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Mercenary's menu Interview

(15.08.2000)

[STEFAN] - Stefan Dicu (Piron)
[YURG] - Yuri Bushin (Freelancer)

[YURG] Stefan, could you please tell about you and your colleagues. Is Pure Power your first game?

[STEFAN] Piron was founded 2 years ago by a bunch of enthusiastic students that had played too much games, knew programming and had a couple of ideas. We started five, 3 of them got lost (you know, there's a jungle out there :), one joined. Now, Piron core team has 3 members (basic arithmetic's, right? :): me (Karg), Grab and Dahn. I am sort of a programmer-artist-designer; Grab is programmer and Dahn is artist.

We also have cooperation with a couple of individuals all over in Romania: ThyVeils as musician Max The FireRaven as modeler and Mares Lucian as 2D artist.

We kept the structure of a demo scene group (I used to roam the demo scene several years ago), and also kept the nicknames. The resemblances aren't accidental :)

Our current status is "indie" developers. I guess the "garrage days" still produce results :)

And yes, this is our first game.

[YURG] Could you please introduce the game? What is it similar to? What is the game genre?

[STEFAN] Pure Power is a real time tactics game. It is a combination of MechCommander and Frontier Elite.

MechCommander? The player will exert commanding skills on several soldiers, several vehicles and several aircraft. By the time we made the design of Pure Power (back in 1998) we didn't know about this game, so we thought it would be quite original. Well, time passed... :)

Frontier Elite? We loved the star map and the liberty a player had to chose his missions. We also liked reading the papers. This is what we borrowed from Elite.

The feeling? Hmmm... I'll put it this way: how often have you finished a Broodwar mission with 6 marines, 2 tanks and 2 medics? How often your dragoons reached 50 frags or your carriers 100 frags? If you were ever put in one of the situations above, then you will understand the feeling that Pure Power will have.

[YURG] Stefan, why have you selected real-time system? Why is it better than turn-based one?

[STEFAN] Two months ago I discussed with Grab (the engine man) about the possibility of making the engine act turn-based also. From the engine point of view there is no problem of inserting a turn-based option.

But we thought that a more laid back game (that offers the player a plus of "brain time" - see www.obssesion.se) combined with the control of a maximum of 24 units to command on the battlefield would offer an interesting interactive experience. That is, there will be a "setup" phase, and then the action will follow. A mission will be composed of such combinations - setup + action, and I think it will replace successfully the turn based system.

[YURG] Some news sources have compared Pure Power to X-Com and other similar games. How do you think, what Pure Power has in common with such games?

[STEFAN] I finished X-Com 1 twice and that game left open wounds on my designer brain ;) For many people, X-Com means turn-based; for me it meant the management of the soldiers (equipping, training). I just loved the way their skills grew off screen after 20+ missions. This is what X-Com and Pure Power has in common.

[YURG] Tell us please about the game engine. Are game graphics drawn or 3d constructed?

[STEFAN] The engine (in-mission) is pure 2D one. The physic engine works on 16bit with one of the 640x480, 800x600 and 1024x768 resolution. The logic engine features heights, huge realistic buildings (with masks), realistic trajectories (that is, a soldier may hide behind trees, rocks, bushes, quite realistic ballistic weapons), edges (a la AOE) - as applications of heights.

There will also be a feature of building capture (the building has strength of the defense, there will be a bar over the building showing the progress of the fight. Then, enemies can leap out the brushes, barracks will start spitting soldiers if you make too much noise (that is bring 70mm armor with you :) Well...we tried to keep it complex.

And everything can be edited. There are editors for soldiers, vehicles, weapons, armors, vehicles, buildings, maps and missions, universe.

The game graphics are modeled in 3D and then rendered. We tried to keep it realistic (as realistic as a SF game could be :). We studied past and present military hardware (tanks, artillery, small and big guns), so there won't be too strange looking graphic stuff in Pure Power.

[YURG] What are the game system requirements?

[STEFAN] Our development machines are K6-2 333 with 64MB RAM. Add a 2MB RAM video card and these are the maximum sys reqs. It is possible that it will work even on a 166MHZ processor, but we don't own these kinds of machines anymore.

[YURG] Screenshots seem to place the game events to outer space, on different planets. Can you tell about the plot? Who are our enemies?

[STEFAN] Briefly: The game is set on a universe (PP universe), which is on top of another universe (called AR).

The PP universe covers 2000 years of history (the action of the game starts in 1999, the action of the alpha and the beta in 1993 :). These 2000 years have been filled with 15 wars between Rion Empire and the Thagian Federation.

Both factions come from a planet called Allegiance V; at one moment in their history (just before the star flight was invented), 4 clans formed the Rion Empire and wanted to make the other clans join this new social and political order. The other 3 didn't want this; 2 formed the Thagian Federation, the other (clan Jackal) that mastered star flight long before the other clans escape to outer space and pose as commerciants and explorers.

Now, taken from the alpha help:

"It passed more 43 years from the last war with the Thagians. The Interface, designed in 1948, which helped Rion wining the war entered the war legends. From 1950, a new military rank arose: the tac-commander. It is one of the most wanted ranks by all the young clan warriors.

Becoming a tac-commander involves three stages. First, a 2 years stage in which the candidates undergo intense mental training. The result? One of 1000 candidates passes the final test at the end of this stage.

Those who resist the first stage will have to accommodate the cybernetic cold and surgery of the spine is necessary in most of the cases. It will take another 2 years to complete the basic training with a training interface, commanding virtual soldiers and virtual vehicles on a virtual battlefield.

As a final exam, the tac-commander will embark on a tactical starship, will receive several soldiers and vehicles and will have to gain his first points of honor, by executing a series of real combat missions against barbarians in the Border Worlds. Of course, no tac-commanders ever failed this trial; the barbarians tasted the wrath of Rion."

The whole catch about the plot (which is linear) is that it will let you discover thingies from the AR universe. It's like watching a picture from close distance, then move your eye 2 cm away, then 3 cm, and then 4 cm. You will see more of the bigger picture.

There is also "soul bread" for the philosopher players out there. After all, games are one kind of neo-art.

We plan continuing the PP universe with 3 add-ons, a sequel (Pure Power 2), and the AR universe with AAR. Only after these games, the picture will be complete.

[YURG] The game is planned to be non-linear, like said in preview. What is the nature of this non-linearity?

[STEFAN] The plot is linear. We could have written a non-linear plot (like changing sides, become a rebel), but, as some designer said once (approximately): "At this point, we are unable to completely develop one storyline for a game. Then how can anyone expect to include 3 or 4 storylines in one game?".

But the cause of non-linearity is the star map, which shows the solar systems and the planets with missions. The player will chose from the missions available, missions that can be tens of parsecs away one of another.

[YURG] How much time takes to complete single mission, and how much time takes whole game completion?

[STEFAN] A player will spend half of the time in the game in interface (traveling between planets in solar systems, evaluating survey reports, reading the comm messages - emails, reading the encyclopedia while traveling) and the other half playing the missions.

It will take 15-20 minutes to finish a mission. 30 missions or more from the first to the last mission. 600 minutes. 10 hours. Total of 20 hours.

Of course, these are estimations.

[YURG] The game is to provide over one hundred missions, but only 20 are available within one campaign. Are the mission's available chosen randomly, or depending on player's actions?

[STEFAN] There will be 15-20 campaigns (mission have the same characteristics - battle lines on a planet, for example), each contain a mission tree with 8-12 missions.

Accordingly the way you are playing a mission, it could generate a mission on the same planet, it could generate a mission (which is the top of a campaign tree) in a solar system 100 parsecs distance, or both of them. At certain moments of time, campaigns that are essential for the storyline will pop up.

The missions aren't random generated (a game that want to random generate missions that follow a plot will fail catching the player in the plot). But there will be missions (those that the player won't play) which will have a "default" clause which will look like this: 50% chances of popping mission 101, 20% chances of popping mission 102, 30% chances of popping mission 103.

[YURG] Stefan, could you please describe the game economics? What are the resource types? Should we build factories, gather the minerals? Are there money planned in the game, and what are the money sources?

[STEFAN] There are 3 kinds of resources. Honor (prestige, whatever), fortune and tech resources.

With honor you will be able to convince soldiers to join your tac-squad. The honor will be modified the way you play missions, by the survival rate (if a soldier dies, your honor drops). The honor doesn't work like a regular resource does: it won't consume when you want a soldier to join your army, but your honor must be higher than that of the soldier's. The same way, if your honor drops (bad playing), the soldiers will leave you. 0 soldiers left mean end of career.

The fortune acts like your money, although it's not LIKE money. You can buy things from the clan armories (weapons, vehicles). This resource can be gained by making missions objectives.

The tech resources (scrap metal, energy cells, mechanical parts, electronic parts) can be captured from the battlefield (capturing a building is one solutions) and they cannot be spent. They will be used for repairing vehicles.

Along these resources, every planet has resources and economy (simulated, cannot be controlled by the player). The rating of the economy is called "tech level" and can be controlled by the way you are playing. Also, every vehicle has a minimum tech level and it will be available in the docks when its tech level is lower then the planet tech level.

The tech level evolves depending the way you are playing. If you are making a mess of play, it will evolve slower or it will regress. An example: a survey report says that the thagians plan to seize a research facility. If you push back the attackers, the tech level of some planets will change. Else...

So no factory building for this one :)

[YURG] How new equipment, weapons, vehicles become available to player? We can buy it all, or manufacture?

[STEFAN] (It's Chris Rea's "Auberge" on TV :)

Equipment (vehicles and weapons) can be captured or be bought. And since you are on a starship, you cannot manufacture a vehicle. You can maintain or mutate it (obtaining a better armor, or a better weapon from it).

[YURG] Is there research tree in the game? How we can invent new technologies?

[STEFAN] As stated before, the new technologies are the problem of the clan armories.

[YURG] Could you please describe the tactical component of game? Any details?

[STEFAN] There is an answer to this one above.

We won't have any mission planning (like that in Rainbow 6). I've played that game (I'm quite big fan of antitero simulators), but planning worked and not. After all, these are commando type missions, most of the time in unknown territories. Drop in, resolve situation, and get out.

We try, instead, to offer a new experience. You are tactical commander, connected through the Interface with all soldiers and with a small spy plane that provides you with the view from above. All your soldiers can receive neural impulses from you: basically you and they form one single weapon, like a sword is the extension of a samurai's hand. This is why you will have to setup the attack then unleash it, having to manually control all squads (CTRL + 1, etc). It is, indeed, a game of concentration and synchronization.

[YURG] Screenshots show a number of different parameters and skills for Pure Power units. Can we improve it in the game? If so, how?

[STEFAN] Weapons, armors and vehicle can be mutated (better speed, better defense, better fire rate). The soldiers will act like humans (but of course :): constant morale over a period will make certain skills increase, a soldier with a higher leadership may teach other soldiers, a 50% proportion men-women will keep the morale higher (uf, too much Joe Haldeman's "Eternal War" :). And, of course, after a mission, their skills will grow.

We didn't want to include a training facility in the game; it would have had the taste of a football manager :)

[YURG] What actions units can do? Are they able to go crouch, prone, cover? How independently units can fight?

[STEFAN] We want to include prone and crouch, but it is not the problem of the engine (it's a 2 hours problem), but it's problem for the artists (me and Dahn). And right now artist are overloaded. If things will clear in the next months, we will announce on our web site these new facilities.

There will be also a "play dead" option for a unit, which will work in cooperation with the "camouflage" skill.

The independence is a parameter of a unit, and can be set.

[YURG] How much weapons there are in the game? Will the ammo for units be limited?

[STEFAN] 30 basic infantry weapons, each of them with its design, parameters and description. You can create several other variations (more fire power, fire rate, weight), or you can buy those mutated weapons. Plenty to chose from.

There will be 12 basic infantry armors.

There will be 60-70 basic vehicle weapons (all known kinds of cannons, machine guns, missiles, rockets, plus the sf lasers and plasma burners).

The ammo will be unlimited.

[YURG] Stefan, could you please briefly describe the game vehicles? Number of types, abilities, any special features?

[STEFAN] 5 types of vehicles: tanks (hover, tracked, wheels), recons, transporters, artillery and aircrafts. Every vehicle type is fit for one type of mission. Every vehicle has 2 weapon mounts, and these weapons can be chosen from the 60-70 described above.

We have 30 vehicles and 12 aircrafts already modeled.

No special features will be available (like cloak), but we might insert devices for a vehicle (like transporters that can heal soldiers). We'll see about that.

[YURG] Stefan, are you sure the high number of vehicles in the game will not disable the tactical component?

[STEFAN] Oh, a problem of balance. It is certain that the game will need to be balanced, so it is probable that the test team will come up with suggestions about this.

[YURG] Can we hope the game will avoid using the principle "the one who has more guns is winner"? Of course, brute force is serious argument, but tactics imply maneuver over superior forces :) Will this become true for Pure Power?

[STEFAN] Tricky question, eh? :) After all, it's called "Pure Power", right?

But it is possible to take it the hard way: descent with all your firepower and start crushing your enemies (take care, buildings may contain soldiers, like in Commandos). If you can beat all of them without casualties, then you're either lucky or you've cheated :)

And it's also possible to carefully read the survey report and descent only with the units needed for that mission. Artillery isn't quite useful when you deal with a quick hit-and-run mission.

[YURG] Will there be multiplayer?

[STEFAN] No, there won't be multiplayer. The game is single player only (because of the storyline), but we have the plans for a Pure Power online type of game. I think a massive online game fits perfectly in PP universe rather than a multiplayer option to Pure Power.

[YURG] Stefan, how much ready the game now?

[STEFAN] The game reached the status of on alpha, that is 70% of the game is ready.

[YURG] Will you release the demo for Pure Power?

[STEFAN] The alpha version can be downloaded from http://aspc.cs.utt.ro/~karg. It doesn't have AI and missions events yet (indies, but we had deadlines :) because we hadn't time to test them. So we decided to release something the works than something that crash :P

[YURG] Do you already have a publisher? Can you name the estimated release date?

[STEFAN] No, we don't have a publisher.

You know, as indeed you have all the time in the world. Like they say: "when it's finished" :)

Getting serious: it's difficult to estimate a release date. Maybe at the end of 2000.

[YURG] Let me wish you creative success, and quickest Pure Power release!

[STEFAN] Thanks. You should have tried the alternate "Give Power to the people!" :)

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