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Rock, Paper, Shotgun has published the second part of their Jagged Alliance: Flashback interview, which deals mainly with the fans' expectations, how the team intends to fulfill them, the game's engine, and goes back full circle to modding, which is clearly a subject that is very dear to both the interviewer and the interviewee. Here's a snippet:
RPS: What kind of things do the movement to 3d and the interface changes allow that wasn't possible before? I don't want to ask if it's a better platform for modders, but in what ways does it make it worthwhile for people to shift across rather than carrying on with playing and modding the 15 year old game?
Lund: Well, part of it, and not to talk down on JA 2 at all, is that it runs on an old 2d engine. It looks old and there are limitations to what you can mod in it. The UI principes, some of them, were new 15 years ago but dated now. With the processing power we have these days, we can show much more information in a visual way as part of the UI. That kind of stuff isn't easy to mod into JA 2.
The 3d engine has a lot more particle effects and lighting, and things you can play with. Hopefully that draws in a new crowd to Jagged Alliance. The coding language is interesting as well because once people crack this baby open and start putting in code, it's easier to find people who know scripting in Unity and can make big changes.
RPS: With the alpha going out, can you reinvent the wheel at this point? If people react by asking for changes to certain features, or a certain implementation doesn't work as well as you'd hoped, can you make changes? Presumably, one of the reasons for the alpha is to get feedback. How flexible can you be at this point?
Lund: Er.42 (laughs). 42 flexible. We definitely think that taking all the mechanics for JA 2 and putting them in is what we wanted to do, so if people say they don't want a mixture of real-time and turn-based with action points, they're not going to see that change. But if somebody asks for an indicator for listening distances when sneaking, and they have an idea for how that could be implemented, we'll definitely take that on board. That's the kind of feedback we're looking for.
RPS: Have you had much interactions with the JA 2 mod community?
Lund: Too little. It's not four hours ago that I poked our guys to get cracking so that we before we reach Early Access we have the chance to discuss things with them and still have time to be flexible when we have their feedback.
RPS: Does it feel good to be this close to alpha?
Lund: It does. (pause) There's obviously some expectation management. It's the tricky part. We really want to hype the game and we think that we have a really cool game, but at the same time we didn't get two or three million dollars in the Kickstarter, so we do have limitations as to the amount of stuff that's in there. We'll have to reuse some of the music and the voiceovers, and some of the models as well, even though we've created a whole set of things.
It's that expectation management thing that is going to be hard. People might expect 200 sectors because there were more than a hundred in JA 2 and think that it's going to be bigger than the previous game that kind of expectation is something we cannot fulfil. There is a large large list of things that we really wanted to get in there but it simply wasn't possible but we couldn't on the smaller budget we have.
But that doesn't mean we're not going to try and push it as hard as we can and, for us, a lot of the core elements is what we've concentrated on. Getting the combat right was the most important thing for us, along with modding. The combat has to be cool, interesting and complex enough that people want to play with it. If we fail on that, it won't matter what we wrap the game in. It won't work.
As for the modding, that is so important because it means that all the ambitions we had for the game can still happen, and somebody else can sit down and make it happen with us.