Back in January we wrote about Commanding Nations, the Command and Conquer: Generals inspired RTS that had been in the works at Seven Volts for two-years before breaking covers in January. The team are still quite some way away from launching their Kickstarter, and are currently focused on building their community and getting news of their game shared through word of mouth.
Here I speak with Seven Volts CEO, Pourya Arami, about how the Seven Volts crew came together, their love of Command and Conquer and details of Commanding Nations itself. Hit the break for the full Q&A.
The Reticule – First up, can you give me some background to the team and how you all came together? Is this your first game?
Pourya Arami – Seven Volts games has been in the making for almost two years now and Commanding Nations has been something I’ve been trying to realize for the last 8 years, but I just could not find the right person to get it off the ground with until I met Charlie [lead programmer and co-founder], who had the same passion and love for RTS as I did, with his skills in programming and mine in the business and design side of games, it was a logical step to team up. We worked on the game for a while and slowly we expanded the team with talented individuals who all excel at what they do. The current team is made up of Charlie, Georgii, Tristan, Dino, James, Jimi, Ligeiro and Anton. Our Community managers are currently Natan and Tiemen who are assisted by Discord moderators. We also have Jérémie who is responsible for the background story of the game and the lore. I am working more on the business side of things and assisting the team wherever I can.
For me, this is not my first game, I have worked on different titles in the past and have been a part of the gaming industry for over 15 year. For some in our team, this will be their first release while others have experience and have worked on other titles just like myself. I think the most important thing is how each individual in the team is a crucial part of the process and how we have been able to transform into this indie studio within this short amount of time.
The Reticule – Has it been a challenge getting a new team formed during the pandemic, are you all working remotely?
Pourya Arami – I think the most challenging thing for me was to find people who are qualified for their position. There are a ton of people who offered help and wanted to be part of the project, but our promise has always been to redefine RTS both visually and mechanically while honouring the games we grew up with. So yes it was extremely challenging finding the right people but we are all like one big family and I am honestly honoured to be working with such driven individuals.
We are all working remotely from all over the world. We have members from Brazil, UK, South Africa, Ukraine, The Netherlands and Uruguay to name a few.
The Reticule – What game engine are you using to build Commanding Nations, and what made you chose it?
Pourya Arami – Commanding Nations is using Unity, we have our own custom tools built on top and are using tools such as Houdini to speed up certain processes.
Unity was the engine of choice because most of us had years of experience with it. We did not want to experiment with other engines and decided to choose one which we are extremely comfortable with
The Reticule – So you’ve got quite a diverse group working on Commanding Nations, are you all lifelong Command and Conquer fans?
Pourya Arami – I got into the universe with Red Alert 2, one of my best friends showed the game to me when I was visiting, and I immediately fell in love. I bought the game the same day and started playing it, but what really got me hooked was Generals, and the fact that we had acceptable internet when the game came out, so I could play with other people. I’ve spent so many hours in that game and have some of the most beautiful moments of my childhood thanks to that game, it really was the go to game me and my best friends played and play to this day every week. I think its fair to assume how disappointed I was when Generals 2 got cancelled and I was even more disappointed that I never had the chance to try it. That was the catalyst that pushed me to want to create my own RTS game.
The rest of team is quite split in that regard. While Charlie is also a lifelong Command and Conquer fan, Georgi for example loves RTS in general and so do the other members of the team, who are actually much younger and didn’t grow up with Command and Conquer.
The Reticule – I fell in love with Command and Conquer with Red Alert 2 as well, and found Generals a fun next step on the RTS journey. However I wasn’t as fond of the resurrected Red Alert and Tiberium games which followed. The Command and Conquer community will probably want to know your take on the post-Generals direction that series took, and how that has influenced your design decisions with Commanding Nations?
Pourya Arami – That’s a fair question. To be honest I believe that the games post-Generals did not really do anything to try to revive the RTS genre or did anything memorable for me. Were they fun games? Yes, but I always try to think about what inspired the creators at Westwood studios to create Command and Conquer instead of trying to draw inspiration out of titles that came before Commanding Nations. Will Commanding Nations be heavily influenced by the games that were fun in the Command and Conquer universe? Yes.
Are we copying those games and trying to do what has already been done? Absolutely not. Every other genre managed to move on and reinvent itself to survive and I think that’s our main responsibility at Seven Volts, to create a game where players of the older games feel at home but at the same time introduce all these new and exciting elements that attracts a new generation of players.
The Reticule – So what are you bringing to the RTS genre which is new and going to give the genre a rebirth in a world where MOBAs now dominate?
Pourya Arami – Before I start, I do have to say that we are keeping some elements as a surprise for our Kickstarter, but we are really putting the focus on the community aspect. This means that you can create your own team, play together and compete in tournaments and have access to the community at all times thanks to the integration which we will have with the website later down the road. So we are bringing it all together.
We are also creating a game that allows us to introduce new factions who each offer different ways of play, this is something which we took from the MOBA world. Our map designs are unlike any other RTS game out there, we are not only allowing extreme close ups and highly detailed worlds, but we are also trying to create maps that feel alive and will punish you if you don’t respect them.
For example, a direct path to a opponents base could lead you trough territories where civilians have occupied buildings and will attack your units who are passing by, this will force you to rethink your rush strategies and really adjust how you play the game. On top of that, we have recently promoted one of the level designers of Iron Harvest who is going to fully focus on taking our maps and concepts to an even higher level when it comes to strategic gameplay mechanics.
Now this is just a few of the things we are doing, but lets be clear about one thing, our goal is not to compete with other RTS games out there, our goal is to create a game where all RTS players eventually feel welcome and can find a faction that fits their play style. Commanding Nations will be an ongoing commitment for us and a game which will evolve even after release.
The Reticule – You’ve talked about the online side of things, but is there a campaign mode, or are we talking AI skirmish fights and online play only?
Pourya Arami – So the game is a multiplayer game only and yes you can go play skirmish if you like. we are not doing any campaign mode and it’s not in our near future plans seeing the cost which involves in creating a single player game. Commanding Nations offers ranked matches where you go against people with your own skill level, or custom games where you can customize most of the games elements to your liking and go against anyone you like, even AI, yes.
The Reticule – I’ve seen on Discord a recent decision was taken to move away from nation based factions to play on and to move towards character driven factions. What drove that decision?
Pourya Arami – The decision to move towards characters was because of two things. First, we wanted to create factions which had different layers to them. For example, while the Faction of Wolfgang and Yo Hong are both PMC’S, Zane’s faction is basically people of a nation coming together to fight to take back their land. At the same time we will have countries involved at a certain point and we are even thinking of things such as the cartel in Mexico who has access to a lot of firepower and basically has its own army.
The second reason was, we felt like we were insulting certain countries with Asia United and Scav and decided to fully back away from that. We highly respect each individual in our community and we don’t want to create a game where their countries are portrait as terrorist or evil, by making the story about individuals who play a major role in their nations search for power, we eliminated this.
The Reticule – You’ll be launching on Kickstarter in the near future. What can you reveal about your plans for the Kickstarter?
Pourya Arami – So it’s good to know that our Kickstarter backers will be the first to play the game and also help us define a ton of things, such as buffs/nerfs of factions. game improvements, what we should add or remove or adjust. So basically, they will have a lot to say in how the final game will play, so for anyone who wants to have influence, i would highly advise them to make sure to get ready for our Kickstarter. We hope to launch on Kickstarter end of August/early September.