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Silent Storm interview

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Silent Storm interview

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Thu 15 January 2004, 08:16:25

Tags: Dmitry Zakharov; Nival Interactive; Silent Storm

1. Please introduce yourself for our readers and tell us about the studio behind Silent Storm

Greetings, gaming people! This is Dmitry Zakharov, Project Leader for “Silent Storm” and it add-on – “Silent Storm: Sentinels”. I administrate and lead the work over the game and ensure it’s done in time and in perfect quality.

Our team is an integral part of Nival Interactive, the largest Russian game designer company with four development teams and lots of good games already done since 1996. Among our projects are Rage of Mages, Evil Islands, Blitzkrieg and Etherlords series. So, one can say games have been our profession for a long time.

2. Silent Storm has many interesting and rarely seen these days features: turn-based combat, role-playing, non-linear campaign structure, multiple paths to complete missions, and interactive environment. Please tell us why each option was chosen, i.e. turn based instead of real time, non-linear instead of linear, etc.

The ultimate goal for all these improvements and concept key-points was to provide players with maximum freedom at every level of gameplay. Thus, for Silent Storm we’ve chosen the turn-based genre as it offers full control over the tactical situation and every operative in your squad. It enables players to make the best use of equipment, weapons, combat patterns and so on. It allows you to immerse into your mission, step into the boots of your squaddies, scrutinize details or apply group strategy whenever needed, at your own choice.

Yet again, non-linear campaign structure means more freedom, flexibility and replayability for the game. Every time you start the game, special randomizer mixes up campaign missions, clues, sensitive information and other game evidence that drives you throughout and uncovers the plot. As you proceed and find these clues, new missions and objectives open up on the global map. This is where you decide which mission to take and in what direction you want to investigate and impose your subversive activity.

Appearance of multiple paths to complete missions was inevitable with the introduction of totally destructible environment and powerful graphical engine in Silent Storm, unseen in the games of its genre before. It lets you collapse buildings, crush through doors, shoot enemies through ceiling by the sound of their footsteps. So, for instance, you can blow a wall with a pack of TNT anywhere you please and distract enemy guards while doing silent killing on the side of the lab. This permits you to fully use your tactical thinking and equipment at hand to accomplish the mission in the best way possible or in your own style. That’s why we’ve chosen it.

3. Tell us about the game setting. Why WWII? Why 1943? Were any other settings considered?

Yes, surely other settings were considered, but still, we decided to focus on WWII as the most tragic and widespread conflict, rich in effective weapons, events, secret operations and sci-fi legends of course. That time required a soldier to combine both technology and wits to accomplish objectives and stay alive, not just punching in coordinates and pushing buttons as it is nowadays. From the very start, we liked the idea of making a game about the dedicated service of special forces operatives throughout the war-torn Europe. Well, we also wanted to honor the veterans of WWII elite units and that’s from the bottom of our hearts.

Why 1943? This is the middle of the war, the outcome of the global battle for humanity is not clear yet. Besides, most of the Special Forces and covert-ops subdivisions had appeared exactly by that time, both Axis and Allied military intelligence had grown teeth to bite and claws to reap.
All these factors are significant for Silent Storm and help us to make the gameplay more diverse and challenging in tactics, wits and equipment.

4. Silent Storm features 6 "classes": scout, sniper, soldier, grenadier, medic, and engineer. Why did you decide to go with a class-based instead of a skill-based system? What advantages the class-based system offered for Silent Storm gameplay? Is there a "must have" class?

Virtually, there is no “must have” class for the game. Different classes can replace each other in tasks, though professionals will naturally do their job much better. In this respect, our class system reflects real life. Although intelligence operatives specialize almost in every field, subversive squads usually have different professionals like sniper, heavy assault, medic, light assault, explosives expert and heavy weapons specialist. This was especially important for the WWII, when the weapons were bulkier and less effective, than today.

As it stands, the game goes beyond the classes and offers the fusion of RPG elements and skills. Thus, your skills and attributes grow as you use them. Throw knives and your throwing skill will grow, make accurate sniper shots and your sniping skill will improve and so on. So, you can start the game with three medic “students” and train them into bloody cut-throats, proficient with all weapons and items needed. Though appropriate classes will be a way easier and faster to train in the wake of their professions, since they have different education and initial training.

So you can say that Silent Storm employs the benefits of both class-based and skill-based systems. It makes the gameplay flexible.

5. There are skills that are class-specific and there are skills available to every class. Can you give us a few examples of each for those who didn't have a chance to play the demo?

Yes, you’re right. Every class has six basic attributes like strength, dexterity, intelligence, etc and ten common skills, including shooting, melee, engineering, hide and so on. Although these ones are the same for every character, their initial values differ depending on the profession and basic attributes. Besides, attributes influence improvement speed for all common skills. So that intelligent characters will faster increase engineering and medic skills, agile – throwing and snipe shot ability.

Apart from these RPG elements, every class has its specific secondary abilities. These are presented on the ability tree, about 25-27 of them for every class. You can choose these abilities for the price of ability points that, in turn, are given at each level. Ability trees offer different branches of abilities and various paths to improve the general effect of your actions. Thus, for example, Soldier can start from Ignore Wounds ability and proceed for Survival and Steady Gun, which increase his vital points, evasion, will against wounds and let him shoot on the run without penalty.

6. The skills increase "while being used". Can you tell us why you decided to implement it this way and how does it work, i.e would players be able to "cheat" using a low damage weapon to increase skills faster?

No cheating here. Characters get used to their weapons that is familiarize with them. Familiarization increases accuracy and decreases number of APs spent for firing. When you change weapon, the character starts to “forget” it and familiarizes with the new one. So better stick to your favorite Mauser K96 pistol :)

Sure, you can shoot trees and walls, in order to train your skills, but the skills won’t grow over a specific degree without actual combat experience and levels.

So, we’re seasoned gamers ourselves and we always strived for freedom and flexibility, close to those in real life. Therefore, we decided to implement that kind of system to make Silent Storm’s RPG elements scalable and adaptive.

7. What can you tell us about character development? What new abilities characters can gain as they gain levels?

Every new level brings one ability point to your character. You may spend it for a new ability from the ability tree. However, you should make a wise choice, since the branches interwine and
make crossroads. So, to reach a tasty ability (like “Solo” for a scout), you will have to cover all preceding abilities.

8. Silent Storm is a combat heavy game. How does such a non-combat ability like Intelligence fit in? Does war have a place for a smart guy?

It fits perfectly. Intelligence influences sniping, spot, engineering and medicine skills. So, you need to be a smart guy to spot your enemies, before they spot you; place accurate headshots, lay and defuse booby-traps, pick locks and use other engineering stuff efficiently. Besides, good skill in medicine saves lots of lives and time in the fight. Weapons inflict various location-based wounds with different side effects, such as bleeding, concussion, Action Points reduction and many more. Medicine helps to reduce or eliminate them, as well as to heal these wounds, depending on your skill and wound complexity. Moreover, good intelligence makes your skills grow faster and better familiarize with your combat equipment.
All in all, it’s very helpful to be smart in Silent Storm, though not completely necessary, especially when you’re an adept of brute force.

9. Can you tell us something about the role-playing side of Silent Storm? Is it a reference to character customization or is there some characters interaction as well?

Sure, you start your RPG play from the very beginning of the game. The first thing that appears before your eyes is difficulty panel – easy/normal/hard. Then, you choose campaign – for Axis or Allied Forces and then the most interesting things start. You get into the main character customization menu. Player may choose predefined characters, of course, but so far, I haven’t seen such a player :)
In the customization menu you choose gender, country (Germany, Italy or Japan, for instance), and profession. Then you may tune up your attributes, choose uniform you like, character voice and enter the face customization panel. This one allows to change lips, hair, and all possible face features to make your alter ego look almost like yourself. Notice, that all emotions and facial movements look very real and live, thanks to LifeMod facial animation technology.

All other characters (20 for every side) that you can take with you at the home base have all appropriate attributes to match your main hero. Each of them features distinct personality and life-story, written exclusively by Shaun Ling, the man who did the same job for Jagged Alliance series.

10. Silent Storm follows in the footsteps of Jagged Alliance and XCom? Did these games influence the development in any way? What sets Silent Storm aside from Jagged Alliance?

X-Com, Jagged Alliance and Fallout series had a good influence on the concept and game design of Silent Storm. We like these series very much and looked back on our glorious predecessors to make Silent Storm even better in terms of gameplay, graphics engine, technologies and atmosphere, … and show the world that TBS genre has lots of fun to offer.

Although Silent Storm continues the traditions of these games, but as the modern game it sets new standards in TBS with non-linear plot, destructible and interactive environments, top-notch graphics and accurate animations, innovative gameplay features, full 3D and free camera, better AI and so on an so on.

11. One of the features of Silent Storm is ability to make mods. Have you already seen some fans created mods and what do you think of them?

Yes, the Silent Storm boasts an open architecture and carries a MapEditor aboard. The latter helps you to create and add your own maps, skins, weapons, objects and even campaigns into the game. This is the same tool we made for ourselves. So it has rich designing capabilities and lets modders capitalize on them.

There is plenty of mods already, like DieHard mod, FastMod, SaveMod and PK_Mod for hardcore play. Wehrmacht skin pack, Oddball’s Mod v.1.2 and more. Fans of the game have made all these mods. They change weapon stats and character looks, introduce new examples of historical uniforms, make opponents weaker or stronger according to their own liking. People finish the game, change it and then play it again and again. Besides, mods can be distributed freely throughout the Internet and used with every version of Silent Storm, which adds dynamics to modders movement.

12. We were happy to learn that a sequel is already in development. I guess it means that Silent Storm was well received in Europe and the demo was a blast in North America. Did you expect such a warm welcome? Was it a part of your master plan to dominate market with high quality turn based tactical games?

I can say that gaming people has been waiting for the game like Silent Storm. TBS genre is not a crowdy place, since it’s rather hard and risky for developers. Besides, it has been a long time since the world saw turn-based tactics or strategy game.

Frankly speaking, we didn’t expect such a warm welcome from the game critics and gamers. Silent Storm had topped charts in Europe and here in Russia. It was honored with multiple Press awards and Editor’s Choices.

Such resonance throughout the world, new design ideas and massive feedback from our gamers encouraged us to launch “Silent Storm: Sentinels” – a major expansion to the original game with new settings, money-driven gameplay, more weapons, mercenaries instead of intelligence operatives and many more innovations which could opt even for a sequel.

As for the market, one can’t dominate it without live and resilient game concept. We’re making our games with this thought in mind.

13. Silent Storm features a variety of weapons including experimental models. Can you tell us what kind of weapons other then authentic WWII ones players can expect to find in the game?

That’s a cunning question, it’s unfair :)
Ok, you can expect Panzerkleins – robotic combat armors, Gatling MGs, laser guns and even plasma rifle, to be supplemented by such exotics as “Sea Devil” sniper rifle, shurikens, chakras, katana sword and stunning guns. Most of these weapons will be available only to attentive and careful players. So, wait for the cat to jump, Silent Storm is coming.

Thanks to Dmitry Zakharov for taking his time to provide in-depth answers to our questions

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