Jagged Alliance Center
Interview conducted by: Len
Interview with: Andrew Kazakov
Translation: Popers, Len
Date: 3 December 2007r.
It's the fifth interview with the Jagged Alliance 3 creators, but the first Polish one. The increasing interest in the game made us contact with the Akella company, where a very nice lady from Public Relations greeted us. It wasn't easy: at first we went to Games Convention, and then the KRI Expo. The JA3 crew was sweating blood to finish everything on time. The most important thing is that we managed to conduct this interview. The person who answered the question was the project manager - Andrew Kazakov!
1. Please, introduce yourself and tell us about your role in the company.
Andrew Kazakov: Hello. My name is Andrew Kazakov; I’m a head of the Jagged Alliance 3 project.
2. Tell us something about F3 Games company. Was it founded to create Jagged Alliance 3?
Andrew Kazakov: The core of F3 Games is a group of like-minded people who came from such well-known Russian companies as Akella, G5 Software and Nival. The Jagged Alliance 3 team has 27 specialists. Many of them have the experience of developing such internationally acclaimed products as The Stalin Subway, Cuban Missile Crisis: The Aftermath, Cuban Missile Crisis: Ice Crusade, Blitzkrieg and Silent Storm. Silent Storm is a turn-based tactic game which followed the model of Jagged Alliance 2 in many ways. Considering these facts and a rich experience and good reputation of many team members in Russian game development circles, we can say that it would be very difficult to find another team in Russia which would be more suitable for developing Jagged Alliance 3.
3. Is it true statement, that works on JA3 started before cancellation of JA3D?
Andrew Kazakov: As I believe it’s quite possible that before breaking up with MiST Land the international publisher had already picked out a different company – us. Time is money. That’s all I can say for now.
4. What was a determining factor, that you were chosen to create a continuation of Jagged Alliance? You company must be very good, if you have gained Strategy First's recognition?
Andrew Kazakov: When choosing a team for developing a project of this scale, it was obvious that it is Russian developers who created most of the games similar to JA2 both in genre and the time setting. These are Silent Storm, Night Watch, Brigade E5 and other titles. Such projects have not been done in western countries for a long time, which makes their development more difficult.
5. Have you involved in the project people, that worked on the other parts of Jagged Alliance? What is a role of people from Sir-Tech?
Andrew Kazakov: We deeply respect the Canadian Sit-Tech, the developers of the previous sequels. We got acquainted with famous Sean Ling who was engaged into the Nival’s Silent Storm.
6. And what about the rest of the team? Are there any JA fans involved in the project?
Andrew Kazakov: Jagged Alliance is more than a game. It is one of the most famous game worlds created, so to speak, at the infancy of the modern game industry. More than that, we personally know many famous people in our field that came into our industry under the influence of this legendary title and we ourselves at F3 are big fans of the previous JA3 sequels.
7. What will be your encouragement to play your game for old fans and beginners?
Andrew Kazakov: Jagged Alliance 3 is a sequel to a legendary series of turn-based strategies - Jagged Alliance. The game mostly aims at the fans of the series, non-casual gamers, but I think JA3 will also be interesting to casual players because this game, as agreed with the publisher, purposefully does not include some extra micromanagement features.
The old fans will definitely love new features we’ve added to the game: it’s now in full 3D. It's an evolutionary step from the previous series. Since we are working with Strategy First this helps us a lot to make steady improvements. Also, the Silent Storm engine allows good destructibility of everything so we can demolish buildings and blow up cars which were not possible previously. This also helps in tactical situations where you can destroy a wall to get into a building from different points. You have no lock-pick to open the door? Blow it up or blow up a part of the wall.
Also, it’s more dynamic, more battle and combat oriented. There is less emphasis on micromanagement than the previous series. The player doesn't have to train troops or hold mines. What the player mostly does with the mercenaries is fight. The player commands a special squad, a special team, not a small army.
8. Making a continuation to the series like Jagged Alliance is a very difficult assignment. Aren't you a little bit afraid of bearing responsibility?
Andrew Kazakov: Well, it’s really a big responsibility and we hope that we’ll meet requirements hard-core fans of JA series as well as casual strategy players have when coming to the titles like Jagged Alliance.
9. Let's get to the point. JA3 is being made on the engine of Silent Storm. Why have you chosen this one, and what will be your modifications in it?
Andrew Kazakov: Yeas, it is a Silent Storm engine we have acquired from Nival Interactive, the guys that did the Silent Storm series. We have extensively modified it to add very good animation and facial behavior. We also increased map sizes and the quality of textures (not at the expense of FPS), added the multiplayer mode, 4 lighting models for 4 times of day, water and a strategic mode with its own fully-featured AI.
10. Latest screenshots from the game have not showed us a very good graphics. What are your plans for the future about the graphics?
Andrew Kazakov: The graphics as it is now has overreached all the possible ranges available in Silent Storm engine. However the publishers demand more improvements to the graphical part of the game. Thus the release date has shifted a bit to meet these requirements. In a short time we are adding some innovative graphical features not seen before either in Nights Watch or Silent Storm.
11. Silent Storm was a very demanding game. I hope, we would not need NASA computers to play JA3? :)
Andrew Kazakov: Are you sure that NASA employees have good play stations? :)
Seriously speaking, we are adjusting the graphical subsystem of the engine amd, as I believe, by the time the game is released, gamers will be able to play it with average PC at their disposal.
12. Latest news said, that we will be able to play the multiplayer in JA3. This is a little bit risky in this kind of game.
Andrew Kazakov: The multiplayer technology has been already completed on the programming level. We are currently in touch with our Canadian partners concerning the details that will make this game mode most enjoyable.
So far, we cannot disclose any details of multiplayer. We can just say that our game-designers have progressed in this.
13. And what about the music? In the trailer we were able to hear some score from JA2, and how it will look like in the game itself?
Andrew Kazakov: Sounds are very important for this game. Therefore, we are trying to make new soundtracks similar to the tracks from the previous games of the series and we are also trying to make weapons sound as natural as possible. As for the background sounds, we will pay special attention to them. The setting is very impressive, and we will have to work really hard on ambient sounds in order to make the game immersive for a player. We will invite as many actors for sound recording as necessary to make each character sound unique. Without a doubt, they will be professional actors who can not only convey the accent of certain characters, but also speak other languages if needed.
14. JA2 is still doing well because of its modifications. Are you going to release some programs for JA3?
Andrew Kazakov: Well, we hope so. We hope to make an expansion or a couple of add-ons.
15. Tell us something about the plot. There is not many information about it.
Andrew Kazakov: JA3 is set in Severna, an imaginary country to the north of Arulco. Four factions are fighting in this country trying to conquer the territory of the country and take control over it.
When the warring parties realize they cannot do without the help of professional mercenaries, a player has a chance to choose a faction whose interests he will defend (for a certain compensation). He can visit a merc website via an in-game laptop, hire a team and start to fight.
16. Will we be able to choose sides?
Andrew Kazakov: The player is countered with 3 parties in war with the faction that hired the player. These can be either Severna's armed forces, a regular army of Agawan - a neighboring country, corporations’ security forces or guerilla troops. They have different combat tactics and they can behave differently from one combat to another depending on their current objectives. Besides the factions' fighters, a player will encounter various thugs, smugglers and even common people who will take to arms out of desperation. In a fantastic mode, there will be one more faction available with its unique fighters.
The player can choose a faction when starting the game. He is not aligned with the same faction for the whole gameplay period; however he will have to work for that party for some time.
17. Will we meet some well-known characters from JA2, exploring the country?
Andrew Kazakov: There will be around 40 mercs in the game, 30 of them are from the previous games and 10 are new. We’ve tried to keep most of these legendary mercs the JA series fans loved so much – so you’ll see Shadow, Scope and others. However we’re trying to make new ones as bright as the “older” ones.
Each of the mercs has his/her own stats, experience and character. A player will be able to make a team which best suits his individual tactics.
18. Supposedly you are going to remove some mercenaries known from the earlier parts of the series. Is it true? If it is, how many will go, how many will arrive, will there still be two merc organizations?
Andrew Kazakov: We will have one merc website instead of 2 that were available in the previous game. We deliberately banished the site with budget mercs to keep only the best ones and add new people at the same time.
19. It is not difficult to spot on the screenshots, that you modified merc' faces. How will they look in the final release?
Andrew Kazakov: It all depends on how fresh these screenshots are :)
As for mercs’ faces, we are modifying them with preliminary approval from the developer. We are trying to be as close as possible to the original concepts and keep the spirit of this legendary game, that’s why we’re doing our best to minimize the differences in mercs’ appearances.
20. And what about characters' voices from earlier parts of the series? Are you going to invite actors from JA2 or there will be totally new voices?
Andrew Kazakov: The voices will be recorded by Strategy First since they are responsible for the music production, the English voice source as well as the English translation. The game has been originally developed in English because we have to communicate with Strategy First. So all the builds we have are in English mostly since they approve all the steps. However, once the game is finished they will re-record it in English since they know English better than the developers do and they can tweak it to sound more like they want it.
21. And how is it with enemies AI? In the earlier parts, our enemies wasn't too smart.
Andrew Kazakov: First of all, since its full 3D and enemies can do stealth, climb, descend, use different positions and cover and destroy buildings, we had to rewrite all of that. It’s now a Silent Storm engine we’re using. The enemies fight in small groups so there will be a chain of command.
Enemies will communicate with each other so there will be missions that you need to be stealthy about your kills and not go in the open.
Thus the new enemy type will be quite smart and cunning. What we need to do is to balance the system to make it realistic. The enemy has become smart, we need to avoid making it “too smart” to defeat.
22. Tell us a little about the weapons. How many models can we expect, and will we be able to modify them?
Andrew Kazakov: Undoubtedly, weapons and various items will be an important part of the gameplay. For example, night vision goggles will be essential for night missions, for other missions you will need a sonic detector. Camouflage will influence merc's invisibility for enemy characters and so on. The game will feature about 100 weapons including cold steel arms, fire arms, and explosives. Some items will be upgradeable with, for instance, an optical sight, a muffler or a grenade launcher. Some of the upgrade system items will have to be purchased, others will be found during the game after a certain event.
23. Will we be able to use heavy stuff, like heavy machine guns or vehicles?
Andrew Kazakov: Yes, there will be vehicles. You can use vehicles to transfer your troops.
24. In your opinion, JA3 premiere will end JA2 era?
Andrew Kazakov: I believe this premiere can be the first step to the unexpected continuing of the JA series.
25. Game is in an early phase of production. What is a possible release date, and are there some shifts possible?
Andrew Kazakov: JA3 was originally scheduled for Q4 2007, but the game won’t certainly be out until it meets all the requirements for such a major title as Jagged Alliance.
26. Can we expect demo version?
Andrew Kazakov: We are approaching an alpha-version stage however it will likely be not open for public.
27. At www.jaggedalliance3.com, JA2 site earlier, we found a misterius wallpaper with mercenary. You are working on the official JA3 website? If you are, when can we expect it to be open?
Andrew Kazakov: Yes we are working on the website - both Russian and English. I can say that we are very close to it launch. However we wouldn’t love to expedite the process since it’s very serious.
28. And what is your opinion about Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge, 'first jagged' in 3D.
Andrew Kazakov: As we say it in Russian, the first pancake is always lumpy. I think you have some analogue in your language))).
29. Thank you for the interview! All the best!
Andrew Kazakov: Thanks a lot for giving me this opportunity to unveil some game details to those who truly love the game and wait for its release.
Jagged Alliance 3 is an extraordinary project, not only because is started 3D but also because last two continuations failed. Expectations are huge, so the value of that project is immense. Will authors keep up with the amazing atmosphere? Well… premiere next year!