A History In The Making

"Mindless Games Interview"

Interview with Chris Sherland
By: pailhead

Today I am talking to Chris Sherland of Cornered Rat Software Studios. Chris is the Producer of their upcoming World War II Online. World War II Online is one game that I am extremely anxious to get my hands on. Being able to play a game that is constantly advancing, along with it being based on true historical situations and locals is an exciting idea. And we've gotten a chance to talk to him about alittle of it... So without further adieu... here's Chris Sherland.

pailhead: Thank you Chris for sitting down and spilling some beans about World War II Online with us! It's greatly appreciated!

Chris: Thanks for the invite, we're excited about spreading the word on WWIIOL.

pailhead: Ok... what caused you to venture into the arena we call Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming?

Chris: Well it started for most of us here with our involvement in MMOLGs. Almost the entire staff here are avid online gamers from the dark days of shell accounts and dos prompts. The newer younger guys are all next gen types, born with a monitor in the crib and programming at 7 :) Our founder, John MacQueen, was one of the original "fathers of internet gaming" at Interactive Creations Inc. That company took what Air Warrior was, and got it on the Internet, off the private networks. It was a big step back in 95, now we're just taking the next step...making it bigger and more inclusive for more folks.

pailhead: How long has the idea for World War II Online been floating around? How did the idea for WWII Online come into fruition?

Chris: This idea has probably been in the ether for years...since Air Warrior for sure. Those guys set the stage for what's coming, and they did a lot to place the concept in the gamers' mind of the virtual battlefield. Since then it's been a string of failures to get that idea working. We looked at all of them and designed WWIIOL to side step those hurdles, and solve those problems. Of course we'll no doubt uncover a whole new set of challenges, but we can get the virtual battlefield working, we already have in beta. As far as WWII is concerned, it's the clear choice for the combat and weapon systems...they are just more seat of your pants systems, that still required lots of skill in one-on-one engagements. The tanks, planes, and infantry weapons were still designed to acquire and engage targets within visual range.

pailhead: I've seen some of the screenshots of some of the aircraft in WWII Online and they look great. What aircraft will be represented in the game?

Chris: WWIIOL will support aircraft from the entire war. As the game unfolds and develops, we'll add new vehicle sets. We're starting with the 1940 ETO set, the vehicles that fought in France during the Blitzkrieg. Aircraft will include the stars of course, Spitfire MkI, Hurricane MkI, Bf109E, Bf110C, HeIII, Ju87B, and the lesser known cast as well, Curtiss Hawk 75, Ju52, Dewotine, MS406...many of these have never been modeled in a flight sim before.

pailhead: Will the flight characteristics of each aircraft be modeled after the original characteristics of the aircraft or will there be one standard characteristic that each aircraft will use?

Chris: We cut our teeth on projects like WarBirds and Dawn of Aces. We are definitely raising the bar from there. We're modeling all the vehicles (not just the planes mind you) component by component. Weights, coefficients, airfoil types, weapons, all these are modeled individually and with the characteristics of thr real thing. Each one of our planes flies totally different, and it all boils out of the way we model them. It's not subjective at all. We build each type with exacting detail, and they fly like they did. Granted, this makes for some pretty hairy experiences! The Spitfire is a beast to take off, while the 109 is docile on the ground...get them into the air and that all changes :)

pailhead: Speaking of the aircraft, with the release of B-17: The Mighty Eighth has there been any thought as to have a team of players man B-17, B-24, or B-25? Or will piloting be limited to fighters?

Chris: All our vehicles, including tanks, trucks, ships, and aircraft will be multi-crew-able. From a two man R35 to many many players parachuting out of a Ju52.

pailhead: Now one question I have is, will the outcome of the war be pre-set for the Allies to win or is the outcome totally based upon the players Axis's ability to win the war?

Chris: All outcomes will be left to the actions of the players. Our infrastructure and strategic systems allow players to effect the world dynamically with persistent results. If one side takes out a bridge, for example, it'll stay down until AI convoys from that side come out and re-build it. If the attackers keep the pressure on, and interdict the convoys, that bridge can stay down indefinitely. Throw in the resource flow from cities and factories, and a side's ability to store resources, all interdict-able, well, it' makes for the most dynamic combat environment we've ever seen online. It's quite something. The outcome is totally dynamic, and all the result of player actions.

pailhead: And sort of in the same vein of questioning, will the Me-262 (Messerschmitt 262) make its mark in the game? If so, if the German "commanders" (in the game) utilize the Me-262 to its full capacity, can the German's change the outcome of the air war during the last year of WWII?

Chris: If they make "better" decisions on deploying, and even producing technologies, the commanders will allow advanced weapon systems to have much more impact on the flow of battle. Sure the 262 will be in there, so will the Pershing tank, the Tiger, the Ki44, the BAR, all kinds of stuff!


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pailhead: With the Germans building the dreaded and uncontrollable V-1's, will the V-1's be a threat later on in the war, or are things such as this left out of the game? If they are in the game, will there be players controlling the launch of the V-1's?

Chris: This we're not sure of. Given that these weapons were unguided and basically "terror" weapons, there's a bit of a quandary. Our initial plan is to put them in and give control of them to the players. With all the civilians and politics removed from WWIIOL, they'll best be used as strategic systems rather than terror weapons. We'll see.

pailhead: What areas of Europe will the conflicts we participate in take place?

Chris: Right off the bat it'll be France, Germany, and Britain. As we grow the community and add theaters we'll cover the med, Eastern front, North Africa, and perhaps the Baltics as well.

pailhead: When the players reach 1945, the end of the war. What will then happen? Does the game simply end or will it revert back to 1941?

Chris: We'll probably restart at 1940, or even 1939. Once we get through all the way to 1945, we'll start over and we'll be able to add more "rare" and specialized vehicles.

pailhead: How many areas of game do the players control? I know infantry, pilot's, and tanks, but how much control does the player have? I mean does it go all the way to controlling a Nazi motorcycle with a fellow SS soldier in the sidecar heading to an emergency.

Chris: Well, yes we'll have motorcycles eventually. But player control goes far beyond just vehicle or weapons manipulation, command tasks that change or alter the flow of resources, decisions on where and when to deploy new tanks or aircraft, or even which type of ship to build next are all handled by players.

pailhead: Will a player be allowed to be part of a crew on German U-Boats or American Submarines? Or are we limited to surface ships, of course that's if we're allowed to command such beasts <G>.

Chris: We will add ships and subs for sure. The initial theater will probably only have supply convoys and patrol ships. We hope to add subs as well, but we have a lot of other stuff to get done first. But eventually we'll have subs, destroyers, cruisers, battlewagons, and carriers...all player controlled and all multi-postilion.

pailhead: Ok, I realize there are going to be infantryman, but will there different "classes" of infantrymen? As far as the German's will there be SS and other specific groups? Or will it just be one generalized class?

Chris: We're going to keep things general. It's easier to palette, and for some large European markets it's essential to leave out the failed political ideals of WWII to even consider retail distribution. We'd rather have WWIIOL be available to a larger audience.

pailhead: Has there been any thought to maybe a WWII Online: Battle in the Pacific? Actually that sounds pretty good :)

Chris: Oh yeah, we've got plans for 10 theaters, and 7 of them are in and around the Pacific Rim. It'll be a while before we do the Pacific theaters, we have a lot to test and learn from when we release this first version. But the plan is to include all the major combat theaters of World War Two.

pailhead: And lastly, there has always been a question in my mind why no one has attempted something like this in the past. I have had this idea in my head of blending a flight-sim with a first person shooter. Let's say, you're an Army Air Corps pilot flying a P-40 Warhawk, you're flying with your squadron when the flak gets rough. Your plane is nailed hard on the left wing and your engine has taken severe damage. You know you're not going to get far and your fear has come true... you have to bail out of your baby over enemy territory. So you open the canopy and jump, your shoot opens as you watch your bird hit the ground in a thunderous explosion. When you hit the ground, the first person perspective would start. Allowing you to fight, gather weapons etc. and continue on in a separate style of play till you can be rescued, killed or captured. Do you feel that this is plausible with today's technology?

Chris: It's already done :) You're going to love this game.

pailhead: In closing Chris, is there anything you would like to pontificate on that was not talked about here, any comments or thoughts?

Chris: Well yes; WWIIOL represents a lot of new stuff, and a lot of old proven features all rolled into one game. There is so much to do in this game that it'll take a while for folks to get the big picture. Indeed, it's tough to get it across in a single interview. But what we are building is a game environment where players can customize their own gaming experience. From infantry combat, to commanding an entire country's recourses. From fighter jock to Sub captain, gaining ranks, increasing game feature access. Each single WWIIOL account will eventually support 27 different career paths in 9 different countries, giving the individual player a huge RPG layer to explore. Combine this with nail bitting sim-quality combat, and you're getting close to realizing how much WWIIOL will offer the MMOLG market.

pailhead: OK... that's about it. I would to thank Chris Sherland for taking the time out of his schedule to do this little interview. We greatly appreciate it!

Chris: No problem! Thanks for showing interest in WWIIOL. See you on the battlefield!

Chris we will MOST DEFFINATELY meet on the battlefield!!!!!


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