Carriers at War Interview
With the release of Carriers at War looming over the horizon, Armchair General takes five with Gregor Whiley (lead developer at SSG) to discuss the game. Let’s jump right in!
Armchair General: Please give us an idea of how Carriers at War will play. Real-time? Turn-based? Scale? Fleets / squadrons, or individual ships / aircraft?
Gregor Whiley: Carriers at War is pausable real-time. In single player you have complete control over the speed of the gameclock, and can also stop it at any time. You can also set the conditions, such as a new sighting, under which it will automatically stop.
In multiplayer, you and your opponent agree on a minimum speed. If the minimum is zero, then the clock can be stopped. If the minimum speed is greater than zero then the clock is always running. When the clock is running, both players nominate the game clock speed they want, with a simple mouse click, and the lowest speed is used.
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ACG: Will CAW have any multi-player support? PBEM or online play?
GW: CAW has TCP/IP support for online or network play. The game is ideal for multiplayer as there aren’t a huge number of units and battles tend to be short, intense and exciting combats.
ACG: Will editing tools be included with the new CAW? If so, what will the player be able to edit? Will there be any support for the modding community?
GW: CAW ships with the full suite of tools that SSG used to create the game. Users will be able edit existing scenarios, maps, units and AI or create new ones. The manual contains detailed sections on the scenario editor and the WarRoom (AI) editor. SSG has always welcomed user created scenarios for all of our games and we support them through our forums at www.ssg.com.au, as do our modding community.
ACG: Reading the AAR, the AI appears to be stronger than your average robo-opponent. Tell us a little about how this was achieved.
GW: Ships in CAW are grouped together in Task Groups (TGs). At all times an AI TG is under the control of a WarCard. This lists all the actions or reactions that the TG can make, and the conditions under which it might choose another card. So at all times a TG has appropriate doctrine, such as questions of speed, searching and CAP.
The card has answers for tactical questions, such as what do about different categories of sightings, where to be at dawn on a particular day, or when to carry out missions such as bombardment or invasions. The WarCard also answers operational questions, such as what to do if major units become ineffective. At the operational level, a WarCard allows a TG to check on the WarCards of other TGs, and therefore coordinate actions. This allows the scenario creator to create comprehensive plans for a scenario.
Lastly, any action or reaction could cause the TG to choose a new WarCard. When it chooses, there might be two or more different cards available, each with a specified chance of being picked. This random element ensures that AI actions are not predictable. A carrier steaming at 30+ knots can travel a long way overnight, so human players, from day to day and from game to game won’t really know what to expect, which greatly levels the playing field for the AI.
ACG: What scenarios will be included with CAW?
GW: The scenarios are Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons, Santa Cruz and Philippine Sea.
ACG: How does the game depict carrier operations? What options will the player have? What are typically the actions the player must take for the care and feeding of these important naval assets?
GW: The overwhelming duty of a carrier admiral is to avoid losing his carriers! This is easier said than done. Having said that, if blows are to be exchanged, then it’s imperative that you strike first. Failing that, you can always try hiding in bad weather or hoping that escorting warships absorb most of the bombs and torpedoes.
In CAW you have complete control over the movement, search patterns and strike decisions of your Task Groups. You must put your TGs in the right place, search in the right place and strike the right targets. The last decision is often the hardest.
First sighting reports are the least accurate and may be fatally wrong about the location and type of enemy ships. If you wait, information will be updated and more accurate. However, enemy planes might already be in the air and heading for you. Wait too long and you could be caught with armed and fueled planes still on deck waiting to take off, just like the Japanese at Midway, which as we all know ended badly for them.
Similarly, your planes have different ranges. Early war US planes are notoriously short ranged. Do you wait to get more planes in range or do send whatever you’ve got? Can you afford to send a strike unescorted, knowing they might be shredded by enemy CAP? Perhaps there’s no right decision and you just have to take your chances.
ACG: How close is CAW to release? Do we need to cancel our summer vacation plans?
GW: Summer sounds like perfect flying weather to me.
Armchair General: Thanks Gregor for your insights. We invite our readers to learn more about the game by viewing Gregor’s AAR at Matrix Games. It sheds light on many gameplay aspects of Carriers at War.