Another year, another War…Game. WarGame: Red Dragon is the newest addition to Focus Home Interactive and Eugene System’s ‘WarGame’ franchise. Intentional or not, the technology in WarGame seems to be coming along in leaps and bounds and, rather than trying to shoe-horn it into the current releases, the team felt like creating a whole new game instead. We were impressed with what we saw of the game at GamesCom, so we grabbed frontman Alexis Le Dressay and asked him a bunch of questions about Wars and Games.
Strategy Informer: So, this is now the third WarGame game in as many years – do you want to turn this into a yearly franchise? Does your technology really evolve so fast that the previous releases can’t keep up? I remember you saying that certain aspects of ALB couldn’t be patched into EE, after all...
Alexis Le Dressay: We don't have any plans to turn the game into a yearly franchise. It happened this way because it was more convenient. We wanted to add aircraft in WarGame: AirLand Battle, so we developed a technology for it. Now we are adding a naval layer to the game, so it's quite the same thing. Patching a game is more complicated because, all versions of the game have to work properly together. And things can quickly become out of control.
Strategy Informer: I know you still managed to patch some things from ALB into EE - How much of what's coming to Red Dragon will you be able to patch into ALB?
Alexis Le Dressay: Mainly all unit tuning and some popular maps.
Strategy Informer: What was the main reason behind you wanting to include Naval units? Especially since you're not going to have all-Naval maps for players, so these new units are going to be more of a side-show.
Alexis Le Dressay: It's the same envy as adding the aircraft. We want to continue exploring into the realistic modern combat. But you’re are right when you say that Naval units won't be available on all maps, but only on maps that have a shore. This doesn't prevent us from wishing to add them to the game. As in Red Dragon, there a lot more of new things to come along.
Strategy Informer: Anything else that you think you'd want to add in future games? Spaceships? Giant robots? Those are pretty realistic...
Alexis Le Dressay: The game mechanics behind it are pretty authentic/realistic. That was one of the main ideas we wanted to bring into this game. But maybe one day, we'll do a science fiction strategy game.
Strategy Informer: You've moved the action from Europe and Scandinavia to China and the Pacific - was this to keep with the new Naval 'theme' you've introduced? How will the battle-maps of Asia differ from the maps of Europe? What tactical challenges can players expect?
Alexis Le Dressay: We like to move to different places, as it brings some great freshness to the game. Regarding the new tactical challenges, it is kind of difficult to come up with new things. Because I believe there are right now a lot of tactical depth on our maps. Furthermore, we want to stay very loyal to the game and to our players. This means we don't want to change things too brutally, but the game has to evolve and get more mature. So we have added 2 main things: 1) the first element is the ability to play with the "water layer". It means you'll be able to can cross rivers with amphibious vehicles, but you can also control these rivers with small boats like patrol boats and so on. And of course, we are adding the use of high sea and shore naval units, which are as we've said only available on some maps. 2) Secondly, we have built up some maps that are specially focused on mountain combat. This means the topology of the terrain will be more complex and will ask more attention.
Strategy Informer: What about in terms of urban density? I imagine some areas of Asia don't have as many big cities as your typical slice of European countryside.
Alexis Le Dressay: It really depends on the map. Our approach is to propose a great diversity. Some maps are very dense to the benefit of infantry, others are more open giving great advantages to the tanks. Some maps are tropical and luxuriant while others are very arid. There are in both cases tactical consequences of course!
Strategy Informer: Have you looked at things like Guerrilla Warfare, and tactical options there? Vietnam of course became infamous because of tactics like that.
Alexis Le Dressay: Yes we have looked to dissymmetrical combat. It makes a lot of sense, but to a small scale. With an operational as we have, it is more stimulating and fun to propose more symmetrical opposition. Nonetheless, in the solo campaigns, scenarios can turn out to be dissymmetrical.
Strategy Informer: Speaking of the single-player - you're making more changes and improvements to that mode. How were the changes in ALB received and what kind of set-up are you going to have for Red Dragon?
Alexis Le Dressay: In ALB the campaign received at the beginning, I would say, a rather cold reception. Then, we've made a lot of changes: tuning, new features (save and load for example), changes of rules... These changes were made in accordance to our community feedback. And I believe that people are pretty happy with what we have now. Even if the single player is better in ALB than in European Escalation, it doesn't reach the level of quality and fun we expect from it. So we are working hard on improving it. We are adding a lot of freedom to the single player. The single player mode is getting more rich and complex. I believe it's going to be very exciting!
Strategy Informer: You’ve also extended the timeline to 1991 – how far do you think you can push the timeline before modern war technology stops a strategy game from being ‘fun’? It’s all about guided missiles and drones these days...
Alexis Le Dressay: We had to push the timeline a bit more to add the French Leclerc tank! To answer your question seriously, computed missiles, drones and so, appear in nineties and become more popular in West armies from 2000 till now. Maybe it could be fun to play with theses gadgets if there are some great counter. To say it differently, if there is an interesting gameplay loop, then it should be fun.
Strategy Informer: Let’s talk about Deck creation – it seems you’re still trying to get that right. I mean it was pretty good in Air Land Battle, but the Doctrine specialisations threw out some odd rosters to choose from, a lot of which didn’t make sense. What changes are you making to that system?
Alexis Le Dressay: Exactly, in fact we've analysed that some of the problems you mention come from the lack of units! We'll go up to 1200 different units in Red Dragon. A lot of them are created as to allow interesting specializations. An interesting thing we are adding also, is the chance to pick "coalition" rather than PACT/NATO or a specific country. For example, a coalition can be UK-FR.
Strategy Informer: WarGame is having its own ESports league going on at the moment, how’s that going?
Alexis Le Dressay: Everything went pretty good. The community is happy when we do this kind of event around the game. Also, it's a great opportunity to learn some tuning problems and fix them for a next event. We continue supporting E-sports for Red Dragon, for example, we are improving the replay system and providing rewind features.
Strategy Informer: I imagine you saw Valve’s announcement with regards to SteamOS, Living room etc... have you managed to have a play with the new controller yet? Do you think Wargame will work with it? I know you guys have experimented with alternative input methods like touchscreen.
Alexis Le Dressay: I didn't have the chance to try their new controller, but I would love to take advantage of it for wargame. I'm sure it will work with wargame. I believe that their controller has been created to work perfectly with game like RTS...
Strategy Informer: Are you making any specific changes to multiplayer? New maps, obviously, but how about new modes? How are your epic 10 v 10 maps being received?
Alexis Le Dressay: 10v10 is pretty popular and the new conquest mode also. We are bringing up new maps for ALB free #2 DLC. I believe the community will be very happy with this. In Red Dragon, we'll add the naval mode of course! The Naval mode is obviously only playable on specific maps. Each players will have an extended deck into which they will be able to add Naval units (ships and landing units...) I believe it's going to be very special and epic!
I'll also add, that we'll propose an alpha version of the game for our core players, in December or early January next year. This alpha will focus both on multiplayer and single player. This will be a great chance for us to improve the game before release.
Strategy Informer: I’m sure the core players will be pleased to hear that. What kind of release window are you looking at? March again?
Alexis Le Dressay: Yes we hope so, but if the game isn't ready for March, we'll delay it. In fact last year, we did plan to release in March, but we failed. The game wasn't ready at that time and it went out at the end of May.
Thanks to Alexis for taking the time to talk to us about Red Dragon. It certainly sounds like it's going to be a beast of a game, especially with naval units to think about now as well. We’ll try and get some hands-on time with it as quickly as possible, so stay tuned to the site for more information. WarGame: Red Dragon is due out on PC Q1 2013.