By Al Giovetti

Universal Combat Interview with Derek Smart

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG): Thanks for being with us and sharing with us this great information on a brand new game

Derek Smart (DS): Thank you for inviting me.

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG):When will Universal Combat be released?

Derek Smart (DS):Currently development is winding down through the late Beta stages and we are shooting for a release over the Thanksgiving holidays - all things being equal

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG): Is the game much changed from the Battlecruiser game? Please talk about the major changes and how they enhance game play.

Derek Smart (DS): Several of the game's underlying technologies and game play aspects - including the interface - are significantly different from previous Battlecruiser games. The major changes involve the interface, planetary terrain technology, AI, physics and dynamics, as well as several game play features. Most of these enhance the game play in several aspects. For example the revised physics engine - while not realistic - allows us better first person and vehicular controls and most importantly with support for manual control of naval units such as submarines. To discuss all the aspects of the enhancements to game play as a result of what has changed in this game, would take up more space than you have for this segment Al. :)

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG):Is there going to be a plot in this version of the game? Please describe the plot.

Derek Smart (DS):There always was a plot in Battlecruiser games. Even the underlying freeform roam scenario has a plot, albeit a subtle one. The campaigns have more of a direct plot but they are really just a series of missions thrown together cohesively. After all it is a military based game and plots are few and far between. I cannot divulge the details of the campaign plot in this version of the game, but needless to say, it is quite interesting I think.

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG):Is there going to be a tutorial scenerio that will help gamers get used to the interface?

Derek Smart (DS): No. The interface is completely idiot proof. Even the interface in the last two Battlecruiser games were intuitive enough and more advanced than the first generation Battlecruiser titles (the 1996 and 1998 versions).

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG):I found a rather large learning curve when I played Battlecruiser. This learning curve denied many players admission. Many players were confused as to what the point of the game was and how to play it. What has been done to lower the bar and the learning curve on the new product?

Derek Smart (DS): IIRC Al, the last time you played a Battlecruiser game, was probably one of the first generation titles. The second generation titles (2001 Battlecruiser Millennium and its Gold version of 2003) were easier to get into and the learning curve were greatly reduced. You can only streamline a game so far before it starts to look like a project for a nine year old. The Battlecruiser games have always been on the high end and not designed to cater to every one who has access to a game computer. It is, was and always will be a niche series - regardless. As such, the price of entry is an investment in the time it takes to learn it. Naturally, the direction of the games enabled me to identify areas which would reduce this learning time and enable gamers to get into the game in a much quicker fashion.

Derek Smart (DS): If I wanted to develop games for the mass market, I would have abandoned this series a long time ago. Fact is, I have NO interest in developing these games for the mass market. My interest is in introducing new gamers to the series in any manner possible without alienating the core fanbase who have been around since the series inception.

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG):One of the most important things in a game is the emotional involvement of the player which adds to the immersion of the product. It helps if the game player is rooting for one side or the other. What has been done to increase the player emotional involvement and immersion?

Derek Smart (DS): The involvement of a player in the Battlecruiser universe is predominantly based on emotion and immersion. The game is touted as one of the largest and most immersive games ever developed. The player's emotional attachment comes from the game play choices he or she makes. Because the core of the series has always been about these two aspects [emotional involvement and immersion], there was nothing to change (as you seem to suggest) in this new title. In short, these two elements, being the core of the series, have always been there.

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG): Battlecruiser involved an entire galaxy of races and planets to explore and the option to lead fleets of ships in massive battles. Is there any possibility that a small freighter could travel from one system to another and trade or smuggle goods to make money and upgrade his freighter? Or perhaps a ship could drop harvesters on planets where the harvesters could harvest resources to build structures and ships and encourage the growth of population?

Derek Smart (DS): You are thinking of a different game. The Battlecruiser series are based on a military mindset. The trading aspect was a throw in for the fans who have come to expect this feature in most any mainsteam space sim. You can still lead large fleets into massive battles, trade, explore, mine planets for resources etc. However, there is no concept of smuggling, harvesting, building structures, population control or any such things. Its not that kind of game. Never was.

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG):How many planets are in Universal Combat? How many solar systems?

Derek Smart (DS):There are over 200 planets and moons scattered across more than 24 star systems

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG):What type (genre) of game is Universal Combat? What makes Universal Combat special in this genre or genres?

Derek Smart (DS): I have no clue really. But if I were pinned down, I'd say that it was a Combat Action game. What makes UC special in this genre is the massive freeform universe, the extent of the game play aspects, its replayability and of course the endless things you can do in the game, at your leisure and based on your own playing style. It doesn't force you to do things in any particular manner - as long as you have imagination.

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG): Tell us about the multiplayer aspects of the game.

Derek Smart (DS): The multiplay version of the game closely mimics the single play. This ensures a seamless nature between the two. You can join a server and do pretty much the same things you can do in single play, but with your friends. In fact, co-op mode is the underlying structure of the multiplay aspects, though you still have deathmatch engagements as well. In fact, using the game's Game Builder System, anyone can create a specific mission script for multiplay, have the server run it, and then have friends join and play it. And given the large variety of game options - which are also exposed via the scripting system - the possibilities are endless and only restricted by one's imagination.

Alfred C. Giovetti (AG): As usual, it is always a pleasure to talk to you.

Derek Smart (DS): Likewise.


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