Interview with Ken Demarest, President of Titanic Entertainment, Developers of NetStorm

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CSMHow would you best describe NetStorm? (universe background, units, etc...)
KENNetStorm is a strategy game in which unit placement is the key to victory. From your fortress high in the clouds you must bridge the sky and capture your enemy's High Priest. Sacrificing the enemy priest to the Elemental Furies (Wind, Rain and Thunder) earns you the knowledge to build cooler pieces and pursue your goal of dominating the skies.

CSMHow different is NetStorm when compared to Warcraft and Command & Conquer series?
KEN Well, I could probably give a shorter answer by answering "How are they the same?" They are the same in that they all offer exciting real-time combat. However, NetStorm's focus is on piece placement, rather than sending a mindless swarm of units against the enemy. You also spend considerably more time fighting battles in NetStorm rather than building bases. Another difference is that in NetStorm you have assets that you carry from one battle to the next. Each player has the opportunity to develop a unique playing style with pieces that they personally prefer - we call it your "Knowledge Profile."

We believe that real-time strategy games don't all have to play alike. Look at turn-based strategy. Nobody confuses Civilization with Panzer General. They are both sub-genres in the "Turn Based Strategy" genre because they each play differently (and both are fun!)

Likewise, NetStorm and Warcraft are both sub-genres of "Real-Time Strategy." Both are fun, but the game play is very different in each game.

CSM Don't you think that the real-time strategy game market is getting too crowded? In other words, why should people buy NetStorm?
KEN Researchers recently discovered that game companies were spending 37% of the United States Gross National Product on Warcraft clones.

Seriously though, when you play NetStorm, you're in for a whole new experience. I'll give you another example why. NetStorm has been designed from the ground up as an Internet game not just in the technology but also in the actual game design. We've taken into account latency over the Internet and designed the title in such a way that we don't expect lad to affect gameplay. We've gone the extra mile to make finding other players easy, and our player-matching system means you'll always be able to find a challenging game whether you're great or just starting out without having to spend long periods chatting.

CSM How do you think the real-time strategy market is going to evolve in the future?
KEN If you're really asking about the market (not how the games will look) here is my answer: First the hard-core gamers will all go out and buy the many, many clones. They'll chop away the chaff and recommend the few sparkling games. A very few companies will profit by them and we'll see sequels. However, the great majority of companies will be scared off the genre as they see their title selling 2000 units.

So I imagine that next year you'll see very few titles, and most will be sequels. After the deluge this season nobody will want to invest in yet another real-time strategy title. It's also important to remember the time it takes to make a game like this - a good one takes about a year and a half. Well, it was about a year ago that it became clear that everyone had leapt head first into the real-time strategy market. So nothing new has been started. This Christmas will finish out the deluge of originals, and then it will be sequels.

CSM It is said that NetStorm can be enjoyed by thousands of gamers simultaneously over the Internet. Can you elaborate on this?
KEN Yes, probably more than you're interested in publishing! I'll start with a premise: You can play games on the Internet right now, but you can't have fun. Why? Because you never know who you're playing with. Everyone wants a challenging game, but too often you end up playing with somebody much better, much worse, or just plain annoying.

With NetStorm each player's progress is measured in "levels." If another player has a level similar to yours, you'll know the game will be challenging. Players also have complete control over who they fight. That way if you want to play against particularly tough opponents, you can. Its all up to you.

We also let players create a "friends" list. If you enjoyed playing against "MightyMan" this game you can mark him a "friend" and you'll be notified whenever he comes online so that you can play again. Why play against the "faceless masses" all the time? If MightyMan beat you this game, it will be so much better when you beat him a week later - rather than beating yet-another-person-you'll-never-see-again.

There is one last problem that NetStorm solves - quitters. If you've every played over the Internet before you know that when you start beating somebody they frequently just quit the game. In NetStorm that won't happen because there is a clear end to every battle, and everyone has a fighting chance right up to the very moment of victory of defeat!

CSM NetStorm allows players to chat with a unique voice interaction feature. Will it work for everyone or are there some limitations?
KEN You know, we thought this would be a really cool thing to have. It's one of those things that sounds like a wonderful idea, but just isn't. Nobody talks during a game - they focus on the game. All you really need to do is exchange strategic information with your allies (and taunt your enemies). And there are often better ways to do it than talking.

CSM How developed is the Artificial Intelligence in NetStorm?
KEN The missions are challenging and intriguing. You'll have a good time in the single player mode. But no AI will ever compare to a good human player - that is where the action really is.

CSM Can we expect to see NetStorm offered on online gaming services?
KEN At this point we haven't announced any affiliation with a particular online gaming service, however, if you have an Internet connection of any kind, you'll be able to play NetStorm.

CSM Will players be able to create their own maps/scenarios?
KEN That is a harder question to answer than it might seem. The players create the map as they play... You'll have to try it to see what I mean.

CSM What other titles are you working on?
KEN Titanic is completely focused on NetStorm.

CSM What do you think of the new 3D cards such as the 3DFx and PowerVR? Do you plan to create games based on these cards?
KEN Well, it's funny your should ask that. Clearly our current work doesn't need those sorts of cards. But we have talented programmers and artists with games like Wing Commander and BioForge under their belts, and so it's always a possibility...

Click here for screenshots.

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