Red Alert 3 is the latest game in the Red Alert franchise, Steve thought it was good and from what I have played I must concur. If you haven’t played it yet then it is well worth checking out demo for it.
I recently got the chance to pose a few questions at the lead designer of Red Alert 3, Jason Torres, the results of which can be seen after the jump.
The Reticule – Where did the design ideas come from, were they based on anything that Westwood may have started, or were they all fresh new ideas?
Jason Torres – Design ideas come in all forms. When making a game like Red Alert 3, the design team tries its best to adhere to the existing Red Alert universe games and their themes, but we also push ourselves to give enough new stuff (toys) to keep players interested and engaged. The co-op campaign is an example of something very new. Trying to do both is no easy task and often just as challenging as a blank slate, believe it or not. When it came to units, we knew that we wanted some classics such as the Tesla Trooper and Tanya, but also some new toys that would hopefully surprise the player but also feel like they belong in the Red Alert universe. That is the type of approach we applied to much of the game.
The Reticule – How did you set about designing such iconic Red Alert units such as the Tesla Trooper (and Coil) and the Dolphins?
JT – The Tesla Trooper and Dolphins were more or less designed for us because of the past, but we did have to come up with their secondary abilities (apart from it powering up on a Tesla Coil). For those, the design team generally brainstorms ideas that sound like they’d fit the unit role, the unit’s place in the tech rollout, and/or some element the faction might lack. For the Tesla Trooper, we wanted it to have an Area of Effect power that basically shut down vehicles, giving it a use when it is overwhelmed with enemies, but not too powerful that it would make its primary attack have less use. With the Dolphin, basically we are just marine wildlife lovers and had to have a Bottle nosed Dolphin, or Tursiops Truncatus, leap out of the water to display its’ graceful beauty for all of the world to behold.
The Reticule – You’ve talked a lot about have a slightly slower paced game, why did you go in this
JT – new-fangled video games. I’m just kidding. The main reason we wanted a slightly slower paced game is to concentrate on the interesting unit interactions for which the Red Alert universe is so well known. We wanted to give the player some more space to make choices about which infantry to put into their IFVs, and where to Flea Leap a Sickle away from combat (or on enemy infantry). That is the main reason.
The Reticule – What were the biggest design issues you came across in making RA3?
JT – Hrmm. This is a good question, and likely a place for a long post-mortem type of answer. My first instinct was to give a short funny answer like “addiction to churros”, but I’ll do my best to give a short answer. The biggest issues were trying to capture that Red Alert vibe, provide a totally new faction that fit into a beloved universe, and trying to polish and finish all of our creations to the level of quality with which we wanted to deliver to our fans. I would say those were the biggest design issues, and the ones that spanned the length of the project from the first ideas all of the way to the late hour in which we finished.
The Reticule – What do you think are the most important parts of any game design?
JT – Ease of use / clarity of concepts and the ability to layer mechanics and concepts on top of each other to create a cohesive, fluid experience. That probably sounds very “shop talk”, so in laymen’s terms I think the most important parts are trying to come up with something fun, easy for the player to grasp, and supportive to build on top of the other mechanics of the game.
The Reticule – If you could go back to the beginning of development again, what would you change?
JT – Wow. These are some good, tough questions. As some say, hindsight is 20/20, so there are definitely things that could have gone smoother in terms of solving design challenges. But that is also just part of the process; if we knew the answers ahead of time we would have probably just found new challenges to solve. For the most part, I’d say that I’d like to add some more upgrade / choices in the build systems and units. We focused a lot on the units and their secondary abilities, and there is a lot of great, satisfying gameplay there, but I think having some more options upfront to tailor a personal strategy and invest into specific units / gameplay styles would worthy of some investigation.