While the Empire Earth series of RTS games started with the now defunct Stainless Steel Studios, it's been Mad Doc Software's baby since the first game's expansion pack. Now Mad Doc and publisher Sierra/Vivendi are bringing the centuries spanning game back for a third incarnation and FiringSquad got the game's producer Mathew Nordhaus to give us more info on Empire Earth III.
FiringSquad: First, Mad Doc Software took over the Empire Earth series with the expansion pack for the first game. How does it feel to lead the development of this RTS game through the years?
Mathew Nordhaus: Very satisfying. EEIII has always had a loyal and devoted fan base, and itís been great to work with them through the years. Itís had its ups and downs, and they are tough critics of the game, but in the end itís been a good relationship and I think has made the game better. For me, personally, Iím excited about where we have taken the franchise over the years. When I look at EEIII and think about how much the game (and game technology) has changed since 2000 itís astonishing.
FiringSquad:When the time came to develop Empire Earth III what were the developer's main goals?
Mathew Nordhaus: We wanted to make something completely different from what had come before. EEII was, in some ways, EEI but more. More epochs, more civilizations, more units, more buildings. For EEIII we have focused on keeping what worked best about the previous games, while at the same time making the game easier to understand, to learn to play, and to look at (with our gorgeous new graphics engine).
FiringSquad:We've heard that the new game won't have as many epochs to deal with as the previous games have had. What can you tell us about this change and how it will affect the gameplay?
Mathew Nordhaus: In many ways, it shows our focus on quality rather than sheer quantity. Even though we have fewer epochs we have created three completely different regions (unique buildings, units, techs, powers, nothing is shared). This means each time the player levels he gets almost all new units and artÖunlike EE2 where many of the models were shared. It also lets us, as designers, give the players different gameplay options as you advance. In one you might get gunpowder, and ranged units become more dominant. In the next you get air power. Weíve tried to make each advance a substantial one.
FiringSquad:Weíve also heard of the new world domination gameplay for Empire Earth III. Can you tell us more about this and how hard is it to create this kind of Risk-style mode?
Mathew Nordhaus: Itís completely easy to play, just start a World Domination game! You will immediately be dropped into a province (think ďcountryĒ) on the globe. You have to fight your way out of your starting area before you can spread across the globe, and even after you have spread your tentacles into all the corners of the world, you may still have to battle it out on the ground, as you get drawn into conflict with the AIs who also have World Domination on their mind.
FiringSquad:What can you tell us about the new factions in the game and how you are organizing them for this third incarnation?
Mathew Nordhaus: There are three high-level regions: West, Far East, and Middle East . There are basic styles of gameplay for each one: the West tends to be tech-heavy, the Far East builds lots of disposable units, and the Middle East are hit-and-run raiders. But within those broad categories there are many different ways to play each region. I can choose to specialize in Early Western Ranged units, building many archers and pumping them up with techs, or I can go Sword, or even cavalry. And thatís just West, and just early! There are many, many different paths available to the players.