Covering the Waterfront: NorbSoftDev on Scourge of War Gettysburg
Gettysburg: Scourge of War isn't a real-time strategy game for the masses. It has a perfectly functional interface, but you'd never call it "slick." It's more study-intensive than the comparably simplistic Total War series but yields commensurately higher returns. It tackles the mother of all Civil War battles with aplomb and occasionally startling historical verisimilitude, offering control of blues and grays from army scale down to regimental level. It's wargaming without apologies, designed by hardcore history buffs for hardcore history gamers.
This spring I spoke with the Scourge of War's creators, Jim Weaver and Norb Timpko. In part one, we talked about Gettysburg maps, canonical books, and how they got from Waterloo to Little Round Top.
Game On: We were hoping to get Larry Tagg in on this interview, but it sounds like he's had to take a rain check.
Jim Weaver: Larry had to bow out. I'd forgotten that in his day job, he's an English teacher. He's also this semester the drama coach, and it's the last week before the performance, so he's in the middle of, as he said, frantic rehearsals week.
GO: He sounds like he'd be a fascinating guy to talk to, just for the book on Lincoln that came out last year. Have you read it?
JW: I haven't read the Lincoln book, no. Actually I haven't even read his Gettysburg book, because my wife will probably shoot me if I buy more books on Gettysburg. I've got a stack two wide and three feet tall next to my desk just so that I can grab them when I have some arcane point of Gettysburg history to look up.
GO: The harried life of the grognard.
JW: When you're the lead designer, you have to cover the waterfront in terms of details. Most everybody else can specialize, but I've got to be able to cover the waterfront.
GO: Like fending off crazed wargamers complaining the details rendered on some farmhouse are off by one window.
JW: Oh yeah. We have one guy who...actually it was really useful. When we were developing the game, we'd post screenshots, and he apparently lived in a farmhouse that's in the game for a long time and spent endless amounts of time tramping the battlefield. So every time we'd put up screenshots, he'd look at them, and he would pick out little things that weren't quite right, and then go look up the historical sources to make sure he was correct.
It was quite useful, because that and a couple of stone quarries that we had missed, which are actually sort of 10-foot-across holes in the ground and sunk down a little bit, were the only things that we didn't have right on all three maps.
Next: OOBs, exhaustive battlefield atlases, and Breakaway Games.
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