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Sonalysts is Back
First steps to a new naval RTS
August 4, 2013 by Neal Stevens

With the nature of modern submarine warfare being what it is, it's not uncommon for a sub to disappear at sea on patrol for months. No word, no trace. Submarine simulation game development has a lot in common with this characteristic. Nothing for years…then, from the depths—news. Reports from noted game studio Sonalysts just surfaced—according to Vice President Robert Kurzawa, the studio that brought us Sub Command, Dangerous Waters, and Fleet Command are putting the finishing touches on a new game engine. Dubbed “Simulation Engine II” (SE II), it will provide a base for new sims with modern graphics, extensive environmental factors, and greater elements of random placement, inclusion and triggers.

Sonalysts has always been a dual market company. The Waterford, Connecticut based company engineers simulation training packages for the military, both US and foreign Sonalysts also builds titles for the commercial PC game market. They are the only A title developer of modern naval simulations and wargames left. Now, eight years since the release of Dangerous Waters, Sonalysts is back in the game.

Gameplay and accuracy, not to mention attention to detail, have always been Sonalysts’ strong suit. Sub Command and Dangerous Waters had the market to themselves and were so good, they dampened the need for new titles. How can you improve on perfection? Well, one area is the visuals. While nuke subsims do not necessarily depend on the highest level of graphics for success--you can make a control screen look just fine with mid-level graphics and most of the gameplay in a nuke subsim is centered around screens—the industry standard has been raised many times. A new commercial title would need much better graphics to be viable, and Kurzawa agreed, “A new game engine with better graphics is the big nut we need to crack”.

One unique element of the new game engine is the 3D Globe, which will allow visualization from the seabed to outer space. Anything, anywhere on the planet. “To stay with one architecture for simulations, we are creating an engine above and beyond the naval sim,” Kurzawa says. Satellites and communications are a big part of naval operations now and new titles will include global scale operations like nothing before.

To test the engine and the level of interest in the market, Sonalysts expects to release a new title in the fall. It will be aimed at a wider audience than subsim players. “Near Impact” will be a space arcade title that pays homage to the classic games of the eighties such as Asteroids and Missile Command. The player will command defense robots to repel alien invasions with rail weapons, fusion weapons, and lasers. “We consider this a prequel for the next Sonalysts RTS sim,” says Kurzawa. Given the healthy level of interest shown by Subsim players in games such as Kerbal Space Program and Minecraft, this could be a big hit for Sonalysts.

Here's the best part, the part that matters to Subsim: After Sonalysts stretch their programming legs with Near Impact, future titles will be focused on the sub/sea/air theaters that the faithful Subsim skipper yearns for. Future Sonalysts projects will step forward to include the emerging presence of drones, both sub and air, that threaten to break the mold of past and present naval tactics and redraw the battle lines in ways that will stun current tacticians. “The sub force is not looking for current missions. The force is looking to future missions. The days of a submarine going off and doing their own thing died in 1986,” says the former naval officer. The US Navy is developing submarine drones, carrier-launched drones, and developing ground-breaking laser weapons. Naval warfare is about to undergo a sea-change unlike anything since the advent of nuclear power, and Sonalysts will be there to bring it to your desktop.

Sonalysts recognizes the marketing risks to leading off with a non-naval game for their new engine. The game will be self-funded and available as a download distribution. No decision has been made yet as to copy protection but Kurzawa was firm about not introducing any elements that would interfere with the legitimate use of the game. And the lessons learned from Dangerous Waters—more robust support and timely bug fixes—will be incorporated in new releases.

The goal is to attract non-traditional players as well as the Subsim base. With the new game engine and 3D Globe, modeling will be much more advanced than anything Sonalysts ever did before. It’s this author’s hope that Sonalysts will meet with success and we can look forward to a visually updated Fleet Command, expanded with modern drones and weapons being developed. It’s been many years since Jane’s 688(I), it’s not too soon for a new modern naval simulation.

 


 

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See also:

SUBSIM: 16 Years on the Web
Best of SUBSIM 2012
Das Tub: Bathed in Confusion
SUBSIM ON FACEBOOK
What kind of subsim skipper are you? Sub skipper Quiz
The LolBoot Thread


    
 

 


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