Nival's hectic Blitzkrieg games were something of a personal favourite of mine growing up, and it's somewhat terrifying to learn just how long ago they were released. The original Blitzkrieg came out back in 2003. I didn't even shave or have to buy my own dinners back then. Through the unforgiving mists of time I dimly recall a fun, frantic RTS game that was more about spectacle than complex tactics – lots of explosions, artillery blasting your tanks into a charred mess, and hundreds of tiny pixel men being turned into gooey chunks by machine-gun nests. It's been a long time away for the series, which last made an appearance back in 2005, but developer Nival is finally returning for another round of all-out warfare. I tracked down executive producer (and Nival CEO) Sergey Orlovskiy to quiz him on the upcoming Blitzkrieg 3 .
Strategy Informer: Blitzkrieg 2 was released way back in 2005. What made you decide to revive the series nine years on?
Sergey Orlovskiy: It's a good question. Of course we did a lot with the World War Two setting, but Blitzkrieg was also a tactical RTS. In that period the whole genre of RTS games was stimulating from a creative standpoint; there was a lot of creativity ten or fifteen years ago, but there's no real fresh ideas since then. That's basically the reason we waited that long, we waited for design and technology to improve to allow a new gaming experience for the user. Once we figured out how to do it, we decided to do this game. We didn't want to do it until we'd come up with new ideas for the genre.
Strategy Informer: Is it difficult deciding how best to update your game for modern audiences – or does Blitzkrieg 3 stick closely to the series' trademark formula?
Sergey Orlovskiy: It's a slightly different game, actually. We put much more focus on the multiplayer this time. The first two Blitzkriegs were mostly single-player experiences, we did have multiplayer but it wasn't very popular. In Blitzkrieg 3 we wanted much more focus on that side - it will have singleplayer elements for sure, but the focus on multiplayer allowed us to create those shorter 'asynchronous' sessions, and I think this will be very appealing for the modern audience. Most online sessions in RTS games require about 30-40 minutes to play, in our case we figured out how to do it in 5-10 minutes. I think it's a very new and satisfying approach. The singleplayer missions will take much longer, around 40 minutes or so, but for multiplayer it's very fast-paced, very intense.
Strategy Informer: Can you tell us a little bit about your new graphics engine? What does it allow you to do that you couldn't before?
Sergey Orlovskiy: Sure, we're using Unity actually. It's a big 3D engine right now, allows lots of different platforms and set-ups to run the game. Not just PC, Mac and Linux but also consoles and mobile platforms. It's a very powerful engine, and we're very happy using it.
Strategy Informer: What about the scale? How many units can you fit on the screen at once nowadays?
Sergey Orlovskiy: Actually Blitzkrieg 2 was the biggest game, unit-wise, which was the focus. In Blitzkrieg 3 we're going back to Blitzkrieg 1, where you have a smaller list of units, but it's got a much more sophisticated upgrade system for tanks and infantry. So it's not as huge as Blitzkrieg 2, you have about 16 units under direct control, not including artillery and airplanes and so on, but the missions themselves have hundreds of units on them, just not directly under you control.
Strategy Informer: Blitzkrieg 1 and 2 were pretty great because they had those huge battles, but didn't require a super powerful PC to run. Can you keep that balance with Blitzkrieg 3 ?
Sergey Orlovskiy: Yeah, so we're keeping pretty much that same range. We want basically players to see all those units on the screen, whatever their PC.
Strategy Informer: Will there be lots of destruction and explosions? Are the environment and buildings destructible?
Sergey Orlovskiy: Sure, absolutely. We're doing very spectacular explosions and new special effects, and we have all that without requiring high-end computers. We've already licensed the game to China for example, and the hardware over there is typically much older and lower-quality, so Western audiences should have no problem, for sure.
Strategy Informer: You mentioned an upgrade system for your units before, how does that work?
Sergey Orlovskiy: The first two Blitzkriegs didn't have lots of progression, we didn't have bases and so on. In Blitzkrieg 3 you don't have your own base, but you will be attacking the enemy base for each particular combat. But we do have persistent development between each battle. This is a new approach for the series, you actually build up your own base and this base allows you to recruit or build units, research tech trees and upgrade units between missions. Then once you do it, you can grab units and go into the tactical battles.
Strategy Informer: Your website lists three campaigns. Is this the final number that will be in the full game? How many countries are in the game?
Sergey Orlovskiy: Three campaigns, this is the final number for the launch, but it's not the final number for the game. We're planning to build more and more campaigns for the game's life-cycle, so we hope to cover much more periods and a much wider range of battles from World War Two in single-player campaigns after launch. Countries are exactly the same as in previous games; Soviets, Allies and Axis.
Strategy Informer: Could you explain the differences between the three campaigns – how will each one play differently from the others?
Sergey Orlovskiy: Since we're Blitzkrieg 3, we have three different... I would say we have three Blitzkriegs in one. All the campaigns offer a certain variety of war which took place in World War Two. So we have one for Germany, which starts in 1940 and ends with the capture of Paris. The second campaign is about the invasion of Sicily and the capture of Rome, so the Allies land in Sicily and the campaign ends in 1943 with the fall of Rome. The final campaign is set in 1945, and the Soviet army has to capture Berlin.
Strategy Informer: You describe the multiplayer as 'asynchronous'. How exactly does it work?
Sergey Orlovskiy: If I explain a little bit; you have your own base where you build up your units and plan your attacks, and from this you go and attack an opponent. They have actually built up their defences on their own base, so you sort of have two forces – your units and your defences. You build up buildings which allow you to upgrade and build units, and you surround yourself with military defence systems and your units as well. So you plan and build your defence, and once an enemy player attacks you the defence will work for you, controlled by AI. If you attack someone else his defences will be controlled by AI, but your units will be controlled by you in a big RTS battle. So that's the idea, you play other players but you play asynchronously. You don't need them to be online with you, so you can play with your friends and against your friends whenever you want. It's very unique and unusual, and this is a completely new approach that we think will revive the genre.
Strategy Informer: So can you play traditional player-versus-player battles as well if you prefer?
Sergey Orlovskiy: We're not planning traditional synchronous battles at launch. But we are considering these options for the future.
Strategy Informer: The multiplayer sits separately from the single-player campaigns. Why did you decide to make multiplayer free-to-play?
Sergey Orlovskiy: It's not exactly free-to-play, it's kind of free with a premium account. You can play for free or you can buy a subscription, to play it with additional rates and to progress better. This is the model, because we want the game to be accessible to the wider audience without compromising core gameplay. This is the best combination. So we will be selling single-player campaigns as the regular game, and we will be allowing them to play multiplayer for free. If they want to speed up their progress they can pay for a subscription and be more efficient in multiplayer.
Strategy Informer: Although you've got single-player elements, there's clearly a focus on multiplayer here. Is that what you see as the future of the RTS genre?
Sergey Orlovskiy: I think multiplayer is very popular, especially for the young audience, and we need to make it free to get the widest audience possible. That's the reason.
Strategy Informer: Will you be adding micro-transactions for customisation options; decal, cosmetic items and so on?
Sergey Orlovskiy: We will have it, but we will have it so that decal packs and so on will be purchasable via in-game currency. We won't have additional real money micro-transactions. It's not regular free-to-play so we won't have those. The only thing we'll offer is a subscription, if you want.
Strategy Informer: When can we get our hands on Blitzkrieg 3? Will there be an open Beta at some point?
Sergey Orlovskiy: We don't have exact dates right now, but we think we will be able to start giving hands-on demonstrations around January or February next year. We're planning for full release in the first half of next year.
Many thanks to Sergey for speaking to me. As the man himself said, expect more information on Blitzkrieg 3 to start popping up early next year, and the game itself to appear in the first half of 2015.