Following text is the translation from one of the five articles posted on the Official Spanish Blog of PlayStation by Enigma Software Production about the development of Legends of War: Patton’s Campaign and the design process. You can read the original article here (Spanish).
As player, you may think that your unit is strategically placed between a pile of boxes and few trucks. You breathe relieved. How many turns remain to complete the mission? Only two turns more and you will have won. You breathe slowly and end your turn. Nothing bad seems to happen, the Germans patrol without noticing your presence…
Then, your heart beats fast as you see the camera moving rapidly towards a point that you had not covered and a German sniper come out of the shadows! You know that this unit excels in accuracy for long range shooting, especially at this point in the campaign, in Berlin, the latest missions in the game… And above all, you know what is going to happen.
You are a dead man.
These are some of the situations that you can enjoy playing Legends of War: Patton’s Campaign, and you may want to know who is responsible of it and how we did it.
We are Guillermo Aguilera and Virginia Martín, and we was in charge to design every aspect of the game. Today we are going to give you some clues about how we did it.
The game has a wide variety of settings, missions and objectives. It was very important for us to put the missions in a proper order in the campaign to give the game variety and a good rhythm that avoids monotony. You can find forests, small towns, ruined cities, military bases, snowy settings… and different types of missions (attack, defense, escort, infiltration and sabotage).
Virginia and Willy: “From design, key emphasis was to offer a rich title regarding pacing and gameplay. Because of that, starting the preproduction, we collected all the cork boards we found in the offices, and we placed on a wall. Then, we put some colored cards on them. The cards stood for each type of mission. So, we could get a glimpse of the rhythm of the campaign”.
Also, during that early stage of the development, we spend many time reading about Patton and his campaign through Europe. A key piece to have a clear idea about his battles and strategy was the book titled Patton & His Third Army, which was written by a Patton’s assistant in 1946. It gave us a close-up insight into the battles and skirmishes they did across Europe in the Second World War. All this information helped us to write a detailed and a historically rigorous briefing for each mission.
At the same time, we looked for some visual references. At this point we were lucky enough to have a lot of previous information thanks to our previous project, War Leaders: Clash of Nations.
Level Design process
Maps are possibly one of the most important elements to get a good game, you need to create a good balance between balance playability within a beautiful looking level. Independent of how good are other elements in the game, a bad level design would ruin the player experience.
First drafts were very rough top-down layouts drawn with pen and paper to plan and visualize the space. If you have a look onto those drafts, you can figure out why Willy doesn’t work as a graphic artist!
With every iteration we got a better sense of the environment we wanted to create for the game. In Legends Of War, every and all the maps were optimized after months of testing to achieve the maximum of fun and replayability.
V and W: “At the beginning, some infiltration maps took more than 50 turns to pass, were full of Germans covering all spaces, and were practically impossible.”
Variety of environments
During the campaign the players will cover all scenarios of battle in the North of Europe, from the French countryside to the Ardennes, German towns and villages and finally the city of Berlin in ruins.
The game pays great attention to the design of the maps and the missions to achieve a great ambiance replete with details and visual effects, and with a great playability and strategic depth.
The first time you play the Legends Of War, there might be no bigger surprise than shooting a tank with an infantry and seeing the tank does not take damage. “What’s wrong? Something’s wrong! It’s a bug!… “
The best balanced games in the world are Rock-Paper-Scissors (even, more than this one, its variant Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock). And, for Legends of War: Patton’s Campaign, we spend lot of time to balance the game. So, each mission will be a challenge when it comes to choose the appropriate unit to move, since no matter how good, powerful and improved a unit is, it could be defeated if the player uses it incorrectly.
The game will require from the player to think carefully which unit will recruit for each mission, how will invest the Prestige gained to recruit new ones or improve the old ones and how to move those units in the battlefield to accomplish the mission. Depend on the level of difficulty, the player will have to adapt their strategy. Finally, the result depends on it. If the player has the best sniper, or the best tank, whatever, but has a bad strategy, for sure, that unit will die.
For months, we run lot of playtesting sessions to see how people played and reacted to the game, what kind of units they selected to go the battlefield and how they managed their units… and we wrote down tons of notes about it!.
For example, in early versions we saw that people recruited only bazookas, and no commands nor snipers… Damage inflicted by a single shot of any bazooka was extremely powerful: tanks and soldiers both got high damage from their shots. Bazookas were able to kill several enemy soldiers with just a single shot, even both tanks and soldiers. There was not any unit who could face them up. Bazookas were all way overpowered.
After those sessions, we changed some parameters for that unit. Finally, the bazooka weapon can damage to armored vehicles only, being useless against soldiers. In order to try killing an enemy soldier, the player would have to switch to their secondary weapon (although this unit isn’t very good against other soldiers, the best you can do is to protect the bazooka with another soldier). On the other hand, bazookas’ ammunition and movement per turn is very limited.