The Tuesday Interview – Hubert Cater Talks Strategic Command, and more

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Hubert Cater of Fury Software joins us this week, to chat about Strategic Command, and his other projects ~

Author, 16 January 2017

So, if you’re not working on your own games, what are you likely to be found playing on a night off?

Oddly enough I haven’t played PC (or otherwise) games for probably 10 years now, well at least as a regular escape or attempt at relaxation.  Possibly a bit unexpected for a game developer, but after staring at code all day I’ve found that if I can turn off my brain completely in the evenings I’m that much better off for it.

These days my typical escape is to try and get out and play ice hockey 1 to 2 times a week (I am Canadian so it is my duty to fulfil that stereotype), or to go mountain biking during the warmer months.  Luckily I live near a conservation area and watershed that has some nice trails and I can ride out from my house and be on the trails in less than 5 minutes which is great for a quick ride.

Lately though, and now that my kids are a bit older, often the evenings are just blur spent racing from activity to activity while I still try and sneak in a few of my own.

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There’s no shortage of reference materials for the war, but we all have our favorites that we lean on.   What are the first volumes you reach for when looking up details, or deconflicting multiple sources?   Are there unheralded gems that gamers should keep handy for Strategic Command?

Both Bill Runacre and I have leaned heavily on The World War II Databook from John Ellis, but as Bill has done most of the campaign design he’s also mentioned the use of the The Times Atlas of the Second World War, and especially Chris Bishop’s The Military Atlas of World War II.

A few interesting modern works on the war that should probably also be mentioned are
England’s Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-1942 by Colin Smith
Britain’s War Machine: Weapons, Resources, and Experts in the Second World War by David Edgerton.

 

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Why the move to hexes?   And is there any way to track whether the move to hexes increased sales?

The plan to return to hexes was a long time in coming, and pretty much a conscious decision that SC3 was going to have hexes soon after SC2 was released.  The previous isometric tiles were never really all that well received and since most wargamers feel much more at home with hexes we were very happy to return to them.

In terms of tracking whether the move to hexes has increased sales, it would be difficult to say with any certainty as there were also other updates and changes to the game that would need to be factored in and we also switched publishers to Matrix/Slitherine for this release.  So quite a few variables to consider from our previous releases, but since we are very happy with the sales numbers so far, essentially our best release to date, I’d say that the switch back to hexes definitely didn’t hurt.

 

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What plans are there for future add-ons?   Previous releases (like the WWI game) added in material on conflicts that have minimal coverage (like East  Africa and the Russian Civil War)?

Internally we are discussing the next steps as well as with Matrix/Slitherine and this includes either future add-ons or simply future games or both

As the game is still a bit new, it’s a bit up in the air at the moment as some of those add-ons were initially fan created that we helped polish and include in add-on packages while others we created in house ourselves.  Internally we are discussing the next steps as well as with Matrix/Slitherine and this includes either future add-ons or simply future games or both.  I know Bill is keen on a new WWI game using this engine and the possibility of a Global or Pacific WWII game also exist using the new engine.

Truth is we still need to officially catch our breaths first!

 

What’s changed with the naval conflict part of the game?

Outside of adding in a few new naval unit types we did attempt to address a few key issues that players had with our previous releases. These included eliminating some naval movement acceleration loops (to quickly bring naval units from one part of the map to another area) as well as the overall lack of naval movement range relative to how far naval units typically moved over game turn length periods.

We did this by not only increasing naval unit action point ranges but by also introducing a new Naval Cruise mode which allows naval units to move double their normal action point range.

However,  if using Naval Cruise, a naval unit then gives up its ability to also attack at the end of this particular move and even if surprised by a hidden enemy unit. The idea here was to allow for increased range movements, but at the risk of vulnerability if surprised, and at the loss of combat on the same turn to prevent naval units from zipping in from all over the map to a new area of naval engagement.

 

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What sort of tweaks (or even outright overhauls) were made to the AI?

This was one area we spent quite a bit of time on as large parts of the AI code were re-written and re-vamped.  At its core the AI still uses scripts to direct its overall game play and planning, but the evaluation code that handles which units to attack, the order of attacks, when to defend and when to go on the offensive were completely overhauled.

We also spent quite a bit of time optimizing and refining these routines to speed things up as the map size and overall unit count significantly increased for this European Theater release version.  Without these improvements AI turns would have taken too long and we just felt that it wouldn’t have been up to par for player expectations for this new release.

As a result we really do believe the AI is one of the most challenging ever written for a wargame and that is something we are very proud of.

 

What is the time line for enabling multiplayer, and are you looking at asynchronous gaming, or everyone online at the same time, which enables better smack-talking among the participants?

The good news here is that Multiplayer is nearly wrapped up and will use the Matrix/Slitherine PBEM++ server that many wargamers have grown accustomed to.

Asynchronous or everyone online at the same time is something we’ve considered but there are currently no official plans for it at the moment.  Perhaps for a new game engine down the road.

 

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Any interest in other conflicts with this same engine?

The idea to perhaps do a US Civil War game has come up from time to time and at one time we discussed Napoleon but for either option we’d have to add some key changes to the game engine in order to have them play out as expected.

Other ideas have been to focus on smaller linked campaigns or scenarios as these would highlight the speed and effectiveness of the AI that much more if we focused it more on its tactical strengths, but as with all potential developments, time will tell.

 

Most importantly, how’s your health?   We need you around for more great games!

It is signficantly better and thanks for asking.  I suspect I had been worn down by the final stages of development and release and likely more susceptible to getting sick at the time which ended up in my pneumonia.  Luckily the antibiotics quickly did the trick and I took some time off which helped quite a bit as well.  Just getting away from it all and catching up on sleep did wonders and I now feel completely back to my old self, which feels great 🙂

Thanks for chatting with us, and we’re looking forward to what comes next for Strategic Command


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3 Responses to The Tuesday Interview – Hubert Cater Talks Strategic Command, and more

  1. Bob Belanger says:

    Strategic Command is a terrific game. It is very challenging while remaining close to history as to how it plays out. Amazing!

  2. […] was the adaptation of the excellent Twilight Struggle tabletop game.  Second place was claimed by Strategic Command: WWII in Europe, and third overall was XCom […]

  3. Hueristic says:

    Well It’s about time we got our hexes back! 😀

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