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Old 02-02-2006, 08:15 PM   #1
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X-Fire Dev Chat Transcript

Originally posted by [LEC] Rogue

Hey Everyone this is the rough draft of the Xfire Dev Chat we just finished. Check it out! I'll be cleaning it up a bit a little later, but I wanted to get it all out there now for everyone who couldn't make it to the chat!


Delphi-PG: Hi there, my name is Chris Rubyor, game designer

petroglyphmike: Hi, I'm Mike Legg - Lead Programmer on Star Wars: Empire at War and President of Petroglyph. Thanks so much for having us here today!

joebwan123: Hi I'm Joe Bostic -- Petroglyph Design Director for Empire at War. Good afternoon!

Delphi-PG: Will the server list be based like the steam server list? or will it be like the BF2?

The list will be very similar to BF2/Generals.

petroglyphmike: What game engine was used in the making of the game and did you make a custom engine?

We wrote the engine and tools all from scratch - including the Alamo rendering engine. We started in November of 2003.

Delphi-PG: Will Empire at War be mod-able and if so, how much will we be able to change?

Players will be able to capture unique points on the battlefield giving access to cool unique units. There will also be multiplayer specific heroes for teams. In addition, we also have a wide array of options to play around with and customize.

joebwan123: Why did you decide to include a cinematic cam, and did you have to make any changes to the engine to make it look good?

We wanted to capture the 'you are part of the action' experience that was in the movies. The models were not originally designed for viewing up close, but we were surprised, that many of them worked well. Of course, we made many adjustments to bring up the close-up quality of many of the units.

petroglyphmike: Will Empire at War be mod-able and if so, how much will we be able to change?

As you can tell by all the fun mods to the demo, the game engine is very mod-able and data driven. When the final version of the game ships, you will see how fully mod-able it is. We tried to make it as data driven as possible.

joebwan123: How much development freedom were you granted on the troops, armies, fleets, and galaxy in Star Wars: Empire At War?

We had to work within the Star Wars universe and this provided many of the resources (vehicles and ships) we needed, but LucasFilm was very cooperative when we needed to add more units to fit in places where we needed specific kinds of units to fill specific roles. For example, the T4-B tank was not strictly part of Star Wars lore, but is now.

Delphi-PG: Will infantry be more useful and harder to kill?

Yes, infantry have been tuned and tweaked since the release of the demo. Like most RTS games post launch we will be watching the online community closely and tweaking the game as needed.

joebwan123: Do the storyline follow the movies pretty well? Does it cover the 6 movies?

The story starts a few years before the beginning of Episode IV, but it does continue into and through that movie a bit. You get to participate in a bit of the back story of the famous characters as well such as "what was Han Solo doing before all that trouble with Jabba the Hutt?" You'll find out.

Delphi-PG: Will the game have a Ladder???

Yes EAW will have a ladder for Land, Space tactical and MP campaigns.

petroglyphmike: Was it difficult to stay within the confines of the current technology in use by a lot of people, and not go overboard with the graphics and game AI?

Since we wrote everything from scratch, it was not very difficult. We made the engine to work well on the min-spec but look amazing on the high-end systems. There is a ton of AI in the game, especially in the strategic Galactic level, which required a lot of profiling and optimizing. The graphics were pushed to the max in land and space.

joebwan123: How long did it take to create the game, and was George Lucas involved (if so what role did he do?)?

It took about 2 years to develop. All things considered, I'm a bit surprised we were able to accomplish so much in so short a time. The three areas of gameplay combined with starting a company (and even having to move offices three times) were quite a challenge. One could say that LucasArts was very easy to work with and made our job much easier than it could have been.

joebwan123: In the past, LucasArts has a history of being intimately involved with the building of any game based on their franchise. Have either LucasArts or Industrial Light and Magic donated any effort/resources to helping build the game cinematically, musically?

Yes, LucasArts has been very helpful. We even got movie and assets for Episode III units before the movie was released! Of course the Star Wars database LucasFilm maintains was invaluable to reference.

petroglyphmike: What inspired you to completely revolutionize the Star Wars RTS gaming, and RTS gaming in general?

With LucasArts, we wanted to have really great space and land battles, so we needed to bridge them together. Strategic galactic mode was created out of this, and made for a great top-level real-time (not turn-based) strategic component. The persistence of units between the battles, combined with the fact that units can be on land or in space was a lot of fun to us.

Delphi-PG: Question: Is the death star only destroyable by Red Squadron or will other ships be able to destroy it? Also will the ion cannon be able to affect the Death Star?

Yes, Red Squadron is the counter to the Death, but it requires long and intense tactical battle to achieve victory. The Death Star is immune to Ion Cannons.

joebwan123: Will pads for all buildings be on every planet, or just specific ones? If so, what determines what pads are on each planet?

"Pads" (the spots where you can build any number of defensive turrets or tactical combat affecting structures) are on most planets. The number and placement are governed by the type of planet. Example: A swamp planet might not have as many since there is the water/mud issue.

petroglyphmike: How much time and money did it take to Just make the EAW game engine?

We started in November of 2003, with just a couple of people. For the first 18 months, we developed design, assets, code and tools until the engine was mostly complete. We then locked in on implementing the game play for the next 6 months. By the end, the team size was up to the low-mid 30's. We're about to move to our 4th office location that is being built now.

Delphi-PG: Do Capital ships die when loosing all its health, or will they not die until all hard points are killed?

Capital ships are considered destroyed when all hard points have been eliminated.

petroglyphmike: How was the loading time kept to such a minimum yet still having the game look amazing?

Most RTS's take a while to load, especially the really detailed ones. We put the loading code in its own "thread", which runs simultaneously with other code. Space maps load faster since there is no terrain map to load. Land maps are a little slower to load. With the map size, load speed decreases a bit. We also keep the persistent galactic mode in RAM at all times (even on min-spec).

joebwan123: Is playing Vader going to leave me feeling that I just used the most powerful jedi of all time?

Of course. Until you play Palpatine, that is. Then once you play Boba Fett, you may change your mind as the seismic charge Slave I drops is devastating. Each hero has powers and abilities. In the right place and right time, each one can dominate the situation. The trick is knowing when it is time to bring in a particular hero into battle.

Delphi-PG: Will there be IP to IP game play available?

EAW Does not have direct IP connect at this time; all custom and quick matching are done

petroglyphmike: Are mods for the full version still restricted to a certain file size per xml file(like what it is for the demo) or is it open?

We never expected anyone to mod the demo - but thought it was great. When the real mod support is enabled, there will not be restrictions on file sizes. It will be quite easy to mod and expand.

joebwan123: Will "HERO" characters have special abilities, such as the hero characters in Warcraft III?

Yes, and that is what makes each hero better than just "more powerful with more hit points". The special abilities are what makes one hero more appropriate than another given a particular situation. For example, if you have lots of infantry (Ewoks, for example) that need frying, Emperor Palpatine is the best choice. Although, Boba Fett's flame thrower also works efficiently.

petroglyphmike: What part of the game are you most proud of?

I personally love that there is a real-time galactic (strategy) mode binding the tactical RTS battles together, with persistence of all the units and structures. I also think the Star Wars heroes are great, along with the tactical "hard points" on the capital ships, that can be individually targeted based on your strategy (it's fun to have big units composed of smaller hard point targets).

Delphi-PG: Is multiplayer more than 2 players?

EAW will support 1vs1 for online campaign mode and 2-8 players for skirmish ground and space tactical games. For clarity, tactical games are one off maps similar to that of a traditional RTS, campaign follows in the footsteps of the single-player game.

joebwan123: In the galactic conquest mode, the interface is very graphical and non-menu intensive - are there any plans to port this game to consoles?

We struggled quite a bit on the galactic UI. It went through MANY variations before we settled on the version you see. We were mindful of the console market as well, so if we do a console version of some kind, I'm sure we'll build upon it.

petroglyphmike: Will there SPACE vs. GROUND battles?

Not at the same time, but during land battles you can call in attack forces from orbit if you have them there. Also, if you've built defenses on the ground of the planet and are having a space battle, you can call in attacks with those weapons from the surface. It's all part of the persistence of structures and units between land and space. You'd better think twice about attacking a space station when they have an Ion Cannon down on the planet

petroglyphmike: Will hero units always be successful or is there a chance they will fail or be captured? i.e. Han and Chewie?

All heroes can be ultimately defeated, and certain ones could trigger a game loss. Other heroes can be defeated and will leave the area, only to return later for more fun.

petroglyphmike: Can the Death Star destroy planets?

Oh yeah - gloriously so! It's really cool that you can build storm trooper squads to vehicles to fighters to mid-size ships to star destroyers to the Death Star. It's quite a feeling of empowerment to wipe a planet permanently off the galactic map - reducing it to an asteroid field.

joebwan123: When working on multiplayer modes, what did you focus more on, Galactic Conquest, or Skirmish?

Actually both. It really wasn't a "one or the other" decision since they play quite differently. For example, in early versions, we forced all tactical battles to be auto-resolved and the galactic game turned into a galactic 'chess match' experience. It was quite fun. However, skirmish (aka "tactical mode") is where the most man-hours were spent due to land & space modes.

Delphi-PG: What sort of anti-cheat/anti-hack system will be implemented? Obviously if this is a modded game, some form of anti-cheat would be required.

EAW has code in place to detect altered files. If you try to connect to a player with a modified version of the game, the system will go “Out of Sync.” For tournament games, a players profile will track out of syncs allowing us to see which players are trying to exploit the system.

petroglyphmike: Be honest, is the collectors edition worth the extra 10 bucks?

Wait until you see it - it looks SO COOL! I was really blown away. There are some other bonus goodies along with it, too.

joebwan123: Is there a unit that can "Snipe" other units or even Ships?

Yes, there is the Rebel Infiltrator that is equipped with a sniper-type weapon. The Accuser Star Destroyer has a powerful beam weapon that can "snipe" smaller ships effectively. Then, of course, the Imperial Hypervelocity Gun is the ultimate space "sniping" weapon!

petroglyphmike: After demolishing a planet, will it be just a void in space, or will the player to able to build space stations in that area?

Yes, the area becomes a big asteroid field and you can still build your space station there. Oh yeah, did I say the special edition looks ABSOULTELY AWESOME? Wait until you see it.. Oh, and the Special Edition will also have extra content like maps, art, awesome screensavers, etc.

joebwan123: Did you originally plan to make EaW unique, or did you try using conventional methods early on in the design?

We wanted to break from the old-school RTS formula of "harvest harvet harvest build build build fight game-over. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 10-15 times". The RTS genre needed to stretch a bit and adding a strategic level of control was the area that made each battle have a larger meaning in the grand scheme, but in a way that was under player control.

Delphi-PG: You guys mentioned that we can do some modding, but will we be able to script our own events in custom made missions?

Yep! This is all done through XML and Lua scripting system.

petroglyphmike: In your version of the game, who shot first? Was it Han? And is the answer different between the regular version and the special edition?

Some Jawa over in the corner of the cantina took a pot shot at Ben, which deflected off his light saber, and accidentally hit poor Greedo.

petroglyphmike: How complicated is the AI in Empire at War, will it offer unique strategies, trying to trick us, and trap us, or will it follow standard RTS formula, winning by brute force and speed?

The AI is really amazing in my opinion. The tactical battle RTS AI will sometimes try to pull tricks on you, or even lure you. At the galactic level, it is very complex because it needs to think like a human player in a grand strategy game. Ultimately, we tried to make the AI so that it would not be impossible to beat, but rather provide and fun and challenging experience for everyone - casual to hard-core gamers.

petroglyphmike: As far as modding goes, will you have a mission editor with an easy-to-use scripting/globals editor.

We have not made any official announcement yet regarding the editor (but the odds are good), so keep checking the EAW web site for more info right after the game comes out.

[Xfire] matteox: okay a couple more minutes and then we will raffle some games

petroglyphmike: What was a memorable moment from the development of the game?

Our team members got to take multiple trips to Skywalker ranch for lunches and research - that was amazing. With LucasArts moving to the Presidio with the other LucasFiim divisions, those have made for some really fun trips. The new LucasFilm campus is absolutely amazing! Our LucasArts friends work in an amazing environment!

joebwan123: Why did you guys decide to go with a 2.5D plane for space instead of a full 3D environment?

We looked at games that were only 2d (armada) and fully 3D (homeworld) and decided to do half way since full 3D movement, although realistic, was very hard for average player to manage. We wanted it to be easy to understand, control, and plot strategy without the 3D element confusing the less experienced player.

[Xfire] matteox: we should all thank the EAW crew for taking the time to answer your questions so thoroughly.

Delphi-PG: Are the build times in the demo indicative of what’s to be found in the full game?

Not really, for the demo we increased the build times to help speeds things up. In the full version, build times have been balanced out so they take longer based on the unit and its capabilities. This also applies to structures and super weapons.

joebwan123: Can we see some Ewoks fight a Rancor in the near future?

Possibly. First, take a Rancor. Then using infantry, lure him near some Ewoks. Watch the fun ensue. Thanks guys, off to play some more tactical space multiplayer games with the design crew!

Delphi-PG: Thanks guys, off to play some more tactical space multiplayer games with the design crew!

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