Building a Civil War: NorbSoftDev on Designing Scourge of War Gettysburg

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Gettysburg Scourge of War

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.

In part two, we discuss the design process.

Game On: Why Gettysburg?

Jim Weaver: Because it's the 800 pound gorilla of the Civil War. The original plan with Mad Minute was to start at First Manassas and then go battle by battle through the war. That kind of fell apart, and when Mad Minute went out of corporate existence, or at least functional existence...I don't know what the legal status was like, okay, what are we going to start with.

We knew from what we had with Second Manassas that we had a good framework that worked pretty well, but we wanted to bring in multiplayer, which has turned out to be a really great feature, though it was a tremendous amount of work.

So Gettysburg was sort of...if you're going to do something with the Civil War, everybody knows Gettysburg. Every school kid's heard of Gettysburg. If they don't know any other battle in the Civil War they know that one. It's the easiest thing to sell even to people who might not be hardcore Civil War.

GO: How did you approach it coming off the Second Manassas technology?

JW: By saying let's take the concept that we put together and make it better. We wanted to make it the next generation. We wanted to make the A.I. smarter and harder to beat. We wanted to add multiplayer. But we were also looking at this as building a base. The engine is designed quite intentionally with an awful lot of versatility to it.

You could do the American Revolutionary War simply by changing the uniforms and a bunch of the files. You could actually mod it, if you had enough talent to put together a whole team and build the uniforms. The Revolutionary War could be built on a mod basis. It's a lot of work...well, actually you couldn't do all of it, because the maps are locked, but everything else could be done.

So it's designed to be a very versatile core engine that you could use for more or less any age of linear warfare, at least involving firearms. I'm not going to say you could use it as-is for Roman battles.

Next: Love and money

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