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I recently had a chance to interview Kim Soares, from Finnish developer Nitro Games, about their upcoming title East India Company (In which Mr. Soares is Lead Designer.).
East India Company is the first project for new Finnish studio Nitro Games. Having seen (and grown tired of) the the glut of pirate themed games in the Caribbean, yet still loving the Age of Sail, Nitro decided to create a game based on an important phenomena in history that has gone under the radar in the videogaming scene for a long time (because everyone is wanking over Jack Sparrow).
The East India Company was an 18th century corporation who was given royal decree to procure the riches of far off Asian nations for the glory of the crown. In Nitro Game’s release, you will have the chance at building your own 18th century trading empire through any means necessary. Diplomacy, War, bribery and yes, even piracy.
Diehard GameFAN: Can you give us a brief overview of how the game works? Is it more focused on trade like the Patrician series of games or will it be more combat oriented such as the Total War games?
Kim Soares: East India Company combines trading and naval combat. Focus must be on trading or otherwise your company is going to be bankrupt very soon. At the same time you need military power to take over foreign ports and to be able to hold your own on high seas. Then again, to be able to afford building powerful fleets, you need money that you get from trading. So trading and war go very much hand in hand in EIC, maybe more so than in any other game. Which is kind of suitable taking into account how historical east india companies operated.
Players can take different approaches to the game. For example, you can try to handle things as peacefully as possible, not attacking other companies. Or you can supplement your trading by attacking other fleets, boarding the ships, and taking their cargo. You can also trade with other companies through diplomacy, manipulate them against each other, or extort weaker companies.
DHGF: You say that the naval combat is, “Realistic yet fast-paced,” but this terms seems like an oxymoron. Did you have to make any trade-offs between realism and accessibility?
KS: Combat is more fast-paced than realistic, so EIC is not an 18th century naval simulator. We did have to consider realism versus accessibility and general gaming experience. Too realistic is not necessarily that much fun in the long run. For example, just getting on cannon range of the enemy could take hours of real time, so naturally we have cut some corners there.
Wind directon is something you have to take into account. Sailing against wind will cripple your speed and planning your moves so that you can bring your broadsides towards the enemy at the best possible time requires a bit of practice.
DHGF:Speaking of naval combat, can a player play the game completely avoiding combat and focusing on trading? Can he also auto-resolve ship battles?
KS: EIC can be played with many different approaches. Being just a peaceful trader is possible. Naturally, other companies might decide to attack your fleets in any case. Naval battles can be auto-resolved, but then you will not be able to board enemy ships for example, so playing them has definite perks.
Different ports play a large part in the game and sooner or later you have to secure your access to them. This requires either invading them or being in alliance with another company so that you can use their ports.
DHGF: There seems to be conflicting reports on the nations included in the game with both The Holy Roman Empire and Italy being listed in some sections of your website (as of 26th of March) can you clear that up?
KS: At previous build we had Italy, or more specifically the Venetian Republic in the game, but it was decided to change that into The Holy Roman Empire.
DHGF: Will it be possible to play a Multiplayer campaign mode or is the multiplayer only for Naval battles?
KS: Multiplayer is only for single naval battles. Last Ship Floating is death match with ships, where you pick your ship and then try to be the last one alive. There is also team version of that. Domination is another game type. In Domination, there are multiple buoys floating around that you can tag for your team by sailing by them. Once a buoy is tagged it gives points to the team it belongs to.
DHGF: Any plans to make a land warfare sequel or expansion? The East India Company did have a formidable army under its control after all.
KS: Never say never… although naval battles are our forte.
DHGF: Is the graphics engine developed in-house or licensed? The ships and water look quite stunning considering this is your first game (if my information is correct).
KS: We licensed the engine back in 2004 but have since more or less built it again from ground up. We are especially proud of the water, which is all done in-house. Several people have said they actually get feeling of being sea sick when on Direct Command-mode on the ship’s deck :-)
This is our first game, yes.
DHGF: When Lighthouse Interactive was declared bankrupt, you were without a publisher for a while until Paradox Interactive picked up the game. How did Paradox come to be your publisher? Did you have offers from other publishers as well?
KS: We negotiated with several publishers. Paradox Interactive was the best possible partner for us with their publishing record of excellent strategy games and their in-house expertise in developing good games.
DHGF: We know the game is going to be available through Paradox’s GamersGate and probably Steam as well but some fans want a boxed version. Is that going to be an option?
KS: As far as I’m aware of, there is going to be a boxed version too.
DHGF: You’ve just come back from the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) how was the reaction to East India Company there?
KS: Very good. Paradox had organized dozens of press meetings and it was nice to notice that most journalists already knew about EIC. Trading with dynamic price development, diplomacy and naval battles seemed to be the features that caught everyone’s attention. Especially the Direct Command-mode where you are on the deck of one of our ships. And the water of course.
DHGF: The East India Company wasn’t really known to be a bastion of economical ethics. Have you received any complaints about the game?
KS: Not directly, but I know that on some forums people have expressed their opinion about how this subject is something that should not be made into a game. Then again, I have talked about this with Native Indians who do not view it as, “politically incorrect”.
We are aware that historical East India Companies, or European powers in general for that matter, were not at all ethical in their actions. The game logo with East India Company coins with blood on them is our way of reminding players about the historical background.
I, as a designer, hope that our game might get some of the players interested in history and to do some research on the subject matter themselves.
DHGF:Thank you for your time.
KS: Thank you!
Look forward to more features and a review! on Diehard GameFAN as East India Company nears it’s Q3 2009 release date.