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Mercenary's menu Interview

(16.05.2000)

[IAN] - Ian Currie (Sir-Tech)
[Yurg] - Yuri Bushin (Freelancer)

[Yurg] I apologize for delay in interview matter. If your cosent is still in force, could you please answer some questions?

Ian, tell us please why you decided to devote yourself to Alliance, what cause gave birth to mercenary world idea? Was it some book, friend's advice, movie or something different?


[IAN] Actually, the idea for Jagged Alliance was influenced by portions of other games. When JA was first "born", it was a realtime game. This aspect was influenced by a game called "Command HQ", developed by the late Dan Bunten for Microprose. The character (RPG) element was influenced by a Westwood/SSI game called Eye of the Beholder. I was never a fan of guns necessarily, just RPG and strategy games. I chose a realistic environment to be different from all the fantasy games that existed.

[Yurg] Have X-Com affected JA world development?

[IAN] Not really. Obviously we are competitors, and X-Com did hit the market first, but I think there are enough differences between our products. We find ourselves being careful not to tread on their ground when thinking of ideas for our own games. We here at Sir-tech are sci-fi fans, and would love to do more in the way of space and alien themes, but feel that if we did, we would be seen as copying X-Com, so it's difficult. As you know, we did introduce mutant insects in JA2.

[Yurg] Was it difficult to join Sir-Tech team on Alliance idea?

[IAN] No, for some reason I was able to sell Sir-Tech on the idea from the very start; I've never had trouble that way.

[Yurg] Ian, if this information isn't 'top secret' - have you ever doubted JA2 will be released for sale? If yes - why?

[IAN] No, I never doubted anything. Because we had a solid commitment to the German market, I knew the game was going to be published. Also, because we had released the demo quite early, I knew that we had a good game that was in demand. I was also aware of the various publishers that were attempting to license the product for North America. So, I always knew it would be published.

[Yurg] Sorry for ticklish question - Are you playing Alliance yourself sometimes? ;)

[IAN] I have a hard time playing my own games right after they are released as I will continue to find things I want to change - and if I kept on doing that, we'd never get any other products done! I'm a bit of a perfectionist and am never satisfied. I did play JA Deadly Games (multiplayer) a LOT during the first year or so of the development of JA2. I did play a lot of Unfinished Business (because I prefer it over JA2). Lately, I've been thinking about starting a new game of that - I really do like it more than most other games out on the market. I suppose that it really makes sense - I made the game for ME - made it just the way I like to play, so I *should* like it... :-)

[Yurg] Now, when JA2 is completed long ago, what do you feeling? Have you implemented at least most part of your initial plans?

[IAN] I was mostly happy about it, but sorry that we couldn't implement a few features. Our philosophy is to not just implement an idea because it was planned (i.e. on paper); the idea had to feel "right" and couldn't degrade the overall game in any way. I hated how vehicles felt in the tactical portion of the game - it felt "cheezy", the rest of the team thought so as well, so we removed it.

[Yurg] Ian, let me ask you some 'technical' questions... You know, it happened my compatriots have had no possibility to upgrade JA2 with new patches for a long time. Maybe it is because of localization specific character... Nevertheless. Russian Alliance edition (1.02) allowed enemies to jump on roofs and act uncommonly, therefore pleasing player. Now we got a chance to play English edition, 1.05 and 1.06. Alas, no jumping on roofs here - as if it is taboo for enemies. Is it because patch has changed AI's scripts? Or AI's unwillingness to jump on roofs is unexpected feature?

[IAN] Funny, we haven't changed anything that I'm aware of. I know that enemies are definitely climbing on roofs in Unfinished Business. It's always possible that a bug was introduced (accidentally) in a patch, but it's the first I've heard of it.

[Yurg] You also know that many game fans are 'hacking' Alliance code to their utmost - partially because there is no official game editor available... It turned out that Richard Ruthwen is hireable. Is it program bug preventing Ruthwen from hire if no 'amateur' changes made? Or you decided to forbid his recruitment intentionally? If it is bug, can we hope it will be fixed officially?

[IAN] Richard Ruthwen (Slay) was always intented to be hireable, and as far as I know, there is nothing preventing him from being recruited - you do have to recruit him in a special way, though. Again, it's possible that a bug is preventing him from working as intended, but it was never our intention to prevent his recruitment. We did a lot of work to make Slay work the way we planned, so I really hope he's being recruited!

[Yurg] Are you planning new Alliance patches, or patches are not actual anymore?

[IAN] We're not continuing to test and look for problems as we are concentrating our efforts on new games (otherwise there won't be any new games!), but that doesn't mean we wouldn't if there was a good reason to.

[Yurg] There was rumours that mercs having some SirTech employees as prototypes are possessing special hidden features (more lucky, has some bonuses, etc.) :) Is it true or not?

[IAN] Maybe, as during testing we have a number of tools to help us reproduce bugs and creating a very tough character may be one of them. However, to the best of my knowledge, this ability doesn't exist in the final product.

[Yurg] Now UB's ready, and SirTech is holding negotiations with publishers. Ian, can you say how soon we could see the game on store shelves?

[IAN] Not really, as I am not involved in the business aspect. I don't think it will be that long though. The game should be out this summer. I really hope it won't take longer than that since the game has been done for over two months!

[Yurg] Russian localizer of Alliance 2, Buka company, has announced that 'maybe the localization of UB will appear'. Can you confirm it? And will SirTech restrict Russian market to localized version ONLY again? Point is that many players are willing to buy original version, at least to practice the language. Will UB distribution have any changes in this matter?

[IAN] I have no idea why Buka would only release a Russian version. It may make sense from a business perspective for them, or us. They may even be prevented by us to sell English versions - I really don't know. I can confirm that I did send them the materials to make a Russian version of UB though.

[Yurg] Ian, could you disclose to us, common gamers, the secret: what is ideal tactical game in your opinion? :)

[IAN] Well, that's easy - Jagged Alliance... ! Seriously, I think my own ideal would be the on-line version of Jagged Alliance that I have planned (inside my own head). But then, nobody knows about that yet... :-)

[Yurg] Dreamland game is promoted widely now... that's the reason why some journalist are saying Alliance 3 is dead before birth. Is it true? I know, you've said already - JA3 is one of leading SirTech projects. But can you tell how the game development is going?

[IAN] Well, each game will be different. There's also Fallout Tactics that seems to model some of the features of JA2... however, we tend to concentrate on RPG elements more and more, and with JA3 there are significant changes to gameplay, so while you will be able to compare Dreamland and Fallout Tactics with JA2, you're not going to be able to do that with JA3 until JA3 is officially announced and you understand more about what type of game it will be. I can't announce any details right now.

[Yurg] Do you have now the common concept of future JA3 multiplayer? You mentioned once that Third Alliance will be unusual mix of turn-based and realtime game. Can you add more details?

[IAN] I don't want to say too much in case it either changes or gives our competitors too much of a advantage. Suffice to say our goal was to make the combat more realistic (which meant changing the game model to remove interrupts and allow for true simultaneous combat).

[Yurg] Do SirTech planning to amaze or gladden game world with something on E3 exhibition?

[IAN] No, sorry. We are not planning to be at E3.

[Yurg] Thank you very much for your answers and let me wish you good luck in your business! I hope we will be able to discuss your impressions of JA3 development history and JA4 plans! ;)

[IAN] Here you go, Yuri, I hope this helps!

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