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Heavy Duty Q&A
(hx) 08:35 PM CET - Oct,29 2006

Gameguru Mania got a chance to talk with Primal Software project manager Nikolai Sitnikov and game designers Alexei Sherba and Andrey Ekimov as they talks about Heavy Duty, their upcoming tactical squad-based RTS. The game is slated for release in Q1/2007 (Russia). There is no word yet on a North American release.

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

My name is Nikolai Sitnikov and I'm the "Heavy Duty" project manager. I want to introduce our Research & Development department director Andrey Ekimov and Alexei Sherba who is the leading game-designer of the project.

GGMania: Can you give us a little background on the development team working on Heavy Duty?

N.S.: The "Heavy Duty" project is being developing in the "Primal Software" company which at the same time has a record list of such successful games on the local market as "Petka and Vasiliy Ivanovich saving the galaxy" and "Petka 2" (genre: quest) "I of the Dragon" which combines RTS, RPG and Action genres where you play a role of unique character - Magic Dragon, and the "Besieger" RTS game devoted to the siege of fortresses.
Highly qualified developers of a number of famous crowned "titles" who worked on projects in "Primal Software" and in other companies are working on "Heavy Duty".

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

N.S.: "Heavy Duty" is a mix of genres, such as Strategy, Squad based tactics and Action. Researches, base development, financial resources management and some other tools are taken from Strategy; in the mean time Tactics gave us units' customization before combat actions, player controlled units' number limitation during the battle, soldiers' personalization with the potential upgrade of their characteristics. As far is Action is concerned it allows 3rd person units' control.
The plot develops in such a way that your mission is to protect remote human colony from the invasion of the Sectoid alien civilization which supreme objective is colonization of suitable for living planets and races subjection.

GGMania: Does this mean that the hardcore Mechwarriors fans will feel left out?

N.S.: We have several "Mechwarrior" fans in our team but still "Heavy Duty" is not its simulator and not even kin to "Mech"-action. The gameplay is varied and it does not narrow down to piloting and equipping your robot. Still a player will have an opportunity to devote himself to outfitting and manipulating his robot in a battle.

GGMania: Your website reveals that "the game offers you the possibility to freely explore a whole planet - an enormous battleground with total area of 154 sq. km." How did your decision to have a large, open gameworld impact the design of the missions in Heavy Duty?

N.S.: A little correction here. The surface of the planet amounts to 314 km2 and as on the Earth most of it occupied with water. The dry land is quiet impressive and a player can see any location he desires at any time without downloads. The progress of the game closely connected to the actions of a player as long as any battle may be held in a location where a spaceship has landed. A player has the ability to settle in his units and visit different locations on the planet at any moment.

GGMania: Describe the single-player campaign a bit. How many missions? How does the campaign work? Is it linear or dynamic?

A.S.: There are no missions in their common meaning. A player is free to navigate and every time he comes across aliens or colonists living on their own, it reacts into subsequent actions. Gameplay is very dynamic and in fact, may last forever. We are trying to make the "Heavy Duty" as close to real life as possible. We take into consideration every detail - Physics, Destruction of all kinds of objects, Life of the enemies and associates of a player.

GGMania: What kinds of robots will be available?

A.S.: There is a multiple choice of characters besides robots, - Powersuites which play the role of infantry, classical military hardware and different kinds of flying stuff - interceptors and freight flying machines. Initial set of units will be quite poor. A player will be able to create unique military machines which can shift on vertical surfaces only after examination of alien artifacts.

GGMania: What kinds of weapons will players be able to use in the game?

A.S.: It is important for a player to equip his war machines with armory, power units and specialized hardware before fighting with alien intelligence. As almost all types of weaponry are versatile they can be used in various combinations and applied to any machine. In each group armory divides into three slots according to its size types. A player can use uncontrolled and guided missiles, kinetic kill weapon (different types of cannons), pulse and continues lasers, plasma armory (blazing away plasmoids and plasma sprays), diverse oscillators.

GGMania: How will players go about upgrading their weapons?

A.S.: Significant part of "Heavy Duty" gameplay is scientific researches and experimental devices' production. All lab's scientists and engineers have their unique characteristics which influence the research process and the experimental production efficiency. A player can buy on external market only standard models; as far as advanced ones are concerned it is about DIY. Due to the appearance of new kinds of robots, mechanisms and armory, a player is granted an opportunity of non-stop upgrade throughout the whole game.

GGMania: Tell us about the enemies that we will be finding in the game as well as to their AI.

A.E.: One of peculiarities of AI realization in the game is the tracking system of dynamic obstacles which enables a unit consider 3D objects of any shape (e.g. Arks, Bridges), avoid them and depending on aspect angle not sense them as hindrances (e.g. avoiding a bridge or go on its covering). Quality of unit's behavior defines by the motivators system which models its basic requests. Also its behavior depends on exogenous factors (ammunition, health, sounds, blasts, relative strengths between enemies).

GGMania: Could you describe the combat system?

A.S.: There are two ways of control:
A) 3rd person view (a player settles in his unit). The battle acquires Action features while other friendly units' control puts into effect through a set of commands like: "object attack", "move to the point", "use one or another weapon", etc.
B) RTS. Habitual airview for all fans of this genre where a player navigate his troop using classical RTS control.
We decided to concentrate on the Drive not on the reality so one won't come across too complicated models, armor overheat, etc.

GGMania: Could you describe the game interface? If I remember well, Mechwarrior 4 needed at least 11 - 13 keys to play!

N.S.: The game provides a possibility to use both mouse and keyboard as a controller. Mouse control will dominate in the RTS regime but speaking about 3rd person view game, one will mostly operate with keyboard while giving orders to robots. Mouse will be responsible for aiming and commanding troop machines and 1-8 keys are responsible for choosing them.

GGMania: You call the new genre of the game - tactical action. What is the tactical part?

N.S.: It's a good question! Game interface can be divided into two parts - Strategic "Geoscape" and TacticalAction "Battlescape". As far as "Geoscape" is concerned a strategy fan can find a lot of windows while the "Battlescape" is devoted to units' commanding. In the tactical part of the game a player is a head of a robot troop where he is given a chance to coordinate actions of his machines, develop combat schemes, shift units and more over he can easily settle in any of his subordinates to find himself in the navel of battle.

GGMania: Is it possible to play all the game in tactical mode only?

A.S.: Sure. Throughout the whole game he can only lead researches, trade and manage his personnel. It is not necessary for a player to move to the battlefield and take part in any fire-fight because only what he needs to do is to form battle troops and give them orders. On the other hand I doubt that any one will refuse taking part in such a fascinating and theoric battles and navigating war machines in the Action regime.

GGMania: So what are the main types of action in the game?

A.S.: One starting his career as an executive of a military research and production organization will have to deal with base building, head hunting, finance management, research and development, high-tech production, trade with other corporations. But still the main activity of a player is holding battles with land and air machines which finally will echo in the result of the game.

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

A.E.: That is our own engine which is being developing, changing and adding since the year 2000 starting with the "I of the Dragon" game. One of the most important features of the engine is the ability to create our own planets since a component which works with terrain has been totally changed. Graphical component of the engine was upgraded (objects, particles, grass) and new physical component was added. We believe that our engine will allow us to make more interesting games and in our future plans is licensing the engine for other developers to make games considering our unique capabilities.

GGMania: According to product page, Heavy Duty features "really impressive Physics and kinematics"; besides "everything on the planet can be destroyed" It sounds like marketing hype :) What EXACTLY can WE expect?

A.E.: As a matter of fact we worked on it and achieved the results you have just mentioned. What I mean is that we have made a physical component of the engine that works in a separate thread and tracks co-impacts and physical behavior of the game objects. Its realization in a separate thread allows us to fully use all the abilities of multinuclear processors. Besides, as an addition to classical transportation devices we developed a program of legs oriented transport transferring so that our robots move using their legs (from 3 to 8). What impresses most of all is the inverse kinematics system (legs are put on the surface) that allowed us to reject previously created animation.

We also have made the explosions' system where the model of the exploding object blows into parts. Any of these parts is an individual game item with which co-impacts and physical movements are concerned so that we can blow any object and it will fall into many small and large pieces.  Moreover our physical system enables a player to break trees with his robot moving through a forest. One would not speak about "marketing hype" if he takes into account peculiar for all games of our company terramorf features and geometry changes caused by explosions.

GGMania: What are some of the special effects (example) you're proud of having in the game so far?

А.Е.: A character interacts with all the objects in the game irrespective of their size. It is provided by physics modeling and system of co-impacts realization. Fire, smoke and many other effects are realized by the special effects system which is based on the particles system. Particles movement happens according to different rules with quiet a big amount of coefficients. Texture animation is also takes place in the system. We have got a subsystem of visual post-effects and visual editor for their development and debug. We are trying include in the game all modern post-effects.

GGMania: Will you eventually support the AGEIA PPU?

А.Е.: We considering such a possibility.

GGMania: What kind of hardware should players have in order to experience good game performance?

А.Е.: For a comfortable gaming one should have "HyperThreading" compatible processor, 2GB of core memory and DirectX compatible video card.

GGMania: Needless to say that kick-ass music make an action game even better. Can you tell us a little bit about music in Heavy Duty?

N.S.: We have got a number of already recorded tracks but not all of them will be included in the game. As far as genres are concerned they vary from rock to techno.

GGMania: Could you us a bit about the multiplayer in Heavy Duty? Can we expect some new/unusual multiplayer modes?

N.S.: A multiplayer regime is not included in the game. We have examined several variants of multiplayer regime but we do not find any of them worthwhile realization. It is all about counterpoint of a single player mode.

GGMania: What do you see as the best feature in this game? Finally, what do you think gamers will enjoy in Heavy Duty over other games like it?

N.S.: As the whole planet is the only and one huge level in the game, the main feature to my mind is the soft zoom from the orbit which enables a detailed surface view. A player can move to any location of the planet without any level loadings.

А.Е.: It is important not to forget about inverse real time kinematics! The result of our hard work is quiet impressive - robots move on any surfaces, even on rocks. Everything is so real, no oddities or spin-outs.

А.S.: I am doing my best to make every single aspect to be interesting and keeping all the features balanced and on their places. It is very hard as we have such a mix of genres.

GGMania: Currently, how far in development are you and when do you expect to release the game? Will be Heavy Duty released in North America?

N.S.: We are planning to finish the development of the game by the first quarter of the year 2007 but when it will appear in the US depends on a publisher.

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

N.S.: Our engine's unique features are: 3D Planet with capability to find yourself in any location, terrain terramorf, inverse real time kinematics. We use all these innovations for a player to sink in the game atmosphere. Also we do hope that Heavy Duty's multiple game modes will meet the tastes of different game genres fans.

related links: product page, E3 video (92.7MB)

genre: tactical squad-based RTS
release: 2007/Q1
developer: Primal Software
publisher: Akella

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