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That's the way veteran strategy gamers like their new year to start! Norb Timpko and his new team announced their return to the bloody battlefields of the US-Civil War with their newest RTS-game War3DII: Gettysburg. We where granted an exclusive look behind the scenes, had a talk with the boss and master mind behind the game and checked what the players can expect from the historical battle simulation set during one of the most famous clashes during the War Between The States.






IntroImage Just a few weeks ago the long wait was over. The small New Jersey company NorbSoftDev, founded by Norb und Mary Lou Timpko, officially announced their upcoming first real time strategy game with the title War3DII: Gettysburg in the second part of 2009. With the unveiling of the title and the new homepage two years of speculations came to rest as fans finally where informed which battle would be the background for Mr. Timpko’s next project. The 19th century real time combat simulation War3DII: Gettysburg leads the players back to the Battle of Gettysburg that has raged for 3 days in the summer of 1863 and marked the turning point in the American Civil War (1861-1865).


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"Confederate troops are advancing"

The name Norb Timpko as well as the game mechanic and visuals of War3DII: Gettysburg will seem somewhat familiar to many strategy gamers. That’s no wonder at all since Mr. Timpko founded the software development company MadMinuteGames with a partner a few years back and managed to produce two games: Take Command: Bull Run (2004) and its sequel Take Command - 2nd Manassas (2006). Both games got high praises both from game critics as well as strategy gamers and civil war buffs. Reasons for this was that the concept moved away from the boring and ancient round based principle that is so very common in this genre and supplied the player with a new approach: RTS battles including an awesome AI that managed to keep most PC generals on their toes. What’s more is that the release of software development kits sparked a steady stream of new and exciting custom content made by the modding community up to this very date.


Alas there where also quite a lot of gamers that weren’t that happy with the graphics in both of the games and the wish for real 3D, to replace the sprites, kept surfacing. Another thorn in their flesh was the absence of any multiplayer mode they so desperately wanted, but it just wasn’t possible and so they had to content themselves with battling the first-rate AI. In programming the new game Mr. Timpko and his team managed not only to capitalize on lessons learned from the last two games but also to incorporate a lot of wishes and suggestions made by the community over the years.

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"Yankees waiting on the ridge"

All things indicate that War3DII: Gettysburg might as well be bound to become one of the most detailed 19th century real time combat simulations set in the US Civil War up to this very date – and it will feature full 3D graphics! If your now thinking Empire: Total War visuals, then you might want to think again. After all NorbSoftDev is just a small software developer that can hardly compete with the elite resources of a giant like Creative Assembly. On the other hand War3DII: Gettysburg is an entirely different game as well, since it’s main objective is to be a 19th century combat simulation with engagements firmly set in the most intense battle of the Civil War. It concentrates on meticulous researched historical evidence and brings all the information to bear in carefully recreated actions, including the units, their commanders and the weapons and equipment they used. So yes, it’s no Total War and it doesn’t want to be!


As you all have realized by now you can choose to play either the Union (US) or the Confederates (CS) side and take command of their brigades, divisions, corps or even the whole armies (of course all branches of service are available – be it infantry, cavalry or artillery). You lead your men across 4 highly accurate historical battlefield maps, featuring prominent locations like Devil's Den, McPherson's Ridge, Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill or Little Round Top. In addition to that there are going to be at least two equally detailed general purpose maps, where one can fight randomly generated battles of brigade, division, or corps size. Of course this random battle mode will also be available using any of the included Gettysburg maps.

The game will feature 20 historical or alternate history single player scenarios covering crucial actions on all three days of the battle including famous events and operations like: The Iron Brigade at McPherson's Ridge, Vincent's Brigade on Little Round Top, The Peach Orchard fight, the Night battles on Culp's Hill and Pickett’s Charge to name but a few. As in the previous games losses and gains will be carried over to the next engagement – so pushing your men too hard in one fight might make them unable to fulfill their duties in the next clash and thus seal your defeat.

There are going to be several game modes included: The Gettysburg Battles (covering the historical or alternate history scenarios of the 3 days of battle), Sandbox Mode (former open play mode with randomly generated battles on selected maps with chosen OOBs) and the User Scenarios (where you can play your own or community created battles). If we take the prime AI of the predecessors into account we can be sure that the single player modes will be quite a challenge, especially since the AI has been revised and made even better than last time.


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"View of the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse on Cemetery Hill"

But the most exciting feature will be the full multiplayer mode in War3DII: Gettysburg – the very reason why fans hardly can wait for the release. And, thinking about the possibilities, who can blame them? The multiplayer mode will support all the single player game types and the players may not only choose to play on standard opposing sides, as US or CS commander but in cooperative play versus the AI as well. Even multiplayer games embedded within historical battle scenarios will be possible. Mr Timpko confided to us that up to 4 players will be able to battle it out together and maybe that number will increase within the next phases of production! We say that is fantastic news indeed. To ensure communication between the players a courier system will be implemented, so the written messages are transported in proper historic style. But beware if your courier is intercepted you might never get the message. Another huge improvement will be that players are going to be able to come and go during multiplayer battles as they wish – yes that’s right, no more restart if one of your friends has to drop out or arrives late! Control of troops that suddenly become leaderless are put under the commands of those players that still are in the game. We assume this will depend on the rank the various players will hold in the chain of command during the engagement – so it might even be possible to reassign troops to players that come in late.


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"Pour it into 'em boys!"

Mr. Timpko also announced that he is planning to support the modding community, although what exactly this support is going to look like we haven’t yet been able to find out. We pitched him the question if there is going to be any map editor of some kind and where told that: “There will not be a map editor nor the ability to create new maps until we are done with any expansions that we want to do. There are ways in which users can modify our maps, but they cannot create new ones from scratch.”. Well so there isn’t going to be any map editor, but at least we know that NorbSoftDev has already some expansion plans up their sleeve. At the moment there hasn’t been made any decision yet about how the game is going to be distributed, but their “first medium will be direct download” we have been told. Asked if NorbSoftDev already has got any publisher in mind Mr. Timpko explained that there is “no publisher yet and I don't think there will be one. I have not enjoyed my previous experience with publishers.”.


There are still a few months to go for the boys and girls at NorbSoftDev and I’m pretty sure they still have a whole lot of work and polishing to do. Apart from that I think it’s rather save to say that War3DII: Gettysburg will be the most detailed 19th century real time civil war combat simulation up to this very date. Especially since we can expect features like multiplayer battles, an improved AI, a new graphic engine and loads of well researched content. So chances are pretty high that we will be able to obtain a real jewel of battle simulation in the second half of 2009.



Conclusion:

After what I have seen so far I'm certain that this real-time 3D game might be bound to become the next generation of 19th century combat command simulations. It’s going to feature several high detailed and meticulously research battlefields as well as accurate units, their commanders and the correct weaponries – all bringing back to life one of the most bloody battles in US history. Taking both previous creations of the lead programmer into account it is quite save to assume that strategy gamers can expect a challenging AI. This time though it’s not just the lonely player vs. the AI, because the new multiplayer mode will turn the game into a true challenge! I’m definitely looking forward to this.