Strategy Informer: Firstly, could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Carl Johnson: My name is Carl Johnson, I’m Lead Game Designer for Maelstrom at Codemasters. I’ve been working with KDV Games for about two years on the game so far.
Are there any features of Maelstrom we don't currently know about that you'd like to share with the world?
Carl Johnson: Maelstrom is an “action strategy” game, which means you’ll be exposed to more action than ever before in an RTS. It is a progression of the RTS genre and truth be told is a bit difficult to classify. From the fully destructible terrain to the environmental factors that play a huge role, the game really is on its own plane. Players will be able to fully deform and transform the surrounding terrain into mountains and valleys. They will have access to abilities allowing them to control natural disasters such as tornadoes, meteors, etc. Also, something we put into the game that I think is a genuinely cool addition is the optional third-person mode. With some game modes you can select an individual unit and control them in third-person action on the battlefield. It’s something that we thought would add some extra originality to the game as well as a fun style of play to vary the action.
What past RTS have you enjoyed playing?
Carl Johnson: Perimeter of course! That was the first RTS we worked on with KDV Games, and really how we knew we wanted to make Maelstrom. Other than that, I used to be really big into the Command and Conquer series and I evolved with it over the years into the Red Alert games - you know the Westwood classics. Of course, the Warcrafts as well as Starcraft were always a favorite of mine. I was never really into the extremely time consuming ones like Age of Empires, I follow more of an action-based creed myself.
What can you tell us about the graphical and physics features?
Carl Johnson: Graphically the game is outstanding, the level of detail is amazing, from blades of grass flowing in the wind to zooming in on the face of your individual soldiers. In terms of the physics, the water was really superbly done as it functions exactly as nature intended it to. The water will fill any depression, always seeks sea-level and will run off of any elevated locale. It becomes a viable resource in more ways than one; you can use it as a weapon or as an asset depending on what you do. Imagine a protective moat around your base, filled with water, or even unleashing a flood on an enemy encampment. The physics in the game allow for all of it. Not only is the water amazing, but other weather effects have some great physics as well. The tornadoes, for example, will suck units in, spin them around and hurl them across the map at breakneck speeds – and you get to watch the whole time from any perspective you want!
What kind of support do you plan to give once the game is released?
Carl Johnson: Codemasters is going all out with the promotion of the game – keep an eye on the Sci Fi channel!
Are you planning to release a demo for Maelstrom?
Carl Johnson: Yes, it will be online in August.
Can you tell us about the single player aspect of the game?
Carl Johnson: There will be a total of 23 single player missions, spanning over 4 campaigns. The storyline is totally linear, so you can expect it to unfold as you work your way through the campaigns. We spent a lot of time working with sci-fi writer James Swallow to come up with a really compelling story that really gets you hooked in. There is a whole lot to learn and see as you play through. As usual, you’ll have objectives throughout your missions that tie into the storyline and help you explore the Maelstrom universe.
Could you tell us about the multiplayer side of the game?
Carl Johnson: We have fully integrated an online/LAN multiplayer option for 1-6 players, as well as added a few different modes to spice it up a bit.
Can you give us an assessment of the health and long-term viability?
Carl Johnson: Something great about RTS games is that they are somewhat timeless - you can still boot up a copy of Starcraft and go online and find always find someone to play against. Multiplayer aspects often give greater life to a game and in some cases (such as Half-Life morphing into Counterstrike) it can give life to a game, period! We knew the multiplayer aspect of Maelstrom was crucial, as gamers justifiably expect a lot from a game when they put down $50. Our goal is to over-deliver.
Could you tell us about the sides that we'll see in the game?
Carl Johnson: There are three main factions, the Remnants, Ascension and Hai-Genti. The Remnants are your classic rebels, a rag-tag group of survivors led by former US Navy Officer James Buchanan. Since they are a band of survivors, their weapons are mostly salvaged and scavenged weapons from the past, so you can imagine today’s best weapons, with 50 years of rust and wear – that is the Remnant military. They mostly use guerilla tactics, preferring to use their knowledge of the terrain rather than brute force in face to face confrontations. The Ascension is the last great corporation of Earth that survived the Maelstrom, led by the brilliant but despotic Arlan Khan. They have technologically advanced weaponry ranging from cryogenic weapons to transforming vehicles. They’re the oppressive force holding the Remnants down while trying to rebuild the world in Arlan’s vision. Most of the Ascension’s fighting will be done by their high tech infantry and weapons, preferring an approach of quality over quantity the Ascension are prepared to do whatever it takes. The Hai-Genti are in a somewhat similar situation to the citizens of Earth, they too are fighting for a place to live. Their homeworld was destroyed by their reckless lifestyles and they destroyed their own ecosystem, effectively leaving the planet uninhabitable. They are an entirely bio-engineered race, from buildings to foot-soldiers to their most advanced weapon. They are led by the Overseer, a massive brain-like creature that is psychically linked to all Hai-Genti. They subscribe to the hive-mind mentality and use superior numbers in swarms in order to vanquish their foes.
Could you tell us about some of the units we'll get to play with?
Carl Johnson: As I’ve mentioned the Remnants have a lot of vehicles we’re used to seeing in the military today. One of their vehicles that they use is the Paladin, which is modeled after the US military Paladin Tank. Their version of the Paladin is outfitted with a large howitzer, used mainly as a highly mobile artillery unit. The Ascension has some amazing transforming units that offer a duality of function that is really unprecedented anywhere else in the RTS world. For example, their laser equipped crusader tank can morph into a bipedal mech with a high power, long range laser rifle. Finally, the Hai-Genti have many biological weapons at their disposal, that is their beasts of war. The Crusher is a large insect-like creature with massive mandibles that are capable of grabbing and crushing enemy units. The creature also has corrosive breath that is damaging to anyone unlucky enough to come in contact with it.
As a gamer, what's your favorite part of Maelstrom, what makes you proud to have helped create it and why is it a game fans will want?
Carl Johnson: For me the best part of the game is the high action content as well as the environmental abilities. Like I’ve said, I’m a fan of action and when we started working on the game I didn’t want a game that felt like it was dragging. We worked very hard to ensure a high level of action for the player throughout the game. The environmental aspects of the game are another part I’m thrilled about. It struck us as something very original since no one had really gone there before, at least not to this level. The Vista Games engine gave us the ability to get complex natural disasters that looked great and functioned well. Overall the game is terrific, but I think those are two aspects that really drove it home for me.
What's the currently release date and is it possible we may see some changes in the future?
Carl Johnson: The game is planned for release on October 10. The game has been in development for over two years now, I really don’t foresee any changes.
What has been the hardest part of development so far?
Carl Johnson: Combining the tech and our goals with story, I’d say. In the very beginning, after working on Perimeter we wanted to get involved with KDV Games yet again, but we didn’t know what we wanted to do yet. Many of us are Sci-Fi fans, so we started to toss around the idea of an RTS with some Sci-Fi basis. We each had some core elements we’d seen in movies that we wanted to implement into the game. So we got together with veteran Sci-Fi writer James Swallow (of Star Trek and Dr. Who) to throw our ideas at him and see what he could come up with. We focused in on movies such as Mad Max, Aliens, Independence Day and Starship Troopers – classic sci-fi and post-apocalyptic films. It was then James’s task to take all these ideas and create a compelling story that would drive the game just as much as the gameplay itself. He did just that. Bridging this narrative and the rapidly evolving tech at KDV certainly wasn’t easy.
Well we've come to our last question, is there anything you'd like to say to the fans of Maelstrom which are eagerly awaiting the release of this great looking RTS title?
Carl Johnson: Yeah, if you’re a fan of Sci-Fi or a fan of RTS, get out there and try the game. We’re releasing a demo for it at the end of the summer and we want people to experience what Maelstrom is all about. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous, you’ve got amazing camera angles, controls with one of the tightest zooms ever, and gameplay that promises to be above and beyond any other RTS to date. I think the game really speaks for itself, if you read some of the info that’s been circulating online you’ll see what I’m talking about. The game is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication by a lot of great people and we all stand behind it 100%, we hope that everyone out there can get into and be as proud of it as we are.