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ParaWorld Interview
(hx) 03:50 PM CET - Mar,16 2005

GGMania got a chance to talk with Reinhard Döpfer of Sunflowers (ANNO 1602 and ANNO 1503 makers), the producer on ParaWorld, the upcoming real-time strategy game where players command their troops from dizzying heights, enthroned upon the heads of mighty dinosaurs and other tremendous beasts. He provided us with pretty interesting information and two new screenshots. The game is scheduled for release in in 4th Quarter of 2005.

GGMania: Please start off by introducing yourself and giving us an idea of your involvement with ParaWorld

Reinhard Döpfer: My name is Reinhard Döpfer and I'm the producer of ParaWorld.<

GGMania: Can you give us an overview of ParaWorld, telling us what the game is all about?

Reinhard Döpfer: ParaWorld is the first RTS game set in a prehistoric world in which humans have made the giants of the dawn of history their subjects. In addition to the actual RTS part, the game features an amazing atmosphere, an exciting story and units never before seen in any game. We are introducing a completely new unit management system and feel sure that it will constitute a groundbreaking development in the genre.

GGMania: How did the idea for ParaWorld come about?

Reinhard Döpfer: When Wiggles was finished, the team came together to discuss new ideas (from what I heard the first meetings took place in a pub ;-)). Apparently, quite early on there was the idea of dimensional gates that lead into other worlds - but at that point in time, dinosaurs had not been mentioned at all. The development of a prehistoric parallel world came about gradually. Equally, the game was not a pure RTS game, but it combined several genres, such as development strategy and elements of role-play. But eventually, the team found a common line that it followed to this day.

GGMania: What's the background story behind ParaWorld?

Reinhard Döpfer: As the title indicates, ParaWorld is set in a parallel world - a prehistoric world that has been ruled by warring tribes and dinosaurs. In the 19th century this world was discovered by a brilliant mathematician, leader of a group of top scientists. For decades it had remained undiscovered, and only now three young scientists are beginning to uncover the secret. Using perfidious tricks, the opposition manages to lure the three into a trap and they are lost in the other world. Here the small amount of equipment they can salvage is quite useless to them. Our three heroes must challenge the "group" and find their way back. And that is about all I am at liberty to divulge at this moment… ;-)

GGMania: Why just dinosaurs? :)

Reinhard Döpfer: Because they simply are cool and most of us have always wanted to at least once control a 10-metre-dinosaur. Furthermore, the setting in the RTS area is totally fresh and provides us with the opportunity to breathe fresh air into the genre. Most of us have won World War II or battles against hordes of Orcs umpteen times. In addition, there are completely new tactical options within the area gameplay - and just wait for the story and the Singleplayer Campaign!

GGMania: Your website claims there will be a Prehistoric parallel world with more than 20 playable maps and 5 different climatic zones. Could you give us some further details?

Reinhard Döpfer: The figure refers to the Singleplayer Campaigns and the climatic zones in Singleplayer and Multiplayer Modes. The climatic zones are as follows: Savannah, Ice Wastes, Northlands, Jungle, and Volcano/Ashes. The various climatic zones with their different landscapes will continue to challenge the player to make new tactical decisions. And then there are the free-roaming prehistoric animals that have their own specific behavioural patterns. You'll find everything - from peaceful herbivores that pose no threat to the player, to the dangerous predatory dinosaurs whose paths you shouldn't cross! ;-)

GGMania: Does it have many different locations and environments?

Reinhard Döpfer: Are you referring to the maps? Yes! Our emphasis is on varied levels with different landscapes that again and again provide the player with tactical options or challenge his gaming style. The levels are created with great attention to detail, and players find varied settings for flora and fauna within the game world. Furthermore, there are fascinating decorative objects, such as dilapidated ruins in the jungle or monuments cut into the mountains.

GGMania: What playable tribes or peoples will the player get to use in ParaWorld?

Reinhard Döpfer: Three - and they differ greatly in their playability. Thus, one tribe is more defensively minded and has well armoured units. Another tribe is very mobile and aggressive. The third one is technically superior to the others and more devious where defence is concerned. And finally, there is a fourth tribe whose secret I don't want to (or can't) reveal yet.

GGMania: How many different kinds of units are there and do they gain experience, abilities or skills over time?

Reinhard Döpfer: The units are in principle divided into purely human units (e.g. spearmen or archers), animal units (almost all of whom are used by humans as beasts of burden or similar) and mechanical units. To list them all separately would a) go beyond the scope of this interview and b) give too much away. They all benefit from a common pool of experience and can therefore proceed to new levels if they have reached the corresponding era. The heroes have special skills and capabilities. For instance they can unlock special units or achieve a bonus for their tribe. In addition, we must mention the powerful artefacts that can be found throughout the levels

GGMania: Can you reveal a bit more about the heroes in the game?

Reinhard Döpfer: The heroes have a central role in PW, both in the Singleplayer and Multiplayer Modes. They possess special skills and can proceed through several levels during a Multiplayer game or a Singleplayer level by winning experience points. Thus, on level one they are clearly stronger than normal units and have more hitpoints. On level two they receive an environment bonus, on level three a "special move", on level four they unlock new units or buildings, and on the top level they receive a bonus for their whole tribe. Each tribe can have several heroes, but there will be certain limitations in the Singleplayer Campaign. Should a hero die, you can buy him again in the Tavern. Additionally, you can recruit new heroes in the inn, provided you have sufficient resources at your disposal.

GGMania: What is one of your favourite units?

Reinhard Döpfer: I personally prefer to play the mobile and aggressive tribe because I am not the defensive type... I prefer to see the white in the eyes of my enemies. ;-)

GGMania: How will the resource management be handled in the game?

Reinhard Döpfer: Basically, we have used a resource management system that is already established for the RTS genre and that ensures an easy start to the game. The resources involved are food, wood and stone. Of course, all animals in ParaWorld can be used as food or hunted. But beware the dangerous predatory dinosaurs. With them, the hunter can easily become the hunted. Then there is a fourth resource that can only be won during battles. We call it "skulls". This resource enables the player to advance his units to higher levels. For example, the unit receives more damage points and can sustain more damage. Heroes are capable of more beyond that; see my answer to question about  the heroes in the game.

GGMania: How is combat handled in ParaWorld?

Reinhard Döpfer: As for battle situations, we are exploring entirely new avenues. We have a revolutionary unit management system that provides the player with an immediate overview over all his units. Because the focus in PW is clearly on battles, we have called this tool "army controller". I don't want to give away too much about it yet. In addition, we offer all the features that will make fighting in the game clear and easy: beginning with easy access to pre-selected fighting units (by clicking on the group bar in the game) to an overview of all available special moves of the selected units in the interface. This means that units don't have to be picked out laboriously.

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

Reinhard Döpfer: The ParaWorld AI acts as a virtual player through a special user interface. Its actions and basic behavioural patterns are exactly the same as a human player would see. This is accomplished by deriving AI behaviour from the normal gameplay functionality. To make the AI as flexible as possible, it constantly evaluates its current techtree status and finds the most valuable upgrades. In parallel, unit management competes for resources. All resource needs are weighted against each other and the higher priorities finally become AI activities. Our AI is prepared to use co-operative strategies, especially for Multiplayer games. This includes distributed resource management, co-ordinated outposts and also in-game chat messages. To address the varying game characteristics for the available tribes, the AI code uses hand-tuned short-term strategies in both combat and economy.

GGMania: What sort of missions will be a part of the Singleplayer game?

Reinhard Döpfer: We greatly value varied mission objectives and a varied gameplay in the Singleplayer Campaign. Therefore no mission will resemble another. For example, the focus of one mission might be the protection of several herds of mammoths (spread across the level) while the player will also be forced to defend himself against a hostile tribe. There are missions in which the heroes will take centre stage, and missions that are similar to the Multiplayer mode "Domination".

GGMania: Can you give us an example of specific missions in the game?

Reinhard Döpfer: In doing that, I would definitely give too much away, and the team would ban me from the Singleplayer meetings in future. ;-)

GGMania: What can you tell us about the engine that is being used for the game?

Reinhard Döpfer: For ParaWorld, we have developed our own engine called "Pest". It comprises not only pure 3D rendering, but also user interface, sound and logic. The Pest engine had originally been developed for DirectX 8 and has been advanced continuously to DirectX 9.0c. The engine possesses rendering modules that can be activated separately. This allows the graphics to be matched exactly to the capabilities of the video card. Lighting and shadows are fully dynamic. The figure and animal models consist of between 300 and 3000 polygons, objects between 100 and 2500 polygons. The number of polygons of the game world depends on the level of detail and varies between 10000 and 120000 polygons, according to camera setting. This results in a vivid and detailed world with huge amounts of atmosphere. Using the closest camera setting, you can easily distinguish single leaves on trees or see whether the workers have tied their shoelaces correctly or not. ;-)

GGmania: What sort of interface have you guys prepared for the game?

Reinhard Döpfer: We make a point of giving the player as much information as possible in order to provide them with the best user control without disturbing the essential view of the actual events in the game. Therefore, the "Army Controller" we mentioned before can be “folded in and out”. In order not to confuse the player, only those building elements that are available to the player are visible. I have already described other features in my answer to question 13. Additionally, we are planning a specific interface for each tribe - of course, the basic elements will remain the same.

GGMania: What other gameplay elements do you consider to be important and/or unique? Will there be anything new that we've never seen before?

Reinhard Döpfer: The unit management system of PW is unprecedented. Here we are exploring new avenues that provide the player with new tactical options. This specific management system also minimises negative features typical for RTS, such as the tank rush.

GGMania: Could you tell us a bit about the Multiplayer Mode in ParaWorld?

Reinhard Döpfer: PW supports up to eight players in a Multiplayer match. There will be three distinctly different Multiplayer modes:
1. Death Match / Team Death Match (with or without dimensional gate)
2. King of the Hill
3. Defender
In the Defender mode, the player will have to defend a specific position on the map (which is specially designed for this mode) against his opponents. Thus, there will be more resources from the start in order to ensure equal opportunities (after all, he could be attacked by three enemies simultaneously). If he can defend his position for a set time, he will be the winner of this game.

GGMania: What is the current status of progress of the game and when can we expect to see it in stores?

Reinhard Döpfer: At this juncture, we are approaching the Alpha stage. If we have anything to do with it, the game will be in the shops in 4th Quarter of 2005.

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

Reinhard Döpfer: Yes - be sure to buy the game! ;-)

genre: real-time strategy
release: 2005/Q5
developer: Sunflowers
publisher: homepage

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