Lights, Camera, Action

It seemed to me that World In Conflict was a game which had a more cinematic feel than most other RTS games, but the information I'd elicited so far didn't really help me pin down why that was.

Sure, World in Conflict makes use of in-game communication, changing objectives and motives on the fly – but so do games like Supreme Commander and Total Annihilation. While those two are still fantastic games which would definitely stand on my 'Best RTS Games Ever' list, I didn't feel that their presentation was as cinematic and movie-like as World in Conflict.

For me, that Hollywood presentation was one of the main appeals of World in Conflict – key to the games success and part of what made it so unique. It frustrated me that I couldn't pinpoint why, so I went begging to Magnus for insight.

"In World in Conflict we have no base building or resource gathering, so what our characters do during the gameplay parts is much closer to what they would be doing in reality or in a movie."

Could that be the key? I suspected so and it was clear that there's a link between how the story is told and the players actual in-game actions. In a real war situation the Generals aren't likely going to be in charge of erecting tents and casually launching nuclear strikes every ten minutes. Instead, a real General would more likely be found directing troops and units on a large scale and thinking of the battle ahead. Building is for engineers, not warlords.

How to write...a Strategy game Finding the balance
Realism isn't important for all strategy games though, as Black and White proved

The fact that the player is a closer mirror of their assumed identity means that they are pulled closer into the action and more fully immersed. Combine this with the dramatic pacing of the story itself and the fact that complex characters are quickly built around the player from the offset, such as Bannon and Sawyer, and the cinematic effect becomes inevitable.

It's a fundamental rule for game design in realistic games really – to have the players role as close to the reality of that role as the gameplay allows (and while still making the game fun) – but it's one which many developers seem to have forgotten.

The problem is that the gameplay and the story are often hard to join together. The true reality is that a wartime General may be doing little more than moving pieces on a board in some cases, with troop resources and numbers not only out of his control but very hard to accelerate in the short term. There's morale, fatigue and disease to contend with in every decision and choice – in short, the reality of war wouldn't make a fun game.

How to write...a Strategy game Finding the balance
World In Conflict sought to balance personal stories with focused gameplay

At the same time though, all genres come with their own conceits which are an important and integral part to making the game both fun and accessible. In FPS games players have to be able to heal themselves and the fact that first aid kits are lying all over the battlefield rarely enters into the mind of the player, who accepts that such things are a facet of game design and are needed in order to build a fair game.

I was interested to know if balancing these game issues with story posed any trouble for Magnus and his team.

"You just ignore it, basically. Gamers know that there have to be conceits for a game to ever happen. No matter how hardcore/realistic you make a game, it's still shock full of unrealism and outrageous compromises."
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