The Battlefront Team
* Dan Olding: is Battlefront’s chief graphics artist, having worked on both CM titles. Living "down under", he will no doubt be providing historical accuracy and research specifically for the New Zealand and Australian forces involved in the Med.
* Charles Moylan: is one of the two founders of Battlefront (Steve Grammont being the other), and the main programmer. Rumors have it that he’s just a bodyless brain floating in nutrient filled jar, and so far Battlefront has not demented these rumors.
* Martin Turewicz: joined Battlefront last year and is responsible for marketing and PR.
Gameplanet: One of the most talked about things about your company is it’s philosophy of shying away from the big publishing houses and forging your own path into online distribution of your games. Can you tell us why your team took this approach?
Dan Olding: Well, we wanted to break the mold and to free ourselves from the requirements put on developers when they sign deals with large publishers. By approaching the market from the direction we have, we are able to do what we really wanted to...make realistic and accurate wargames...without having to compromise our vision and games in the process. The large publishers are out there for one reason, to make dollars, and to do this they dont want to stay too far from the true and tried genres that they publish, and unfortunately war games dont really fit into that catagory. Thus, they often want developers to 'dumb down' wargames in an attempt to capture a wider audience. This isnt of interest to us though, as it strays from our origional goals and dreams.
Martin Turewicz: We are wargamers ourselves, and Steve and Charles, who founded Battlefront, realized at some point that pretty much the only way to get the game we wanted was to make it ourselves – and publish it ourselves, with as little outside interference as possible. Needless to say, the large CM fanbase seems to confirm that this was a wise move, and we won’t be changing the way we operate in any foreseeable future – despite the fact that we have now several deals with publishers/distributors in place to reach the retail market. But that happens on OUR terms, and after the game has been designed and published, meaning that we do not have to water down our concepts for a bigger mass appeal.
Gameplanet: The choice of the military campaigns in the Mediterranean Theatre of operations is one with a lot of historical interest for New Zealanders. Our readers will know that the New Zealand 2nd Division fought throughout this campaign so we were particularly pleased see in the proposed unit list the inclusion of New Zealand. Can you tell us whether there will be specific unit skins developed for the New Zealand units?
Dan: The New Zealanders and Aussies played an important role in the battles in North Africa and you will see them there in their own colours and uniforms (and with their own voices, too! :-)).
Charles Moylan: As for having their own vehicle "skins", it is possible but we haven't decided yet (in some part it depends on how much we can squeeze onto a CD-ROM).
Gameplanet: In your press release you announced the inclusion of multi-turreted tanks and this we would guess as being in line with Battlefront.com's policy of developing historically accurate games. It was not until the later stages of the desert campaign that the 2nd NZ Division had it’s own organic armour. Up until that time reliance was placed on its 2pdr Portee’s (AT guns mounted on the back of a truck). These acquitted themselves well in many a tank skirmish and we’d be interested to know if these are to be included in the game.
Dan: Yes, we do hope to include such vehicles. We have many many vehicles on our wish list for CMAK, but this is definately on the list.
Gameplanet: It may be early days in the development and as you have said the unit lists are still being considered, however can you tell us if we are going to see special units? Units such as the LRDG (Long Range Desert Group), the dust generating trucks of the Axis, and the boyes anti-tank rifle to name a few.
Charles: CM doesn't represent individual units as such (it's just not part of the game system) but all the "parts" will be there to construct battles involving the LRDG. And various types of anti-tank rifles will be in the game, too.
Gameplanet: The Mediterranean Theatre of operation is one with some incredible contrasts in terrain. You have the rock islands of Crete, the Deserts of North Africa and the impossible mountain ranges of Italy. This must present some interesting challenges for the development team. We see from the early screenshots that a special effort has been made to replicate the sand and dust of the desert. Also in the desert were the soft sand areas that booged vehicles down as well as rocky areas that resulted in constant tyre changes for wheeeled vehicles. Will these aspects be covered in the new terrain features? And what other surprises can you hint at in this area?
Martin: What we’re planning to do is to have two distinct terrain "sets", which will be used depending on the theater you decide to play in. In one set, you’ll get the Italian style terrain, in another you’ll get desert like features. And yes, soft sand desert, hard rocky desert, even brushy desert :-) all will be part of the terrains, at least that’s the plan. As for mountains, we’re not sure if we can increase the amount of height levels available within the current engine yet (currently, up to 100m height difference are possible on one map), but we’ll try!
Gameplanet: In the desert with little above ground cover there was a big reliance on bunkers and entrenchments. Where ground conditions made digging difficult soldiers used stones to create walled above ground fox holes. Will we see any changes to the fortifications and trench unit items in this release?
Dan: We are still considering what we need to add in this area, but yes we do hope to offer more in the way of defensive placements for troops. More on this down the track I’m sure!
Charles: Sand bags are a definite yes, we’ll include them as they were so widely used.
Gameplanet:The Mediterranean area has it’s own distinct architecture. Are we going to see any new buildings that will reflect this? Will we see a special Monastery type building for the Cassino battle as well?
Dan: We are limited to what we can do with buildings until we rewrite the Combat Mission engine, but yes, we are hoping to include two sets of buildings to represent the different architecture you may find in the region. Special buildings will probably have to wait until the rewrite unfortunately though.
Gameplanet: Your press release mentions that you intend to cover the battles in Crete, Italy and North Africa. Will we also see some of the areas of conflict in the region such as Greece and Libya?
Charles: Probably not Greece, but when we say "North Africa" that includes Libya. :-)
Martin: One thing that maybe needs clarification is that we will try to include as many participating nations for each theater as possible. But we cannot include all of them, as so many were involved to a smaller or bigger extent during the timeframe we’ll cover. And the scenarios we will include with the game (we’re planning on around 50) will cover the most important battles and campaigns, but again – not all of them. That’s what the full featured editor is for, to make additional battles and campaigns the player would like to see. With a little bit of imagination you should be able to even recreate France/West Front style engagements, for example.
Gameplanet: One question our Aussie neighbours will be dying to know an answer too is whether there will be a campaign based around the siege of Tobruk?
Dan: Althought we haven't yet worked out just what scenarios and operations will be included, I certainly would think that such a operation would be included. If not, it wouldnt take someone very long to make one!
Gameplanet: There are some significant beach landings in this theatre of operations (Sicily, Salerno, Anzio etc.). Are we going to see changes in the game engine that will allow players to re-fight these battles? In particular will we see the addition of beach obstacles and landing craft?
Dan: Unfortunately our engine cannot currently handle beach landings as such, but it would certainly be possible to simulate such a battle starting from when the troops were actually on the beach.
Gameplanet: The Italian campaign was punctuated by numerous river crossing. Often the Allies found themselves defending tenuous footholds while engineers struggled to get supporting armour across. With the Axis undertaking very thorough bridge demolitions will we see the addition of any bridge building units in the game?
Dan: Generally bridge building units were used outside of the scope that a CM battle or even operation would cover, so we wont be adding those unit types in CMAK as our time is better spent on other more important issues (such as those multiple turreted tanks! :-)).
Gameplanet: In your press release you have stated that the game will be based on the same game engine as Combat Mission: Barborossa to Berlin with some enhancements. Talk on the forums is that you are also looking to develop a completely new game engine sometime next year. Are there any details you want to let slip on this?
Dan: Well, we can’t say too much yet, except that we have huge plans in store for it! If your readers do a search on our forums they should find some pieces of info which may give them some idea as to where we are taking the new ending. We are only in the initial stages of development, so even our plans are in their infancy at this point!
Gameplanet: Many thanks to the Battlefront.com team for taking the time to talk to us but most of all on behalf of all wargamers a big thank you for the Combat Mission series and the hours of pleasure and entertainment you have given us.
Martin: It’s been our pleasure!