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Hearts of Iron 3 Updates

March 15th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Design, Paradox

I’m a little annoyed that I won’t be at this month’s Game Developers’ Conference. There are a couple of journalism panels I want to see, including one with my friend and podcast panelist Tom Chick, and another about the flight of journalists to the development side of the industry.

But the big annoyance is that Paradox is investing in a major presence there, including Johan Andersson, the big man behind the EU series and its affiliated titles. And I won’t be there to put him on the spot.

Looking at the list of developer diaries for Hearts of Iron III, for example, I have a lot of questions. Most of them will run along the lines of “Are you serious?”

A lot of the ideas in place look great. I like what they have done with diplomacy and espionage. I’m not sold on the modular approach to units or the cumbersome looking air war stuff.

In short, I think that there is a risk that the already very complex HoI series is taking another step down the road to “how do I play this?” Given how regrettably simplistic EU:Rome was, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Clearly Paradox thinks they can take this risk on their best selling series. But the more I see of the game, the more concerned I get that Paradox is listening to the hardcore part of the beta test audience.

Beta testing is an odd thing. It tends to attract the hardcore fans who want to contribute to their favorite developers’ efforts but sometimes these are the very people who will lead a developer down the garden path of “more, more, more.”

To their credit, some of what they are doing is streamlining the “more”. Espionage is getting largely automated, there will be less micromanagement in the diplomacy side of things and the mission system for air orders – though needlessly detailed with too many buttons from what I can see – looks like it will be fire and forget for much of the war. But with 10,000 provinces and lots of new options all across the board, I am curious about what the overarching design philosophy is. Who is the player supposed to be? Why are certain levels of abstraction chosen for certain tasks? How does it all fit together into a coherent whole?

One of the great things about the EU games is that once you understand the system, you enter a sort of flow state. A lot of dabblers in the games think that they would be better as turn-based titles, but I think that really misses a lot of what makes the different Paradox grand strategy games work. It’s not about micromanagement as much as it is about making immediate decisions that may have pay offs at any stage of the campaign. The more decisions you have to make at every moment, the harder it is to tell which factor is the important one in what happened. Making me research guns and hull and engines for ships doesn’t make naval combat easier to understand.

If Paradox and I find ourselves at E3, maybe I can get some answers.


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