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May 23, 2007

Theatre of War Q&A
From the Publishers Point-of-View



Theatre of WarThe much anticipated Theatre of War has been released. But in spite of continuous development and evolution for several years, the shipping version has some issues that, according to who you talk to, range from irritating to non-playable.

SimHQ wanted to give the publisher, Battlefront.com an opportunity to voice their point-of-view on the current status of Theatre of War. We asked Martin van Balkom, President of Battlefront.com, about the new title, and what is being done to address the open issues.

SimHQ: Hello Martin. Thank you for taking the time to field questions regarding ToWs release version. Before we start with the specifics, could you tell us about yourself, Battlefront.com and how you acquired Theatre of War?

Martin: Sure, and thanks for giving us the ability to respond! My name is Martin van Balkom, official job title is President but then we’re a small shop so everybody is really wearing many hats. I joined Battlefront in 2002 officially. Like everyone else we were following the development of Theatre of War, back then still WW2RTS and later Wartime Command, throughout the years. One day through pure coincidence we heard that 1C was again looking for a publisher and established contact through mutual business partners, and very quickly found out that both our goals and ideas for the game were matching almost 1-to-1. From there it was just a short way to sign a cooperation between the two companies and begin work on the release. We quickly found the 1C team extremely professional and very experienced in what they’re doing, and it’s a great pleasure working with them. I believe that this partnership has great potential for the community, with only a small portion realised so far with this first release.

SimHQ: Great, thanks. Okay, here we go. I'll itemize the complaints we've heard and please address each one.

Martin: Will do. I have also asked some of the developers to help me out in answering in detail, so parts of the replies below are from Oleg, David and Igor from 1C. By the way, as a side note I would like to point out that the list you compiled is quite interesting, as it really should help people put things into perspective. After removing a lot of strong words, exaggerations and quite frankly untrue statements, what is left looks like a short list of improvements, none of which are impossible (and some of which have already been tackled – more on that later). The list is also quite similar to issues raised when Combat Mission first came out, except it’s much shorter.

SimHQ: Lack of waypoints.

Martin: Interface design is more art than science, and there is always room for improvement. We would be foolish not to listen to players’ opinions, since no matter how good a design looks on paper, in the end it has to work for the players. So we will try to cater to their wishes on improving controls and gameplay to the best of our ability, and the upcoming patch will feature waypoints both for single units and groups of units.

SimHQ: The incredible enemy AIs ability: they're "X-ray Daniel Boones!"

Martin: The game’s visibility system is quite complicated. Many factors are taken into account. It is important to realize that trees in the game are not just decoration but real map elements that influence the way units move and see. Just like in real life, trees in the game have a trunk and a crown and thus may influence visibility in different ways. To put it briefly, it is a complicated system.

Most complaining players are basically saying that units can see too well through trees. We took a good look at the issues raised and made a lot of effort to improve it. The next patch will offer a more realistic visibility pattern.

SimHQ: Enemy AI can shoot through hills.

Martin: This is incorrect. The AI is not allowed to shoot through hills, walls, trees or other obstacles, neither is the player. The reason behind this issue may be a bug or a misunderstanding as to where the AI was shooting from. Or a misunderstanding of the game ballistics engine perhaps? A round fired from a gun will land somewhere, which may be behind a hill if the ballistic curve allows for it.

What does happen is that the AI is informed via scripts of the general location of player units, just like the player has a rough idea of where enemy units are located (especially after playing a scenario once). Perhaps people are confusing this?

SimHQ: Equivalence in ability of dissimilar tanks and guns. For example, the T-34 eats up the Tiger.

Martin: This is not quite true. T-34 tanks in the game do not have decisive superiority over Tigers. Similar issues were raised when Combat Mission came out, and statistics finally showed that everything was working as intended. Some players see a Tiger and see a T-34 and expect the outcome to be certain, but so many factors come into account — distance, type of ammo, skill of the gunner, point and angle of penetration and interior damage — which are based on the actual situation that they cry foul immediately when the outcome does not meet expectations.

Moreover, there are three variants of T-34 present. For instance, the model T-34-85 could well pierce through a Tiger’s armor with a BR-350 sub-caliber shell. Also, there are accounts by war veterans when a Tiger managed to penetrate a T-34 but the latter remained battle-worthy. Some players also seem to occasionally mix up Tigers with the latest Pz.IV versions.

But anyway, we would like to assure everyone that we tried to use real-life and repeatedly checked data and definitely avoided boosting performance of Soviet tanks.

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