Westwood Reveals Emperor: Battle for Dune Info and More

 

Westwood
Update December 29 , 2000

 

New
maps available for Command & Conquer Red Alert 2!

The
development team has been working round the clock, forsaking egg nog,
Christmas cookies and fun-filled family get togethers to build a slew
of new maps for RA2 fans! We’re churning them out as fast as possible,
but before you start reeling from sensory overload, let me assure you
that we are taking your sanity into account and only releasing one map
pack (three maps) every two weeks. Two map packs have already been
released on www.westwood.com and are available for free download. Look
for the next one soon!

 

*Extra
added bonus!*

Merry
Christmas from Westwood! In our warped little way, we wanted to get
the development team in the Christmas spirit, so we made them create a
holiday map for your gaming pleasure. I don’t think they were pleased
with the extra work, but I’m sure you’ll be happy with the map. It’s a
two-player that features a giant Christmas tree in the middle with
plenty of ore, gems and crates to help you build your base. Watch out
for the polar bears though, they ain’t the cute ones in the Coke
commercials. The Christmas map is available in pack #2 at www.westwood.com.

 

Emperor:
Battle for Dune FAQs with Chris Longpre:

Here
ya go folks. Everything you always (or never) wanted to know about
Emperor, straight from the horse’s mouth. The horse being its
producer, Chris Longpre…but please don’t tell him I called him a
horse. Anyway, some of these you may have already seen, but you’re
gettin’ ’em again, so deal.

 

1.
Why make another Dune game?

 

The
Dune franchise is near and dear to Westwood’s heart. It was with the
first game in this series, Dune II, that Westwood pioneered the
real-time strategy (RTS) genre, and went on to perfect it with the
Command & Conquer franchise. Also, the Dune universe is so
extraordinarily rich and varied, in both the landscapes and the
characters, that it serves as the perfect setting for a game.

 

2.
When is the game set, in terms of its relation to Dune II and even
Herbert’s novels?

 

The
game takes place roughly 200 years before the original movie,
“Dune,” and just after Dune II. It’s important to remember
though, that Emperor is its own game and can be enjoyed not only by
fans of the Dune universe, but newcomers to the franchise and to RTS
games as well. No previous knowledge of the Dune universe is necessary
to play the game.

 

3.
How much have the first two Dune games influenced Emperor: Battle for
Dune, if at all?

Being
the sequel to the father of RTS, Dune II, is quite an honor and
responsibility! We kept many of the features we loved about Dune II,
three houses, Deviators, Starbases, rock, sand and worms. We also
added more innovative tactics on the battlefield and more strategy in
the campaign. It provides deep and intense game play that will keep
gamers enthralled for a long time to come.

 

4.
How much input has Frank Herbert’s son had on the game?

 

None
at all.

 

5.
Given Dune’s great literary background, how important will the game’s
story be, and how will the narrative be revealed to the player?

 

We’ve
tried very hard to capture the rich variety and intensity of the Dune
Universe in all the games in the franchise. But, again, we’ve made
the game independent enough from the movie and the book so that
newcomers to the series will be able to enjoy the game without having
to know the whole back story. That’s not to say we haven’t worked
hard to develop the game’s storyline. Throughout the game, the
player progresses into an ever-deepening story, full of twists, turns
and political intrigue. Our film crew has done a masterful job
producing the cut scenes that keep the story progressing through the
game.

 

6.
Which familiar Dune characters might make an appearance in the game?
And what sort of role will they play in the game play?

 

None
of the known Dune characters appear in the game. We wanted to create a
fresh story and didn’t want to be constrained by having to be
consistent with the movie.

 

7.
In Dune II, it was deemed necessary at the time to invent a race to
compete against the Harkonnen and Atreides. Which original Dune races
might appear in the new game, and what might be some of their
distinguishing traits?

 

The
three Great Houses of Dune II have returned: The Nobel Atreides, the
Evil Harkonnen and the Insidious Ordos. Additionally, you can forge
alliances with the five sub-houses during your game. These include the
native Fremen, the space-faring Guild, the high-tech Ix, the
terror-troops of the Imperial Sardaukar, and the bio-tech Bene
Tleilaxu.

 

8.
How many units does each side have?

Emperor
has focused on creating a small number of unique units that require
different strategies to use. This makes the number of meaningful
combinations very high, and we expect players to be arguing over
favorite combinations for quite a while! Each of the three houses has
12 buildings, and five to seven infantry along with five to seven
vehicles, depending on the side chosen. Additionally, there are five
sub-houses with which you can ally. With each allegiance, you can
build a new building and two new units.

 

9.
How much does terrain affect battle in this game?

Very
much so! Buildings can only be constructed upon solid rock. Sand is
very dangerous, as sandworms are attracted to the vibrations generate
by large vehicles and combat. Dust basins are nearly impassable,
except for some specialized units. Additionally, there are some unique
features and terrain on each of the home world planets: Caladan, Geidi
Prime and Draconis IV.

 

10.
Is the engine technology completely new? Regardless, what are some of
its most notable new features?

 

We
are using a completely new 3D engine, which is custom designed for
Emperor. Many technical issues like sand and rock visualization,
camera movement, etc. are specific to Emperor and we came up with
unique solutions for each of them. From the beginning, our main goal
in using 3D technology was that it would serve to enhance game play.
We never want to use 3D for the sake of 3D. This technology not only
adds beauty and depth to RTS games, but it’s used in a way that will
better allow the player to control the battle in front of him. The
player will be able to control the camera to his benefit (zooming in
and out, and rotating the battlefield) but the camera movements will
never become cumbersome or difficult to maneuver.

 

11.
Tell us about the AI in Emperor: Battle for Dune.

We
designed the AI with the goal of making it feel like an online
opponent. We wanted to capture the uncertainty, surprise factor, and
various game strategies of a human player. Therefore, we developed a
complex system that teaches the AI about map features and player
strategies. When a mission starts, the AI knows nothing about the map
it cannot see, and will usually start a scout mission to push back the
shroud and keep the fog-of-war away. After that, it uses the war
strategies of the house it is playing to defend its base and start an
offense. The AI is aware of unit positions it can see and will plan
accordingly. It’s quite good at finding your weakest link and
hitting it hard.

 

12.
How different has it been designing a 3D game rather than the 2D
worlds of C&C? What new challenges does a 3D environment present
for a designer?

 

There
are many differences that affect everything from art to code to
design. Something as simple as shooting a gun at an enemy raises
interesting design questions. For example, in many 2D RTS games, you
can always shoot the enemy, because line of sight rules are ignored.
Often, even if you use line of sight rules in 2D, you end up with
players not understanding why they can ‘see’ the unit, but not shoot
at it. In a 3D environment, you must take line of sight into
consideration. Buildings in the way are very obviously in the way. We
must use address both the line of sight rules, and make units smart
enough to still shoot at targets effectively.

 

13.
Did Westwood feel any pressure to produce a 3D accelerated RTS?

 

Oddly
enough, gamers and press have been screaming for 3D RTS games over the
past year, and now that a few have been done, it seems the feeling is
not as strong as before. We knew that just adding 3D to an RTS would
lead to problems and may not provide the fun game play that gamers
truly desire. That is why we took our time to seriously consider how
it should be done, and how to ensure great game play. We feel that our
use of 3D in an RTS is optimal for visual excellence and game play
superiority.

 

14.
Why was Dune chosen ahead of C&C to be Westwood’s first foray into
3D strategy? Is there anything inherent in the Dune world that made
you think it more suitable than C&C?

 

It
wasn’t a conscious decision to use 3D technology in the Dune
franchise at the expense of C&C. In fact, Emperor and Renegade,
Westwood’s two 3D titles that will be released in 2001, developed
along the same time frame. We never make a decision to use a platform
based on the title of the game or what franchise it belongs to. We
firmly believe that the technology exists to enhance game play, and we
make our decisions whether to use 2D or 3D based on each individual
title.

 

15.
Westwood past success with real-time 3D technology has been a little
under whelming. I’m thinking of the final two Lands of Lore titles
here. As such, some gamers might be skeptical of your chances this
time around. How would you respond to this criticism?

 

At
the time we made the last two Lands of Lore games, 3D technology was
still not quite capable of enhancing the worlds we were creating. PCs
were not fast enough to build the diverse and compelling worlds we
wanted, so we augmented the technology with several 2D and voxel
solutions. That allowed us to create more visually diverse worlds than
a typical 3D shooter of the day.

 

Emperor
is in a very different position. With the latest advances in 3D, and
most gamers having a 3D card in their machines, we can completely
embrace the new visual techniques that are offered. As you look at the
screenshots and movies of Emperor, you will see the mind-blowing
visuals and complete mastery of the medium. We are quite confident in
the 3D technology of Emperor.

 

16.
A recent trend in the RTS genre – especially 3D titles – has been a
focus on tactical combat at the expense of building and managing
bases. What kind of focus will Emperor have?

 

Emperor
is focused around deep and involved strategy along with diverse
tactics, but to answer your question, we are using base building and
resource collection. Also, we have added a whole new level of strategy
in the campaign level of the game. Which territory do you attack next?
How to you plan for defending your hard fought victories? Which
alliances should you pursue? The battlefield, the diverse houses, the
distinctive units, and ability to ally with sub-houses all contribute
to generating unique combinations of armies and tactics.

 

17.
Westwood clearly knows real-time strategy, having developed one of the
most important and popular strategy series in history. What lessons
has the C&C experience brought to the development of Emperor?

 

We
are constantly looking at ways to advance the game play experience, in
RTS, RPG, first person shooter, etc. We are always building on what
we’ve learned developing all our titles, especially our flagship
franchise, Command & Conquer. Our main lesson throughout though,
is that we are here to make great games for our fans. We constantly
pay attention to how our fans respond to the games, and develop
products that they want.

 

18.
One of the reasons for the C&C series’ enormous popularity is it
relatively low system requirements, making it a game perfect for the
mainstream or casual gamer. What is the strategy for retaining this
market for Emperor, despite (one would assume) its significantly
higher system requirements?

 

Of
course our main focus in developing games is that everyone, from the
casual player to the hard-core gamer, can enjoy them. System specs
increase with every title we put out, mainly because the technology is
also improving and becoming more accessible to our customers. Although
we develop games that take advantage of new technology, we will always
keep our customers’ capabilities in mind.

 

19.
Are 2D real-time strategy games dead?

 

Absolutely
not. Our decision to use 2D or 3D technology is based on what would
best enhance the game play of a particular title. Both platforms have
benefits. For example, 3D technology not only adds beauty and depth to
RTS games, but it’s used in a way that will better allow the player
to control the battle in front of him. However 2D is more accessible
because it requires lower system specs and the ability to add certain
details to buildings and units that aren’t possible when using 3D
technology.

 

20.
What made you choose to use FMV to tell Emperor’s story?

Each
game is evaluated uniquely in how we will tell the story elements.
Even though we have done some games with full motion video, we have
also done computer animated sequences as well as in-game scripted
sequences. It really depends on the style and atmosphere we are
looking for.

 

21.
Which 3D APIs will be supported?

 

Direct3D
will be required.

 

22.
Are there any plans for 3D audio support?

 

We
are supporting 3D audio libraries, and looking into several specific
3D audio features.

 

23.
What are you doing to ensure the replay value of this game?

Besides
the numerous combinations of the three main houses with the five
sub-houses, every battle is unique in the way it can be won. Each
battle, even on the same map with same houses, will play out
differently due to the advanced AI. Further, there are more than 100
missions available for placement on the 33-territory campaign map. So
subsequent games will offer quite a bit of variety, and many missions
are unique to a particular side. Players will really want to play all
three sides to see all the missions and the three storylines.

 

24.
Tell us how you plan on implementing online multi-player support.

 

We
are fully supporting matchmaking via Westwood Online (WOL), a free
service for Westwood customers. In addition, we have added QuickMatch
functionality, which makes hooking up with similarly-skilled opponents
very easy. Also, the addition of a Buddy List, and improved game
searching code, makes finding a game very simple.

 

25.
What kind of steps are you taking to insure good latency for players
using modems?

We
have developed some new techniques for controlling the amount of game
data being sent to each player, which reduces the effects of latency.
Additionally, we have a small amount of packet buffering which
smoothes out spurious spikes in latency and packet loss.

 

26.
What is the anticipated ship date?

It’s
still early, but we should be finishing the game in 2001.

 

27.
With Red Alert 2 just launched, how do you see the Dune and C&C
franchises co-existing?

Quite
well! They two franchises have existed side-by-side for years now.
Their themes are quite different, and may appeal to different types of
gamers, but they are both about exciting RTS gaming.

 

28.
Will the efforts put into making Emperor: Battle for Dune cause any
delays with Renegade?

None,
as the Renegade and Emperor teams are unique and not codependent.

 

29.
How will Emperor stand out from the huge amount of RTS games out
there?

 

New
depths of strategy have been added to the campaigns: choosing which
territory to attack next, which alliance to pursue, how to collect
reserve and reinforcement units to take out that entrenched territory,
etc. Also, new layers of tactical choices: you can choose from three
unique sides and ally with up to two of the five sub-houses. You can
also choose cooperative campaign games. Team up with a buddy and
dominate the computer! In addition, Emperor features gorgeous and
compelling visuals on Arrakis, Caladan, Geidi Prime & Draconis 4.

 

Okay,
I checked this over three times to make sure words such as dynamic,
enterprise-networking, parity, access-solution, exponential and
emerging-technology don’t rear their ugly heads. No techno-speak
here…we keep our promises! From Westwood to you: we hope your
holidays are full of joy, wonder and plenty of computer games and
we’ll see you all next year!

 

 

*************************** 

Amy
Farris 

P.R.
Coordinator 

Westwood
Studios 

702.228.4040,
ext.341 

[email protected] 

***************************