From DarthMod to Game Design

There were things that I could not deliver to players as a modder (Read about my mods). That is why I decided to develop my own strategy game and in this blog post I will write about its main aspects. Working with a group of very talented programmers I am now able to build the strategy game I always dreamed of that will satisfy the following four main principles:

  1. Battle Realism: Rock/Papers/Scissors-style simplistic gameplay is in my opinion an obsolete way to provide battle balance and does not resemble reality. Would Alexander the Great win his battles if these examples always happened: cavalry beats archers, spearmen beats cavalry, infantry beats spearmen (the usual simple approach of an RTS game)? In our game soldiers will react using realistic physics and many important tactical aspects so that the player will feel that he commands real troops and not lifeless robots. Our current graphics technology may prohibit us from creating the perfect looking game, but from the start we will offer common sense to strategy. Factors like Morale, Fatigue, Flanking, High Ground are essential to strategic thought and must be simulated as accurately as possible.

  2. Deep gameplay with less complexity: Striving too much for realism can make a game too complex, boring, difficult to handle and eventually a failure. On the other hand over simplicity and arcade gameplay is something I have never preferred as a gamer and I am certain many others feel the same, considering the success of smaller Indy games that outsell games with much bigger budgets. So in a few words I will try to make Ultimate General: Gettysburg as easy to handle as possible without many confusing buttons. You should not require a tutorial or a big manual to play the game but you will be able to understand progressively how the "inside" complex mechanics work. For example: terrain importance increasing unit's effectiveness or brigade's exhaustion making them rout more easily even when facing a smaller force.

  3. Good AI: A strategy that is easy to beat offers only few gameplay hours and can be really frustrating, if AI is a complete fool. Now, I have the chance to design an AI that can make a proper firing line, that can flank, that can understand where and when to attack… in real time. That may sound trivial, but I think you will agree that very few games can offer these features in a whole working set. Most RTS games make the AI tough by providing better fighting statistics per higher difficulty rate or hide its incompetence by speeding up everything so the player cannot catch up with all simultaneous actions. This is a cheap cheat! My goal is to make the AI effective and able to win you without these tricks. And from first looks it seems we have succeeded in that (we will be able to show it to you in the near future).

  4. Connection with players: It will be a game where strategy fans can participate very actively in its creation. As you did for DarthMod, providing valuable feedback, and requesting features, you can do it now again; using our forums where we will have active discussions with players, gather ideas and organize frequent gameplay tests. For me a game must have a strong “pre-connection” with all of its potential players during production, so that it gets as many features they want as possible. 

Pre-Alpha promo art. Not the final quality. 

Pre-Alpha promo art. Not the final quality. 

Ultimate General: Gettysburg features

Initially on PC, we don’t have resources yet to provide top quality 3D graphics. But we will definitely offer something unique in gameplay making graphics a secondary concern, especially for the hardcore strategy gamers. Lower system requirements will make Ultimate General: Gettysburg playable on any PC (Windows and Mac OS).

On the tablets however, with Ultimate General: Gettysburg we aim to revolutionize the strategy gaming. We will offer real time gameplay similar to Total War games, meaning that you will see hundreds, even thousands of soldiers fighting in the battlefield. This is not an easy task for a tablet so this is why we try to reach the best compromise between quality of graphics and game performance. Since we are still researching this matter, the current promotional images do not represent the final graphics of the game, but surely give a good idea on how the game will look.

Now lets talk a bit more about the main features:

Dynamic campaign: You can fight the Battle of Gettysburg as a Union or Confederate general and attempt to rewrite history through a chain of historical and “what if” battle scenarios. Gettysburg Battle is divided into time parts and according to the outcome you progress to the next engagement with the enemy. Your performance in battles is crucial for your future missions. If for example you lose too many soldiers to capture Cemetery Hill on the 1st day you may trigger a speculative scenario battle which you will be unable to win. Those who remember old times favourite Sid Meier's Gettysburg will understand the above mentioned campaign logic.

Battlefield full of soldiers: Each unit represents a brigade scaled to hundreds of men. Infantry, cavalry and artillery move in line or column formations, exchange gunfire or melee and generally fight realistically, resembling real troops of the American Civil War era that you observe from high altitude.

Intuitive and easy controls: By creating movement paths with the mouse on your PC or by finger gesturing on your tablet, you can command your army with ease. Furthermore, there are only a few buttons to issue additional orders, because your units have a self-awareness system that makes them to react to threats without the need of micromanagement.

Realistic Morale and Fatigue: Demoralised troops become irresponsive, devastating volleys cause havoc in your lines, flank attacks can rout your strongest units, tired troops fight less effectively and many more similar tactical aspects require your deep strategy planning.

Terrain Advantage: High ground provides realistic bonuses such as increased weapon ranges, accuracy and morale bonuses. Capturing hills will be crucial especially for artillery, giving significant advantage to range and line of sight.

Challenging AI with no cheats: Ultimate General will be one of the few games where AI will not use traditional game cheats or hidden tricks to fight player. The innovative Ultimate General AI, represented by AI characters such as "Careless", "Indecisive", “Defensive”, “Cautious”, “Cunning”, “Aggressive” or “Dynamic” will be sufficient enough to defeat you on medium or higher difficulty levels, if you are not careful enough.  

Basically, that is all I could share with you right now. I would like very much to know your first opinions about Ultimate General: Gettysburg and be sure that your participation will help enormously to make it as great as you want. Our forum will open soon and there you will be able to provide your feedback and ideas maybe your historical research or you can participate in our first closed betas.