A couple of months ago at GDC we got a brief live demo of Paraworld, the upcoming parallel world RTS game from developer SEK. With the game getting closer to completion we decided it was time to learn more about the game via a chat with SEK's lead designer Thomas Langhanki.
FiringSquad: First, how did the idea for Paraworld come about?
: As we were finishing Diggles we pondered two options for our next project: an online RPG or an RTS title. Ultimately, we favoured the latter idea. The challenge that appealed to us was trying to evolve the genre beyond the inevitable technological improvements.
Why did it end up featuring dinosaurs? One aspect was clear right from the get-go: we didn’t want to use WWII or standard fantasy settings. And at that time someone applied for a position as 2D artist. Simon – who’s still with us – had been working on a children’s book about dinosaurs. It seemed like an interesting topic to us and this is where the basic idea for ParaWorld setting is originated.
FiringSquad: What playable sides will be available in the game?
: There are three factions in the game. The Norsemen are the ones you’ll encounter first in the singleplayer campaign. They’re good at defence and have the most robust buildings and walls. Heavy armor and corresponding upgrades are another typical element.
We incorporated Japanese and Chinese elements in the Dragon Clan, which is the second faction. People who like to deceive their opponents probably will like this tribe best. They can build a variety of traps and also have cloaking devices at hand. The Clan also has a stronger tech focus than the other factions, thus having a number of vehicles around.
If you despise defense strategies and prefer to go the offensive route, the Dustriders may be your tribe of choice. They have lots of animal units around, any many of them can be (re-)equipped on the fly. For instance, you can equip a close-combat unit with a catapult or a transport basket for other units. Their tents can be built down again and you’ll get the resources back. Also, other infantry units can erect buildings. Making this faction a very flexible and mobile one!
I didn’t mention the heroes yet. They don’t belong to any particular tribe and you can pick any possible combination. Heroes have very specific bonus features, some of them differ from tribe to tribe. Making it possible to go for really different strategies with the very same tribe depending on what heroes you’re using.
FiringSquad: How do the game's versions of dinosaurs affect the gameplay and what are some of your personal favorite creatures?
: The T-Rex, I guess. Which is kind of everybody’s favourite as soon as it becomes available. It simply is great to have one or two of then at hand and meet the enemy on the battlefield. Or just surprise him when he doesn’t expect it. I also like the Ankylosaur Catapults as you can toss raptor eggs towards the enemy units and buildings. The little raptors that then spawn and wreak havoc are simply adorable!
FiringSquad: What will the storyline and single player campaigns be like in Paraworld?
: There’s going to be one singleplayer campaign that will incorporate all three tribes. You get to know one after another, and in the last third you can choose freely and pick whatever faction you prefer to master the most difficult tasks. Which was a very important element because you can go with whatever tribe you like best instead of having to side with a faction you’re not a fan of. Keep in mind that the story is focused on the heroes – not the tribes.
The story will be told through about 2 hours of cutscenes and dialogue scenes in the game among other things. We’ll also provide some background information regarding the factions, the protagonists and the Paraworld in general.
FiringSquad: There are a ton of RTS titles already out there. How will Paraworld differ in terms of gameplay from the host of other strategy titles?
: ParaWorld has a fast pace and is focussed on battles. We know that the settings appeals to lots of playing because it differs from settings often used in other titles – and, hey, dinosaurs! We also incorporated other, unique types of units players are going to have a great time with.
ParaWorld also features something you’ve already seen briefly – the Army Controller. It does make a tremendous difference in terms of controls and it’s something not featured in any other game. You always know the status of every single unit, you can always access it or use it to send them to other positions. It’s simply something you’ll miss in other games once you got used to it.
And there’s also a number of smaller ideas or technical features such as a dedicated server version and Dualcore support due to the multithreaded nature of the engine.