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Massive Assault Interview
(hx) 06:21 PM CET - Dec,25 2002

GGMania got a chance to chat with the president of Victor Kislyi, as he answers a few questions regarding to Massive Assault, their upcoming 3D global domination strategy game. He provided us with both pretty interesting information and six new screenshots. Massive Assault is slated for release in first quarter 2003.

GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about what you do on Massive Assault?

Victor Kislyi: I am Victor Kislyi and I did executive management and game design parts of Massive Assault. I also did some basic concepts for AI, but that was because I seem to be the person who played Massive Assault's prototype most (first as a board game, then as MS DOS online play software). I am one of the founders and the president of company.

GGMania: From where did you get the inspiration to make this game?

Victor Kislyi: As a group of enthusiasts, my friends and I created tabletop strategy game called "Iron Age" in the middle of the ninetieth. That was the first time the idea of Secret Allies was introduced. We were playing this game a lot locally. Then we created PBEM software with 2D GUI to play it over Internet, and this game survived until now. The concepts and ideas were refined and tested during those years, and I decided to use them for making a commercial game with AI, nice 3D graphics, new units and maps, etc. Our company had completed another online gaming project by that time, so we had enough experience and resources for starting this project in March 2002.

You're asking where the inspiration comes from...well, wouldn't you be willing to make a computer game which you and your friends have played for 6 years, and it hasn't bored you?

GGMania: How many people are currently working on the project?

Victor Kislyi: There are 13 permanent developers working on Massive Assault, some of them almost round the clock.
There are also a number of QA people (the testers, you know).

GGMania: What can you tell us about the storyline for the game? Will the story be the driving force behind the game?

Victor Kislyi: Let me put it short:
In the early twenty second century the vital energy resources of the over-inhabited Earth has been next to total exhaustion. Hunger and desolation are the real threats to the mankind unless it can find some quick solution. Fortunately, the space expeditions sent by the Axis-of-good union soon discovered six planets rich in resources - you know, the common thing in sci-fi games. Immigrants from the overcrowded Earth quickly settled there, establishing numerous colonies with local governments.

At the same time the Earth was divided into two antagonistic poles. Despotic countries united into Shadow Clique alliance were dreaming of total domination. However, they were afraid of open military conflict on Earth, so they decided to get the colonies first. They secretly prepared the rebellion forces on all six planets, bribing some governments. This secret coalition ignited the war by opening a couple of local conflicts, and then new Secret Allies were entering the war, conquering more and more territories. The Axis-of-Good was forced to create its own Secret Alliance, and thus recently discovered worlds became the arenas of the desperate struggle for the future of peace and democracy... and ... did I mention "human rights"? - No? - OK -...and for human rights!

As you know, when you play a Deathmatch in a modern computer game, usually you are not very much concerned about the backstory - the opponents often have equal, or nearly equal resources and position.
And in the scenarios and the campaigns - of course, there will be certain storyline.

GGMania: What is the primary target market for Massive Assault? Do you feel it will attract both hardcore turn-based strategy players and casual players?

Victor Kislyi: Well, according to our test among local gamers, Massive Assault seems to be appealing to different types of gamers - even RPG and First-person Shooters. From the marketing point of view, Massive Assault will have two "wings":
1) Its World War Deathmatch mode is certainly for hardcore players, who know how real strategy tastes. We think that even the fans of accurate historic simulations will appreciate the depth of its strategy concept and unlimited re-playability. They will have enough of sophisticated strategic planning, massive operations, etc.

2) Scenarios, campaigns and all that 3D stuff are certainly oriented to the casual auditorium. The gaming mechanics and the interface are easy to understand and get used to - and we hope that those who just want to have some fun, playing quick scenarios and dirty skirmishing battles - they will find it in Massive Assault.
Moreover, one can play this game with a kid, who will certainly like the idea that he can successfully blow "serious" battle machines up by himself, easily moving his vivid units.

GGMania: What you can tell us about political system in the game?

Victor Kislyi: Massive Assault's political idea is mainly based upon Secret Allies concept, plus Guerrilla, Revenue and Indemnity. The concept is simple in principle, but it has proved its power during many years of prototype's life. Here is the way how a typical Deathmatch unrolls:

In the beginning both players have the equal number of randomly selected of Secret Allies (4-7 depending on the planet's size). These countries are not "visible" or known to the opponent, until disclosed. And the players begin to disclose them, deploying their Secret Armies. Almost half of the countries are neutral and the players are supposed to invade and conquer them for getting Revenue. Each invaded country fields a small but mobile group of units against the invaders. Moreover, a neutral country can happen to be enemy Secret Ally, and he can disclose it, raising the regular army also.

The nature of war does not permit disclosing all of the countries at once since the economy would be ruined by the total war in a few years. The only solution is to declare allies one by one gradually spreading the conflict all over the planet. Thus Massive Assault's political system preserves the intrigue throughout the game since the Disclosure of the hostile country is always a kind of unpleasant surprise for a player - and you can make the same surprises to your opponent!

GGMania: What type of variety can we expect to see in terms of weapons?

Victor Kislyi: Massive Assault's combats are fought with different types of rather generic kinds of land, air and naval units. The first version includes 13 different unit types per "race". The land units are: mechanized infantry (LAV), tanks, heavy bots armed with rockets and lasers, air bombers, rocket launchers, mortars. The fleets are represented by battleships, destroyers and carriers. There are also big battle towers, amphibian units, land and naval transports. Soon we will post units gallery with description and examples of possible tactical tricks at our web site.

GGMania: Will be there a research tree?

Victor Kislyi: Well, as you might have heard, we wanted to move away from standard strategy game principles (especially those of RTS), offering an original and unprecedented concept. Theoretically and technically we could easily include a research tree, or resource gathering units in the game, but what for? Massive Assault is dynamic enough and rich in emotions without those "habitual" features - the players will have many other thrilling things to concentrate on.

Our long testing period demonstrated that there is no need for those upgrades. Maybe in the following version we will include such features, but let the first version be "pure".

GGMania: What can you tell us about the enemies in Massive Assault?

Victor Kislyi: The game, as you know is fought by two sides. They are "good guys" (Axis-of-Good) and "bad guys" (the Shadow Clique). Since both warring leagues are of human origin their units have the same performance characteristic though their names and appearance are different.

We are also considering a possibility of adding the third and the fourth races of alien origin to gameplay making them quite different from initial participants of the conflict - but first we want to test the idea itself.

GGMania: How will the enemy AI function? Can you give us an example?

Victor Kislyi: Well, in scenarios, AI will be quite straight-forward and persisting, maybe not too artistic but effective.
Some training scenarios are easy, so that players can make their first steps learning the game mechanics. Beginning from medium difficulty level, a player will have to perform more skills to beat the AI, because the computer will have better position and higher numbers. In high difficulty level scenarios the players will have to solve some puzzles and make different sorts of tricks, using transports, long-range artillery, etc. For example, in the notorious "Under Pressure" scenario human player's country is squeezed between two AI's ones, and two walls of light infantry and tanks supported by mortars are pressing from two sides, giving the player little room for maneuvering and almost no hope for survival - he should think of something original to defend his country and capture both AI's countries.

As for World War Deathmatches, in the current version AI is very good at "Anctarticus" map, where there is one big continent. In the Deathmatch the initial resources of both AI and human player are equal, nevertheless, I think that AI will be a tough opponent anyway, because it accumulates almost 5-year experience of its creators! In the Deathmatch, besides tactical skills the opponents are supposed to demonstrate a certain level of strategic thinking, and we think that AI is quite good even in the Concept Test version.

Of course, AI development will never stop, and it will be smarter and smarter with the patches, add-on's and in the sequels.

GGMania: How will combat be handled in the game?

Victor Kislyi: We made the combat rules very simple: each unit can move once per turn (according to its movement distance and terrain) and shoot at one enemy unit. This may seem to be not very "accurate" from historic point of view, but Massive Assault does not simulate any particular historic period. This simple movement and combat scheme allows a player to start playing very easily - even a kid can successfully play the scenarios. This simplicity leads to a high level of playability, letting the players concentrate on strategy planning, maneuvering, outflanking moves, transport operations, troops combinations, building different offensive and defensive formations, etc.

GGMania: How many missions will there be, and how much will they differ from one another?

Victor Kislyi: What we have surprisingly discovered during Massive Assault's testing is that the system happened to be very flexible for composing different types of scenarios (all the prototypes had Deathmatch-mode only).
The Concept Test has only 4 scenarios, but there will be dozens of them in the final version and a couple of big campaigns. We are now designing them "on paper". They will be different, beginning with easy ones for just tactical training and up to hard mind-breakers for hardcore gamers. They will also differ in size: there will be small ones with up to dozen or so units per side as well as big continents with big armies of opposing forces clashing in different places. There will also be medium and large-size "skirmishing" battles resembling usual historic ones.

GGMania: The interface is always the most important thing, especially in this genre. How will the interface handle all of the game's complexity?

Victor Kislyi: Interesting question...
The interface must be nearly perfect. We've been refining it for the last 3 months - every day, conducting endless usability tests, inviting our friends, wives and girlfriends. It has been completely changed for half a dozen times each time becoming better and better - I personally was initiating and supervising this process.
We tried literally everything you can imagine for the game's "toolbar": icons, signs, icon/signs combinations, etc., and the result of this titanic work can bee seen in the Concept Test - we are sure that the players will not have big problems with using Massive Assault's interface.

There is one more thing: a couple of years ago we had bitter experience with DBA Online's interface, and since those times we realized how important interface is for a game with a new yet unplayed concept - that's why Massive Assault's interface has had maximum developers' attention.

GGMania: Which engine is used in Massive Assault? How will the game utilize the latest video accelerators?

Victor Kislyi: has created its proprietary 3D engine for Massive Assault. We'll be definitely upgrading and using this engine for our other games. The engine is up-to-date and utilizes the latest video accelerator features and modes. We are planning to soon upgrade it to DirectX 9 level.

Alex Bragin is our 3D engine "wizard" and coordinator. The engine displays about 120.000 polygons in one frame. The map can be 700.000 polygons or even more, and the render rate is 50-60fps on GF3-Ti200/1.700+Athlon. The engine is built on vertex shaders, using skeletal unit animation, realistic lighting, shadows and special effects.

GGMania: What about music for the game?

Victor Kislyi: The Concept Test version has only sounds effects. We are in process of composing the music for Massive Assault, and the players will have a chance to hear it later.

GGMania: What other gameplay elements in the game do you consider to be important and/or unique? Will there be anything new that we've never seen before in any turn-based strategy game?

Victor Kislyi: The Secret Allies Concept is what we think is the most important as well as the most unorthodox element of the gameplay. It makes the strategic situation of every game absolutely unique even fought on the same map - you should try it to get and feel the idea.

Another innovation embodied in Massive Assault is the guerilla warfare. Any attacked country (no matter if it's enemy's or neutral) deploys a pack of guerrillas, providing substantial resistance (if used properly) to the invaders.

Speaking in general, we think that Massive Assault will be one of the first turn-based strategy games to unite simple gameplay, smart rules and high-quality 3D graphics and effects.

GGMania: Will the game have a multiplayer mode? If so, what will it include?

Victor Kislyi: Massive Assault is strongly oriented to online play. The first version will have two-player mode only. We plan to add the "real" multiplayer mode later, allowing teams of players fight each other in the Deathmatches. Frankly speaking, the nature of the rules (as they were initially designed) imply only the duels, so the rules modifications and the balance and for multiplayer mode are still to be designed and tested.

GGMania: When can we expect to see the game hit store shelves and at what price?

Victor Kislyi: This is not decided exactly yet. We plan that Massive Assault will be released at the end of Q1 2003.
We will announce further details when we are sure of them.

GGMania: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything you want to add that we didn't cover?

Victor Kislyi: Thank you very much for conducting this interview.
The holidays are coming, and we wish you and all your readers Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
I would also like to use this opportunity to let your readers know that the Concept Test has already started - the version is ready for download, and there is still an opportunity to register for participation at:

genre: strategy
release: 2003/01
publisher: Massive Assault homepage

last 10 comments:

Annonymousposted - Dec, 25 2002 - 19:21
the screenshots dont look very good and the terrain is ugly.

Erbozposted - Dec, 25 2002 - 22:54
Really ugly!

BuRuzposted - Dec, 26 2002 - 01:51
the game look a lot like Total annihilation by Cavedog. The units look great, but the background need more works.

Benjaminposted - Dec, 28 2002 - 17:57
the game sucks! it is bad!

Leeposted - Dec, 28 2002 - 18:25
Probably better to play the game first. I have already done and like it very much.

Benjaminposted - Dec, 29 2002 - 05:18
yeah well I played it too and it still sucks ass retard

Jazzposted - Jan, 17 2003 - 21:36
Cool! never seen this concept before. Feels like an ol good Civ 2 but with modern beautifull 3D.

Babalooposted - Nov, 04 2003 - 15:38
when i first saw the CD cover, it look like great game like C&C. when i play on it, the graphic ok, the unit and the game suck. i guess C&C will still be the best.

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