
configured as an AT or AA weapon on the battlefield.
Dawn of the Modern World will span from the Middle Ages to World War II;
there are a lot of eras in that time.
Which specific eras will gamers be playing in?
Goodman – Game Designer
team is incredibly passionate about creating an exceptional game in
every respect: from realism to replayability; from graphics to game
play. We want to develop a
fun and exciting historical game with unprecedented depth.
To accomplish this, we narrowed our focus down to 1,000 years of
modern history. And, at the
outset of the process, we allowed gamers to help us shape our game
vision by asking them what eras of history were most fun to them.
WW2 and the Middle Ages, were their first and second choices,
a result, we decided to focus on a time span covering the Middle Ages
all the way up to and including WW2.
By narrowing the time span and focusing on multiple distinct
civilizations, we feel we can increase the depth of the game many-fold.
time frame is divided into five periods: Medieval, Gunpowder and
Imperial Ages, followed by WW1 and WW2.
Each period is rich with depth, strategy and technologies.
technological development plays an important role.
If you look at history, technologies represent a key cornerstone
of cultural identity. In
the game, each civilization has technologies based on its own culture.
Here are some examples:
English are masters of Imperialism, Scientific Investigation, and can
launch diseased cow carcasses to spread the Black Death.
Korean strength is derived from the Kings Encouragement,
Confucianism, and the Martial Arts.
the French, the Montgolfier Balloon becomes available in the Imperial
Age. It can rain propaganda
leaflets on a foe’s army to dishearten them.
But, I’d like to mention that this was not the first air-born
weapon invented and used historically.
According to our research, the first “flying unit” was
actually invented by the Chinese, several hundred years earlier.
In the game, the Chinese can build this device and I think
you’ll be amazed when you see it.
Empires: Dawn of the Modern World, the way in which players employ these
technologies is unlike that of any other historical game.
we expect a lot of historically correct formations from the various
units and their respective countries?
Ebbert – Multiplayer Designer
formations in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World are universal to all
civilizations and units. All
of our formations have their basis in military history.
We have five basic formations:
Standard square formation
Extended line formation
Square formation is our default military formation and is probably the
oldest and most universal military formation in history.
Basically, the square is the most natural shape for keeping
troops ordered and disciplined. The
Square formation in Empires: DMW is particularly good for ranged units
since it prevents melee units from penetrating and bringing all of their
power to bear on a group of ranged units.
Extended Line Formation is also another old and universal military
formation. The crux of
every battle is trying to outflank your opponent or prevent yourself
from being flanked. This is
accomplished by extending your line around your enemy.
This is countered by matching the length of your line to your
enemy or using natural barriers to protect your flanks.
The Extended Line formation in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World
is best used with melee units in open areas of the map.
This allows more of your melee units to bring their force to bear
on a battle rather than being trapped helplessly behind friendly troops.
Spaced Formation is a formation that has generally been used to better
deal with heavy artillery or concentrated missile fire.
This is also true in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World.
The Spaced formation is best used when you’re trying to close a
gap with an enemy army that has a significant amount of siege weapons or
using area of effect technologies are abilities, reducing their
Wedge Formation was a formation pioneered by the Macedonians and
perfected by the Romans. In
ancient times, the wedge was used to allow a formation to rapidly change
directions and outflank an opponent.
It was also used by cavalry to break up infantry formations. In
Empires: DMW, the wedge formation can be used with great effect by tanks
to break up enemy formations and throw them into disarray.
Circle Formation, while rarely used in military history (except in the
most desperate circumstances) can be used to some effect in Empires:
Dawn of the Modern World. Putting
ranged units in the Circle Formation can make ranged units much more
effective against melee units that deal area damage (such as the Chinese
War Elephant or French tanks). Using
the Circle Formation allows your units to deal maximum damage while
minimizing the power of the enemy’s area effect.
do you think is the most important thing RTS fans need to know about
Empires: Dawn of the Modern World?
Jacques – Multiplayer Designer
The most important thing RTS fans need to know about Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is that, first and foremost, it is incredibly fun to play! It is more of an experience than it is a game… the units and civilizations were taken right from history and have a way of fueling the imagination, the gameplay is rich and deep and will offer players countless hours of enjoyment and replayability, and (on top of all that!) it is visually breathtaking. When you’ve finished one game, you want to jump back in and play again.
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