Jutland: Hell Or High Water?

Few nations have produced as many great naval tacticians as the British. Drake, Nelson, that bloke out of Master & Commander, Captain Pugwash… our history is awash with them. No surprise then that the few that do under-perform are quickly forgotten. Show me a UK resident who knows who John Jellicoe was, and I’ll show you a bearded man in his fifties or sixties who spends far too much time sat at the back of the library reading Jane’s Fighting Ships. I’ll also show you a potential buyer of Storm Eagle Studios’ latest real-time wargame.

My landlubberly impressions of the Jutland demo after the cut.

 

If you played SES’s last dreadnought-em-up, Jutland’s peculiar UI won’t come as too rude a shock. Minimal screen furniture, an obtuse camera and unconventional order system mean only Indefatigable newcomers are likely to stick around long enough to discover how tense and interesting the game can be.

The demo includes all of the scenarios from the full game, but with scraps ending at the ten or twenty minute mark, a fair few are frustrating affairs. I recommend starting with ‘The Duel’, (BB Emperor of India vs. BB Konig Albert) then moving onto ‘Red Sky At Morning’ (an eight vessel skirmish) before climaxing with the full ‘Jutland at 15.48’ clash-o-thon. Larger engagements are impossible to marshal without regular use of the pause button and group orders (click a ship once to select it, twice to select its entire division/line, or three times to select the whole task force).

Tactically, the secret of success is ‘Crossing the T’ – manouevring your lines of heavy hitters across the paths of enemy lines of heavy hitters. The more guns you can bring to bear on an approaching target the better. As Nelson famously put it ‘Broadsides are better than narrowsides’. Smaller torpedo-spewing destroyers can be used to sow confusion and break up large formations.

Realising that the sort of gamers who like to play slow, complicated historical simulations, are also the sort of gamers that like to thieve and freeload, SES have sensibly welded a seriously heavy-duty DRM mechanism to Jutland. The full version of the game refuses to function if kept away from the Internet for longer than a week. Even the demo requires an emailed password. Naturally, the game’s target audience are totally happy with this.

24 Comments

  1. drewski says:

    Apparently even grizzled wargaming vets can transform into frothing at the mouth Angry Internet Men.

    DRM – bringing together the generations through apoplectic rage since 2004.

  2. Therlun says:

    Stone Paper Shotgun!
    Just kick out those 4 other guys.

  3. teo says:

    If you don’t like it, don’t buy it

    They can put whatever DRM they want on their software

  4. Heliocentric says:

    Really? I’m just seeing Boats, Space, Shotgun

  5. Pags says:

    Well naturally there’s DRM. Piracy’s a major issue on the high seas.

    Ho ho ho.

  6. Cigol says:

    Is this DRM some sort of attention seeking ploy? I’d be half inclined to wait until it were cracked before considering a purchase but by then I might be more inclined to well… you know… not buy it. That the demo is full of DRM goodness is a rather large barrier to entry as well.

    I’ve always been under the impression niche, or hardcore titles like this are well supported by their audience. Why would they have to worry about piracy if that’s the case?

  7. Rob Zacny says:

    Tim, are you by chance someone I already know via the Wargamer? Your posts seem eerily related to discussions (flame wars) we’re having over there.

    Anyway, has the interface been smoothed out at all since Distant Guns? I tried to hard to like that game, but I found the campaign interface cumbersome and obnoxious (it forced me to choose between tedium and reckless time compression) and the tactical interface was positively spirit-shattering if you were dealing with large numbers of ships.

    I appreciate a complicated game, but I don’t wish to be tortured by it. I simply do not understand how a man could make The Operational Art of War, which was a model of simplicity backed by depth, and then make Distant Guns, which seemed to say, “Ha, just try and play me you bastard.”

  8. Rogue says:

    This article needs more Jackie Fisher IMO.

  9. Ed says:

    Since Meat Circus has yet to comment, I can only assume that s/he is dead.

  10. The_B says:

    Since Meat Circus has yet to comment, I can only assume that s/he is dead.

    Or in jail.

    Y’know, for being anti DRM and therefore a pirate and stuff. Probably.

  11. caesarbear says:

    I’m still waiting for that honest purchaser to be forever denied because a DRM server goes out of business. Any bets on when it will happen? I’ll lay down on never.

  12. pepper says:

    Sounds interesting, im one of those gamers that can spend a whole day in a sub hunting a single ship, but this whole DRM thing sounds tremendously overdone… A shame because the game could be good..

  13. Daz says:

    caesarbear, try anyone who bought mp3’s from walmart’s service.

    Also I can’t believe the developer is being this stupid. They are in an ideal situation to follow the Stardock model: A niche game with dedicated followers, and reward the people who paid for it with DLC.

  14. Erlam says:

    Yeah, the DRM thing is… odd. What if you go on vacation? A week isn’t that long – I’ve easily gone 4-5 days without my computer hooked up (and I’m considered a ‘hardcore’ gamer) when I moved during crunch time at my work.

    When the game doesn’t sell, it will, of course, be blamed on piracy. If people actually bother.

  15. Erlam says:

    Intentional ‘we need an edit function’ here, heh, but I actually knew who Jellicoe was, which is odd, because I’ve never really follwed navy history. Other than the Hood/Bismarck dealy and Das Boot, which are awesome.

  16. Alex says:

    I know who John Jellicoe was. I have no idea why, and that particular bit of information is no doubt pushing something else useful out of my brain…

  17. Kong says:

    @Erlam
    Cheers. When Das Boot tries to pass the narrow of Gibraltar is one of the greatest moments of war movies.

    Sounds like I could love Jutland, but I never know when I will be cut off from any internet access at home again. DRM does not excite me -it just prevents me from buying certain titles is all.
    I got a HL2 license with my graphic card some years back. I did not have internet at home and could not play HL2 for 3 years -what turned out to be no loss after all. I will not carry my machine to the internet cafe, no sir.

  18. Colthor says:

    @caesarbear:
    Also Yahoo! Music’s and Sony’s Connect’s servers have, or are soon, going offline. MSN music has the axe over its head, too.

    Incidentally, Sony make SecuROM. Just saying.

  19. John says:

    I’m not going to pretend that I was all set to buy this game in five seconds and now I’m a lost sale, but after reading that Wargamer thread and seeing that even the fucking demo needs an activation key, I have written these guys off forever.

  20. Tim Stone says:

    @Rob
    I haven’t posted at wargamer for ages so, no, that wouldn’t be me.

    Not sure about improvements on DG. My memories of it are pretty sketchy (Like you I found the controls awkward and didn’t play for long).

    One thing certainly hasn’t changed – the engine still screams out for a bog-standard RTS interface. With a unit card, a command card, and a scrollable message log at the bottom of the screen, some genuinely informative ship icons, and an orthodox camera and clicking system, the game would be transformed.

  21. Richard Beer says:

    Why bother with DRM, honestly? Don’t they have those big sonic cannons on ships now?

  22. Tim C says:

    Ok bad points first…

    1. Very expensive for a niche game but you can understand why.

    2. Funny DRM system.

    3. Very steep learning curve and unsympathetic interface.

    However….now I have started to figure out the control system I am utterly addicted!

    So far restricitng myself to the battlecruiser clashes, am still a bit apprensive about trying to manage the full fleet battles especially as their are so many destroyer and cruiser flotillas to think about.

    The World War 1 naval arena is a great subject for wargaming especially for fans of big ships (before those nasty aircraft carriers came along and ruined everything) .There is something about watching the Grand Fleet swing into line of battle that is just awesome!

  23. Phil says:

    My Grandfather was in this battle. God rest his soul. Proud of you!