I can't lie; the notion of sitting in a room having a conference call with some men from Sweden to discuss their new military-themed RTS doesn't ignite the fires of enthusiasm deep inside my belly. Sure, it sparks a flicker of excitement - just look at these proud guns lined up, with little men running hither and thither and beautifully realistic trees around them - that's glorious attention to detail. Despite this though, my froth glands are distinctly inactive.
World in Conflict is a strategy title being developed by Massive Entertainment, the same guys who made Ground Control. We know it's set in a fictional Cold War conflict based partly in US suburbia. Armed with these two pieces of knowledge, I approach a phone with Martin Walfisz, CEO and founder of Massive, on the other end and speak my questions into it. The answers I receive are set to change my life, forever.
Alright, so maybe that's a bit dramatic, but coming from something as far-out as the sci-fi strategy Ground Control to the semi-realistic setting of World in Conflict is quite a leap. Not only that, but I'd soon come to learn that the crux of World in Conflict comes not in its Cold War setting, nor in its highly-detailed graphics engine. No, the core of World in Conflict is a multiplayer concept never before attempted in an RTS. Imagine the multiplayer rules of say, Counter-Strike or Battlefield, apply them to a strategy game and you'll begin to understand where Massive is trying to go with this. If you're waiting for the proverbial twist, or perhaps a metaphorical hook, or maybe a mixture of the two in the form of some intangible, twistable hook thing, you can relax now.
"The basic core mechanic of World in Conflict, keeping in mind that this is a real-time strategy game, borrows heavily from first-person shooter games like Counter-Strike and Battlefield," begins Walfisz.
"In multiplayer, each player starts on one of two teams, just like you do in Counter-Strike, and each team has a deployment zone at one end of the map. When you choose a team, you choose a role such as commanding heavy armour, leading infantry or perhaps focusing on air power. Once you've picked your role you then buy units, your weapons of warfare basically. And once they're deployed in your deployment zone, let's say five tank units and three infantry units, they're yours to command and move around the map."
NO 'I' IN TEAM
That'll be the Counter-Strike aspect. Just like in Valve's shooter, World in Conflict's multiplayer consists of connecting to a server, choosing a team, choosing a role and then buying your equipment before you actually play. What this means is that teamplay will be paramount to having an enjoyable game, as just like in real war, a divided army will fall.
Of course, for hermit types who'd rather wage their own wars and not have to depend on other players to co-operate effectively, Massive plans to include standard 1v1 and 2v2 games, but when it's possible to crank the player count up to frenetic 8v8 games, something no modern strategy game has offered before, we don't see why you'd want it any other way.
Massive is also promising multiplayer gameplay which allows people to drop in and out without being at a disadvantage, again mimicking the online shooter ethos, as well as foregoing the usual RTS grinds of resource gathering and base-building.
"It's still a strategy game," states Walfisz firmly. "However, it's unlike all the traditional RTS games which have gone before, where first you must harvest your resources and construct your buildings, then construct your units, and after half an hour go out and have a battle. Here, the focus is on always being in the heat of the battle. It has the accessibility that a lot of first-person shooters have."