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Mercenary's menu Interview

(23.06.2000)

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

[Yurg] Please let me disturb you again. I have received a lot of letters since our last interview. People are asking about Unfinished Business destiny, but I don't know what to say them. Can you tell us briefly about UB?

[IAN] Here you go, Yurg. Sorry it took so long, but I just became a father and have been VERY busy... :-)

[Yurg] Unfinished Business is very unusual add-on. Traditionally all such sequels to popular games are offering us only several new missions and few new guns... But add-on gameplay remains the same. Ian, how about UB? Why have you decided to abandon the idea of current gameplay complication but greatly simplified it instead?

[IAN] Actually, JA2:UB is sort of a mini-sequel, not an add-on. You can import characters from a JA2 save game and gain their attribute and skill increases and the story continues from the liberation of Arulco. Gameplay is pretty much the same as in JA2, with a few interesting twists. However since the goal is not to liberate cities or mines, you don't have to deal with militia training. Also, you don't have to manage mercenary's contract expiration dates.

[Yurg] You have said once that you prefer UB over JA2. Why?

[IAN] Well, you have to understand that it's a personal preference. I enjoyed the JA2 demo because of it's intensity - you couldn't just heal your mercs after completing the ground level - you had to be able to go downstairs and clean that out too. In JA2, I wanted to have that same intensity. The plan was to have the enemy attack YOU if you simply tried to rest after taking one sector of a four sector town. However, that proved to be too annoying/discouraging, so the entire enemy invasion AI had to be much less aggressive. Personally, when I played JA2, all I cared about was getting through a battle without anyone dying - I never had to care about how banged up they were since I could heal them easily.

While I still think JA2 is the best game I've done, I like the feel of UB better. Especially because UB has an "Iron Man" mode where you can't rely on constant saving and reloading. It makes the game feel so much more real to me - more like Deadly Games multiplayer where you had to really think about every move you made. In JA2, you could easily "test" a move and if it didn't turn out like you hoped, reload. In Deadly Games multiplayer or UB Iron Man, you play differently - you have to accept wounds - or deaths - it seems more real. In my personal game of UB, I lost my "IMP" character and because the battle was so intense and almost over, I *accepted* that. I would never have done that otherwise. Now, if Iron Man were the only reason, one could argue that I could simply add the feature to JA2 and be done with it. So, it's not just that - JA2:UB has some very fun battles that kept me more interested than when playing JA2. Part of this is the fact that we've enhanced the AI as well.

[Yurg] Ian, you've played UB a lot, so can you give the average time of one game completion? Just approximate estimation.

[IAN] We found that it takes between 25-45 hours to complete. Of course, if you're playing Iron Man, it may take longer... :-)

[Yurg] Can you tell us some UB details? How much sectors there are in the game, and how large are these sectors? UB has no militia, a few number of quests. Does it mean the game mostly focused on combat tactics instead?

[IAN] Yes, the game focuses on the combat more than, say, the types of quests that you got in San Mona of JA2. The sectors are the same size, but there are only 20-something maps. Considering JA2 had over 200, this sounds pathetic, but you can't directly compare it. In JA2, there were only 40 or so maps that had carefully planned battles (towns, SAM sites, etc), and even then, there was a lot of variance in how you could approach the battles, what stage of the game you might be in, etc. And, of course, there were many outdoor maps that most people would never ever fight in unless they met a patrol while moving through the area, so they almost don't count. IN UB, every map is pretty much going to be used, and the battles are setup better, take longer to play, etc.

[Yurg] UB gives us one goal - conquer and destruction of missile base. Does it mean there is time limit?

[IAN] No, there isn't any time limit. I think most people dislike time limits.

[Yurg] There was a rumour some time ago that UB allows to hire only M.E.R.C. mercenaries. Is it true? If so, why?

[IAN] That rumour is false. You can hire all the AIM mercs that are left alive (which is all of them if you don't import characters from a saved game).

[Yurg] Can you describe new UB mercs? Their total number and what traits do they have?

[IAN] There aren't that many new (true) mercs. We've only added 11 characters in total (I think) and only two of them are new mercs available from the start. Our website should have info on these guys very soon.

[Yurg] Give us please more details of merc salary system. Can we still hire or fire the merc at any time? And what are game money sources - since there are no mines?

[IAN] Mercs will now work for you the entire mission for one fee, rather than daily, and you have no form of "income". It's more like an RPG where you still accumulate cash through various avenues but don't have to worry about "making payroll". The whole "pay mercs daily" game system is a pain in the ass to balance and causes us to have to do things that cause complaints in other areas. It would take too long to explain all the details, so I'll skip it. You can still fire any mercs who you don't want.

[Yurg] Is merc relationship system changed? Will they continue to leave you if you placed to their team the people they are hating?

[IAN] You'll just have to play the game and see for youself... :-)

[Yurg] What happened to JA2 NPCs? Can we met some old pals? Can you say what happened to Ira, Maddog, Iggy and other Arulco local mercs beloved by many players?

[IAN] Well, all those people have gone on with their lives - most of them in Arulco. Because the game doesn't take place in Arulco, you don't really come across them. Now this is always an interesting subject. One of the things we do with the JA series is try to create fun characters. There's only so many characters you can have in one game, so if we kept every character, we'd never introduce new ones and that would be very stale. I have received many emails from people who questioned why certain characters from JA1 or Deadly Games weren't included in JA2. Well, the answer is simply because we wanted to include all those NPCs! Also, we like creating personalities - which requires dialogue. The more characters we have, the less dialogue each one has and the less real they seem. One of the things we're looking at doing in JA3 is reducing the overall number of characters so we can intensify their personality and dialogue - making them feel even more real than every before.

[Yurg] Ian, UB's character generation system is simplified. But the Thief skill is not in list of available skills. Is it exluded from the game?

[IAN] I don't think the thief skill ever really did anything useful, so we didn't include it.

[Yurg] Will new armored vehicles and heavy weapons be present in UB?

[IAN] No, going in that direction would change the game to a full scale wargame. It just doesn't feel right for JA.

[Yurg] Can you tell about gun additions to UB? How much new guns in the game, and their classes?

[IAN] Well, I could, but I hate to spoil surprises. People have already figured out enough from some of the screenshots.

[Yurg] Have you modified AI? Or it is the same?

[IAN] Yes, we've modified the AI, as I mentioned in a previous answer. These enhancements include some general intelligence things as well as resolving some situations were enemies would act pretty stupid. It's not a total night and day difference - we'd have to completely rewrite the AI for that, but anyone who's played JA2 a lot will definitely notice the improvements.

[Yurg] We know UB do not require original JA2. But is there an option to install it over JA2? Both games have a lot of common resources, after all.

[IAN] Well, it was my wish to be able to save on resources, but complications arose and we had to make it require it's own separate install. Sorry!

[Yurg] Many players are interested if map editor will be available. Can we hope it will be released? And what are you going to say if there will any 'amateur' map editor appear?

[IAN] Sure, you can hope it will be released. I know I do. It's a pretty decent editor - it's pretty powerful, although there's a bit of a learning curve to using it. I won't promise anything - we'll see how it goes.

[Yurg] Some time ago you said that maybe there will be JA2 update bringing new UB features to game. Is it still in force? If so, when can we see it?

[IAN] We don't have any plans to bring UB features to JA2. We think our time would be better spent on making JA3.

[Yurg] Ian, can you name the game publisher? Is it Talon Soft?

[IAN] No, I can't name the game publisher. I am not involved in the business end of things.

[Yurg] Thank you very much for your answers and the games you have created!

[IAN] You're welcome!

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