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Thread: Interview with Darth Vader

  1. #1
    StealthFox's Avatar Consensus Achieved
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    Default Interview with Darth Vader

    Interview with Darth Vader, creator of Ultimate General: Gettysburg, by Dark Storm

    ...the force is strong with this one.

    Ultimate General; Gettysburg So Darth, what is "Ultimate General: Gettysburg"?
    It is a game which resembles old time favorite Sid Meier's Gettysburg and combines features seen in Total War titles. Obviously, my experience in modding Total War games has inspired me to apply some of those features to my game. We introduce also a very innovative control system which uses arrows. There are other games that use similar unit movement methods but Ultimate General: Gettysburg has a more fluid mechanic that is perceived very easily how it works. I would like to emphasize below a small list of features.

    Ultimate General Gettysburg offers:
    - The Battle of Gettysburg played in a dynamic multi-day battle campaign
    - Competitive AI that uses no cheats
    - Demanding Tactics system that is simple to understand but hard to master (especially in Multiplayer )
    - Complex Line of Sight which takes into consideration terrain and elevation
    - Innovative control system which allows the command of large armies with ease
    - Self-dependent units

    For more information I advise you to visit my blog where I describe in detail much more about the game:

    What inspired you to move from modding Total War games into developing your own game?
    Always, my big dream was to work in the game development industry. Modding was the "medicine" to cure this passion while I was doing professionally entirely different things. After retiring from the Total War modding scene I was thinking to make my own game. I was beginning to make some personal attempts to promote a game idea to various developers. At that time Game-Labs founder contacted me and made me an offer. Game-Labs was a start-up company that was interested to make a strategy game and wanted to give me the honour to design it. After some very brief negotiations our cooperation had started, and I was in the game development industry.

    What's the history behind "Ultimate General: Gettysburg" and how did you bring the feel of the American Civil War and this battle into the game?
    Ultimate General: Gettysburg is a mix of Game-Labs original thoughts on how the game should look and feel and my design approaches which are realism centric. We wanted to make a game that would appeal to both casual and hard core strategy game players.
    The map should be accurate but at the same time have an attractive visual style. The gameplay should be fun but also should take into consideration the basic aspects of Civil War warfare. The controls should be simple and adjustable for tablets and at the same time support deep tactics. The budget was not large enough to make an AAA game. So more frequently we considered cutting ideas and features than adding new ones. During the development, in all ways possible, we respected the history behind this famous and important battle of the American Civil War by adding content that was historically correct. The final product eventually is a game that offers exactly those that it promises. We are frank to the potential buyers by presenting to our pages a detailed feature list and images that are not visually enhanced. So everyone who is interested in this military era or generally likes tactical war gaming can make his mind easily if this game is for him.

    How did the project come about in the first place?
    I already mentioned how Game-Labs approached me and what was the basic design concept in the previews questions. I would like to add the fact that the project has passed multiple levels of proofing before it started to take shape and be confirmed for a release schedule. Game-Labs wanted to make an American Civil War or a Medieval war game. I liked both concepts but I preferred to make a game based on Ancient Greece (since I am Greek ). Eventually we found common ground to simulate the Battle of Gettysburg, inspired by the recent 150th Anniversary of the battle. The American Civil War period was also one of my favorites so I was very happy to be able to work on this. The challenge ahead of us was enormous since the game had to be made virtually from scratch, from zero.

    Building piece by piece the databases, the graphics, the controls, and the AI was a unique learning experience. For a long period of time, only three people worked on this game. Me and two programmers. The game looked VERY ugly as a prototype. Periodically the project was green lighted internally to check its progress and if it was worth to continue it. Eventually we announced it last July and more teammates were allocated to the project to help finish it. After about one and a half year it reached the "shelves" of Steam.

    What feedback have you received since releasing the game?
    When Ultimate General: Gettysburg has been released for public testing in Steam Early Access, it had still a lot of issues I personally could not bare to watch... This is why I was afraid that it would receive very negative comments. Eventually players proved me wrong. They appreciated the whole effort and in an overwhelming majority provided extremely positive reviews and feedback. But we (Game-Labs) and players knew there were many things to sort out before the final release and we worked it out together. It was a fantastic experience to get the positive vibes of so many people and receive so much help with detailed texts and bug reports. Early access stage proved to be a great tool that helped us to finish the game. Now that Ultimate General: Gettysburg is fully released and is considered finished, we continue to get very positive comments and suggestions about things we could improve. We are evaluating these opinions and prepare the first patch 1.01.

    How did you feel when you saw something you'd worked for, for so long, on the 'shelves' of Steam?
    It is a personal satisfaction for three reasons. First, it was a dream I made true. Second, it was a fulfilled promise given to my teammates that our effort will be finalized and reach its primary goal, to release successfully on Steam. Third, it is a proof to the Total War gaming community, which made me what I am now, that I can offer something extra for them. I though feel that there is still a big road ahead of me. We need to release the game on tablets and other platforms. Additionally, Ultimate General: Gettysburg brand oughts to keep producing quality strategy games that sell and this is big challenge.

    What would you say was the most challenging part of developing a game from scratch?
    Making the AI was the most demanding process. Because without it you actually have no game. You have a set of graphics and sounds that have no meaning to you as a player. So to have at first a game that actually does nothing and progressively you give life to it, make it doing intelligent actions and providing challenge to players was a difficult task and the most rewarding when you see it complete. I cannot separate other game elements as more challenging than the rest. Even linking the animations to game actions was demanding and required a lot of play testing and searching for bugs.

    And by that same token, what did you find the easiest in game development?
    Honestly I cannot declare something as easiest. Game development is probably one of the most demanding jobs of our times, if you want to play in the "big league". I can only trace an easier part comparing to modding. In modding you often do not have the ability to change code and game elements directly. So you must find work-arounds, play with numbers in almost magical ways, to push the gameplay and AI to other levels than it is designed to be. In game development you have the power to directly alter the game assets to your liking. Thus, it is many times easier than modding from that point of view.

    Now that I mentioned this it is good to notice that in game development there is often need for "modding" too. When deadlines are pressing and the game has issues or lacking features that need entirely new code which you do not have the time to implement, then you are forced to make "alchemies" as I say. There is way to "hide" bugs and inconsistencies by making compromises on things you would like to add, but it is impossible to create. The goal is to have the end product enjoyable for the players. I had to do this very often during the Early Access stage for various gameplay matters.

    Do you have any advice for would be game developers in the community?
    Our team is small but effective enough to progress and release the game against huge obstacles that came on the way. This made me realise the importance of a good team building as a process. Build a team that has a common goal. If your team has skills combined with dedication to the project you can achieve everything you want, depending on your resources. If your team has skills but you want to make the best strategy game in the world while others are mostly interested in action shooter games, card games or anything else unrelated, in the long term, the project will have difficulties to focus on priorities and will cost more. Increasing costs without selling anything can destroy your game project even before it is released.

    What do you envisage for the future of "Ultimate General: Gettysburg" any new features in the works or that you would like to add?
    Ultimate General: Gettysburg opened the way for a new type of strategy games. The AI and the movement arrows mechanics are probably its most strong selling points. I would like to make this type of games to include a campaign as in Total War, have even more strategic depth and realism while maintaining simplicity in the controls. It will all depend from the final game reception. The game has only recently being released on Steam. Official reviews are not many yet due to our very mild marketing promotion policy, but will start to appear sooner or later. As sales keep coming and the people show to us what means most for them, we will respond with new titles and features accordingly.

    Can we expect to see any more "Ultimate General" titles in future?
    Yes, new titles will come and I wish I could share more information about that. Since the team has not fully decided what will be the next game or era and is now focused on releasing the game on tablets, I can only say that... the battle has just began!

    Do you see yourself ever returning to the Total War modding scene?
    Although I miss very very much modding and all the creative interaction it offered, I think I will never be able to come back, due to my new career. Working almost all day in a PC limits my will to stay longer in front on my screen and make additional work for other games.

    What has been the proudest moment for you out of the whole process?
    Without a doubt... the players' good comments. Nothing else. This is the best reward I got from making this game. Thank you all!

    What can you tell us about the team you worked with? Who else was involved?
    Game-Labs is a start up company and its head studio is situated in Kiev. The developer team worked hard the past year for two titles. The first is Ultimate General: Gettysburg and the second is Naval Action. Naval Action is a game which will offer naval battles similar to Empire: Total War and Napoleon: Total War but you will play from inside the ships, manipulating their inner mechanics. Naval Action is a game with AAA 3D graphics and this is why the largest proportion of the team was working for this title. While Ultimate General: Gettysburg was in prototype stage, it was worked only by me and two programmers as mentioned before. Later, the Game-Labs teammates who have put significantly large effort for this game for a steady period of time (I will call them with their small names) are: AlexD, AlexP, Vitaliy, Slava, MaxB and Ilias. Ilias or as you know him... husserlTW is well known in this forum for his own mods and the collaboration we had for making my latest DarthMod launchers and various extra campaigns. HusserlTW joined our team the last October and helped enormously for the project as support designer and tester. More people from Game-Labs team were assigned to the project for short time periods to help in various sectors of development.

    As a team did you have any difficult moments while working together?
    Because most of the teammates were working in different countries or out of the office we had to collaborate online. Although nowadays there are many modern Internet applications that help people to cooperate online, the personal interaction was some times very much needed to speed up processes. Another hard time we have passed as a team was the recent turmoil in Kiev. The stubbornness we all have (in a good way) and the dedication to the project helped us to overcome this huge obstacle.

    Is there anyone you'd like to mention who has influenced you or helped you with creating your first standalone game?
    It is now the best time to mention the man who without him Ultimate General: Gettysburg would have never existed. I want to thank publicly Maxim Zasov, the CEO of Game-Labs, for showing faith to my skills and giving me the chance to create this game. Maxim Zasov also had the main vision about the special art style of Ultimate General: Gettysburg and its movement arrow system while he participated actively to the development processes. No matter how things will go in the future, Maxim will always be one of the most influential persons of my working career.

    How did modding prepare you for full-time game development? Was it helpful to already have that experience?
    My previous modding experience made many things easier for me. I knew the basics of putting all things together to make the game's data base. I had strong belief for the minimum features of a working strategy game and pressed them to the development process. I am very familiar in working together with the gamers community to understand their needs. Finally I knew to tweak numbers and gameplay parameters as a whole working set which actually makes a game functional and good if made right.

    At that point I want to mention how serious it is to always treat game parameters and AI as they belong to the same body. Even the best AI code will behave stupidly if for example the morale parameters are not edited properly to follow the game's AI logic. That was very understandable to me when modding TW games and helped me to design the AI accordingly.

    Are you looking for any help with future releases, I know a few people have mentioned wanting to get involved in the research side of things; what would you say to them?
    Already many players had helped a lot with their feedback and their sharing of knowledge. We receive requests for volunteer work to translate the game's text in other languages and in general many kind people want to participate in research and other aspects. I would be pleased to collaborate with anyone who is willing to help us. But before, Game-Labs must first announce its next plans for future games. We need first to decide what we'll do and then we'll know what we'll need.

    When playing the game what's your preferred strategy? Have you beaten the game yourself?
    I like to just position my units in strategic locations and expect them to do their best. I very seldom give manual orders for my units, except some charge commands, since the basic gameplay approach favors them more if you give them space and time to do what is needed. After some thousands hours of play testing Ultimate General: Gettysburg I can safely say I have beaten the game hundreds of times and I have been beaten equally or more times. I need to make the game more challenging in the next patch by the way, because the Union AI which is attacked by superior forces from all sides has difficulty to hold its ground, based on historical facts. To fix this we will make some fine tunes that I hope players will appreciate.

    Is there anything else you'd like to say?
    Thank you for this interview. It is always a great pleasure to speak to TWCenter, my most beloved forum of all times.

    Interview by Dark Storm

  2. #2

    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Darth is very well spoken in this interview, really enjoyed his answers.

    I bought this game even though the Civil War inspires very little in me to read or play games about. I want to support this project because I think they can release one day the strategy game I day-dream about. Also glad to see Ukraine has many bright minded people working there.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Cattle die, kindred die,
    Every man is mortal:
    But the good name never dies
    Of one who has done well

    Havamal 76

  4. #4

    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Follower of Darth for life

  5. #5

    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Thanks for your effort Darth!
    What I found mostly interesting in this interview is that while the game is awesome, Darth didn't sugarcoated it. He was brutally honest about the game's limitations. I would actually say I respectfully disagree: The graphics are awesome, better than those "AAA 3D" stuff.

    The second most interesting thing is... the interest on Ancient Greece battles.

  6. #6
    Finch's Avatar is Deadpool
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    i'm currently playing this game right now.

  7. #7
    Black_Nebula's Avatar Tiro
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Grats to DV and his project, awesome to see it a reality! I wish him all the best, and great interview, a really good read.
    "I find your lack of faith...disturbing" -DV

  8. #8
    Huberto's Avatar Praepositus
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Good game, good interview. I've enjoyed UG:G and am looking forward to the next project. Congrats to the entire development team

  9. #9
    Menelik_I's Avatar Vicarius Provinciae
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    Republica de Angola, eu voltei para a sua Putaria

    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Good stuff Darth, I will put this baby on my which list. The Force is strong on this one.
    So many things go wrong in life that a sense of humor, even of the macabre type, should have been standard issue.

  10. #10
    The Ancient World's Avatar Emperor Darius II
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Well thanks CA.

    You threw away one of the best modders this series had.

    Dragon den coporates!

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Im gonna do the thuggie for your games success I also purchased it.

  12. #12
    Finch's Avatar is Deadpool
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    i love the fluidity of the game and the AI is really competitive i've won 3 out of 8 games now.

  13. #13
    harnas1977's Avatar Laetus
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Great game - bought it a couple of weeks ago.
    AI - as it should be!

  14. #14

    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Thank you all for reading, and thank you a lot for this interview!
    It gave to me the opportunity to speak frankly about several aspects of the game and its development progress.

  15. #15
    ToonTotalWar's Avatar Indefinitely Banned
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Great to see you back Nick! Really happy and proud that you achieved your dream to work in the games industry.

    Will be purchasing your game soon and will leave feedback mate.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Hey, I'm just here to make a call to any UG:G player who wants to do multiplayer, as to me, the main issue of the game is that only 3 of my Steam mates got it and they happen to suck at it

    So if anyone here is in the same situation, well send me your steam ID by PM. The best thing would be to build a Steam group gathering owners of the game so we can add some. Right now the online search takes ages: the best would be to schedule a game time to time with players as I guess the game won't be massively played ever I fear (God hear my complaint).

    EDIT: my bad there's already a lobby on Steam, you can still contact me if you want though ^^

  17. #17
    ♔DARTH LEGO♔'s Avatar Vicarius
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    awesome game awesome work Nick.

    cant wait for the next title which im sure is coming

  18. #18
    Shankbot de Bodemloze's Avatar From the Writers Study!
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Great set of questions Dark Storm, and thanks to Darth Vader for the detailed answers.

    [2016 Member Awards | Nominate Now]


  19. #19
    Carl Edward's Avatar Civis
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    Default Re: Interview with Darth Vader

    Enjoyed the game very much Darth! Can't wait to see what you'll get up to in the future!

    "One minute decides the outcome of a battle, one hour - the success of a
    campaign, one day - the fate of an empire."

    Alexandr Vasilevich Suvorov

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