Apeiron on 7.62 & Brigade E5
Interview - posted by Jason on Fri 16 February 2007, 05:07:36
Apeiron is still a new name among North American gamers. How did the team come about?
It has all begun in 1999 when a small game developer company “SoftWarWare” released a global space strategy game called “Remember Tomorrow”. Then due to financial matters the company ceased to exist, but its leader, Vladimir “Vi” Ufnarovsky started a new project, tactical game called “E5”. For the first year of development he was doing all the job alone, but then two more programmers joined him and thus formed a core of future “Apeiron”. It was in 2002 when we released our first public non-commercial demo of “E5 Project” and shortly after this we signed a contract with the leading Russian publisher “1C”.
Brigade E5 was released in Russia in summer 2005, but even before this we started working on its sequel, “7.62”.
Does Apeiron intend to specialize in tactical games or do you ever plan to branch out into other genres?
Currently we have 5-years experience in making tactical games, and still we have many ideas of how to improve and innovate the gameplay, mechanics, physics and other aspects. On the other hand, the AGE (Apeiron Graphics Engine) we’re using in 7.62, is universal and powerful enough to be used in other genres, such as RTS, RPG or FPS. But we have very solid community in Russia, Germany and other countries that definitely wants us to continue in squad-based tactics. So, we are probably going to branch our efforts somehow.
At first Brigade E5 was going to be more similar to UFO or X-COM rather than to Jagged Alliance, but then we changed the plot and E5 started looking very JA-like (especially after Shaun Lyng joined the team). Still our main intentions remained the same – we wanted realistic simulation of small tactical groups combat. That is why we paid great attention to the game mechanics (SPM, advanced movement options, etc.), weapon system (damaging model, addons and plugs, etc.) and the Artificial Intelligence. It concerns both Brigade E5 and 7.62, but in the latest we realized importance of other aspects, such as graphics, physics, user-friendly interface and storyline. We’re trying to make these things in 7.62 look as good as they should be.
Will Apeiron ever develop a game based on real world conflicts (Chechnya, Afghanistan, etc)?
Though realism is one of our main advantages in the genre, we’re trying to stay out of politics and aren’t going to devote our games to any present-time conflict.
Why embrace real-time with pause when most fans of squad-level tactical games prefer turn-based combat? What can you do with Smart Pause Mode that you can't do with turn-based?
You know, SPM feels very much like turn-based when playing it. And still it has significant differences. First of all, SPM has no “Action Points”. Each command performed by your soldier takes some time, real time. This time depends on soldier skills, his condition, and so on. All your soldiers perform their actions simultaneously with each other and enemy soldiers. This brings realism in the combat. Interruptions in turn-based system are but an attempt to simulate this. Unsuccessful attempt, I should say. Suppose my soldier suddenly sees an enemy close to him, and the enemy sees him too. Suppose both have pistols in their hands and both get shocked (the shock time depends on their skills). Then both soldiers try to hit each other with the shot “from the hip”. The one firing first wins in turn-based, but in the SPM it can happen that they fire almost at the same time and kill each other! Or you can be killed by the thrown knife, while the thrower gets killed in explosion of your grenade. Such events happen in real life, and in the SPM, but never in turn-based.
The use of optical sights appears to be different in 7.62 (based on some screenshots). How will this work and are there any other changes to Smart Pause Mode? Will we still be able to see hit probabilities when aiming?
In 7.62 we introduced a new interface solution – aiming window. You can see in it what exactly does your soldier see in his optical sight. This also can be used instead of zooming camera to your enemies – just open aim window, point to your enemy and choose where to shoot. And, of course, you’ll be able to see hit probabilities when corresponding option is enabled.
Is there any possibility of leaning to fire from behind cover?
We’re not planning any special animations for firing out of a corner, for example, but you’ll be able to take cover behind trees, rocks, and other objects.
What new weapons can we expect to see? What about new attachments/modifications?
Dozens of new weapons and attachments are coming. Also we introduced new types of ammunition, head and body armors, new calibers and many other surprises for our gamers.
Will character creation in 7.62 remain the same as Brigade E5 (choosing a specialty or answering questions) or will we be able to manually edit attributes and skills?
Character creation process is made more transparent to the player, i.e. you’ll be able to distribute some skill points.
How have the RPG elements been improved?
We kept basic skills and parameters from Brigade E5, though they were slightly re-balanced. But 7.62 in fact seems much more RPG than E5 due to “bolder” NPCs, much more variety in dialogs, quests and missions. There are also new special RPG features. For example, the player will be able to wear uniforms taken from the destroyed enemy or there will be an opportunity to train “militia” in friendly sectors.
A basecamp has been mentioned for the player in 7.62. How will the player get this and what will its role be? Will we need to worry about it being attacked? Can it be upgraded?
Yes, a basecamp is another new RPG element. The player will get it with one of the quests and then he’ll be able to leave there his mercenaries, his car and even talk some NPCs into living there, I mean, a doctor and a trader.
Will there be fewer package delivery missions and more mission variety in general?
Almost each mission in 7.62 is supposed to have several ways to complete it. Besides storyline quests, there will be randomly generated and special side missions. The latest are especially branched and non-trivial.
The mini-map should be a welcome addition. Can we use it to control movement (i.e. clicking on a point in the mini-map to have the character move there)? Will it display enemies and NPCs?
Mini-map shows visible enemies and important NPCs. Clicking on a mini-map will make the camera show the corresponding place or character. Also there are popup hints for the most important buildings and places in the sector.
Are there any changes to the camera system, such as a follow cam?
No follow mode, but there will be a first-person view where you can see exactly what your character sees. Also, we introduced options to configure camera reaction speed and sensitivity.
What about physics and destructible environments?
We have implemented a new physical engine. It enabled us to introduce partially destructible environments, i.e. you can’t destroy a building, but cars, boxes, fences and other objects are destructible.
Has pathfinding been improved? Can characters now navigate around NPCs?
Well… it will be even worse. :) (Just a joke)
How long has 7.62 been in development? What's the expected release date?
It’s in development since 2005 and is scheduled to be released this year, 2007.
Are there any publishers lined up yet?
1C Сompany will publish the game in Russia, CIS countries, Baltic states and in some Eastern and Central European countries. The Western publisher isn’t named yet, though negotiations are being held.
Is there a substantial difference between the sales of Brigade E5 in Russia and North America?
Sales in Russia are higher, but a North American copy costs more.
Why weren't female soldiers able to wear helmets in Brigade E5? Has that changed for 7.62?
Females didn’t want to spoil their haircuts, really. Usually female soldiers are smaller and have better skills. It should balance matters. In 7.62 all females are capable of wearing helmets (all kinds of helmets, not only M1000).
Are there any patches planned for the North American version of Brigade E5? If so, what are some of the possible changes?
One of the possible changes is female mercs wearing helmets. :) Seriously, as for the patch plans, it’s up to our North American publishing partner, Strategy First, to decide whether the patch is worth making. I mean it requires resources, time, money and people. It’s not that easy to allocate.
Is 7.62 using a new engine or a revised version of the Brigade E5 engine?
7.62 is using a completely new graphical engine with full support of DirectX9 and most of the modern features, like dynamic lights, shadows, shader water surfaces, various post-effects, etc.
Any idea of system requirements at this point?
Currently we are aimed at 2.0 pixel shader videocards (GeForce 5200 or higher), 1Gb RAM and 2.4 GHz processor. It’s not written at stone at the moment, though.
Thank you very much for the questions and your interest!
TCancer would like to thank Dmitry Ivashkin of Apeiron for the interview and Balor for his help in matters of national security.