Comanche 4 - Interview to NovaLogic
Comanche 4 impressed the critics by its advanced graphics and intense gameplay. The origin, the source of inspiration, the designers' philosophy and balance between simulation and fun are the topics for the interview to Wes Eckhart from the NovaLogic team, with a sight to Comanche and another to the future.
Nextgame.it: Comanche 4's visuals are quite stunning. Can you tell us something about the proprietary 3D technology used in it? What did you improve or change of the old routines?
Wes Eckhart: Back in 1992, Comanche was one of a number of releases that made NovaLogic a leader in military simulations. Since this date the Comanche franchise has sold over 2.5 million units worldwide. Comanche brought with it the debut of our internally developed Voxel Space engine, which allowed pilots to fly around rivers, hills, valleys and mountains in a way that had never before been seen in a computer game. For players back in 1992 Voxel technology had a massive impact on PC gaming. The voxel engine has been continually updated and improved for each subsequent game we have developed and released since. During the planning process for Comanche 4 we sat back and took a look at what technologies were pushing video gaming forward in 2001. The latest 3D cards, are designed specifically to push polygons rather than voxels - unfortunately the Voxel engine did not take advantage of these new advancements.
It made sense to use a polygon engine as it has allowed us to bring the Comanche world to life with a tremendous amount of detail, which has been enhanced through the latest 3D technology. The realism of the interactive terrain will simply blow players away. The detail effects are what will really make Comanche 4 stand out from the competition. The rotor wash kicking up dirt and debris over land and sea spray over the water are awesome. The rotor wash affects dense foliage such as the trees bringing these areas to life. The particle effects for explosions are quite eye-catching, and the ground troops running around firing stinger missiles really add to the whole experience.
Nextgame.it: One of the features I found the coolest about Comanche 4 is the scalable flight model. Can you tell me which degree of realism you aimed to achieve with Comanche 4? Do you think it can appeal to the hardcore fan of flight Sims?
Wes Eckhart: Keeping in mind that the real Comanche is a "Fly by Wire" craft, where the computer takes simplistic inputs from the pilot and converts them into movement of the helicopter, the scalability in our flight model comes from a mixture of separating out specific controls and enabling certain situations to occur. For example, players can de-couple the fantail from the simpler flight model and use rudder pedals to directly control it. The weathervane effect is modelled, appropriately decreasing the effectiveness of the fantail as a steering device when the Comanche hits certain speeds.
Nextgame.it: The enemy's A.I. in Comanche 4 is quite challenging. How did you come up with it? Did you follow some military strategy's book?
Wes Eckhart: Our goal for Comanche 4 was to have believable AI, where enemy helicopters use ground cover to stealthily approach the player and pop-up with advanced hunting tactics to engage in combat. Aside from enemy helicopters and vehicles on the ground, troop AI was modelled for individual soldiers on the ground who carry stinger missile launchers. Wingman and friendly AI have the task to protect the player and make intelligent attack choices. It's no good having a wingman if all he ever does is fly in front of you and get shot down.
Nextgame.it: The detail of the ground forces (troops, tanks etc.) is really astounding. How could you fill the scenery with such high definition models and, at the same time, make the game run fairly with much of the details activated on a CPU at 500 MHz + 3D Card?
Wes Eckhart: Using the latest 3D card technology allows us to push the envelope in terms of detail. Today's 3D cards can push through more polys, allowing more detailed models to be used. Bump mapping can bring textures to life in a way not seen before. Buildings can have texture, and chrome can even have reflective properties. We're doing all we can with the cards to add detail to the world.
Nextgame.it: In your opinion, with the highest realism settings, which kind of controls configuration (mouse + keyboard, analogue stick with separate throttle/rudder and so on) it's supposed to be best with Comanche 4?
Wes Eckhart: Personally, I prefer playing with the mouse and keyboard. With that configuration, the game feels more like a shooter in the sky. If however you want to go the more realistic route, I would use a twisting joystick and a throttle. The throttle control is nice because it will allow you to really max out your speed when you're close to the ground. The twisting stick is a must (if you don't have rudder pedals) for low speed snap turns.