First steps to a new naval RTS
August 4, 2013 by Neal
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
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”.
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
Space Program and
this could be a big hit for Sonalysts.
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
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