DailyGame got a few moments of time with Mario Kroll, the Associate Producer of CDV’s new RTS Codename: Panzers for PC. Here’s what we learned about Mario, CDV and the game itself.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you give us a little bit of history regarding your background, and that of the development team?
Thanks for giving me time to talk about Panzers!
As far as my history goes, I previously founded and then served for nearly a decade in a number of senior management and executive roles at Wargamer.com, a leading online site dedicated to the coverage of war and strategy games. In July of this year I had the chance to join “the dark side,” and came on board at CDV through our U.S. office, located in Cary, North Carolina.
My current job entails being the Associate Producer in the US for Codename: Panzers, along with handling English language community development.
As the Associate Producer, it’s also my job to listen to what gamers are saying and offer feedback to the development team regarding Panzers. I do whatever I can to make sure Panzers is a game that will make North American RTS gamers stand up and take notice.
Part of my involvement in the product development process for Panzers entails getting people excited about and aware of the game by acting as a one-man traveling show. With the help of two PR agencies, whose efforts I manage, I also travel around the country, showing Panzers to online and print editors, highlighting key features of the game.
Last but not least, I handle English language community development. Which means I make sure the games community has a direct contact with CDV through me, and that I keep the community up-to-date regarding the latest developments with the Panzers franchise and other CDV titles.
WWII RTS titles seem to be popping up a lot lately. We recently reviewed Soldiers: Heroes of WWII and the latest Blitzkrieg expansion (Burning Horizon). What is it about WWII that captures the attention of developers and publishers?
WWII was a war that tested everything we know about warfare. There was a huge variety of tactics and equipment used. Unlike earlier wars, which relied on classic fighting formations and techniques (such as Roman Phalanxes), WWII made everyone at that time rethink strategy and tactics. On top of all the new equipment and strategies employed, the battles were fought across varied landscapes along fairly clear friend vs. foe delineations.
WWII, when you boil it down from a gaming perspective, offers a huge amount of variety to gamers, and provides perhaps the best subject recognition of any conflict in modern history, with fairly universal, world-wide appeal.
In Panzers, what will resource management be like? From what we’ve read, there’s no need to mine resources, but do you have any way to earn more money to buy more units and fix damaged ones?
There will be no resource management in Codename: Panzers per se. By that, I mean you won’t send soldiers out to forage for food or miners out to look for minerals, but you will be allocated prestige points throughout the game, which you spend to upgrade current or acquire new units between missions.
The types of units you purchase will of course determine your style of gameplay. An infantry-centric force will need to be managed and employ tactics that are very different from a combined-arms or a tank-heavy core army.
In the multiplayer domination mode, there is some resource management, but again, there will be no foraging. Basically, each side is allocated factories and barracks for replenishing troops and vehicles; lose those, and you lose the ability to generate reinforcements.
Again regarding resources, if it’s all a cash-based economy, how is it balanced out between nations? For example, will the Germans start most early scenarios with tons of cash, while the Russians won’t have the cash at hand, but plenty of footsoldiers?
Actually it’s all about prestige, the currency of the game. Individual units are weighed according to both combat effectiveness and availability in terms of cost, so different units, within the game system’s abstractions have different costs associated with them roughly equal to their relative combat strength. Depending on how your hero unit performs (your alter ego in the single-player campaign) that’s how many (or few) prestige points you have to spend in the next mission. Of course there are those missions such as some of the Allied airdrop missions early on, where you start with set units, as requisitioning wouldn’t be historically possible. In multiplayer modes, the player that sets up the gaming session determines a common maximum value of prestige and then all players can create their own army, up to the maximum prestige point value.
What’s the timeline for the game? As the player progresses through scenarios, will new technology and weapons be made available? Will we be seeing V2’s buzz bombing cities at some point?
The timeline varies with each campaign. The German campaign starts at the invasion of Poland and ends around the battle of Stalingrad, when the tide of the war began to turn against Germany. The Soviet campaign begins with the German invasion of Russia and ends at the capture of the Reichstag. The Allied campaign offers both historically-inspired American and British missions and starts with paradrops behind enemy lines and the assault on Utah Beach at D-Day, and then completes shortly after the Battle of the Bulge.
As game time passes in the campaign, newer weapons are available for purchase or you can upgrade existing core army units to retain your crew experience. In the multi-player mode there is simply an “early” and a “late” setting that toggles weather early or late war units are available to players.
You won’t see any V2’s bombing cities, but as Allies there is a chance to raid and take out a German V2 rocket base. It’s a great mission that highlights how beautiful the game is in both outdoor and indoor settings.
Regarding mission design; is there going to be any sort of task beyond “smash these enemies, capture this base?” For example, will there be a need to escort vehicles or prisoners? Some sort of variety?
That’s actually one of the highlights of the game. There are so many different types of missions; we could spend another interview talking about just that. All the types of missions you mentioned are included, as are secret missions, pilot rescue missions, defensive missions that turn into offensive counter-attack missions, and so many others. What I personally really like about Panzers is that there is no one tactic that fits all situations. Each mission requires slightly different approaches and that keeps the game very interesting.
How will the game play online? Is it all cooperative, or can multiple players duke it out for supremacy? Will the online gameplay be scenario-based, or can say, America fight it out with Russia on a French map?
There are two primary multi-player options: cooperative and competitive. Cooperative is my personal favorite as it allows two players to join together and effectively “share” prestige points to build an army that is under joint command (each player gets to command the units he or she purchased). It’s a lot of fun to go through the single player campaign and try beating it in cooperative multiplayer mode, or simply to fight one’s favorite single player missions (all thirty are available for cooperative play). The competitive mode features three different multi-player modes that largely center around eliminating the opposition, while one also offers a fight for control of key buildings that permit resource replenishment. The multi-player games are map-based, with each multi-player map supporting a combined four or eight players (both humans and computer controlled players can be selected). Each player selects their nationality, so German on German or other variants are entirely possible.
The Russian military always seemed to believe in numerical, rather than technological superiority. Are fighting styles like this reflected in the game? For example, do the Germans roll around with the hottest equipment, but the Russians can dig in and take out tanks with their footsoldiers?
While this has been abstracted in the game engine, different nationalities do have different fighting styles and their AI also reacts differently. For example, in some of the early encounters the Soviets may retreat early on when faced with German tanks, in an Enemy at the Gates fashion.
When is the game expected to ship? Will there be a sequel?
Codename: Panzers Phase One shipped on October 1 of this year in North America. As the name “Phase One” implies, there most certainly will be a sequel…perhaps we’ll call it “Phase Two” .
Actually we’ve committed contractually to five phases currently, with possible plans for a total of seven, each a stand alone game. Phase Two will add the much anticipated mission editor and plans to introduce action in the Mediterranean and North African regions. As far as Phase Three and beyond, we’re still keeping a pretty tight lip on that for now.