Over the last few years eastern Europe has become something of a hotbed of computer software development. Recent games to come out of the former Soviet bloc include Hidden and Dangerous, Theocracy, and Odium.
Recently Romania has been grabbing our attention, with the appearance of Impale Ent last month, and now AMC Creation surfacing with their own real time strategy game, "No Name War". We spoke to Cristina Neamtu of AMC to find out more about the game, the company behind it, and just what it is in the water in Romania at the moment...
AMC has actually been around for a while, although it is only recently that they have turned to developing games, as Cristina explained. "AMC started by selling PC hardware - that was in 1994. But then in 1998 a nucleus took shape - a programmer, a graphic artist and me. We decided to produce a PC game, realizing that we could do this, and not just be spectators."
Being based in eastern Europe does bring its advantages - "considering the lower costs in Romania, it needs less foreign investment to do the same job right here". It's not all good news though, and according to Cristina "things are not going that smooth. Particularly, sponsorship is hard to get if you do multimedia or, let's say, literature, as it goes to sports and hip-hop."
Despite this, companies are beginning to spring up, although "it's too much saying we have a 'game industry' - we are all pioneering. But probably there will be one, taking into account, as I stressed above, the low costs, and also the fact that there are numerous skilled young guys in the fields of programming and computer graphics around here."
"As a matter of fact, many of the people involved in projects abroad are Romanian expats. I hope for a real software industry here, and at least one condition, the human resources, is already fulfilled."
With the company making the move from hardware sales to computer game development, research began to prepare the way for their first release - a real time strategy game called "No Name War".
"We have experimented since 1998, but since last year we have been focusing on No Name War in a definite shape". According to Cristina "the game is not far from completion", an impressive feat in the space of a year for a relatively small company with little funding. "If we find a publisher, this could mean enlarging the staff, buying better machines and, as a result, accelerating" the development of the game though.
Apparently things are moving on that front as well. "We have recently started a dialogue with related publishing companies in the field", although there is "no publishing agreement signed yet".
And for those of you who are wondering, yes, that is the final title of the game. As Cristina explained to us, "no war needs any name, as they come mostly from instinct, mass confusion, etc", adding that "players who get to the end of the game will get the clue".
One of the unique features of No Name War is that it is based around a handful of massive battlefields, rather than the usual series of small mission-focused maps that most real time strategy games feature.
The standard single player game will be housed in nine maps, each "as large as 100 by 100 screens", giving the game a truly epic feel. "We're trying to provide complex strategic patterns, some real challenges to the players", Cristna told us. "It is about a war, not a mere battle."
And rather than giving players a linear series of pre-defined maps to fight over, No Name War will instead use randomly generated terrain. "This ensures surprise over spatial configuration. If they wish, players can start the same campaign several times, each time having a brand new, unknown map."
To give players more control, the game allows them to choose attributes such as the size of the map and the proportion of land and water it will include. It certainly sounds like an interesting premise, and should give the game plenty of replayability if AMC can pull it off.
It's not only the massive randomly generated maps which will offer plenty of variety for players though. Following the example of Total Annihilation, No Name War will also feature a wide selection of units to build.
"No Name War has over 150 unit types. The strategic patterns need specialized types of units, therefore the number. They are all useful, even if there are so many, as there are numerous possibilities for combining them in action."
The sheer variety of land, air and sea units on offer is breathtaking, and it should really come into its own in multiplayer. Cristina told us that "we are still experimenting" with multiplayer, but we can expect support for up to 16 armies controlled by any combination of human and AI players, as well as the possibility of alliances between armies, allowing players to gang up on each other or the computer.
No Name War is just one of many promising games coming out of eastern Europe at the moment, and the real-time strategy genre is certainly not suffering from any shortage of games either. What will make AMC's game stand out from the crowd?
"The original concept, a high performing engine and, just as importantly, the work of our talented graphic artists."
Judging from what we've seen of the game so far, AMC could be on to a winner. The mixture of massive battlefields, vast numbers of units to choose from and a graphics engine which combines 3D units and 2D terrain sounds an intriguing blend, and hopefully we should know more soon...