Covering the Waterfront: NorbSoftDev on Scourge of War Gettysburg

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Gettysburg Scourge of War

GO: How do you choose which historical "facts" to build from? Say there's dispute in the academic record.

JW: What I've tried to do, and fortunately Gettysburg is so well documented, is there are some reasonably definitive sources that you can use. So we picked one source for the OOB [order of battle] and the officer's list, and we picked another source for unit strength, and that's it. If you don't agree with it, well, okay, but we picked things that are regarded as pretty canonical.

GO: Like the Nafziger OOBs?

JW: This was the Eicher [John H.]. It's posted on the Gettysburg Discussion Group site. And we used The Big Book of Unit Strengths, which I'm just drawing a blank on right now.

GO: You've also recommended a book called The Maps of Gettysburg, which I noticed they just rereleased in a full-color edition.

JW: Oh my. Well if you're really interested in Gettysburg, there's a 400-something-page atlas by a guy named Phil Laino. It's on spiral bound, so it's really good for carrying around and flipping back and forth. It's probably three or four times as detailed as The Maps of Gettysburg.

GO: The Civil War equivalent of Esposito and Elting's Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars?

JW: Yeah, this is's really, really good, because there are several places where he'll put up a map that shows it happening one way, and the next page, he'll put up another map, and say, you know, other people think that it actually happened this way. So places where things really are in dispute, he gives you map one and map two. Pick what you want.

But for people doing scenario design it's especially wonderful, because it's very detailed and tightly sequenced. Laino's maps position things down to the regiment, so it's a great resource for strange people like us who build wargames.

GO: Let's talk about NorbSoftDev's history. Norb Timpko actually started with Breakaway Games, the folks behind Sid Meier's Antietam! and the Napoleonic games based on that engine.

JW: Yeah, and we probably want to ping this off Norb to make sure I've got it right, but basically Norb was working as a coder, working at Breakaway writing code. He didn't work on the Civil War games, but he worked on Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle.

GO: And Austerlitz [Napoleon's Greatest Victory]?

JW: I can't remember the exact sequence of how things went, because he left after awhile, but that's where he and Adam Bryant hooked up. Adam actually did pixel painting on sprites and getting all the uniforms in, which was mind-numbingly tedious apparently. They didn't render them off a 3D model, they just literally...I don't know the details, but the story is he spent a lot of time painting details in by hand, one pixel at a time. So eventually they decided they wanted to see if they could do something like this themselves. Norb had always wanted to code a game all by himself, and not just be one unit of a bigger machine.

They started out as a two person organization, started writing code, and eventually brought in a third person who'd been very active in the Austerlitz community to give them some player perspective. Then they brought me in for historical perspective, because being a scientist by training, I tend to cite chapter and verse of sources.

Next: MadMinute Games and the Take Command series.

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