RPS Interview: Men of War

By Alec Meer on February 29th, 2008 at 4:11 pm.

Today is 1940s day on RPS

A couple of weeks ago, we posted about the announcement of Men of War, the second sequel to the lovely but little-known Soldiers: Heroes of World War II. Chris Kramer, MD of Digitalmindsoft, the co-developers (assisting Russian Ukrainian studio Best Way, the creators of Soldiers) and self-described ‘Western soul’ of the game, spotted my brief ruminations upon what the direction the series may be going in. So, he got in touch and suggested a quick interview. Below, you’ll find him chatting about the differences between Western and Russian development, the enduring appeal of World War II and the importance of co-op.

If you’ve played Soldiers before, you’ll understand exactly why I’m interested in Men of War – and if you haven’t, I advise trying out the Soldiers demo right now and exploring its still-fresh fusion cuisine of RTS, third-person action, roleplaying and ultra-destructibility.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun – What, exactly, is Digitalmindsoft’s involvement with Men of War?
Chris Kramer – Digitalmindsoft is co-developer of Men of War, this includes map and mission design, sound and music production, 3d models and graphics production and many more things. Actually we try to help our partner Best Way wherever we can, though engine programming is all up to them. We are not working like outsourcing companies do, who deliver the requested amount of work and that’s it, basically we do what we can do best and as much of it as possible. Most of our work is also up to ourselves as long as our both plans do not interfere, for example we wished to add Japan as a new nation.

The advantage of this sort of partnership is that both companies are interested in making a good game, not only in making their work good. Which sounds pretty much the same, but the difference is huge for the final product. So we exchange our opinions, try to solve problems together, discuss ideas and give suggestions to each other, we compensate our weaknesses and focus on our strengths and all this beyond the work which was agreed on. Not always easy, since it requires a very strong communication and a lot of compromises, but after over 2 years of cooperation I can say we found the right way heading for.

RPS – You’ve said you’re the “Western soul” of Men of War – why does the game need one? Just an issue of localisation, or do you feel there are more significant differences between Western and Russian games?
CK – This is indeed a good question. The eastern European countries were for a long time separated from what we call the West, and the culture is simply a bit different than ours – not worse or better, just different. So is their taste. While Russian studios primarily aim for new ideas and innovations, Western games companies are more like Hollywood movie studios, they put on big blockbusters which almost play like an interactive movie. So it’s a bit like asking someone from Europe how he would make a game for the Japanese market… It’s rather difficult.

DMS tries to fill the gap and take the best of all gaming cultures and combine the new ideas and innovations with great in-game atmosphere and smooth gameplay. That is, for example, a reason why the sounds were completely reworked. I read in your article about a hundred new sounds – well, actually there is a zero missing. The new sounds are so much better and they really made me a German Panther tank fanatic. I just love the sound so much that I’m forced to buy it in multiplayer all the time!
So when I’m speaking about how we are the “Western soul” of the game, I mean we bring in the good from the West, and combine it with the interesting ideas of Eastern Europe to come up with an unique and outstanding game.

RPS – To what extent is this considered a sequel to Soldiers and Faces of War? Would you rather it was thought of as entirely its own game?
CK – Men of War is a successor to Faces of War, a logical development for this series. We wanted to make a true inheritor of Soldiers’ traditions, and focus on quality and polishing features.
Faces of War is a good game with a lot of potential, but due to different circumstances we weren’t able to implement all the features we had in mind. Our aim was to polish Faces of War and add everything we wanted. Our test teams and public betas ensure a high level of quality, and also we allow our community to have influence on the game at a very early level of development. And yes, we are listening to the critics out there and are learning from them – the toughest criticism always came from ourselves.

RPS – What are the main ways in which it’s moved on from those games?
CK – Quality, on all levels, gameplay wise, graphics wise, technologically wise. It’s like the Porsche of the series…

RPS – The game seems to be being promoted somewhat on its historical and military accuracy. Is that really the focus of the game? Or are big explosions and fun for anyone a greater priority?
CK – No fun, no game. Fun is what we are primarily aiming for -if historical and military accuracy supports this, then it will be included. Logical steps toward realism is what supports imagination and your possibilities in-game. We are aiming for smart and mature players, who want to have a strategically and tactical challenge rather than shortcut hammering. The request within the community for more realism was high, and I think we found a good way gameplay-wise – at least that is what our public beta testers are saying. After all, the game is definitely the most realistic game out of the series, but it’s no military simulation. Those who want to get a taste of it will soon get a sneak preview in our second public beta test.

RPS – Whenever we post something about a World War II game, some of our readers moan that they think it’s an overused theme. Presuming you think otherwise, why do you think it’s still a fresh setting, one that’s still worth revisiting?

CK – I wouldn’t claim WW2 is a fresh and a new setting, but I wouldn’t do this with chess either, even though this game has been played for hundreds of years and still is bringing fun to people. There are three kinds of people out there – some who dislike chess, some who enjoy it once in a while, and others who never will get enough of it. It’s the same with WW2 games.

While we don’t want to pop out one sequel after another to just make big cash, we are dedicated to our games and community and we want to see them be happy with our products for the money they spent on them. And that is what we are working on, improving the existing content and adding new gameplay elements, which are not only new to WW2 settings, but new to the whole genre. WW2 offers so much more than the Invasion of Normandy – there are many untold stories, interesting ones, far away from the mainstream. That is what we are focusing on, and that is the reason why it’s still worth revisiting them.

And to be honest, what is a new and innovative setting worth, if the gameplay still sticks to the mainstream? We ourselves focus on the fun part of a game. Perfection is not reached if you can’t add more, it’s reached when you are not able to remove anything.

RPS – Was there temptation or pressure to make a more traditional real-time strategy game, instead of maintaining the Soldiers formula?
CK – Not from our publishers, but from our community. Of course our fans are especially interested in the Soldiers formula, but in basic things Soldiers and Faces of War were far away from traditional RTS games, such as controls. Some standards in the genre have their right to exist, because people don’t want to relearn every game they play. So we added more standards of the genre, as long as they were an addition to the idea behind Soldiers. But we continued to work on the charm the game has and to optimise its unique features.

RPS – What differences can we expect from the new Japanese playable nation?
CK – We didn’t want to wrap the Japanese around an existing nation and call them new. Our aim was to make them unique in ways they were actually unique over 60 years ago, such as their way of fighting. They are the weakest nation heavy tank-wise, but they have a lot of fast and agile vehicles which can be used perfectly for ambush situations. While in Europe big, heavy and slow tanks were common, the Japanese needed vehicles able to drive on bad infrastructure or even on none. Also the Japanese will have a focus on hiding tactics and infantry combat; their infantry will have some unique abilities which I want to keep secret for now. But I’m certain they are a great addition to the game, and another reason for revisiting the WW2 genre.

RPS – Will co-op play be returning? And do you consider it more or less important than competitive multiplayer?
CK – I’m holding my protective hand above this feature – Men of War will have a co-op game mode, and the most interesting one of the series for sure. Whether I consider it as more important than competitive multiplayer is really a hard question… I think both game modes are very unique in their nature, and it strongly depends on the player himself. In my personal opinion co-op is superior to any competitive multiplayer if you play together with a couple of friends, since weak and strong players can help out each other and it’s fun for both no matter how good you are. It’s simply playing together as a team, almost a social variant of multiplayer gaming, while competitive multiplayer is definitely more challenging if played via Internet with lots of different opponents.

RPS – What’s the single most exciting feature about Men of War for you?
CK – Direct Control, no doubt. The adrenaline boost of tank battles is unreached by any other game, it’s just too much fun to switch into the roles of your units and fight your opponent by yourself. Supporting this with all the other features such as the physics, destructible environment and AI behaviour it is what makes Men of War a unique and a great game experience.

Thanks very much to Chris for this interview, and for the new screenshots dotted throughout this post. Click on each for bigguns, in case you’d not spotted that already.

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33 Comments »

  1. Meat Circus says:

    “Men of War” is a cocking stupid name for a game.

    When I am SABDFL, the use of the word “war” in a game title will be punishable by being publicly debagged and radished until one is thoroughly sore.

  2. Jim Rossignol says:

    It’s an AWESOME name for a game.

  3. Meat Circus says:

    Well, it puts me in mind of faux jellyfish and gay porn. In that order.

    HTH.

  4. FringeRock says:

    Soldiers was more impossible than Commandos.

    I just can’t play those games :oS

  5. Steve says:

    Well I really hope they get the physics sorted out in this game. Faces of War slows even high end systems down to a crawl because of its insanely accurate physics.

  6. Wozza says:

    The first game in this series was a hidden gem and Codemaster’s didn’t push it enough, it didn’t help matters that we had to wait almost a full year until the multiplayer component arrived, but when it did Ohhboy! what a superb game to play online, laying mines, setting up ambushes, setting dudes alight, the one map where you had to stay alive aslong as possible, with wave after wave of Tiger’s coming at you, and all you had for weapons was those dropped by dead bodies, me and my m8 got ever so good at it and had like a 50 game winning streak, but we eventully got bored as no one was good enough.

    The sequel was more about bigger battles and lost alot of it’s charm, the multiplayer was also a miss mash of idea and was like Company Of Heroes done badly, I hope they make it like the first game, downloading demo now.

    Theres still a very active online community for these games.

  7. Mike says:

    Soldiers: heroes of WWII was an amazing game but I kinda fed up with world war games. Their shoud be a conspiracy theory that the world wars were only started to produce a franchise!?

  8. Mad Cat says:

    (CK)Instinct – “After all, the game is definitely the most realistic game out of the series, but it’s no military simulation. Those who want to get a taste of it will soon get a sneak preview in our second public beta test.”

    I love S-HoWWII so I can hardly wait to see Men of War :D

  9. Del Boy says:

    I’ve just downloaded and had a quick blast at the Soldiers demo.

    It *looks* and *feels* great I just can’t grasp what to do! It’s a bit overwhelming with individual control….

  10. Bayonet Recon says:

    Soldiers was an excellent game. Shame it didn’t get as much attention as it should. It was a difficult game to learn though so I don’t blame anyone for trying it out and giving up.

  11. Erib Otungceshfot says:

    The interface is awful.

  12. Optimaximal says:

    The interface wasn’t awful… It was just very eastern European :)

  13. unclebulgaria says:

    Another WWII game. Think I’ll pass this one up too.

  14. Stromko says:

    It had a really steep learning curve, so it’s key to go into it with an attitude where you can be utterly annihilated and still have fun. You do get better as you get used to the interface, such as the very critical time compression /dilation controls.

    In the heat of combat it’s very helpful to slow things down so you can take proper aim, which also helps you learn how the actual line of the shot tends to deviate from the aim marker.

    A lot of the missions are extremely tough, from what I recall the demo gives you a good taste of this, with a really brutal mission where all you get is an inferior tank, some soldiers, and an anti-tank gun and have to defend against a large force backed up with armor. Though I seem to recall you can scrounge up a bazooka and some heavy grenades, you don’t get a lot of time to set up before the enemy attacks. There’s also a few really nasty surprises that get thrown at you as the mission progresses.

    If you already have a Gametap account, you can also just download the entire Soldiers: Heroes of World War II game. I’m unable to confirm if the multiplayer works on that version since I haven’t tried playing it with anyone. Gametap is pretty sporadic about supporting multiplayer on their various titles.

  15. Robert says:

    Steve: Oh, you should try the latest patches then, it works like a charme then, even on older systems. The multiplayer beta of Men Of War has an even better performance, so I’m looking forward to the release with a heart full of joy.

  16. Andrew says:

    In the heat of combat it’s very helpful to slow things down so you can take proper aim, which also helps you learn how the actual line of the shot tends to deviate from the aim marker.

    … Soldiers had time dilation? Holy shit. I didn’t know that at all. And I admit to being sceptical.

    As for the interface, Soldiers’ interface was fine, mostly. Faces of War had a terrible one, though, and was one of several steps backwards for that game.

  17. James T says:

    That Soldiers demo was horrible! I suppose I’m just more of a ‘Commandos’ type. Still, it couldn’t have hurt to have a little more instruction than that half-arsed blink-and-you’ll-miss-it loading screen thing…

  18. Cigol says:

    The demo isn’t great, in fact I think it’s a bad demo if memory serves me right. The game is very much a commando’s type of game so you should give it a chance.

  19. TychoCelchuuu says:

    I remember playing the Soldiers demo many, many times. I loved that demo.

    I think I need to go out and buy the game now or something.

  20. Steve says:

    Oh, they sorted out the physics? That probably makes a huge difference, then. I remember playing the game on LAN with a friend after we tired of Soldiers, and we simply couldn’t keep going because a city battle was rendering hundreds of pieces of falling debris. How exactly have they sorted it out, Robert? Just general opimisation, or have they changed the way it handles physics altogether?

  21. No.Mam says:

    Soldiers: HOWWII was a great game,
    Faces of War was terrible,
    Outfront-A1 is great,
    Man of War (Outfront-A3) will be the best game ever.

    direct control is so coooool.

    (COH is the biggest shit ever played !!)

  22. Tor says:

    Looking Forward to Drive the Porche “cof” Men of war :)
    Best part of FOW was/is the moddability. The GEM (engine editor) included is a game in itself!

    Men of War seems to be on the right track, improving where Fow failed while keeping the goodies.

    ps: Just found out the Multiplayer Beta is coming soon, judging from the devs site forum!

  23. Mad Cat says:

    That’s right correct. Very soon now the Multiplayer beta testing will be underway. And you can find out more about the game and register to aquire a cd-key for the MP beta test on Digitalmindsoft’s Men of War forums…. http://digitalmindsoft.eu/forums/viewforum.php?f=5

    Hope to see you there, gamers ;)

  24. Desi says:

    Steve, physics and particle/debris rendering still look the same. They just optimised the code used so the machine didn’t crap itself every time something exploded.

    Also, if you look really closely you’d find that the game actually put itself into slow-motion intentionally when it thinks something cool is happening, like the first time you see a tank exploding, or in that Soviet mission where a bomber takes out an AA gun.

  25. Ka-Oz says:

    What is great and unique in Soldiers of WWII and FOW is the direct control of a unit (tank or infantry), you are actualy involved in the battle and not just the spectator of a stupid AI that cant go past a bridge if u move more than 10 units. the AI here is correct nothing expceptionnal but it does is job as it should be.

    i loved the way they handle projectiles and bullet penetration it look and feel so realistic, u cant play any other rts after that, they just look so poor… the sounds adds event more to the feeling of realism.

    the game is pretty modable and allow you to change almost everything to your taste, you just need to dig a bit, a map editor is avalaible, giving acces to all ingame resources to express yourself.

    as a side note the physics beeing slow was an issue introduced by ubisoft and the copyprotection and it got fixed in an early patch.

    the story line of men of war look interesting and as said by the dev it will explore some other facets of the wwII than the overused hollywood america won the war alone …

    i am realy looking forward to this sequels

  26. Gary Plotter says:

    Best Way isn`t russian studio! It`s from UKRAINE!

  27. Nater says:

    I am excited but at the same time worried. I really dug SHOWW2 when it worked (netcode, freezes, crashes). Then FOW came out with big promises, but it worked just a lil bit better (defo had better controls tho). I really hope the third time is the charm. I really do. In fact I feel like I deserve to be on the Beta for this.

  28. Richie says:

    Steve says:

    “Well I really hope they get the physics sorted out in this game. Faces of War slows even high end systems down to a crawl because of its insanely accurate physics.”

    Yes, I had the same problem, even when my resolution and video details where at low. I hope they improve that in Men Of War.

    In FoW you could inject morfine and plant a hedgehog, but I never understood when you could use this features. In the game you could find a crowbar and a axe, but I never understood where you could use this for.
    I hope in the new game everything is explained properly!

    Does anyone know when they release the game?Before or after the summer?

  29. Iorya Dragon says:

    These three games are not for general market, they created their own fanbase, from hardcore RTS fans, and other enthusiast, not like your regular company when it takes a genre, and fuks it up, just to have more sales, so props to them, and good articles as always RPS.

  30. blingbong says:

    soliders was a great game, i got involved in playing around with my own mod for a while, tho it wasn’t fantastic.

    recommended RTS game, esp now pc’s can handle that engine!

    i used to hack the camera angles to get proper ground level views.

    DEMO PLEASE!!!

  31. okee says:

    just reading the above posts, i found the same with “soldiers Heroes of World War 2″ i played a demo that came with a mag and just jumped straight in playing it without going through the tutorials and hated it, it was only a few years later that i bought the game on a whim and sat down and went through the tutorial levels and man it is now one of my favourite games it’s just so much fun and open and replayable. once you know how to control the men in direct mode it’s a great game.

  32. Jon says:

    DUDE Snakes on a Plane was a dumb name for a movie, but damn people still enjoyed it. Its to the point and tough!! Men of War, doesnt that just make your sit up a little straighter!!!!

  33. Rafael says:

    “Yeah. Armour like that will take us all the way to berlin”

    riiiight.