It was some time ago when we introduced you to War, The Game by Gabbergames. I remember talking to Pat about it and we were so impressed by its design and scope. The game is still on Greenlight, and has continued to develop since our preview all those moons ago. We caught up game designer Obbe Vermeij to talk about War, The Game and how his game has continued to evolve over time.

Tell us about yourself!

Obbe 833x1024 War, The Game Interview with Obbe Vermeij

War, The Game developer Obbe Vermeij

Hi, my name is Obbe Vermeij and I was born and raised in Rotterdam, Holland. My childhood was mostly wasted indoors, coding on my Commodore 64 & Amiga. In 1995 I found a job in Scotland with a company called dma-design. For 3 years I worked with a group of other rookies on a title for the Nintendo 64. It was a quirky animal robot body swapping game called Space Station Silicon Valley. It was not half bad and got decent reviews. It got snowed under by Mario 64 and Zelda 64 however, and did not sell all that well.

In 1999 our team became the core of the Grand Theft Auto III team. Gta 3 was the first 3D version of the franchise and a fresh team was what was needed to make the transition. The company was soon bought by Take-2 and renamed Rockstar North. As technical director I worked on GTA Vice City, San Andreas and GTA IV.

Being part of something like GTA is truly amazing. I remember standing outside a video game store at midnight when GTA Vice City was released. There must have been several hundred gamers all excited to get their hands on the game. You had to have pre-ordered to even get a copy and some of the lucky ones would run home to try the game. Very cool. In a geeky kind of way anyway.

In 2009, after the release of GTA IV, I resigned and moved with my wife and 3 young kids to Canada. There I started working on the game I always wanted to write: ‘War, the Game’.

wtg9 1024x576 War, The Game Interview with Obbe Vermeij

War, The Game is a very interesting concept for a game. Please tell us about the game and what inspired you to create a game like this.

‘War, the Game’ is a real time strategy game set in the present day world. Instead of units the player moves armies around the globe. It has only 7 army types and simple, transparent battle rules as well as a simple interface. The game can be played using the mouse only (there are only 3 non essential functions on the keyboard) or using an xbox-360 controller.

Strategy games always were an obsession of mine. I love the classics like Command & Conquer, Civilization but also board games like Axis & Allies, Diplomacy and Risk.

I feel the last decade or so designers in the Real Time Strategy genre have been running out of ideas and ended up adding story lines, tech trees and large numbers of units to keep things interesting. In my view these additional elements only distract from what makes RTSs fun and make the learning curve steeper. Perhaps this is the reason the genre has been in decline.
‘War, the Game’ is going back to basics with some very cool innovative new things thrown in. It is easy to learn yet difficult to master.

What can you tell us about combat in War, The Game and how the various unit types affect gameplay?

There are only 7 army types in ‘War, the Game’. Infantry, armour, fighter planes, bombers, frigates, aircraft carriers and transport fleets. All armies have identical fighting strength so there is no rock paper scissors element. The trick is simply to outnumber your opponent in each battle. Armour and planes are faster than infantry but more expensive. Battles last about a week and armies are locked in battle until the battle is over. Only aircraft have the ability to withdraw. Infantry gets a x2 multiplier in friendly cities. This thwarts the tank rush strategy. Infantry armies can use transport fleets to cross water. Cities can be occupied by infantry armies and generate cash. Cash can be used to train new armies.

The game rules are very transparent and there is no fog of war. Players will have only themselves to blame if things go pear shaped.
Ah yes. There are also tactical nukes. These are expensive and wipe out all infantry armies in a certain area.

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Showdown in San Francisco!

The game’s engine looks phenomenal. How does the game’s engine contribute to the gameplay? 

Thank you. I’m very proud the game is taking place on a spherical globe. I believe it is the first game that has correct pathfinding on such a large scale.

The engine zooms out smoothly allowing the player to get a quick overview and also to make it easier to move between areas of conflict. To zoom out, spin the globe and zoom back in only takes a second making traditional focus points unneccessary.
In single player games time can be accellerated during lulls in game play. The Day/night cycle adds to the realism and also gives a visual cue when the player accellerates time.

Are the game’s Operations based off of real events, or are they purely fictional?

Some of the operations are based on existing policital hot spots. USA involvement in Middle east, European rivalries etc.
Others are purely fictional. For example; Coordinated attack of Russia, China and Cuba on USA. Russia attempting an invasion of Europe.

Then there are some silly scenarios thrown in just for fun. In one mission all players get a randomly distributed set of cities and units. Mayhem ensues.

Will the game feature multiplayer modes?

Yes. The demo as is currently available on www.warthegame.net has two multiplayer scenarios. The first scenario is a straightfoward battle between 2 players. The other is set up for 6 players and allows players to form alliances. This adds a new level of game play.

The final version will have more multiplayer modes but not too many just to make sure there is always someone to play with for the mode you’re interested in. The icing on the cake will be a scenario where players can take control of one of the global powers and fight for global domination.

Because the game rules are simple players can compete in network games after playing only a couple of single player games. The game is not about intimate knowledge of the tech tree or about speed clicking. It is about using your brain.

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The troops are off from Miami! I wonder if they’ll ‘hit’ the beach?

What do you feel is the most interesting feature that’s currently in the game?

As a coder I am excited about the way the game is set on a spherical globe. The armies make their way across the globe as they would in real life. A plane flying from the UK to the States passes by iceland. As far as I know no other game has done this yet. It also looks great to zoom out and see the curvatury of earth.

For players, the simplicity of game rules and controls is very cool. After 20 minutes players should feel pretty confident about the game mechanics and the controls. My oldest son played the game quite a bit when he was 6 years old. I was happy with the controls only when he was able to do everything.

I am also proud of the Artificial Intelligence. An entire core is dedicated to weighing battle outcomes and picking the best moves. There are no obvious flaws in the Artificial Intelligence and players will need their wits to beat the AI. By the way, the AI does not cheat. Ever. Not even a little bit.

When will gamers be able to play it?

I am planning to have the full game ready by the end of the year. The engine with all the technical stuff is pretty much done. Now I need to spend a lot more time on level design. The missions need to be varied and ramp up in complexity gradually so as not to loose too many casual gamers along the way.

In the meantime the demo is extensive (6 operations in total) and should keep gamers occupied for quite a while.

How can gamers support the game during its development?

Gamers that want to help should simply play the demo and send me feedback. Quality is in the details. I want to know about every little annoyance or bug as well as ideas for improvements in any area of the game. Great ideas will earn a mention in the credits. Obviously an upvote in Greenlight would be helpful too.

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  • War the Game

    The demo of the latest version (v1.2) is now available for download from http://www.warthegame.net

    The scenarios are completely redesigned to:
    - be more politically realistic
    - ramp up in difficulty more smoothly
    - be better looking with outlines of the countries involved displayed on the map
    - be more fun really

    The demo contains 9 levels including ‘Turmoil USA’ in which various nations battle over control in the States.
    Enjoy, Obbe.

  • War the Game

    If you’ve experienced problems running the demo you might want to try the latest version (v1.5). I’ve removed the auto-updater that would cause delays of 30 desonds in certain situations.
    Some other bugs have been fixed also.
    Download from http://www.warthegame.net
    Obbe.