- Something really impressive about
Z:SS is its carefully crafted gameplay balance. Although
I know it's a dynamic process in which beta testers feedback
is highly important, who is the person (or folks) responsible
for the stats management? Any comment about some difficult
balance situations you've come across and how you've handled
- When we initially decided on the unit types, the idea
was to go for a relatively low unit count but to clearly
define a space for each unit. Remember, at the time we were
doing this, Total Annihilation was the RTS to own, and that
had over a hundred and fifty units!
Sometimes those spaces are difficult to define when you're
staring at a screen full of numbers that defines a unit's
power and behaviour. It was the design guys who spent months
and months writing, tweaking, scrapping, and rewriting unit's
individual stats (and then scrapping them again!), but feedback
came from everyone involved in the game. It wasn't just
the stats that affected the balance either, there were many
other things in the equation such as AI behaviour. It wasn't
easy - an example of a problem we had was making the Missile
Launcher feel sufficiently different from the Mortar Tank
- that one went unresolved for a long time before the guys
finally hit upon a setup for both that they were happy with!
Note: According to the credits, the "design guys"
are Jamie Barber, Eric Mathews, Graham Sergeant, Neil Jones-Rodway,
Ed Bartlett and Paul Hayworth.]
- I'm pretty sure Z has been a great
passion for the Bitmap team just as for many fans around
the world. Nevertheless, making a really good and balanced
RTS is so much harder than making three or four good arcade
How obsessed do you think you and your team got about the
idea of making it as perfect as an RTS can get? Was it worth
all the effort?
- "Yes, Sir". Writing a game like Steel Soldiers
takes a lot of time and patience, you really have to get
involved. Some nights I can't sleep, I think I'm on the
battlefield chasing Carver! Seriously, making an RTS game
is a huge challenge, and we tried to make Steel Soldiers
quite different to other RTS games out there, hoping that
others would like the style of game. Having just spent four
years living and breathing Steel Soldiers, I and the rest
of the team are definately obsessed (although I don't think
that any of them have changed their names to those of the
characters so far).
- After all the effort, which resulted
into what any good RTS analyst would call a great gaming
achievement, do you think press somehow let you down with
some average scores and superficial analisys?
- As a whole, the game was very well received by the press
- you're always going to get the occasional bad review (that's
life) but to be fair, when you read these it seems that
the reviewer either didn't like RTS games, or just didn't
understand the differences between Steel Soldiers and a
more traditional RTS. Also, reviewing an RTS takes a very
long time - it's really much harder than a lot of other
genres - and do you think all journos have the time? I could
- Coming from a old-fashioned background,
where great gameplay games would sell by themselves, you
probably found a very different PC games market in the recent
release of Z:SS. How different, and in which aspects, this
market is nowadays from ten years ago, and what would you
change in the Z:SS release strategy if you could do it again?
- I wouldn't make the game different at all, but maybe I
would try and find a licence to fit it, and sell ten times
as much! It's a real shame that today's market is dominated
by licences and brand names.