Part 72: Interview with Denny ThorleySorry this took so long for me to post:
Interview with Denny Thorley, FASA Interactive CEO & MechCommander's Executive Producer
Q: Tell us a little bit about the history of FASA Interactive.
A: FASA Interactive was formed in 1995 to develop interactive entertainment utilizing Battletech, Shadowrun, and other FASA Corporations intellectual properties. Our primary focus is developing software for the personal computer. We started by assembling some of the software industry's brightest animators, artists, game designers, and programmers. MechCommander is our first product for the PC market.
Q: What did you hope to accomplish with MechCommander?
A: MechCommander began with three distinct goals.
The first goal was to develop a PC title that provided players with a new means of enjoying the richness and texture of the BattleTech universe. I wanted to give players the opportunity to assume the role of a MechCommander and emotionally involve them with there troops and their decisions on the battlefield.
Second, I wanted this game to truly stand out from other real-time strategy games. Instead of being another build oriented game, I wanted MechCommander to convey the intensity of the battlefield with greater realism than any other game before it. Every decision made by the player has realistic consequences that carry over from mission to mission. Every element of the game helps capture the true experience of command.
Finally, it was my intent to produce a title that demonstrated the kind of quality games players could expect from FASA Interactive. In effect, MechCommander needed to pave the way for all our subsequent products. Thanks to everyone on the MechCommander team, these goals were met.
Q: How difficult was it to remain faithful to the board game?
A: Our intent was not to translate the board game for the PC. Rather, we tried to provide players with a new means of interacting with the BattleTech universe. All of our decisions were governed by providing players with the most enjoyable gaming experience possible. This meant that some aspects of the board game were treated differently in MechCommander than in the board game. Certainly, the board game's balance of weapons and BattleMechs provided the foundation for our efforts, but because MechCommander is a different kind of game it required some adjustments to maximize its playability. Interestingly, because of the real-time nature of MechCommander, we sometimes made changes to stay closer to the spirit or BattleTech.
Q: What was the biggest challenge, from a design standpoint, of creating MechCommander?
A: Mission design and game balance were the toughest tasks. The player has unprecedented control of the game environment and the forces he controls. This flexibility made mission design a very time consuming and iterative process. We had to be sure there was no "golden path," no one way to win that was clearly better than all the other options.
Q: Was there anything you really wanted to include, but had to be left on the cutting room floor because of technical or time constraints - or because it just didn't fit?
A: For the most part, we were able to incorporate all of the key elements that separate MechCommander from other real-time strategy games. Having said that, there are a number of great ideas we will be incorporating in future FASA Interactive titles.
Q: What are the design team's favorite Mechs and weapons?
A: In terms of favorite mechs, the mission designers generally fall into one of two camps. One group favors the Mad Cat, the quintessential offensive and defensive Mech. No other Mech can touch its combination of speed, armor, and weapons load.
A smaller contingent prefers the Cougar. It freatures a well-armored chassis that can carry a substantial load of weapons. it is also one of two Clan Mechs capable of carrying an Active Probe and the Clan ECM Suite. With these electronic warfare components installed, the Cougar is an ideal Mech for missions requiring stealth, speed, and offensive power.
As far as weapons, there are many opinions on which weapons are the best. It really comes down to the player's strategy and available Mechs. Personally, I'm fond of the Pulse Laser and the ER-PPC. The Pulse Laser can change targets very quickly, while the ER-PPC can dish out some very severe punishment from long range. Together, the two are a very formidable force. And, of course the ability of long-range missiles to fire over forests and large walls makes them invaluable in certain circumstances.
Q: What would you say is the key to success in multiplayer MechCommander?
A: The best advice is to thoroughly read the contents of this strategy guide. In multiplayer games, all Mechs and weapons are available. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each available resource will greatly help the player. Knowing the maps will also be a huge advantage.
Q: The last two Operations are very challenging - more so than most real-time strategy games. Did you set out from the start with a vision of a highly challenging game, or did you just try to make a game that was fun and the high level of challenge naturally followed?
A: From the onset, we wanted MechCommander to capture the emotional intensity that comes with commanding up to 12 MechWarriors at once. In later missions, we purposefully increased the level of challenge to really test the player's mettle. Players will need to apply everything they've learned in previous missions to complete the final campaign.
Q: Will there be a sequel?
A: MechCommander was designed as a trilogy, so yes, there will definitely be a sequel. In the immediate future, players can look forward to the MechCommander Expansion Pack, available this Christmas. It'll feature a terrain editor, exciting new missions, and new Mech chassis.
Q: Is FASA Interactive currently working on any other projects?
A: FASA Interactive is working on numerous projects. For fans of the BattleTech universe, FASA Interactive is working on the previously mentioned MechCommander Expansion Pack, MechCommander 2, as well as MechWarrior 4.
We're also working on a PC game that takes place in the Shadowrun science fiction universe. The working title is Shadowrun: Assassin. The lead character is a high-tech contract-killer with a twist. She's an assassin who is trained to hunt down and terminate other assassins. It will be available in the first half of '99.
So yeah, as you can tell, this is a bit dated, but it's got some interesting info in it.
As a side note: Wikipedia is telling me that Shadowrun: Assassin was eventually canceled. And, as we all know, MechCommander never ended up becoming a trilogy (unless we're counting the expansion pack) .