RUSE might be my favorite RTS of the past several years, and one reason for that is because developer Eugen Systems seemed to design it with wargamers in mind. It could be frantic, but it also felt a bit like what would happen if you turned Panzer General into an RTS.
So it's fitting that their next game is explicitly called Wargame: European Escalation, and I got in touch with Eugen CEO Alexis Le Dressay to learn just how this would differ from RUSE. It turns out that Wargame will be very different, throwing out Ruse's deception mechanics as well as a lot of RTS conventions. The result could be an even more interesting real-time wargame set in the late Cold War.
PCG: First, I absolutely loved RUSE and thought it was one of the best games of 2010. Unlike RUSE, however, Wargame is not being developed for consoles. How did console development affect your design for RUSE? How does Wargame benefit from the focus on PC?
Eugen Systems CEO Alexis Le Dressay: I’m very happy and very proud that you liked RUSE! The main difference between PC and the rest of the consoles is that PC is an open platform. Thanks to this, we can provide more online features and services. We can also be much more reactive post launch of the game and provide patches and upgrades for the community.
Now, RUSE was published by Ubisoft, but this time you are working with Focus Home Interactive? Why the shift?
AD: Wargame is a real-time strategy game for gamers and hardcore gamers. This kind of game fits better with a medium-sized publisher.
How does the Cold War setting change gameplay from what we saw in RUSE? The technologies are completely different, but does that impact tactics?
AD: The difference is pretty big. Wargame’s period covers the years from 1975 to 1985. This period features helicopters, auto-cannon, ATGM (anti-tank guided missiles), electronic optical systems and a lot more new equipment. This means that the players will have to master new tactics.
For example, an ATGM can be wire guided. This means that the unit who fires it has to stand still to keep control of the missile and to have some chances to hit the target... But an ATGM can also be laser guided. In this case, the target tracking is manual but the tracking and control of the missile is automatic. This allows the unit to fire-and-forget!
Did deceptions work as well as you hoped in Ruse? How will ruses / deceptions work in Wargame, and are there any new ones you can tell us about?
AD: I think the deceptions worked well in RUSE. But, we should have done more of them and made them more deeply imbricated in the gameplay.
Even though Wargame doesn’t feature any deception tools, it has some a very strong information and spotting mechanics. The use of recon units is as vital as it was the case in RUSE. We have some similitude in the way the player will have to think of the where is the enemy hiding, what is his main plan...
One thing I loved about RUSE is that it had so many different factions, and they all played so differently. Hardly anyone ever includes the French and Italians in WWII game, for example, but in RUSE they were two really interesting armies. What kind of differences are you emphasizing between NATO and Warsaw Pact armies? How different can Warsaw Pact armies really be from one another, since they were so heavily controlled by the Soviets?
AD: I’m very glad you appreciate the idea of having a great choice of units and factions! With Wargame, we have gone much farther in this direction. We feature more than 350 different units in the game! Albeit there are only two factions, there are several countries involved: USA, France, West-Germany, East-Germany, UK, Russia, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
The main difference lies in the fact that the composition of the army is directly made by the players. There is no more pre-created army, which means no more factions. From theses 150 units available (there is approximately the same number of equipment around 150 units for each side) you have to pick up the ones you want to play with. This is what we call the "deck". It has a limitation of units and the players have to unlock the different units.
On your website, I noticed a lot of discussion of supplies and experience. Now, supply points were simply the money you used for building in RUSE. How does it work here? Is the economy different in Wargame?
AD: In RUSE we named supply points the money of the game. The supply in Wargame is not money, but real supply. This means that units consume fuel, ammunition and so on.
The economy system is different in Wargame than in Ruse. In Wargame you start the game with an amount of Deployment Points that are granted by your HQ. You use these points to call for reinforcement during the battle or to place units on the battlefield during the deployment phase. Also, you can gain more Deployment Points during the battle by controlling strategic sectors.
Also, you say that units level up across the campaign? Will units also gain experience within multiplayer battles? For instance, if I have an armored unit that keeps surviving combat during a match, will it be a better armored unit by the end of the match?
AD: This is true for the campaign but it is different within the multiplayer battles. The persistent element that one can find in multiplayer is the creation of the decks. As I’ve said before, the players will have to unlock all the units. This means that you’ll never know what kind of enemy equipment you’ll face...
Matchmaking and multiplayer features were not a strong point for RUSE. It was hard to get a sense of the community and how many people were participating. I found it very hard to find opponents for the kinds of games I wanted to play, particularly at middle skill-levels. How will you improve multiplayer for Wargame? What kind of features will Eugen Net offer to people who like to study statistics, replays, or participate in tournaments?
AD: We’re developing a much more powerful network engine for Wargame. We’ve also added more multiplayer services. For example, players can create a team and play against ranked teams. We have a replay system, a very detailed almanac for all the units featured in the game. As I’ve said, thanks to the PC platform we use for the game, we’ll have the availability to create regular tournaments, patches and other updates on the game.