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Interview: World War II Online
October 22, 2002 | IMG Staff

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At the helm of the Opel Blitz.

Future Plans
IMG: In the future, do you see WWIIOL moving in the directions of hardcore users, or instead trying to capture more of the casual gamer market?

Chris Sherland: Both. We have to mix these two together to get the player base we need to survive and grow. The big challenge is can we do it without alienating either? The big issue is that this is a massively multi-player PvP environment, based on a physics simulation. There's only so much we can do before we compromise the validity of the combat environment...which we are not willing to do. The goal of WWIIOL on these lines is to offer enough different gaming styles so as to support the realism maniacs as well as the casual gamer within the same environment. No one here is under the impression that that balance will ever be an easy one to strike. We have bitten off a huge challenge here, whether we succeed or not has yet to be seen. The game is pretty compelling even when it's out of balance, and there is a certain amount of that we have to retain simply due to the nature of a chaotic combat environment with vastly different weapons systems involved.

IMG: Can you explain the recent increase in the monthly subscription rate?

Chris Sherland: We were hit with increased operating costs, and not able to absorb them without impacting player subscription rates. We toiled long and hard about the best way to apply an increase, and waited until the last minute trying to find alternate ways of absorption. Ultimately we had to pass those costs onto our customer base and bring our subscription rates up to MMOLG standards.

IMG: You have been offering promotions to try to regain subscribers that were alienated by earlier releases of WWIIOL. Have these measures been effective?

Chris Sherland: Completely. Every program we have run has brought us new players as well as returning vets who left due to performance or gameplay.

The game plays and performs better. That's the whole ball of wax. We have spent an enormous amount of energy trying to reclaim the confidence of the gamers who watched us step on that land mine two Junes ago. We have worked really hard on making this game run better and offer better, more compelling gameplay. The word has gotten out that WWIIOL is fulfilling it's vision and folks are trying it again and sticking.

IMG: Do you ever intend to host specific scenarios, a la Warbirds III, or are you content with the total war simulation?

Chris Sherland: Scenarios are coming. Right now we have a fairly limited vehicle and terrain set. We can run some "fun" stuff, and a few historical scenarios (and we will be soon), but until we have a few more theaters and a vehicle/weapon set that goes through say '43.

IMG: What sorts of expansions or other time periods can players expect to participate in later on?

Chris Sherland: Well, the big plan is 10 or more theaters and a weapon set that goes from 1939 to 1946...but that may take a while. Next theaters would more than likely be either Africa (1941) or a Pacific theater, perhaps Australia and the early 1941 conflicts in the South Pacific.

IMG: The marine warfare aspect of the game could see a lot of expansion. Are there plans to introduce more ships and anti-ship vehicles?

Chris Sherland: Yes definitely. There are some dependencies that big ships have on other systems that have to be addressed. Our vision for Naval Combat revolves around persistent vehicles that are purchased and built with a country's internal supply. Instead of making ships that work with what we have now, and will have to be changed, we are holding off for a rewrite of the core strategic systems. What we don't want to do is deliver them if we can't do it right.

IMG: Do you have a vision for what this game could ultimately become?

Chris Sherland: Sure...the best online game of all time. I feel that we have just settled in on the basics of how this title functions. No-one has ever done this before, remember that this game has no real competition if you consider the breadth of gameplay styles and size of the environment. Getting these systems to work well as a "game" has been a tough road for us. It remains remarkable that we are even still here given that every attempt at the virtual battlefield on any large scale has failed. This design is inherently good, people want a game like this and if they didn't we would not have survived our launch. Now it is our responsibility to fulfill the potential. No one has ever gotten this far, so we are in unchartered territory. There are a few goals we have here that will get us to the point where we say to our players "now what do you want?" But we are still a few steps from there. We want the RPG layer to be richer, so that every player feels he is a soldier and not a "player" anymore. We want a huge Naval component, with aircraft carriers and submarines ect. And we want a strategic system that allows players to "grab on" better, to have more effect on their side's ability to wage war, and to have more effect on their enemy's side Not to.

IMG: Thanks for your time, Chris.

Chris Sherland: It's a total pleasure. See you on the Meuse!

-Tim Morgan and Andy Largent

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