JoWooD has released an interview with Michael Hengst, producer of Panzer Elite Action.
Please let us know a bit about your person and your background, what is your role at ZootFly or rather on PEA ?
My name is Michael Hengst, and I'm the producer for the game. I've been in this industry since 1988. But I have been playing games since Pong. I used to work in various positions for different companies. I used to work for a magazine, for Sunflowers and JoWooD, and for a couple of years I had my own company.
The original Panzer elite was a 2nd World War Simulation, is Panzer Elite Action also a Simulation game or what can we expect of it?
Well, as the name indicates, PEA will be an Action game. Otherwise we would have used Panzer Elite 2 as a proper name. So, that means we have a bit more freedom when it comes down to designing the tanks and the missions. The missions are loosely based on famous battles during WW2. However, we forfeit any historical accuracy over gameplay and fun. One of the best examples is the speed of the tank. If you take one of the bigger tanks, which are available later in the war, they have a cross country speed of about 10 to 15 MpH. If you do that in the game, it would be pretty boring.
Can you tell as a bit about the Missions in PEA?
We have 18 missions in total. And three campaigns: The first one will be on the German side, during the second campaign you play a Russian tank commander, and the last campaign will be on the Allied side. We did choose that, because the player will always be in the offensive. To ensure enough variety, we have a lot of different objectives - like destroying enemy defences, protecting convoys, helping out friendly units, securing and holding a certain area and so on. We even have some night missions and some other surprises for the player.
Are the Mission based on historical Events?
Yes, we have battles like the fight in Stalingrad, the battle of the Bulge, landing in Normandy and of course, one of the biggest tank battle of all times: Kursk.
What will the Multiplayer mode be like, do you have all "standard" MP-modes or is there anything "fresh & new"?
Well, if you have tanks, it will change the MP-mode somewhat. The biggest issue is the lack of "extra weapons". However, we addressed that issue by adding some very nice features and other extras I can't tell you about right now. But the player have to choose between different tanks - like light, weak on firepower, but fast, or the behemoth of the battlefield which is extremely slow. That enforces the player(s) to work as a team - a loner doesn't stand a chance.
Bob Bates has been in the industry for a long time (Unreal, Unreal2, Wheel of time, etc.) and Zootfly hasn't been around for that long. How did Bob Bates & ZootFly come together ?
Oh, I've known Bob since I did an interview with him during a convention in the UK. And while closing in on the game and the developer, we discussed at JoWooD the necessity of addressing the US-market. And therefore we needed an experienced game designer, who understands the market. And Bob's history in creating action games, as well as rich story-telling games, made him our first choice. So we gave him a call, and luckily for us, he was available.
Can you describe the process of creating a mission for Panzer elite Action, how does that work ?
Creating a mission is a very lengthy process. During the first step, we outlined the possible scenarios, the story, the tanks we were going to use and the goals. All that was done on paper first and written down. In the next step, Zootfly prototyped the missions, based on that. After that, we started a first revision of those missions. How do they play? Are the enemies challenging enough and placed properly? Are the goals right? How is the general look and feel of the mission?
What kind of Graphic Engine is PEA using and why did you choose to use it?
PEA uses an Engine called Xubl, which was developed by Zootfly. Zootfly is a very professional developer who is very reliable.
The Panzer Elite Action E3 Version looked pretty polished. When did you start to work on PEA and why you choose that kind of genre?
Thank you - however the E3 version was still in a very early stage - to be exact it was in Alpha stage. The first version of that mission was available only two months after starting the development. So, you can bet that there will be more things in the final game. The development was started about 11 months ago - so the whole timeframe for the game is pretty short. The action genre sprung to mind for various reasons. First of all, it would not have been possible to do a hard core simulation in the given time frame. Second, the market for those kind of games is pretty limited - sorry to say, because I like simulations a lot. But developing games today is a costly and risky business - a full blown production has to be supported by certain sales forecasts - and that is much better for an action title.
What made you decide to go for the action style rather than simulation as with the original?
The answer is simply a monetary one. The market for hardcore simulations is very, very limited today. Especially in the US. If you look at the numbers, doing an action game was the right choice. In addition it's a very unique game - you have many action games out there, based on soldiers, but a vehicle based action game is fresh - and driving a 45 ton steel beast will give you a real feeling of power...
Do you feel the fans of the original game will buy into this new action game? Explain what you are offering them.
Even if it as an action game, PEA offers a variety of different elements, that will add more depth and certain strategy. However, it won't be a hardcore down-to-the-last-rivet simulation. People who expect that we will have the most correct simulation of historical events and hardware are going to be disappointed. People who want to have fun will like it.
Are you re-writing history with this game?
No. The missions are based loosely on historical battles and the tanks are what you expect, however, you can't change history - like invading Washington with German forces - it would be nice though - but given the time constrains, we have to concentrate on the campaigns we have.
Are the foot soldiers just canon fodder in the battles, if not explain some of their A.I settings?
At the beginning of the game, you might get that feeling - however, that is a false one. Especially in the later missions, Infantry will be a real threat - like in city missions, where soldiers with bazookas hide behind the rubble or in the windows, or if you have a lot of bushes and vegetation, where they can surprise you...
Will you be joining other tanks battles with your band of brothers, if so give example?
Yes! It is often the case that you see a big battle going on, and you have to join your forces to turn the tide. That has been done in the E3 mission for example. Or, you'll see some of your mates pinned down by artillery and you have to find a way to help them.
Besides green fields, which is nice, will there be night missions? Explain a mission
We have night missions. Those are particularly nice, because - without telling too much - in one of those you are driving a captured enemy tank and you have to drive through enemy lines. And night missions will have that intensified "being alert" all the time feeling, because visibility is limited. The battle of the bulge will show - just an example - a nice snowy landscape, hills and more. So, we have a couple of winter missions too.
City street fighting - explain a mission?
Stalingrad is a very good example. You have to be very careful there, because an enemy could be behind every corner, hiding behind some rubble, or in the windows. Infantry and anti tank guns are very dangerous in those missions.
Will the opposition have air support - if yes, how will you get cover from this? Maybe a forest?
You see that enemy planes will be attacking and normally you don't have the luxury of taking cover - let's say the player has other means of defending himself against that kind of threat.