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Faces of War Q&A
(hx) 10:34 PM CET - Nov,23 2005

Ubisoft provided us an interesting interview with Best Way director (Soldiers: Heroes of WWII makers) Dmitriy Morozov as he answer a couple of questions about Faces of War (previously known as Outfront II), the upcoming squad based WWII themed real-time strategy game. The game is scheduled to be released in March 2006.

Q: Faces of War is the sequel of Soldiers: Heroes of World War II, which was your first game. Why did you choose to create a real time strategy focused on WWII and especially on squad leading?

Dmitriy Morozov: The development of Faces of War began with search and research. We sought a new gameplay, a new idea, which would become as important in the game, as the "Direct Control" feature in 'Soldiers'. After a lot of testing, it appeared that squad leading could well become the very element, which would make a new game, without disrupting the basis we have been working on for so long. As it turned out, squad grouping gave the game a lot more than merely a new control element. Combined with "Direct Control" it provided an entirely new gameplay, which - I hope - has become the cornerstone of 'Faces of War'. Previously, with the high level of game world detail and vast gameplay possibilities, we were still lacking in scale: all operations were limited to three-four troops. And even with such a small number of units to control it was becoming a problem and caused complaints of many users. Now, with the AI substantially upgraded, the player gets the precious needed time to evaluate the situation, while the units are taking care of the enemy. The squad acts as a whole, while at the same time, each unit takes individual decisions. They can retreat, advance, take positions, and fix vehicles on their own. This approach helped ensure a more dynamic, fast, and interesting gameplay. In my opinion, this is an excellent example of how a player can "relax and enjoy" the game.

Q: What were your initial primary ambitions for the game?

Dmitriy Morozov: Essentially, there was no certain ambitions. As I've already said the development of Faces of War started with search and research: without these we wouldn't have been able to understand what we can do and what the player expects us to do. The basic idea was to create something larger and more eventful, than Soldiers. That is to say, that, for landing in Normandy we needed some completely different gameplay control tools: the instruments which were at hand then could not provide for a smooth gameplay with the given number of attackers and defenders. Then again, the search was not limited to gameplay only: we were looking for a way of making a more detailed, interesting, and better-quality picture. We changed the camera behavior too, because the new gameplay required new angles.

Q: Many WWII RTS titles are planned to be released. What will differentiate 'Faces of War' from competitors or even from 'Soldiers: Heroes of WWII'?

Dmitriy Morozov: The difference of Faces of War from the competitors is obvious: first of all, no other game so far can offer such a large range of actions in battle: on the one hand, the player can control a 5-10-strong squad, on the other - he can descend into the thick of combat and control a separate given unit, almost as in 3rd person action. Also it is about the truly unique damage system, which accounts for ordnance hits and breakdowns on the component level. The highly detailed building damage, which allows the player to not only use his firepower to destroy the enemy, but also for the purposes of clearing the path for the troops, eliminating enemy cover, or just for the kicks of its. Another feature worth mentioning is the different weather conditions and seasons. 'Faces of War' spans the full period from summer 1944 through spring 1945. This means that the game will feature all four seasons with all the specific effects and game elements. For instance, the winter campaign will featured icebound rivers, with tanks breaking though the ice and sinking and soldiers freezing to death in cold water. We also decided not to limit ourselves to daylight combat only. All in all, the time of day and weather conditions will differ from mission to mission. We can boast with spectacular sunsets, moonlit nights, thunderstorms, and - of course - snowfalls. During the night streetlamps and vehicle lights will be on, explosions and flashes will cause bright effects - in short it will be everything a player can expect from a night fight. And in some mission weather would change during the game...

Q: Some gamers found 'Soldiers: Heroes of World War II' very hard. How do you please plan to address this concern on 'Faces of War'?

Dmitriy Morozov: Yes, indeed some of the players could consider 'Soldiers' difficult. This was primarily due to the high level of detail of the game world, which the player did not know what to do with. Some also thought that controlling several soldiers simultaneously was too complex. Some complained about the complexity of the very concept of Direct Control. In Faces of War it is all going to be a lot easier. Although this in no way means that 'Faces of War' would be a simpler, less sophisticated game. No. We managed to make the gameplay easier, without disrupting its little details, which we have managed to achieve in 'Soldiers'. For instance, difficulty levels: at different difficulty levels Faces of War will be perceived differently. With "easy" the game will be faster and funnier. At this difficulty level, even a completely unprepared player will be able to sit down and play, without having to think about the details of the game world and all the controlling elements integrated into the game. But should a player want more, he will go to "normal" and "hard". And for each difficulty level it will be a completely different game - different gameplay, different methods of combating. On the whole, I think, we did a very good job on the game control. Now it has become easier to a control 5-strong squad in Faces of War, than it has been for just one unit in Soldiers.

Q: Could you give us more details on the proprietary engine you used for Faces of War? What sort of improvement did you bring compared to Soldiers: Heroes of World War II? How does this translate in terms of graphics?

Dmitriy Morozov: The engine of Faces of War was upgraded at every module. And, certainly, it has become much more powerful on the graphic level as well. In particular, the optimization and the experience of the previous project enabled us to create higher-detailed models and textures, which directly affected the game "picture". In addition to that we now managed to use bump-mapping and environment cube-mapping. With these and other enhancements we are now creating metallic and rough-textured materials, water, we can emulate reflections in windows and on glossy surfaces. Water in Faces of War was developed using a new technology and now looks very real. The special FX system of the engine has also been seriously upgraded, as a result of which we got even more beautiful and spectacular effects.

Q: Tell us more about the physics. Do players will be able to use the chaotic and destructible environment to serve his tactics? Can you really use your surroundings as a cover?

Dmitriy Morozov: All objects and landscapes are integral elements of the game process. For instance we are using an "honest" calculation of bullets and shells trajectories, which means that the player can hide his squad behind any physical obstacle. Take landscape: explosions of hi-caliber shells make funnels, which can then be used as cover. Trenches and other earthworks can be used for the same purposes. The player will also be able to hide the units behind other ground covers, which can be both special installations or ruins of buildings, damaged ordnance pieces, etc. In principle, any object, which can be used as cover size-wise may become one, and vice versa. That is to say that a wall of a building while intact can serve as full-height cover. If a wall is hit and a fragment of it is broken off, it may become a "sitting" cover, while fragments on the wall lying on the ground can be used as a cover for a lying soldier. However, aside from using covers for himself, the player will also have to destroy those. An enemy hidden inside a building will be much easier to eliminate once you destroy the wall of this building. Barricades used by machine-gunners will have to be taken apart piece by piece - literally. Bushes and trees can be burnt, fuel barrels - blasted, walls - crushed; in short you will have to destroy all enemy covers.

Q: You promise a well organized, stunning AI. Could you give us a certain example, what we can expect from the AI in a certain situation?

Dmitriy Morozov: Indeed, the AI in the game is behaving very naturally. For instance, imagine a five-strong squad breaking into a town occupied by the enemy. The defenses are not very dense, still the enemy has plenty of troops. Say, our squad enters a street and runs into the enemy defense point. As soon as the squad spots the enemy, depending on the enemy numbers and class, they would raise their guns ready and seek for any available cover. These may include fences, bushes, telephone booths, carts, piles of boxes or sandbags, and other garbage left in the street. After that they will open fire against the enemy in short rounds, depending on the situation, one of them may also throw a grenade. From this moment on, if the player pays no attention to his squad, the units will fight to the last, advancing or retreating, once again, depending on the enemy numbers and class. The enemy, at that, will use very similar, but still different tactics. Troops on both sides will use those weapons which would suit the given situation best. Soldiers with grenade launchers are not going to use these against infantry, using handguns instead. If a troop loses his weapon in hand-to-hand combat or as a result of an explosion, he will first try to find his own weapons, or seek the most suitable one. When it comes to grenade throwing, the soldiers will not stand there and wait for the explosion instead they will run away and come back after the blast. Soldiers with low health level will sit tight and avoid direct combat, and - if they have any bandages - automatically cover their wounds.

Q: What kind of multi-player elements will there be in Faces of War?

Dmitriy Morozov: Faces of War will feature a more convenient game browser, expanded server settings, and the client end will become more practical and available. However the key feature of the multiplayer in Faces of War is two new game modes. As of present, there are no analogues of those in any other game in this genre. The first game mode will allow the player to show both their tactical and strategic abilities. This game mode will enable the players engage themselves in prolonged battles, put their gray-matter to use and carry out a truly large-scale combat. The second new game mode is a lot faster and a lot more fun. We figured that a little humor was not going to do the game any harm, so the players are in for a great surprise. Unfortunately I cannot say more at the moment, don't want to open all the trumps so far. But - rest assured - the players are not going to be disappointed with network games.

Q: What's the feature you're most proud of in Faces of War?

Dmitriy Morozov: That's a tough question. But I guess, the one thing I am most proud of is the fact that this game has come into being in the first place. Its strongest part is certainly the gameplay. I mean, one can create game maps of unspeakable beauty, unique models or characters, fantastic effects, but unless the user sees the game in your game - it will be nothing but an empty shell. The game is about challenge. And that challenge is something we hands down have in Faces of War.

Q: Would you like to add something for the community?

Dmitriy Morozov: To all the fans of the genre and in particular those who enjoyed Soldiers: HoWWII, should be waiting for Faces of War with anticipation. We could have promised you all kinds of stuff and features, we could have spent hours telling you how exciting and great it's going to be... But the truth is Faces of War will have something for everyone. Casuals or hardcore gamers - no one will be missed: it's going to be fun and it's going to be a highly detailed game world with all kinds of complex features and possibilities. I think it's something worth waiting for.

genre: WWII real-time strategy
release: March 2006
developer: Best Way
publisher: Ubisoft

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