General Battuta unveils the secrets of Blue Planet!

Questa è un’intervista in inglese pubblicata su HLP il 5 luglio 2009 / This is an interview in English posted on HLP on July 5th 2009

Mobius:
When did you join the BP team?

Battuta:
Well, I began working to voice act Age of Aquarius, the first Blue Planet campaign, last summer.

After a few months of work, Darius wanted to give both Rian and I BP badges as a kind of ‘thank you’ gift, so we had those for a while. But there wasn’t a BP internal forum at that point, since it was still a one-man team.

Mobius:
I remember you claiming that you were working as voice acting manager, only. Have things changed since then?

Battuta:
Yes, they have. Darius began a private alpha test of War in Heaven this spring, at which point he set up an internal forum. I’m now FREDding alongside Darius.

Mobius:
What are you FREDding, exactly? Are you creating your own missions for WiH with extreme liberty? Are you sticking with Darius direct hints?

Battuta:
Darius and I have an extremely close creative relationship (but, uh, not like that.) I’ve spent some time on the internal forums for other projects, such as ED and TVWP, and Blue Planet is much less formal and much more free-wheeling. (bit more to say)

Mobius:
Interesting… so you’re both working on the storyline? What kind of ideas do you come out with?

Battuta:
Darius is the Supreme Leader and Omnipotent Arbiter of BP. What he says goes. But he’s always open to feedback and new ideas. Almost every day, he posts some new ships or story ideas, and I riff off them. I’d kind of compare our creative process to the way a band generates music.

For example, a little while ago Fury, one of the HLP admins, had some great ideas about how to handle development, and Darius was completely willing to listen. I’ve been struck again and again by how little ego or hierarchy there is on the team. It’s all really friendly, a very funny place.

Mobius:
Hey, that’s nice. Are you going to create fan fics?

Battuta:
Actually, yeah! We have a little project going on we’re thinking of releasing as a prologue to WiH. It’s a campaign conceptualized and scripted by FoxtrotTango, an HLP member who was really interested in the Blue Planet setting and wanted to work in it. So we helped him learn the setting, and he wrote a really interesting, morally challenging story.
So I guess it’s not really fanfic.

But part of the idea with that prologue release, I gather, is to get our modpack out so people can work and play with it. We’re not big on exclusives, I think.

Mobius:
How are we going to read the result? Is it going to be released with the campaign? There are many ways to show it off, like FRED’s Fiction Viewer and a dedicated section of BP’s website.

Battuta:
Ah, okay, I think I was unclear about that. FoxtrotTango’s story is an actual, playable campaign with some really interesting features. For example, you can choose what your character says, which I believe Wing Commander Saga has done as well but which felt like a logical extension of the Blue Planet style.

As for other writing, we did release some background material for War in Heaven, which you can read on the Blue Planet website. But we’re going to try to put as much of the story as possible into the campaign itself. Relying on outside material is less fun for the player.

Mobius:
What did you guys feel when you started working with Darius? Age of Aquarius is, without any doubt, one of the most successful custom campaigns ever created. Did you feel like being of any help?

Battuta:
Well, there was definitely a bit of a rock-star feel to it at first, and I was a bit nervous. But the fact is that Darius is a really modest, unassuming guy. Age of Aquarius has gotten rave reviews, but people also had criticisms and suggestions, and Darius was really eager to hear those and work on fixing them.

I think part of the reason Blue Planet has remained so drama-free is because of Darius’ leadership. He made me promise not to talk about him like he was the second coming or anything, but he’s polite, gracious, totally open to criticism, and almost never offended. And he’s a big fan of other FreeSpace projects on HLP, so team rivalry isn’t really an issue.
And on a practical level, yes, I’ve absolutely felt like a help. I’m a pretty solid FREDder and I’ve been able to do some pretty darn cool missions for War in Heaven.

Mobius:
Speaking of criticisms, what have you learned from the constructive ones? I remember quite a few of them, and I was involved more than once. Because the criticisms were mostly directed to certain choices in terms of storytelling, are we going to see a different plot development in WiH?

Battuta:
Well, the main criticism of Age of Aquarius was that some of the story twists felt too mystical for some people’s taste, and that the writing was sometimes a bit hammy. But I think that has to be placed in context. AoA really connected with people because it made you the star of a soaring, heroic interdimensional adventure.
When you went out there to guide the Temeraire battlegroup through the Knossos in N362 and Razorback started playing in the background, I’m pretty sure everyone felt a thrill.

But, yeah, Darius wanted to deal with some of that. For example, all the mysticism and prophecy in Age of Aquarius, including the Great Preservers and Sam’s connection to that, means something very specific which was foreshadowed as early as the FS1 intro movie.

So I think people like TrashMan will like where the plot goes, because it doesn’t just go haring off into ‘energy beings’ Star Trek territory. War in Heaven is a gritty, political war story, based in no small part on research into the World War II Pacific theater.
It’s a darker story, and your experience as the main character will be a little richer, because of deeper interaction with the war and the people around you. You’ll be able to make some decisions, even.

Mobius:
What are the fans going to find in WiH? Pretty much everyone has taken into account that Darius has seriously considered all criticisms to his work (in the positive way, of course)… but what are we going to experience, exactly? There have been several discussions on HLP about the war between the GTVA and the UEF.

Many community members came out with the assumption that the UEF simply won’t defeat the GTVA, and this assumption has had a wide consensus among players. People also came to the conclusion that, in order to win, the UEF needs to capitalize on a limited number of resources. In other words, what can we expect from the war?

Are we going to see an incredible number of GTVA ships falling to the UEF? Is the UEF going to taste a defeat in a number of engagements?

Battuta:
Well, first off, I can point you to the Blue Planet website, where the briefings ‘The Reunion’ and ‘Balance of Power’ discuss the beginning of the war a little bit.

No, you will not see an incredible number of GTVA ships falling to the UEF. Remember, this is the GTVA you played a part of in FreeSpace 2, and in fact, they’ve improved tactically. GTVA warships will often attempt to jump away when damaged. In fact, they often won’t engage until their jump drives are fully charged, just to make sure they can escape.
You’ll see GTVA ships working in destroyer-centric battlegroups, forming gunlines and flak pockets. There will be TAG support, AWACS coordinating bomber jump-ins, jamming, and extensive use of Trebuchets by the GTVA.

The UEF is outnumbered, outgunned, and arguably outplayed by GTVA tactics. Their capital ships are versatile and have excellent anti-fighter defenses, but they just can’t match up to GTVA beams. Every time the UEF sends a capital ship into the field, it’s running a risk, because the GTVA holds back Bellerophon and Chimera corvettes on hunter-killer tasking.
These ships might jump in at any second to counter UEF warship deployments and nullify them with their heavy beams.
The UEF’s advantage is a huge industrial base – remember, Sol infrastructure has been built up for a very long time, and the UEF is economically prosperous under the Ubuntu party – and their superb fighter corps. UEF fighters and gunships are trained to work closely with Karuna frigates to disable GTVA forward beams and destroy enemy squadrons.
Unfortunately a lot of the UEF pilots are reservists, and they’re all exhausted, overwhelmed, and suffering from low morale. That will be dealt with in the campaign.

So, yes, you’re going to see the UEF struggling and struggling hard. The GTVA will be relentless, capable, and smart. You’ll see them doing all the things that the ‘heroes’ in a lot of stories think up.
As a player you’re going to be a match for GTVA fighter forces, and you’ll get to try out the sheer firepower of UEF gunships, but you’ll probably learn to be very afraid of GTVA warships. Stick close to your Karuna if you need to hide from enemy fighters, and use your modular armor!

So yeah, as you can see, this is something we thought a lot about. And the input of members like you, Mobius, NGTM-1R, and even newer people like spardason is very valuable.

Mobius:
Without spoiling anything of the later development of the plot, can you tell us what we’re going to see later in the campaign? Is there a remote possibility that, at the very end, the campaign will no longer be based on the war between the GTVA and the UEF?

Age of Aquarius started with an expedition and ended up in a way that no one could have imagined at the very beginning of the campaign.

Battuta:
I can’t discuss that. Obviously the thing that gets people most excited about BP is the story, and we don’t want to spoil that. But people will get to experience the full fury of the war. It won’t be derailed by drama the way, and we’re not skipping ‘the good stuff’.

That said, part of Blue Planet is the amazing story twists, and you will see those. My lips are sealed, but some of the stuff that I’ve seen made my spine crawl.

Mobius:
Everyone is excited about WiH, but if Darius is correct Blue Planet is a trilogy. Have you started working on the third chapter of the series?

Are you going to wait for the release of WiH before planning the third chapter, so that you can work with the comments of your beloved fans in mind?

Battuta:
We know exactly what’s going to happen and we have the modpack for it. But our focus right now is on getting War in Heaven done. Blue Planet has always been a lean, mean, efficient development machine! 😛 (particularly impressive since Darius is in med school).

And yeah, Darius will definitely take fan feedback for Chapter 3.

Mobius:
Two quick questions related to the current status of the project: how is AoA’s voice acting going? Do you have a release estimate on WiH?

Battuta:
Age of Aquarius voice acting is eighty percent done. All we need are a few minor roles. We’re hoping to finish this summer, then polish up some of the technical flaws in Age of Aquarius, add some new assets (including normal maps for all the ships and some other minor upgrades), and re-release a director’s cut.

As for War in Heaven, that’s an interesting story. The alpha version of the campaign was actually finished this spring.

Mobius:
So… when are you going to release it?

Battuta:
However, after Darius reviewed it with Fury, Dilmah_G, Rian and I, we decided to re-FRED it to fix what we perceived as a lack of depth. We’re making really rapid progress with the reworking, though, so don’t worry, we’re not going to turn into another Silent Threat: Reborn.

Not too different from what you’ve done with INFASA, I believe!
In fact, I want to talk about our workflow a bit. Darius and I are in time zones separated by about a twelve-hour difference. So every morning when I wake up, it’s his evening, and he updates me on what he’s done that day. I take over. Then, that night, I pass off my progress to him.

So we’re literally working almost constantly on the project.

Mobius:
Well, INFASA’s upgrade is too impressive for me to find a word to describe it. I hope WiH will not have to undergo a similar upgrade, or it will take a while before the release…
A long while…

Battuta:
We honestly don’t worry too much about release dates. But we’ll probably have enough to do a ‘chapter 1’ release soon if we feel it’s a reasonably self-contained story, I guess? I’d have to talk to Darius. If you guys want something like that, let us know!

Mobius:
Are you planning to create a poll in which you’ll be asking wheter or not WiH should be divided into several sub-chapters?

Battuta:
Nah. We’ll probably make that call internally. By which I mean Darius shall proclaim it!

Mobius:
Here comes a classical question: write at least 3 good reasons to download WiH as soon as it gets released and play it until the very end!

Battuta:
1. The deep, morally ambiguous writing. This is the closest thing you can get to a FreeSpace novel.

2. The tactically rich, cinematic gameplay. In War in Heaven, capital ships get respect. These are beautiful, stately behemoths. They’re not going to die like toys. Similarly, fighter duels will be marked by AWACS coordination, rally points, and a very diverse weapons set on both sides: GTVA beams, pulse weapons, and TAG against UEF railguns, torpedo and missile salvos, and death-dealing gunships.

Mobius:
And the third reason is…?

*drool*

Battuta:
3. You will see a Solaris and a Raynor dueling against an enormous Mars skybox, beams glittering in the dark, missiles swarming, as tactical meson bombs detonate in the background, shattering intrasystem gate farms – all as you lead your White Knights against a squadron of Erinyes to a soaringly epic soundtrack. And then you can die happy.

(And the new music is bloody sweet too.)

Mobius:
Thank you very much for the interview and the exciting info, Battuta! Best of luck with Blue Planet!

Battuta:
Thanks for your time, Mobius, I really appreciate it. And everyone reading, please, if you’ve got a mic, give us your voice over in the Voice Acting forum!

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Questa voce è stata pubblicata in English, Francesco D'Amico, Interviste, Videogames e contrassegnata con , , , . Contrassegna il permalink.

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