E3 Relicnews Interview
Text from the interview. Notice that its not 100% word for word and I've been working on it for 2 hours (midnight until 2am) now so I know I missed sentences or altered them here and there. Hopefully I didnt do anything that alters the intended message.
So I just want to thank you for doing this. Relicnews is doing an interview here with Josh, the lead designer of Homeworld 2. He?s just going to take us through the stuff we are going to ask him about, we have about a dozen questions here. We hope you enjoy what you see
So Jeff, anything you want to say to start us out, err...Josh
Have Jeff on the Brain
That?s cool, yea...Jeff on the brain. Aside from the fact we are really happy with how Homeworld 2 is coming along. I mean, I think the main thing is Homeworld was a revolutionary product and the first 3d RTS and it did so many things right that we didn?t really want to mess around with that formula too much. The areas we really wanted to focus on were making the game easier to play so you were actually playing the game and not working the interface. So we added some basic features that were common to most RTSes like the ability to pan the camera. That makes it very quick and easy to select the units. So if I want to select these guys and these guys up here. The other thing we added was a task bar allowing you to get the basic stats of your ships. Again, trying to give the player a lot more information so they know what?s going on. The build and research managers are on screen so you can play with them and so you can keep track of what?s going on in the game. You can close that up. And if you are a die-hard homeworld fan and don?t like any this fancy UI stuff you can go back to the regular old clean screen that a lot of us use. Another key innovation we have is by making things easier. There is no need to press M anymore to bring up the movement manager. It was just an extra step for something very basic. Just right click on empty space, that brings up the movement manager. Hold down the left mouse button, adjust your height. Right click to confirm and these guys are off to do their job.
Basically all the old Homeworld commands are still there?
There all still there. H move..err H harvest. We didn?t want to change it too much for you guys either. That was very important to us as well. I mean, our fans are actually really important to us. We want to make sure you guys are happy. But we also want to make new fans. You guys could use some competition. Here you'll notice an example of a ship...again as in homeworld you can choose the color of your ships. You can now notice the Canadian maple leaf. That?s an example of a badge. You can actually decide, you know, make up your own badges and they'll actually be displayed prominently on the ship. Another easy way to identify players. There is also a lot of mouse over information you can see what each of these units are by just mouse overing them. So this is an interceptor, this is a carrier. So in a nutshell that is the basic UI stuff we have been working on to make the game easier
Oh, as far as technical stuff..I'm sure you guys have already seen this...here are some wicked shadow effects. I'll just select this guy and give him a move order. Notice how the shadows are actually moving across
When it fires the shadows actually become saturated.
Amazing. Do the ships cast shadows on one another as well as themselves?
Yea, we wanted that but for technical reasons it was just really prohibitive. We have like tons of ships in the game. If they were all casting shadows we would have to reduce the number of ships and one of the things we want to keep with homeworld is that epic feel to it and epic doesn?t necessarily mean 10 fighters 2 destroyers. Epic means a whole lot of ships.
Well, let?s get into the questions here. We got...I tried to remember as many questions as I could that the fans were asking and one of the big discussions was "what?s up with the hyperspace core storyline"?
That?s going to be a really cool surprise for you guys. I mean, I don?t want to give anything away but lets just say that the Homeworld universe is much larger that Hiigara. And there is a rich history that was hinted at in the first game and essentially boiling it down Homeworld 2 is a story of the end time. And the Bentusi had prophesized the end time.
So we are going to see that more in the game.
Is there going to be some background info in the manual that comes with it?
Yea...Morgan Jaffit who is one of the designers is going to be working on putting some website stuff up. There was some consistency problems in the Homeworld 1 manual and the actual game so we have to address those as well and answer what happened between Homeworld and now. It?s just a matter of time. If we had unlimited time and unlimited resources we could it all.
One of the other things they are asking is ship limit. How does the ship limit work? You guys had mentioned that you are going to have a support limit type deal in the game. How does that work and what ships add to that limit? And how many points would say a battle cruiser take away from this limit.
Well, something we are working on right now is evaluating all the mechanics and asking "Is this fun or is this work"? And the support mechanic right now is one of those that we are evaluating. Is this something we actually want to keep in the game? Is this fun and add a lot of strategy to the game? Or is this just something that adds work for the player. So we are doing a lot of testing. Currently, the way the system works is support frigates, carriers, mothership, shipyards can actually increase your limit and the same thing with a production facility. Obviously the bigger the ship the more limit it takes up.
Will there be a multiplayer feature to allow you to set your own upper limit?
Is that going to a moddable feature?
Yes. Really, what it boils down to is that the unit limit is really a performance limit. We want the game to run properly so it?s obviously going to be on a slider. 5 years from now when machines can run like crazy you can set that limit as high as it goes.
Next question. Roughly how many ships on each side and basically break it down by class. Are there any special ships? I know a lot of people have been asking for things like gravwells, if they are going to be in the game.
We have....let me address the gravwell. One of the things we have, part of our subsystem mechanic are hyperspace inhibitors on ships that will prevent ships from hyperspacing. Another thing we wanted to do was make your early game units like interceptors and bombers useful in late game so you can upgrade them and give them special abilities. The scout for example you can give them an EMP pulse that actually disables other ships for a limited amount of time. So this way if battle cruisers are just destroying your ships you can EMP them and they are disabled for a few minutes.
Any other cool ships out there that you want to reveal now?
This is one of my favorite ones. The marine frigate. Since salvaging was such a big part of homeworld and we didn?t really intend it, we actually made capturing ships one of the key gameplay elements. So each race has a capture frigate that essentially flies up to an enemy ship and docks on.
What?s the mechanic for the Vagyr frigate...is it different?
Fundamentally its such a delicate balance issue that you have to make both races done have one advantage over another. So the ships operate differently but the underlining mechanics are the same. Here is the Vagyr *capture* frigate.
Oh, so it has like a boarding pod thing...
Yea, it?s got pods. Hiigarans are more traditional...the marines go out and try to capture.
One of the other things people are asking about putting ships in groups. One of the big questions was how are you going to repair a squadron that has lost 3 ships for example.
You dock it with the mothership or the carrier or the shipyard or the battlecruiser.
Is there going to be a cost involved?
In time *
So there will be cost and time?
Cost in time only.
So a battle cruiser is like a production facility in that it can replace lost fighters?
Yea, you can only dock fighters. That?s the only ting you can do with it.
Ok, so you cant build stuff out of it
No, you can?t build stuff out of it.
Strike groups...You want to have a quick go at what strike groups do for the player?
Strike groups is one of the mechanics we introduced and what all good RTSes need is a five second reprieve for the player which means when everything is happening, RTSes get hectic really quickly. One of the things I wanted to introduce was...ok, a 5 second...I'm in combat my ships are engaged for 5 seconds while I take in what?s going on. Now I know what?s going on so I'm going to jump in and take control of my units. Strike groups allow you to do that. What a strike group is essentially a meta formation. It?s a fleet formation. It allows you to group a number of ships and they?re going to start getting into formation around each other. They usually group around the biggest ship.
What are those? Platforms or something?
Yea, those are platforms. As you can tell here we have a squadron of bombers out front leading the way. Here is another squadron of bombers underneath covering the bottom. Frigates usually go on the flanks. When this group gets into battle you know for the first 5 seconds they are going to be taking care of themselves. It doesn?t mean they have heavy AI or anything like that it?s just a matter that they'll pick their targets intelligently and the fighters will be the first ones to jump out.
So you haven?t taken away the micromanagement then?
No...no no no no. Micromanagement is....once again...its what?s cool and what?s work. A certain amount of micromanagement in a battle is good. An excessive amount of it just to win is bad. So strike groups are just a way so you can move your ships from point A to point B and look cool.
And looking good is half the battle.
Yes, especially in homeworld.
How many mothership class ships will you see in the game. You have the Hiigara one and the Vagyr one.
Yea...you'll see there is no shipyard in this one. The Hiigara mothership and the bigger flag ship on the other side. Each race has a shipyard and I'll show it to you guys in a second. In the single player game there are a couple of other mothership sized ships you will run into.
Do you get to see the first mothership or are you going to keep that a surprise for us?
The differences in polygons from then and now...it?s just prohibitive for us to build two motherships. This mothership took almost two months to model and texture. That?s a good chunk of time.
Are we going to see a lot of megaliths. We've obviously already seen the *?* derelict...its pretty big.
That?s probably one of our medium ones. There are some bigger ones. There are some actually that are smaller in size but more of them.
While we are talking about motherships...if you capture a Vagyr carrier, you take over their production facility...Would that allow you to build Vagyr ships?
No. It will allow you to build Hiigaran ships.
So you can build Hiigaran ships from a Vagyr carrier...so they purge their databases.
Yea. It was one of those things if you wanted to keep 2 distinct races...if all of a sudden you have someone with both races...there are also some technical reasons.
What about the Vagyr hyperspace gates. Can a Hiigaran player capture them and use them?
What other races are you going to see in the game. Are we going to see any of the Turanic raiders reappear, the Taiidan, and of course the community favorite, the kadeshi.
The kadeshi...ahh...no. There is going to be one new race...
That we haven?t seen before? Not vagyr, not hiigaran...
What kind of Hiigaran kiiths are we going to be seeing. Are we just going to see the hiigarans as hiigarans or are we going to see some of the sub units as well.
You will see some of the sub-units. Actually one of the title characters in the game is a Sovany(sp?) commander.
So you are going to run into him. Is this early in the game I imagine?
Yea, early in the game. He sort of becomes your Han Solo type of character. He?s out gathering information on the Vagyr while your out *** the bentusi problem.
How many hours are you estimating to finish the game. You've said 15 missions.
So 15 missions, depending on play style and play speed it could be anywhere from an hour a mission to 2 hours a mission. It should be some good chunk of gameplay.
How many multiplayer maps are shipping?
The cool ones. Right now we have over 20. We want to show the ones that best show the game. We've been making multiplayer maps since the beginning. Some are outdated, some we used as trials and others are ones we actually play regularly.
A lot of people have been asking about pilot view. This is first person view from the ship. I know you added it in a patch for the first Homeworld. Is that something that will be in Homeworld 2?
We're discussing it. Again, anything in homeworld you'll see because we think it?s the best we can do. So if we do pilot view it will be because we can do it right. We're not just going to add it in. Ideally I'd like to see a cockpit and actually do it justice.
So that?s not in yet.
Mod community wise...I hear Luke is doing a lot of mod community support.
What types of mods are going to be allowed..things like ships. I've heard single player missions or campaigns.
and maps obviously
So all those things will be there then?
You can add your own ships in?
Will maps automatically transfer as they did in Homeworld? I know IC dropped support for that.
Ummm...see, I wish some of the programmers were here. I think that?s the plan. They are still fine lining the actual player logging. I mean, that?s the plan. You can download badges and that stuff automatically
Right...you should have badges download automatically and maps...
Yea...and the maps are actually really small. They are a text file.
Right, just like before.
We aren't talking megs of downloads. Unless of course you are downloading textures but that would be a mod.
How will gamespy be integrated. Obviously the max players is 6 but how is that going to work. Is it just going to be an ingame browser and once you made the match you aren?t using gamespy?
That?s exactly it.
It?s all peer-to-peer then?
It?s all peer-to-peer. We use gamespy for the game matching, the chatroom features they have. We didn?t have to spend time doing it, it was all already there. It?s a very versatile system. You don?t have to install gamespy arcade. You can just get on and play. You can also direct connect so if you know the ip...
Ahh, I was just going to ask that. So you can do an ip address connection. Is that going to be a command line argument? Like is that something we can start up from the command line?
I know a lot of guys use IRC and they'll be interested in seeing if they can play directly from there.
There is definitely stuff during the beta test that we'll....
So there is...
Yea..yea. There is plan for beta test. When..I'm not sure. My area of responsibility is the game.
There has been a lot of talk recently...a lot of people talking about cheating on won. Do you know what steps are going to be taken especially to limit the cheating in multiplayer games.
No I don?t but that?s something the programmers are always talking about. Every time a new file goes in they always ask how are they going to make sure this doesn?t get exploited.
Do you know if there is any data encryption or anything?
I'm sure there is.
Pretty much the last question....how much is left to do? How far away is it?
Were.....close to being done. We're in that nebulous polishing and bug-fixing phase. It?s coming out this year...in the next few months.
Do you think the beta is coming soon?
Yea...the beta should be happening......soon.
July 22nd date still a chance?
That?s for Dan, Sierra, and the powers that be.....
All right, well, thanks very much for your time and hopefully we'll get this out to the community sometime this week.