By Al Giovetti
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Original War Interview with Martin Klima of Altar Interactive
Alfred C. Giovetti (AG): Thanks for being with us and sharing with us this great information on a brand new game
Martin Klima: Hello Al,my name is Martin Klima and I am CEO of ALTAR interactive -- maybe you can recall our very brief meeting at the very end of E3. Petr Nemec forwarded me your questions and I have tried to answer them to the best of my knowledge -- they were really tough, you know.
AG: Where did you get the original idea for Original War?
MK: All of us are avid players of strategy games and we knew we could do a real-time strategy game that will break the mould of current RTS games. As for the actual plot, we were in part inspired by a book by German writer Wolfgang Jeschke "The Last Day of Creation". The story line of our game is however quite different and we created it to maximize the impact of the new gaming mechanisms we wanted to use in the game.
Original War is a real time strategy game, but, like Blizzard's WarCraft, it has that touch of humour and personality that singles it out as a possible sleeper hit. Can you comment on the humour and personality that make this game different?
I think it is the strength of the characters that gives personality to the game. Let's not forget that most people in the core team come from our sister company, ALTAR Publishing, the biggest producer of role-playing games in Czech Republic. This makes it easy to incorporate the role-playing elements into Original War and I think that these are the most distinctive feature of the game.
I would also like to stress that we are making the game exactly the way we want it to be. We are making the game we want play and I have to say that we have a very good relationship with our publisher, Virgin Interactive. They are very constructive and helpful and never force us to do anything we are unhappy with.
AG: What is the most exciting aspect about playing and developing the game, other than those mentioned above?
MK:That is really two questions. I'll try to answer the second one first. Developing 'Original War' has been incredibly exhilarating. Its a real test of our creative and technical skills. As for the playing... I think we've taken the best parts of real-time strategy (like Starcraft), role-playing (like Final Fantasy) and small scale combat (like Commandos) and seamlessly blended them together into a game that offers both great tension and great action.
AG: Where was the largest challenge in developing and playing the game, other than the items mentioned above?
MK: I think the greatest challenge was, is and is going to be a developing of story line. While the other things -- 3D engine with prerendred graphics, numerous gaming mechanisms, user interface, creating game art, etc. -- might be difficult or time-consuming, there is a "formula" you can follow, it is more of a technical problem. On the other hand, design by its very nature cannot follow any formula. You have to rely on your "feel", on your experience and "hunch" about the players' needs and wishes. And only the actual players can prove you right or wrong.
AG: Who did the artwork? What is the most enjoyable and hi-tech part of that artwork?
MK: All the artwork was created by our in-house team. All art is created in 3D Studio Max, prerendred and than resized to 50 or 25 per cent by our own tool that at the same time creates palette for the art and z-buffer image and runs some compression algorithms that enable us to load these vast amount of data to memory in runtime (the original renders of the game graphics amount to over 25 GIGA bytes already).
My personal favourite in our game -- when art is concerned -- are Russians. They have the coolest buildings and great characters. Their vehicles might be improved a little bit, though.
AG: I noticed very distinctive characters, even a typically Russian character. Who inspired these characters?
MK: All characters are designed by our lead artist, Tomas Kucerovsky. You have to keep in mind that Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) was a de facto Russian protectorate for 45 years, so we all have a very good idea of what a typical Russian character looks like. Inspiration for other nations comes from various sources, mostly from movies.
AG: Do you have a short humourous story about playing or making the game?
MK: Well... When Joss Ellis (Virgin's Vice President of Development) and Paul Whipp (now our Producer in Virgin) came here last year to discuss our plans for Original War, we were very eager to demonstrate the latest development in the game. We proudly introduced them to brand new multiplayer and set them up against each other. After a short while they got acquainted with the controls and went for exploration. About this time we had a feeling that something went wrong -- they both got to opposite end of map without meeting each other! Finally, they met the forces that should have been controlled by the other player but that were actually controlled by the AI and it mercilessly wiped them out. Later we found out that the games were never really connected.
Come to think of it, something very similar happened to us when we were testing multiplayer few months ago.
AG: What made the difference to Interplay when after two years of hawking the game, they finally said yes?
MK: As you probably know, Virgin and Interplay are sister companies. Interplay distribute Virgin titles in the US and vice versa in Europe. We have been dealing directly with Virgin.
Virgin spent a lot of time considering 'Original War'. Right from the start they were convinced that the game has a lot of potential. As mentioned above Joss Ellis and Paul Whipp came over and spent a lot of time with us discussing how we could enhance the game's potential to attract Western European and US gamers in large numbers. Once we'd all mutually agreed on the enhancements needed, which focused on improving the game's visuals and simplifying the interface while retaining the deep and distinctive gameplay mechanisms that set Original War apart, Virgin said 'Yes'.
AG: What do you see in the future for Original War?
MK: A spectacular franchise? :) Certainly, if this game proves succesful, we are looking forward to developing these ideas in new installments.
AG: Please send me a press packet, b-roll, gifs, and review product as they become available to the address below.
MK: By all means.