Interview: EndWar's Michael de Plater
From Rome: Total War and Creative Assembly in England to Tom Clancy’s EndWar and UbiSoft Shanghai: Michael de Plater has not only changed places, but tries to change the way real-time strategy works. Jörg Langer talked to de Plater about his upcoming nextgen game (a PC version has not yet been announced, but can be taken for granted). Read about parallels to the acclaimed PC series Total War, the innovative multiplayer mode and how EndWar is designed to feel like an ever-escalating sports season.
In 2020, North America, Europe and Russia are fighting for supremacy – with gamepad and voice commands. If you want to learn more about Tom Clancy’s EndWar, you can either read the recent novel of the same title (writtten by David Michaels), wait for mid-October 2008 (estimated release date of the game) – or read our interview with Ubisoft Shanghai’s Creative Director Michael de Plater.
GamersGlobal: Michael, what is the biggest difference EndWar has compared with the Total-War-Series on PC – apart from the modern setting?
Michael de Plater: EndWar is more dynamic. There’s the speed of it, the manoeuvrability of the units. And it’s also the engaging over distance. Range and speed become enormous factors. And this really changes gameplay a lot. In Shogun, Medieval or Rome, once two units engage, you just watch how it turns out, there’s not really much you can do. But with the ability to engage and disengage at a distance, the battlefield becomes a lot more dynamic.
GamersGlobal: And also more confusing?
Michael de Plater: We had to spend a lot of time on that, in particular on the visual effects. But units which fight each other are linked by tracers, so you can always see who is fighting whom. And not only that, you can also see who’s winning. So if the Riflemen are in a firefight with the Rocket Launching infantry – which they will win, most of the time – you can actually see that they’re pouring their fire on those guys. I think the visual feedback is very intuitive, and you can polish what range your unit types should engage the enemy at. You can optimize that in order to make the disposition of the units work for your playing style. Another change is that the camera is down on the ground. Because even with a very good game like, let’s say, Company of Hereos, having a top-down camera constrains your field of view. You can’t have units fight each other off-screen! We really make use of the line of sight and the range and obstacles. I think EndWar is a wargame that feels real!
GamersGlobal: How many units does the player command?
Michael de Plater: We have a smaller number of units on the battlefield, compared to Rome or Medieval, so you can concentrate on them. We have twelve unit slots, but each slot is one platoon with four infantry squads, or four helicopters, and so on. Those are the units that you control directly. We have a lot of support units on the battlefield, as well. So you can send combat robots to guard positions, call in air strikes, use support helicopters to lift your forces out of the battlefield.
GamersGlobal: World in Conflict shows a lot of fighting in the background, which you can’t control but gives you the feeling of a bigger battle. Do you plan something similar?
We wanted to have that 'Masterchief feeling' from Halo 3
Michael de Plater: Yes, but we can put up to a thousand guys actually fighting on the battlefield, not only in the background. So we can create real epic battles. The forces you control are the super elite guys with the most advanced weapons. We can populate the battlefield with more regular soldiers, for example the US Army, but they are more easy to kill than your Special Forces. We wanted to have that 'Masterchief feeling' from Halo 3, when other soldiers go: „Fantastic, it’s Masterchief, everthing’s going to be allright now.“ We want the player to feel like the absolute Elite.
As usual, this screenshot is "staged". But it shows what EndWar is all about: Putting you onto the battlefield instead of looking through a camera which floats high above the ground, as in most RTS games.