by Neal Stevens January 22, 2000
Silent Hunter II Innerview: with Rick Martinez, Senior Producer
Part II: Multiplay and Destroyer Command
SUBSIM Review: Lets talk about multiplay, if we could.Rick Martinez: We are doing something a bit different with Silent Hunter II in this area. Interoperability with Destroyer Command is planned, allowing a unique kind of gameplay experience. While recognizing the difficulty of the task, we still feel it is something we can accomplish. The two developers concerned, Aeon and Ultimation, have established an excellent relationship with each other and have spent a lot of time working out the details. In addition, we have licensed the RTIME Interactive Networking Engine, and are very happy with it. It is a big help to have both games using the same multiplayer engine.
As much as we would love you guys to buy both SHII and Destroyer Command, you dont need to if all you want to do is play as the sub skipper or the destroyer captain. If one guy has Silent Hunter II, all he has to do is go online and hook up with a guy who owns Destroyer Command. We cant see finding an opponent a very difficult thing to do, given the online explosion. On the other hand, I suspect that a lot of people will want to own both games. If you do own Destroyer Command and are only interested in taking on U-boats, you can take on SHII players who will try to hit the convoy you are defendingor your destroyer.
If you do own Destroyer Command, SHII players will try to hit the convoy you are defendingor your destroyer.
SSR: Sure, Id like to try that out. There hasnt been a really good destroyer sim where youre out hunting U-boats, especially other players conning U-boats online.
RM: Destroyer Command is shaping up really well. Ultimation is doing a terrific job. You will be able to take (if you want) control of everything from depth charge attacks to manning 20mm AA mounts. We have modeled the weapons systems of a destroyer in a very comprehensive way. If you want to get up close and personal with anything from a capital ship to a dive-bomber, you can man the relevant station in 3-D.
RM: I can only give a basic description; Lets say that you have three or four friends who want to wolfpack with you. You will need at least one Destroyer Command guy to get underway. Your basic mission (there will be variants) is to get through the enemy picket screen and sink merchant shipping, though games may be set up where your only goal is to get away from or sink enemy destroyers who are conducting hunter-killer ops. If only the one DC player is available, he will become the default commander of the escort group, with the rest of the division/squadron AI controlled, but subject to his command. It will be possible of course, to have all the escorts commanded by other players, which will be interesting if they decide to freelance, and ignore orders, etc. If the situation is reversed and the Silent Hunter II guy is taking on several Destroyer Command players, we envision the same basic command system, but we are still working out how closely we will adhere to the actual tactical doctrine of the wolfpack. Again, all bets are off if the wolfpack members choose to go their own way.
SSR: Describe the type of scenario between U-boat and destroyer players.
SSR: And the convoy shipsthe merchantswill be AI?
RM: Yeah, AI controlled but we plan to allow the escort commander to have a limited set of orders to control the convoys heading, speed, any evasive maneuvers, etc. Whats really interesting about this is the fact that, as the U-boat commander, you really are trying to elude and confuse the escort players; in most cases you obviously dont want to tangle with them. Your prime target, of course, is the merchant vessel. It is a simple thing but will make for a very different multiplay experience. As the Destroyer Skipper, the marauding U-boat in most cases does not have to be destroyed, just kept from wreaking havoc with the convoy. (easier said than done!). So one side can win big without even scratching the other side. In the case of the escort player(s) it will not be a good feeling to see a lot of sinking, smoking vessels at the end of session, even if you survive! In some cases, however, escorts are going to get in harms way, or U-boats will choose to try to pick off the escorts and then go after the convoy at their leisure. Not recommended, perhaps, but all part of the fun of planning and execution.
SSR: Yeah, well we know what that could lead to--early retirement. Now let's hear about multiplayer, where three or four Silent Hunter II players meet online to play together. Will that be available?RM: At this point, it looks doubtful. We took an in depth look in which Erich Topps input was especially helpful, and we had a lot of problems with the idea. We have not been able to find a way to make wolfpack actions worthwhile in multiplayer. We have them in the campaign, they work well there. In the campaign game, when you go on patrol, you will be called upon to rendesvous with other boats and participate in wolfpack attacke upon convoys, etc. Since Topp was one of the architects of wolfpack tactics and worked directly with Doenitz in this regard, we leaned heavily on what he had to say in his existing writings and in material prepared by our request. Essentially, by following basic tactical doctrine, one player would not see another nor speak to another player. All course headings, etc. would come from a centralized area. This is, of course, a simplification of the problem, but interoperability with Destroyer Command is a much higher priority.
Were not sold on having U-boats go against U-boats. It seems more than a little strange.
RM: Ok, but with modern subs your weapon systems are sophisticated enough to make it possible to stretch things a bit. With World War II U-boats, you would never have any real contact with the other players, unless playing in some sort of arcade mode And were not sold on having U-boats go against U-boats; it seems more than a little strange.
SSR: Let me offer this: Janes 688(I) has such a multiplayer mode. You get four players together and you have four 688s attacking each othercompletely unrealistic. You can communicate (chat) under the water, do flank speed at test depth and your sub never bobbles below that danger zone and causes a crush depth accident. But it seems like 688(I) has a lot of staying power. The virtual fleets such as the Marauders have been hugely popular. The social interaction between players keeps the game alive.
Periscope and trim indicator
SSR:One caveat; socially it may be enjoyable for two or three U-boat players to hook up and go after a convoy cooperatively, see who can sink the most tonnage. If one player is pinned under a heavy depth charge attack, another player can let him suffer while he goes after the big, fat freighters or he can go over and cause a disruption, help his wolfpack comrade to evade. I dont know how much value there is in that kind of gameplay. RM: Well, cooperative multiplayer versus an AI convoy could work; but at this time, weve been unable to find a compelling reason for it. Given the distances, the need for radio silence, and the level of realism were striving for, you will be literally out there alone. And you know, the campaign allows for pretty satisfying play in this area. It is hard to push for a feature that will feel a lot like the single player campaign.
SSR: But the interoperability between Silent Hunter II and Destroyer Command, so far, looks good?RM: We are confident that we can do it. Will it be easy? No. We just have to keep our focus and continue to work hard. My boss has wanted to this for a long timethe interoperability. And what would be more natural than to have these two work together? Its like the Holy Grail of sims.
Next: Focus on features
Will be posted January 28, 2000
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