Date of publish: 21/10/2020 19:16 CET
TVG sends Derek along to meet the guys at GSC-Game World, responsible for the forthcoming Cossacks II…
GSC Game World, over the last few years, has built a reputation as one of the most respected Eastern block developers working with a number of the world’s leading publishers, including Interplay/Virgin and CDV for whom they have written previous Cossacks titles. Building on the success of Cossacks and its add-on Cossacks – The Art of War, as well as an expansion pack, Cossacks – Back to War, the next one up in the ever growing Cossacks franchise is the big sequel, Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars, set to enthrall and excite strategy fans. Derek dela Fuente took the opportunity of speaking with the PR manager at the company, Oleg Yavorsky, who was eager to shed light on the team’s up and coming sequel.
The nucleus of the team behind Cossacks II is chiefly made up of personnel who did the original game, although now a bit extended. Initially Cossacks was done by three guys, and the final version credit lists as many as 12 of them. For Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars we now have a team of about 20-experienced game makers all very much hooked on strategy gaming.
Cossacks was GSC’s first, but very successful, project and they were inspired to make the sequel by a multitude of positive press and gamer feedback, top positions in sales charts in Europe, and over 1,000,000 copies of the original game sold worldwide. The onus is to strive to increase the range of the sequel, and compared to Cossacks I there are up to 32000 units supported on the map, bigger and more detailed architecture, simulation of the 19th century army and city life in Europe, more tactical combat, diplomacy and so on.
Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars is a game based on events in Europe and North Africa, occupying a time span of 1793 – 1815. “The described stretch of time is one of the most interesting periods in history, and it’s so cool to build a game on it. The key element of Cossacks II’s game play will be the combat operations. Making general strategic decisions will be as important as conducting tactical maneuvers in the course of the battle. With the help of skilful maneuvering you can win over a numerically superior enemy, while suffering minimum losses. Defence of your own supply wagons and storehouses, as well as capture of those of the enemy, will be an important point in the game too. The most valuable game objective will be the army headquarters. When destroying enemy headquarters, for instance, the player will instantly gain victory. Storehouses, wagons and headquarters should not be distanced from your main forces – otherwise they will stop performing their functions and the player will be unable to conduct military actions.”
There are over 350 original units planned for the game. Unit parameters include not only direct characteristics of their armament (range of action, fire rate, application method, preventing action, armour-piercing, ammunition load, etc), but also the physical condition of people (fatigue), morale and combat characteristics of a given subdivision, soldier mentality of a given nation and the most acceptable application of this kind of troops in the country given. Each of the nations possesses an army exceedingly close in characteristics and look to the troops who warred in Napoleonic times. Unique are not only soldiers of certain troop branches, but various regiments too. Thus, you’ll be able to see Napoleon’s Guards, who have been justifiably famed through battlefields, Russian cavalry guards, Prussian, Austrian and other Guards regiments. There will be represented various units, in this way or the other to have gained renown in battles, all kinds of national armies, a variety of multifarious militia troops from various climes and the game will feature numerous tactical tricks popular in the battles of the time.
Increased ‘realism’ is a big focus for the team but finding out how this is attained is a little subtler. “The armed forces in the game are represented by subdivisions which existed in the period of the Napoleonic wars, with correspondent numbers of troops, composition, armament, uniform and application peculiarities. In total there are about 150 types of troops. Apart from this, various regiments of the very same branch of troops can be distinguished. This has been observed in real historical events featuring those subdivisions, as well as the stereotypes produced after learning the history of ancient regiments. Many of the subdivisions to be represented in the game have become legendary and were subsequently described in the creations of numerous outstanding literati and journalists. Owing to that the consciousness of people has acquired a certain romantic image of those regiments and we wouldn’t like to undermine the expectations of Napoleonic history lovers.”
One little bone of contention was the fact that the game is still 2D and not 3D but this was explained and will remain the same. The team believed that 3D technologies have not yet attained the level acceptable for creation of massive combat strategies in the graphical quality appropriate. The advantages of shifting to 3D in strategies are rather doubtful too, as they often serve more to complicate the game, rather than make it greater fun to play (map rotating, for instance). That’s why GCS preferred to stick to good old 2D. Nevertheless, the new engine created for Cossacks II uses 3D-accelerators and will support a full range of spectacular effects (explosions, for example), provide a rich colour palette and so on. Some game units will probably be in 3D too.
A great deal of very serious research has and will go into developing Cossacks II. Just as an example, a couple of their research team recently came back from the battlefield of Borodino in the vicinity of Moscow, where the centennial anniversary of the famous Napoleonic clash with Russian troops was celebrated by a grandiose battle reproduction involving over 2000 guys from all around Europe. There is no doubt that extensive photo and video material shot will serve a great benefit for the Cossacks II development. Talking about research taken, it is worth mentioning that the unit characteristics in the game will be compiled based on military writings of celebrated military leaders and theorists of the Napoleonic war period, memoirs of the officers who have personally participated in Napoleon’s battles, as well as numerous writings of military historians devoted to the epoch.
So, at the end of the day, apart from the varied gameplay, expect Cossacks II to be an extensive and detailed encyclopedia on military and political history of the 19th century. Players, previously unaware of the Napoleonic war history will find a lot new for themselves and feel the spirit of the romantic epoch. Players, who kept an eye on the history of the period will also find plenty of interesting things here, as the game can serve as a good reference for the armed forces peculiarities (uniform, army composition, tactics, history of the battle ways of assorted regiments).
Familiarity with a game always helps and similarly to Cossacks I, players will find missions and campaigns in single player. Additionally, the game will offer a possibility of waging a number of historical battles, reproduced in scrupulous details. The players will also have a chance to try their combat mastery against opponents on random map and clash, in fair combat, with an absolutely equal enemy, making use of various strategic and tactical tricks.
With a number of Cossack titles created by the team they have a pool of resources and have, when required, used some of the ideas and innovations as was explained: “We want to exploit the good and working principles of the original game in the sequel. The best gameplay things (like massive combats, for instance) will definitely make their way into the sequel. However, this does not mean we won’t implement any new gameplay, tweaks, features and possibilities as we are very much up to bringing in innovations of all sorts.”
“The success of Cossacks could be down to a number of elements. Most likely we should owe this to the large scale of the game, a mass of game possibilities, as well as technical quality of the products. What excites me personally about Cossacks is probably being the master of a whole European nation, the possibility to feel like a real army commander, stage truly massive battles and conquer other enemy nations…it’s just such a lot of fun.”
Getting the right mix of strategy, realism and even ease of playing now comes easily to the team, along with in-house technologies in developing the game. Pushing the envelope and learning is essential for the team. The team, for instance, has coded the engine from scratch, and has a set team of artists, designers, musicians, etc. to create a fully-fledged game in the long run. Cossacks I and its add-ons provided ample experience for the creation of a higher quality product so Cossacks II could well exceed all expectations. There definitely will be certain improvements in the interface, but so far it’s a bit early to talk about them. Other game improvements were also discussed so it does appear the team is not only meticulous but also eager to make a bigger name for themselves.
Summing up the game was the last task for Oleg. “We are very excited about giving players a chance to become Napoleon and conquer Europe without leaving their homes.”
This is one of CDV’s main titles so expect this to appear only when it is 100%!
Written by Derek dela Fuente
Original date of publish: 16.06.2003