Massive On Soviet Assault As “The Director’s Cut”

In this interview World In Conflict lead Magnus Jansen talked to us about how Soviet Assault is more like a relaunch or “director’s cut” of the original game than a traditional expansion. He discusses how online RTS games need “silent communication” and announces that all WiC players will receive an big content update to bring everyone in line with the new materials from Soviet Assault. Read on for a tip of the hat to Ground Control, and the inside perspective on Soviet Assault.

RPS: Hi Magnus, thanks for speaking to us. Can you tell the readers a bit about yourself?

Jansen: Yes, I’m Magnus Jansen of Massive Entertainment. I have this nickname which is “soundboy” as I used to be a sound designer back before this. It’s a bit nineties, but whatever. Now I am lead designer on Soviet Assault and on World on Conflict before that.

RPS: And did you work on Ground Control before that?

Jansen: No, the lead on the Ground Control games was the esteemed Henrik Sebring, who is now a project manager here on another team. But World In Conflict is very much standing on the shoulders of the giant that was Ground Control, there’s a clear heritage there, and a clear pedigree. It’s the third part in the series in many ways.

RPS: Ground Control did seem ahead of its time with the lack of base-building and the free camera. Do you think it influenced the future direction of RTS games?

Jansen: It made a big impact, for sure. It was one of the first games to go in that sort of direction. I don’t know how much it inspired, however, most of the big series are still soldiering on in the way they had done since the Nineties. Other series though are moving away from base-building, so maybe. In terms of awareness at least, if I speak to a developer at a conference or whatever, they really remember Ground Control. It made a big splash, and it arrived in an era where PC games were at the height – the end of the glorious Nineties.

RPS: So let’s move on to World In Conflict and then Soviet Assault – can you explain your ongoing approach with that?

Jansen: It follows on from Ground Control – it’s 3D, and there’s no base building. Around Ground Control 2, the inevitable sequel, there was some turbulence. There was the dotcom crash, and Massive was bought by Vivendi/Sierra, and survived thanks to that. Ground Control 2 followed the original direction, with an even greater emphasis on story, and character in single player. After the release of this, however, the team was quite keen on doing something other than sci-fi. A couple of strong personalities within the core team really wanted to modern military – hardware buffs, strategy fans. There was a clear direction to push for. But there was also the feeling that “by God we can’t have another shoot-the-muslims-in-the-desert game”, it just wasn’t right. We wanted it to be more magical. We wanted the RTS to be about big battles, with two “equal” factions. That led us back to the 1980s and the Cold War. So in some ways we stuck our heads in the sand and looked to fantasy, but that’s what we wanted from the game. That led us to the contra-factual game world of World In Conflict.

As for the core gameplay, Ground Control 2 had a number of different types of armour, and a number of different kinds of damage, which is an RTS game standard. In World In Conflict there was a clear movement in lots of areas to trim away that complexity and focus on just damage, armour, your credits to buy units, and the time penalty until you get the resources back. That’s it for managing your resources. The rock, paper, scissors thing is the management of different people: team play. That’s where we put the complexity, in co-ordinating the team. The complexity is in working with a number of people, or learning the tactics. Not in micromanagement. This can be a problem when you are online and you don’t find a good team – so we focus a lot on communication, and what we call “silent communication”. We want players to know what the other team members are doing just by looking. So you can click on the map and see movement lines, immediately you can see where your team is going, without speaking. You can co-ordinate silently. We put a lot of these kinds of information in the game. Even though we have a cool VOIP technology, not everyone wants to use that with people who are not their friends. Even typing is “reaching out” and can be too slow. So: silent communication.

RPS: How has Soviet Assault built on World On Conflict?

Jansen: It has a very peculiar history. After we released World In Conflict work began on the console versions, we thought that we should put some extra content in there. Microsoft and Sony wanted more, so we needed something extra. At the same time there was this big push from our fans, and from critics online, saying that it sucked that we didn’t have a Soviet point of view. The fact that they were a kind of faceless enemy was not good. We got a substantial amount of flak for having just one US. I think it’s unfair to say that the campaign was too flag waving and so on for the US, because there were a lot of bastards and failures on their side, but anyway – there really was a desire to show and have a Soviet perspective. So we began work on the extra missions and characters, to add a Soviet plot to it. We decided to not make it into a full separate campaign – it’s not enough for a classical add-on. There are some new missions from the Soviet perspective, but it is somewhere between downloadable content and a mini-expansion. Because of that the new missions are totally integrated into the original campaign. You go back and forth between perspectives on the campaign, like you do in Call of Duty 4. The new Soviet parts are woven into the US campaign.

Of course this means that the best thing we could do is have a Men In Black mind zapper, zap people who played the original game, and have them play this again. This game is the way that it was intended. It’s the deluxe director’s cut.

RPS: So this is the “enhanced edition” so to speak?

Jansen: Yes, it’s the /complete/ edition. It’s the old game plus the new stuff in one. It’s like a relaunch as the Ultimate Edition of World In Conflict. That’s really the big thing for me. You can purchase just the new single player stuff, and you can play that piecemeal, but you need to play it as part of the full campaign. Owners of the original game will be able to buy this online, and install it on top of their existing World In Conflict. Everything will upgrade – there’s even a new extra-hard difficulty mode. We’ve polished every original map, we did a full pass on everything from the original game.

RPS: How does this work for multiplayer?

Jansen: There’s not a lot of Soviet Assault specific changes to multiplayer, but one of the things I’ve fought for is that we will release a big update for existing owners to give them the new multiplayer maps and fixes, so that people who have the old game can play with the people who bought the new complete game. We are not going to divide the community. Owners of the original will get a hell of an update – new features, two new maps.

I just want to make a point about the scope of Soviet Assault – this is about relaunching the game under new owners, and providing an ultimate edition of the game. There have been some disappointed comments from people expecting a full scale expansion, but that was never the scope of what we were trying to do. I hope people realise that, because what we have done for this version of the game is awesome.

RPS: Thanks, Magnus.

Soviet Assault is out in Europe and the US later this week.


  1. Premium User Badge

    ChaosSmurf says:

    Interesting way of doing it – but couldn’t they have added an option to skip to the soviet missions for those who played it before?

    I never picked it up because the demo bored me, but I might give this a shot if it truly is a better version.

    In related news: Ground Control 3. Do it.

  2. Jim Rossignol says:

    Chaos: it’s possible that there is that option. See where he says “and you can play that piecemeal”. Not sure though, need to check actual code.

  3. Premium User Badge

    ChaosSmurf says:

    Oh. “but you need to play it as part of the full campaign” I thought that implied that … yeah, I’m not sure what I thought.

    Nevermind me then, well done to them. Now I’m interested in seeing it in action. Damn you Jim, I don’t have the money for this.

  4. Alec Meer says:

    I couldn’t find any option to skip the old missions in the WiC:SA code I’ve got, which was pretty infuriating. It’s possible I’d have been able to jump straight to the new stuff if I’d kept my original WiC savegames, but I dunno.

  5. Heliocentric says:

    How much? Important question.

  6. Morgawr says:

    Purely because World in Conflict had best explosions in any game ever, I will be getting this, despite the current RTS deluge.

  7. Feet says:

    I never bought it originally, so you just made a sale. :)

    It’s £15 on Play which is very reasonable.

  8. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, can you play any mission from the campaign in any order from the menu?

  9. Skurmedel says:

    I still think they should be saluted for not fucking everything up and forcing people to get the expansion. Like EA did with Battlefield 2 and their wank expansions.

  10. Heliocentric says:

    I never finished the full campaign, got stuck on a mission where you can only use helicopters and called in artillary against a time limit. To stop the statue of liberty getting blown up by friendly fire…. of all things.

    The multiplayer was too spastic for me, i set up tanks on a hill with a forward spotter sniper and an aa gun hidden behind trees, then any number of things could happen.

    :enemy tank rush overruns my position
    :artillary spam levels the whole area
    :enemy uses saved up nuke, make local area useless.
    :get hit by a massive rush of helicopters who target the AA gun and kill it before wiping out my deffenceles tanks.

    In general, the sniper survives nuke excepted. But spotting by himself he’s useless.

  11. Mike says:

    Never got on to well with World in Conflict so I’ll give it a miss – it was good though. (in other news Mr Rossignol was mentioned on BLDGBLOG!)

  12. Dolphan says:

    Helio – Oddly enough, in a game which I got stuck on about a million times, I found that mission easy. Copters rule.

    Not sure what your problem with the multiplayer is? The enemy has a lot of options that can kill you, yes. But there’s nothing ‘spastic’ about it. It’s not random.

  13. Rook says:

    I’m kinda getting used to having these extras for free. The Witcher, most Valve games, Unreal Tournament etc all rewarded people that showed faith from the beginning.

    Still, it’s a good game that’s definitely worth the money at the moment.

  14. Ofoug says:

    Hohum, this looks interesting. Kind of like the Enhanced Edition of the Witcher, or at least a somewhat similar business model for it. I never played World in Conflict but always meant to, someday, and this looks like a good reason to try it out.

    I wonder though, will it be cheaper to buy the whole new box or buy the old one and then the upgrade? =) With Witcher it was cheaper to buy old since the upgrade they did was free, and the only thing you missed then was a novel by the author that was in the box but couldn’t be published for free online. On the other hand, Witcher didn’t have much new content, mostly just polished versions of the original content, so it’s not that relevant to compare the two games directly.

    This marketing of polished, “Ultimate edition” versions of games rather than standalone expansions is an interesting business idea though, I wonder if it will catch on to a larger degree in the industry?

  15. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    I also missed WiC the first time round, so this will be a nice complete package.

    one of the things I’ve fought for is that we will release a big update for existing owners to give them the new multiplayer maps and fixes, so that people who have the old game can play with the people who bought the new complete game.

    +1 Dev points for being nice, in fact, how about having an official RPS Nice Dev Award 2009 for the developers who have been nicest to their fans over the year?
    Of course Valve get extra points every time they release a new TF2 update, but so do GSC for releasing that Stalker alpha, you get the idea, and it promotes game makers who are nice to their fans, which might provoke some of the rest…

  16. Rook says:

    GSC get lots of negative points for Clear Sky though, that was a real abomination.

  17. Heliocentric says:

    I was going for this definition of spastic i was going for fits better with spasmodic “taking place in sudden short spells”

    You have such a wide range of ways to attack and be attacked that your train of thought is punished if you cannot change it a dozen times a minute.

  18. sigma83 says:

    I personally like this style of RTS way more than the traditional base building model.

  19. kyrieee says:

    I tried the demo of WiC and I really didn’t like it
    The magic from GC was totally gone. GC was much more pure

  20. Heliocentric says:

    Sigma i like it too, its just too much speed with not enough of the chin rubbing strategy. The basic apc will pound for pound beat the basic tank if you micro manage the tow launching. Its cheaper, faster and handles heli and inf threats better. But it needs lots of micro.

    I’m just moaning, the players time is always a resource, i just bitch because planning in wic is such a small part of play when in gc both multi and single planning was so critical.

  21. Lonkero says:

    Sounds like I’ll have yet another purchase to make… I got the original WiC cheap(20€) some time after release and have never gotten better value for my money.
    I have to wonder though how one can say that the game isn’t about micromanagement… at least in multi-player games you have no chances unless you somehow manage to keep microing every unit you have (and preferably co-operate ass well). Also I have to second Heliocentric with the pace of the game, the players time is (often) the most important resource to manage. Also as a side note you should never keep your units still, they will get hit pretty quickly (12 seconds will do the job for any unit….) And light tanks beat APC’s, both have tows IRC.

  22. Hmm-hmm. says:

    RPS: How has Soviet Assault built on World On Conflict?

    Being a pedant here for a minute, I’m somewhat surprised this slipped past you all. ;)

    Also, World in COnflict: interesting game, but I don’t know if I’d ever buy it. Not sure why.