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Take Command: 2nd Manassas Interview with TCancer

Take Command: 2nd Manassas Interview with TCancer

Interview - posted by Jason on Fri 21 April 2006, 00:51:17

What are the improvements of Take Command: 2nd Manassas over Civil War: Bull Run?

Jeez…everywhere under the hood! But most obvious is visually, with the addition of our new Hi-Res soldiers and new crop fields for the maps. The Hi-Res units are astounding for being sprites! We have added tons of new customizable options for Open Play so players can play the way they like. Also, loads of new video options so players with older computers can still play with many of the extras turned off. Cavalry has 4 new commands that can now Scout, Screen, Raid, and Guard! Very cool stuff!

How will morale and fatigue affect the battles?

The morale of a player’s troops are the number one factor, even more than fatigue, that affect a forces ability to fight. We constantly refine and tweak our formulas to get the units to act appropriately to the combat situation.

In what ways will the player notice the improved A.I.?

Battles have a better flow to them… a more natural feel. Units will do much more retreating, reforming and counterattacking now than in CWBR.

Has there been any trouble keeping the more realistic A.I. from acting a little too human-like and breaking the game?

“No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy”.

— Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke

Anyone who studies history discovers countless examples of this concept and understands this truth. The reason is because armies are made up of people and not game pieces on a board. Even perfect plans can be undermined by the personalities of subordinate commanders who interpret an order based on how they see what’s happening around them. Our games models that aspect superbly... sometimes to frustrating ends for the player. But, in TC2M it goes both ways. Sometimes, an AI controlled brigade will come from nowhere up on a player’s flank at the perfect time to save the day. Some people like to play with this “human” aspect and some people don’t…they prefer to play with game pieces that always do what they’re told.

You've said that TC2M is in the style of an RTS, but doesn't play like one. Why didn't you make it a more traditional turn-based wargame or go the other way and make an action-oriented RTS like Age of Empires/Rise of Nations/etc?

Turn-based games are great for certain aspects of warfare (strategic and operational planning etc) but it don’t translate well when depicting tactical combat. Real-Time is the best for method for capturing the drama of combat but a player can miss out on some of the more cerebral aspects of planning. The Take Command Series is actually a hybrid of the two styles. It’s all in Real-Time but due to the map size there can be moments when a player can appreciate the big picture while his troops march into position.

There are moments of waiting, watching, and planning (turn-based) ...and there are moments where the game is a blur of action (RTS). Our gaming system was designed to encompass both styles so the player can have a complete experience and find their own way to play our game.

Was there any concern that regular RTS fans would pick up the game and be disappointed or confused?

Sure, that happens all the time. RTS has become a catch-all phrase that really doesn’t describe the way TC2M flows. RTS games often are click-fests that test a player’s reflexes and puzzle/memory skills. TC2M is like chess…more deliberate and mindful and less like checkers. As developers, we have to be true to the spirit that started MadMinute Games. We develop games that we would want to play and let the public choose for themselves if it’s worthy. Our biggest hurdle is exposure and publicity.

What do you think are the most important facets of your games? What feature(s) do you think really makes your games what they are?

I love to model things…to somehow capture the look and feel of something. To me, that’s the hardest thing to recreate because the feel is the sum of all the parts working together and making art. You can’t write feel in a design document…it’s something that you hope comes out of modeling the parts right. Norb and I worked very closely together for years now trying to get the feel of what it may have been like to lead troops and the decisions the generals had to make. There are always things that need to be tweaked and fixed but we believe our engine is second to none for this type of tactical combat.

What did you do to ensure historical accuracy? Did you or Norb spend any time visiting or taking part in Civil War reenactments?

I am an ACW freak! I have spent months researching/making just flags for this game! The maps are getting better and more accurate with every new product. History is like a religion for me. My idea of going to church is walking a battlefield (Antietam or Gettysburg). It is hallowed ground.

Norb is new to the genre and appreciates learning about the history. He and I have walked Gettysburg and even marched alongside a re-enactment of the 1st Minnesota charge to get some SFX for the game. Some of the marching sounds are actually recorded by re-enactors at Gettysburg along with many of the ambient terrain noises (ie cicadas, wind, trees, bugs, etc). The fact that some of the sounds you hear are from an actual place of battle is haunting to me…also, kinda spooky when you’re playing the game!

Have you considered using the TC2M engine to create a game not based on the Civil War? How about the Napoleonic Wars or the US-Mexican War?

This engine was made to model 19th and 18th century tactical combat. We want to cover everything we can from the Revolutionary War / Napoleonics / etc. I’ts just all about the time we have to do this. So far, this hasn’t made us enough money to quit our day jobs and do it full-time. Our dream is to first be able to dedicate all our efforts to the Take Command and do it for a living. Then, everything else will fall into place.

What would you do differently if MadMinute had the budget of Firaxis or Creative Assembly?

My goodness! How about Multi-player and Campaign system!!! We’ve made this game engine with no funding whatsoever it’s all been on our own time. We’re just 2 guys (Norb and Adam) who do this on the side along with a handful of volunteers. I can’t even think of what it’d be like to work on the Take Command engine during the light of day! Norb is a prolific coder and given the time, MadMinute Games could do wonders!

How well did CWBR do in terms of sales and feedback? What is Paradox adding in this department for TC2M that MadMinute couldn’t do itself?

CWBR received zero publicity from ActivisionValue other than word of mouth. Paradox has invested a good chunk of their efforts towards marketing TC2M and getting the word out to more of the mainstream players. MMG can only do so much because development takes sooo much time and energy that we’re too exhausted to market the game the way it should be.

There was once some talk about rewriting Civil War: Bull Run after the release of TC2M, maybe as an expansion. Is that still a possibility?

There is a definite possibility for that to happen and will most likely end up being an added bonus to one of our future products. We’ll see how TC2M does and go from there.

Tacticular Cancer would like to thank Adam Bryant for the interview. You can find out more about Take Command: 2nd Manassas at the MadMinute Games site.

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