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E3 2009: Hearts of Iron 3 Interview

E3 2009

Away from the seemingly endless ‘surprise’ announcements at E3 this past week, there are a number of teams quietly working on promoting their products, many of which have been announced for some time. Hidden within the glitz and glamour, we grab a quick word with Chris King, game designer for Hearts of Iron 3, as he discusses the improvements and some of the new features the upcoming sequel holds for veterans and newcomers alike.

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For those who haven’t heard of the series before, what is Hearts of Iron all about?

Hearts of Iron is a World War II strategy game. With a time frame that stretches from 1936 into the post war era. You can play any country in the world and with the game being fairly open-ended you can set your own goals. The only thing that will end your game prematurely is to lose the war.

What new features have you brought in with Hearts of Iron 3?

We looked to add to just about every aspect of the game, so to try and list all the features would be an impossible job. However if I were to give you my favourite it would be the new supply system. You now have supply lines and the amount of supplies that can be moved is constrained by the level of infrastructure in a province.

How does this improve the experience?

One complaint that the veteran players had was the monster stacks that would appear in unlikely locations. There is now a limit to the number of troops a province can effectively supply (and thus how many you want to put into it) without having to use something as crude as an arbitrary stacking limit. For all players the new supply system is far more realistic than the old one. We have a map mode were you can see your supply lines and see your supplies move. You can then think about well can I really send another division to fight in the Desert campaign? I feel it adds more immersion to the game experience.

The new title has an increased focus on the home front and politics, what was the reason behind this?

Von Clausewitz said that war was a continuation of politics by other means, while Clemenceau said that war was far too important to be left to the generals. Politics and the home front were important aspects to a country during wartime. We felt that we could do a lot more in Hearts of Iron 3 without causing it to dominate the game. Our goal was to try and make the game much more dynamic and responsive to what is happening in the game world. This adds an extra layer to the strategy of the game.

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Do you think the new incarnation will be tough for newcomers to get into?

No, our goal throughout is to try and make the game accessible as possible, we did so in three ways. Firstly you have how the features were designed. If you look at the supply system I talked about earlier, it is more detailed and more realistic but also automatic. So it gives a richer experience to the player without imposing burdens on a new player. We have also put a lot of work into the interface. We wanted players to not have to work too hard gathering information so they could focus on their country’s strategy. This will make it easier for new players to get into it. The final part is AI control. We have added the option were you can automate part of you country. Both the off map features like politics and diplomacy and the on map control of units. Say a new player starts as the USA, a nice forgiving country to play. Instead of constantly having to jump between the Pacific and Europe, the player can hand over the Pacific to the AI while they focus on the D-Day landings. This gives the player added flexibility in how they play.

How does the combat work? Are there many different options for players to utilise a personal strategy?

All our games have been focused on Grand Strategy. You are like a later day warlord telling your men to go and fight while you sit back and wait for the results. A player cannot directly influence the outcome of combat. However there are a number of levers the player can help the result. This can be as simple as making sure you have more men than the bad guys. However by appointing a skilful general to command your troops or making sure your troops have better training and equipment than the opposition can all swing battles.

Are you planning on releasing updates and additional content for the game?

No idea, my current focus is on getting the release version of Hearts of Iron 3 to be the very best that it can be.

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How do you think the competition at E3 matches up to Hearts of Iron 3?

Again no idea, I’ve been a bit too busy to see what is on at E3.

When can we expect to see the title in stores across Europe and the US?

The beginning of August.

Any last words for our readers?

We hope they enjoy Hearts of Iron 3 as much as we do.

Many thanks to Chris, who took time out of his busy schedule to provide some interesting details on Paradox Interactive’s latest project. Expect to see Hearts of Iron 3 in stores later this year.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2007.

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