Even if you haven't realised, there's a next-gen war going on and we're all part of it. In terms of actual video game war, though, there are few games as ambitious and in-depth as Eidos' Battlestations: Midway. With the sequel Battlestations: Pacific due for release soon, we caught up with senior designer Janos Gaspar to find out how the new game improves on the original.
VideoGamer.com: How pleased were you with the original Battlestations? Did it meet quality and sales expectations?
Janos Gaspar: Battlestations: Midway went through many adversities. The team changed a lot during the development; the engine, the target platforms and the publisher changed as well. Finally Eidos decided to establish a studio in Hungary, and the last year of the development went well. The reviews and the sales were quite solid despite these challenges, so yes; we are pleased with the original Battlestations.
VideoGamer.com: A lot of gamers, especially 360 owners, found the first game quite daunting. Have any efforts been made to make the game easier to get into?
JG:When we finished Midway we already had dozens of ideas to make it better. When we started Pacific we browsed the community forums as well. Most of the issues were about the learning curve, accessibility and picking up the pace of the game. While we didn't want to cut from the game we knew we should address these points, and make the game much more accessible and more forgiving in certain situations. Battlestations is not a mainstream brand, but we have tried to navigate our vessel as close to it as possible without scrapping our core values. Complexity hasn't really changed in Pacific, but it's now easier to learn, and it's obvious what's happening on the battlefield. Some aspects have been made easier to access without losing the depth. For example in Midway you had a separate screen for ship repairs, and you had to manage a repair division of three members, nevertheless you ended up putting all the people to the same spot to deal with fire or water most efficiently. In Pacific you don't need to manage 3 people, and you don't even have to go to a separate screen. You can do all the repair tasks while navigating the ship: the depth of the gameplay remains the same, but you access it more easily and can adapt to situations faster.
VideoGamer.com: Do you think the game can appeal to your average Call of Duty fan and someone who agonises over every tactical decision? Does it have to in order to be successful?
JG: Our game is a real hybrid, not just an action game with tactical possibilities or an RTS game with some limited direct control. You have total control over the entire battlefield. You decide where to intervene, what to control, how to play. In most of the situations you can win by either just controlling the action, or just commanding the strategy. It's your decision. On the other side there are cases where you will need to use both to achieve victory.
For multiplayer we wanted to give the same possibilities for action and strategy players. There are multiplayer modes where you just control a single unit, and they are really action-packed. You don't need to switch to the map; you can beat your opponents without it.
Island capture, the most complex multiplayer mode also gives you the chance to be in action most of the times, but it requires at least some basic tactical orders to be successful. So basically the game suits action players and strategy players as well, you decide how you play it.
VideoGamer.com: On the same note, the tactical map caused a few headaches for us novices while more adept gamers found it a little too limited (one command at a time for each unit). Have you been able to find a solution for both?
JG: We were aware of the flaws in our tactical map, so we've fixed the issues. You can give multiple orders to you units. The controls have been refined, so it's easier to move around the map, easier to command your units, the overview of the battlefield is better, there are a lot of filters to help the beginner and the seasoned players as well. Along with the dozens of the upgrades, the visuals have also been refined.
VideoGamer.com: How historically accurate are the missions you'll take part in?
JG: In the USA campaign we've tried to make the missions as historically accurate as possible, of course in some cases the mission is just the derivation or just a part of the original battle, but most of the events, the participating units, and the ratio of the opponents are accurate. On the other side, the Japanese campaign is not fully accurate. From the historical beginning it will start to evolve into a "what if" scenario, and in our game the players are granted the possibility to slowly turn the tide of the history with the Japanese navy, and eventually win the war. However, even the Japanese missions can be considered historical or semi-historical, as they are based on the plans of the Imperial Japanese Navy.