Date of publish: 23/10/2020 10:01 CET
Overview: Anxious to know about CDV Software’s new strategy game? FileFront got a hold of producer Mario Kroll to reveal everything about Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars.
After the successful of Cossacks, CDV Software finally releases its sequel. Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars moves forward into the 19th century with a new turn-based game for the dominance of Europe. Recently, FileFront had the chance to talk to associate producer Mario Kroll about the making of the new game.
Q: Greetings. Can you please introduce yourself for the readers? Who are you and what do you do for CDV Software?
A: Thank you. My name is Mario Kroll. I wear a number of hats for CDV that include North American Associate Producer and English Language Community Manager. I essentially work as liaison between our German and U.S. offices to help them gain an American gamer’s perspective on their titles. I additionally lift heavily in the PR and marketing realm, making sure that our titles get plenty of coverage and buzz.
Q: How did you come up with the subject matter for the sequel?
A: The original Cossacks focused on the tumultuous time period between the 16th and 18th centuries, a period that included the Wars of Religion in France; conflict between (successively) the Habsburgs, Austrians, and Russians against the Ottoman Empire; the Dutch and Portuguese fighting over Brazil; the French in Algiers; the Prussians and Netherlands; and countless other colonial, expansionist, religious, and political contests that included pretty much every European nation. Our two expansions, The Art of War and Back to War, built on this theme by adding a number of nations not included in the original: Bavaria, Denmark, Switzerland, and Hungary. The latter two fought in the late Middle Ages and overwhelmingly defined the development of European military strategies during that time.
With Cossacks II, more of the same would not have been sufficient, so it was decided to move forward into the 19th century. In Europe, that century was dominated by the exploits of everyone’s favorite vertically-challenged Frenchman.
Q: What kind of historical accuracies are included in the game?
A: We’ve included the six key nations that were heavily involved in the wars that ensued in Europe and Northern Africa during the 19th century: Prussia, France, England, Austria, Egypt, and Russia. Each nation can bring to the battlefield a number of historically based unique military units. A number of key battles are based on their historical counter-parts, in terms of geography, army composition, and relative position. Of particular detail is the way in which the game handles ballistics and weapons trajectories; this is a component that GSC worked particularly hard on. Cossacks II also focuses heavily on unit morale and experience; armies are only effective if they can operate as a cohesive unit, have sound leadership, and have lived to learn from previous battles.
Q: If you could be any past historical ruler, who would you be? Please tell us why.
A: I think Alexander the Great. The Macedonian leader that was unfortunately portrayed by Colin Farrell recently in the Oliver Stone movie was far more complex than a single movie can do justice. He single-handedly redefined military tactics, strategy, improvisation, and most importantly, how to effectively pacify and bring to one’s own cause the nations that he captured. He came about as close to conquering the world as any leader in noted history.
Q: What kinds of inspiration did you take from other RTS games, or did you mainly stick to the gameplay in the original Cossacks?
A: We primarily relied on those things that fans in the original really seemed to love; after all, Cossacks sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide, so we obviously did quite a few things right. But, GSC and CDV weren’t content to rest on our laurels. A new strategic, turn-based game for the dominance of Europe adds a depth and should appeal to fans of games like Risk, Axis & Allies, and Diplomacy. With expanded focus on diplomatic and economic options as alternatives to military conquest, the choices for expanding one’s empire also grow. Most notably, however, will be the improved 3D graphics and the marked focus on unit cohesion, morale, and experience.
Q: Were there any major changes to the overall game that you wanted to make but couldn’t because of any restrictions?
A: There are always things that I would like to see in just about any game, particularly historically based real-time strategy games. Most notably, I would have liked to have seen a more sophisticated friendly AI to which the player could issue rules of engagement-based commands. GSC made the design decision early on that they would like the game to be focused more on the player’s active control of units across multiple fronts, so they did not include such AI. We also all would have liked to include more campaigns and more battles based on actual historical exploits, but there’s always a point of time where you must draw the line in the sand and decide what’s going to go into the game so it can be brought to market in a reasonable timeframe. Of course the latter can always be remedied with community content and, of course, our own expansion packs.
Q: What new elements did you most successfully bring to the Cossacks sequel? A: I think the morale model works very well. It’s absolutely exhilarating to see the enemy’s formations crumble after the first volley of musket fire, simply because their morale is low and their soldiers have fled after seeing their comrades fall. Unfortunately this cuts both ways.
During play testing I cursed plenty as my own green troops ran, based on what seemed like the enemy veterans merely menacingly waving their rifles at them. I exaggerate, of course, but in one battle my heavily armed, reasonably experienced Grenadiers actually did run at the first contact. They had been overcome and depleted by starvation in the desert (my supply line had been cut off); as soon as my enemy’s archers shot their first volley of arrows, my soldiers took off, looking for the first passage back to France.
Some units in the game actually can be so menacing in reputation that they inspire fear and morale loss in the enemy units they face. That’s a “soft factor” that often gets overlooked in war games, and I’m thrilled that GSC was able to include.
Q: Who would you rather see in a fight, Gandhi or Confucius? Or Gandhi fighting Confucius?
A: That’s a tough one. I don’t know that much about Confucius other than the fact that he was some sort of fount of wisdom. Gandhi, on the other hand, believed in passive resistance and civil disobedience. I think if you put the two into a room expecting a fight, it would be a fairly civil affair. Perhaps they could out-debate each other; perhaps they would merely share different perspectives on pearls of wisdom regarding human nature and the way of the world. It would be interesting to watch from a philosophy perspective, but nothing compared to, say a fight between Napoleon and Robert E. Lee.
Q: Is there anything that you would change in the direction of the game if you could right now if time and money were not an issue?
A: We’ve discussed the fact that many of the buildings, while very attractive, are quite large. Rescaling them so each of them was smaller on the maps in the game would be desirable, but by the time we considered that change, it was too late in the development cycle.
Q: How has the reaction from testers been so far? Is there anything specifically that annoyed them?
A: We’ve actually just begun testing the game internally. From the U.S. office perspective, there are a number of non-traditional RTS conventions that may make it a bit less intuitive of an interface than we would have liked to see. I also personally don’t like the way armies are constructed in the real-time game. Individual soldiers have to be constructed and then, once more than 100 are built, they can be formed into units. Unfortunately, soldiers in non-unit groups are fairly ineffective and weak, so I would have liked to have seen the interface allow the creation of entire armies at one time, rather than having to build up individuals one at a time and then grouping them into armies that can join formations and receive leaders, flag carriers, and drummers to bolster their morale. It’s just one more thing the player has to remember to do manually amid an already daunting task of potentially facing combat on a number of different fronts and in various directions.
Personally, I’m a big believer in making the AI handle or manage the more mundane tasks in games, so I would have liked to see more of that. (I should note that some changes in this area have been made, by automating much of the food and resource gathering activities by settlers, when compared to the original Cossacks.)
Q: It has been said that Napoleon felt like he needed to conquer because he was short. Do you think guys who drive big trucks are trying to compensate for something else?
A: Aren’t we all trying to compensate for something? Besides, I heard that it’s not the size but how you use it that matters. try to be covered on both fronts, but others may not be that fortunate. [grin]
I’ve worked with a number of short people and none of them want to be world conquerors (at least they haven’t confided that to me) so I think that height and size related stereotypes are just that. Then again, many of them do shout a lot and wear funny hats…
Interview by Andrew Serros
Original date of publish: 26.01.2005