By Jim Rossignol on July 6th, 2012 at 6:00 pm.
In June I was pleased and surprised to see Nuclear Union, a post-apocalyptic RPG, announced by 1c. What was most intriguing about that announcement was that the team making it was most famous for its strategy titles, culminating in the Men Of War games. It’ll even be a new version of the same engine which powers this new game. Therefore I just had to talk to director of game design Julia Romanova, and ask her a few questions about what her team is up to. You can find the answers below.
RPS: Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to make Nuclear Union? What decisions led to it? Why make an RPG instead of an RTS?
Romanova: Having released Men of War and getting to know that 1C was going to release several add-ons developed by their internal studios, we decided to take a break from the WWII topic. At first we were inclined to go back the Soldiers: Heroes WWII style – a small group, sabotage operations, but with more attention to the tactics. Hence we got a tactical simulation of a group, that we created using Gem2. The engine kept on evolving, we got new perspectives and possibilities, and we started thinking of introducing RPG elements into the game. Later on our programmers considerably increased the graphics level, and we became all hyped to make a shooter (latest Call of Duty was just released around that time, and the majority of our team were playing this one a lot). But the will to make a tactical RPG overcame. And when 1C suggested a plot and setting, we simply could not reject such a tempting offer to make what we can call a reconstruction of possible future of our country and make it possible to explore a whole new and highly interesting world.
RPS: You are using the GEM engine from Men of War, but how has that been changed to create an RPG?
Romanova: The engine underwent global remake. It all started with split into functional modules, which could be easily disabled, new ones could be added without affecting the overall system performance. The first iteration of these changes affected the engine that was used to create Majesty 2. Then we were constantly redoing Gem for the requirements of the game. That’s how we reached the state were we have complete 3D environment, new rendering features, multicore CPU support for all these new features to run smoothly. All editors have been redone. Complete 3D environment means we had to redo pathfinding, sensors, AI and other systems. Overall, Gem3 is not an enhanced Gem2. It’s a completely new game engine suited for different tasks, for games that fundamentally differ from Men of War series.
RPS: GEM supported a great mapping utility for Men of War; do you have any similar plans for this game?
Romanova: Considering the previous experience with modders, it would be feasible to release SDK, since it makes the life cycle of the game considerably longer. Moreover our editor is advantageous over the others – низкий порог вхождения [“low barrier to entry” – Translation Ed] and easiness of resource modding. Gem3 is even better: the editor became more user-friendly, more flexible, with lots of new abilities that makes the map/mission creation even easier, as well as the tuning and creation of new materials for the models. We’ll give this a better thought after the game release.
RPS: I understand that the game is third-person and party-based. Does that mean you can pause the action and move between characters?
Romanova: The game features active pause allowing the player to think thoroughly and realize the tactics for enemy interaction, as well as assign orders to the party members. We are still thinking about giving the player a possibility to control the party members and it looks like we will only allow indirect control.
RPS: How are the three characters controlled? Is it something like Mass Effect 3, or is it more direct? Can you manipulate individual inventories and so on?
Romanova: The player will control the party members by assigning orders. It is possible that we will add some combat tactics commands to the HUD. But these are just plans. The group will be using one inventory. And the player will be taking care of it.
RPS: Can you tell us anything about the combat system? What is it comparable to?
Romanova: It’s too early to talk about the combat system and this would be a good topic for one of the developer diaries. But we can tell you that we intend to concentrate on tactics and hope to amaze players by diverse enemy behavior. A special AI behavior programming tool has been created just for this. Time will tell if we succeed.
RPS: Can you tell us a bit about the story behind the game’s post-apocalyptic setting? And what is the player’s own mission?
Romanova: The game will feature a full reconstruction of the events that preceded the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis. According to our script writer, on October 28, 1962, Nikita Khrushchev declines the American conditions to resolve crisis and calls for total mobilization, alongside with partial evacuation of large cities and industrial decentralization. The best air defense system, the so-called AA Missile System S-25 was placed on alert. At daybreak of October 29, 1962, following J.F.K’s ultimatum, the US Army starts full-scale bombardment of the Soviet missile positions on Cuba. Starting at 10:30 Soviet missile forces return 3 nuclear strikes from Cuba at the American military bases near New Orleans, Miami and Key West. Several naval battles between Soviet and American ships take place around the same time in the Caribbean. USA and USSR are in full-fledged nuclear war. European countries cannot stand aside and attack the advancing Soviet armor troops. USSR retaliate using nuclear weapons and bombard France and UK which in turn attack Poland and USSR-adjacent territories.
The global nuclear war leads to complete devastation of the Western Europe, due to bombardment from the both sides of the conflict. China, Japan and the entire Far East becomes flooded due to the massive strike-slip movement of Tan-Lu fault. The southern counties sustain less damage. According to the Soviet Propaganda USSR has won the war. But no one can be sure. During the first post-war years people leave in underground bunkers. New industry and completely new type of household start to grow. Most of the lands above the ground become unfit for living due to heavy radiation and anomaly fields. People and animals, which remained stayed above the ground gradually mutated and found their own spot in the food chains.
RPS: How linear is the story?
Romanova: The story is linear as much as the global task of our hero demands it. Player has a freedom of choice otherwise.
RPS: How open is that world? Can the player explore anywhere as in, say, Fallout 3?
Romanova: We plan to create a considerably vast world. Sometimes it scares us when we realize how much work we still need to do. There will be story missions with interactive scripted scenes. However after the completion of such a mission, the player will be able to freely roam the game world, take part in various events, complete additional quests and uncover secrets of the new world.
RPS: Will the scenery all be destructible as in Men of War?
Romanova: Full destructibility and interactivity of the game world was the main feature of the Men of War series. Nuclear Union, on the other hand, is the different game with different feature set akin to role-playing games, that’s why we feel that full destructibility is not needed.
RPS:: We understand that there will be “mutants” in the game world – what sort of enemies are we actually going to face?
Romanova: You’ll face humanoids and mutated animals. Engagements will be tough, diverse and will require preparation. At the beginning of the game you’ll encounter mostly human enemies, but later on you’ll encounter more and more mutants.
RPS: Will there also be environmental dangers?
Romanova: The biggest danger of the game world comes from its mutated inhabitants and anomalous zones that are consequences of the post-nuclear evolvement of nature. But we see our task not in scaring our players, but to absorb them in exploration of this dangerous and mysterious world of Nuclear Union.
RPS: Thanks for your time.