When last we saw Gettysburg: Armored Warfare, the game was little more than a tech demo, albeit an impressive one. Danny Green, the one man show running Radioactive Software, promised 32v32 battles in a true action FPS/RTS - a feat currently unmatched - courtesy of his Impostor engine, which intuitively switches from 3D to 2D when the player won't miss the visual depth. The setting is an alternate history take on the Amerian Civil War, complete with combat aircraft and armor provided by time-travelling meddlers. Offbeat? Maybe, but I think we can all agree that fans of steampunk are woefully underserved when it comes to computer games. Even though Gettysburg: Armored Warfare won't include a story mode, some historical messing about is welcome. We can only play through Arcanum so many times.
Now, with Gettysburg: Armored Warfare quickly approaching alpha status, Danny took a few moments to share some of the progress he's made in delivering zeppelins and self-propelled guns to Little Round Top. Multiplayer and several maps were already in the game (the second being the bloodiest battle in the war, Antietam), but we settled into offline practice mode to check out the diferent units. First up was a Confederate heavy in action, a minigun-wielding soldier not unlike his TF2 inspiration, but with a walrus mustache and copious gold trim. "The only thing that's not in the game right now is artillery, armored personnel carriers, and some of the traditional Civil War units, by calvary," Danny explained, positioning the heavy for a run at a charging Union company.
Switching from RTS view to FPS mode, Danny jumped into the heavy's boots and spun up his gatling gun. Some of the work he's put into AI was immediately apparent; the charging troops struggled to get into range tried to spread Danny's field of fire, circle strafing to flank his position. I mentioned hitboxes, and Danny explained that he could go per-triangle if needed (the heavy, for instance, is made of 4096 triangles). This, as well as terrain and elevation effects, would be added during testing if it was needed to balance the game.
When the troops mowed down Danny's unit, he described how death works. Rather than a one and done approach, when an entire army is destroyed, the army is respawned at the back of the line, and a certain number of "tickets" are subtracted. When a side is out of tickets, no more respawns. It's a ruleset sure to affect strategy in large-scale matches, since there's no such thing as a throwaway unit or army.
Danny jumped into a tank, and rumbling forward with pointing out that an advancing enemy unit had found itself in the middle of a minefield. Gunfire echoed around the map in commander view, and I noted that the sound effects were impressive for a game essentially produced by a team of one. "I'm aiming to make the game as realistic and authentic as possible," Danny stated. Well, realistic being a relative term, given that zeppelins and tanks are criss-crossing 1860s Pennsylvania farmland on the screen.
Courtesy of some help from a friend at Epic Games, Danny has updated the interface since we last saw the game. It's a pretty standard RTS layout, with a selected units tray and orders queue - for the most part clean and simple, except for some rather thick steampunk embellishment. Jumping out of the game, we had a look at the point-buy system for army creation. The more players on a server, he explained, the fewer points available for each player to spend. Traditional units, like riflemen, obviously cost less than futuristic weaponry.
Danny also gave us a glimpse of the Commander mode, which allows one player per side to zoom out to see the entire map at a glance. The commander is chosen from among those players with the highest global rank, and a player has thirty seconds to decide if he wants to be commander. Commanders can give orders to determine default behavior, which would take effect when a player jumps into FPS mode, for example.
Finally, Danny ended with a quick preview of the USS Cairo, so quick that, unforunately, I couldn't come up with a screenshot of it. The USS Cairo was an ironside instrumental in Union riverboat operations on the Mississippi, attaining distinction in naval battles near Clarksville and Memphis, Tennessee (naval battles in Tennessee - strange to think, right?) until it gained the dubious distinction of being the first warship sunk by an electrically detonated mine. It's fitting that we ended on that note - a historical warship destroyed by a weapon in advance of its time.
Gettysburg: Armored Warfare continues to steam toward an ambitious 2011 release. Danny elaborated:"We'll really be pushing it out towards the end of summer, but we're looking at beta maybe as early as June." Thanks to Danny Green, Radioactive Software, and publisher Paradox Interactive for a pre-alpha look at Gettysburg: Armored Warfare.