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Rock Paper Shotgun interview with Cold Waters

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(great interview touching dynamic campaign and mod support. me likes!!)




RPS: For those who haven’t played Red Storm Rising, what makes it a game worth imitating?

Killerfish co-founder, Paul Sincock: Red Storm Rising was from that golden era of Microprose simulations and designed by one of the industry greats, Sid Meier. What really appeals to us is the way it centred on your decisions as a commander, rather than the technical operation of various stations, getting caught up in the details of running the ship or managing the crew. It successfully immersed you in the tactical situation, threw life and death situations your way to deal with in a tense environment where you felt success or failure actually mattered, which it did. That seems to be the secret sauce missing in much of the current generation of war games, simulations and MOBAs.


RPS: For me, a big part of Atlantic Fleet’s charm was its variety – the regular shifts between surface, sub-surface, and aerial activity. With just one player controlled unit in Cold Waters, isn’t there a danger that CW will lack some of its predecessor’s variety?

Paul: Going from 60+ ship classes to 4 submarine classes certainly decreases the variety of playable units but Cold Waters offers a much greater variety and depth of experiences. Short range knife fights with enemy submarines, steer wire guided torpedoes, avoid ASW patrols and mines to get your SEAL team ashore, stalk SSBNs, hide behind an iceberg, pop above the layer for a quick listen, intercept an amphibious landing force headed for Iceland before they can take out Keflavik airbase and the SOSUS barrier covering the Denmark Strait. These things just didn’t happen in Atlantic Fleet.

Atlantic Fleet is something like a miniatures board game involving lots of units with their various capabilities. Cold Waters is a subsim.


RPS: What type of sub will we be simming?

Paul: At release the SSN classes Skipjack, Permit, Sturgeon and Los Angeles are on track to be playable.

RPS: “Realistic sonar model” implies that you’re simulating stuff like thermal layers and bottom bounce. Is that the case?

Paul: A lot of research has gone into the sonar model and although much of it occurs in the background, there is no waterfall display and so forth, the tactics associated with underwater acoustics and sonar detection are indeed valid.

For those wanting details, the sonar model simulates: thermal layers, surface ducts, shadow zones, convergence zones, propagation and transmission loss, ambient noise (based on sea state, rain, shallows and ice), bottom bounce, active sonar target aspect, flow noise, baffles, target masking, cavitation and transients. In addition, we model the various active, passive, towed array, dipping and sonobuoy equipment of the era with differing levels of sensitivity and thus detection ranges.


RPS: Am I right in thinking that CW won’t model individual stations aboard the sub, or offer first-person interior or conning tower views?

Paul: That is correct. In combat, Cold Waters will have the ubiquitous periscope view along with a tactical map to complement what’s going on in the environment. Damage control and weapon load out screens are also available.

RPS: Will the abilities, health and morale of the crew influence the action in any way?

Paul: No. As with our previous games, we tend to treat ships and their crews as individual capable fighting units. It is assumed that the crew and officers on board are doing their jobs while you do yours.

RPS: A Cold War setting suggests that the spectre of thermonuclear war will be ever-present. Can CW’s campaign end in global catastrophe?

Paul: In Red Storm Rising the war ultimately ended with diplomacy. In Cold Waters we’ve upped the ante and the situation can deteriorate into global thermonuclear war.


RPS: Killerfish’s belief in dynamic campaigns is refreshing. Are the studios that claim that they’re expensive and difficult to develop telling the truth?

Paul: They can be difficult and expensive, but designing a campaign within your resources and possessing a strong passion for the subject matter certainly help overcome these. It is far too easy to fall into the trap of an over ambitious and complex dynamic campaign. As long as it is balanced, immersive and provides compelling choices for the player, preferably with consequences, it should work.

One has to wonder if dynamic campaigns are just not a priority these days when multi-player and social gaming along with advertising and monetised Skinner box designs can generate far greater returns for far less development investment and risk.


RPS: Atlantic Fleet was remarkably affordable. Are you planning to offer CW at a similar price point?

Paul: No unfortunately. Despite an additional 6 months of work to bring Atlantic Fleet to PC, we decided to keep the price point where it had been for the mobile marketplace. Many mobile ports get accused of being quick money grabs or of gouging the PC market and we didn’t want to be among them.

The upside was this was received very well and built a great community of fans, who have come out in droves to support Cold Water’s Steam Greenlight campaign. The downside was that Atlantic Fleet for PC was underpriced, impeding our ability to continue financing its expansion and development.

Cold Waters will be a full PC game with a dynamic campaign and mod support. We’ll have to price it accordingly.


RPS: Did Atlantic Fleet sell as well as you had hoped on PC and did the feedback influence the Cold Waters design in any way?

Paul: Atlantic Fleet actually exceeded our expectations, especially given its mobile heritage and the stigma associated with mobile ports to PC and yes, feedback influenced Cold Waters greatly. First it validated our decision to move to PC as there was clearly a market for players wanting the type of naval games we do. Secondly, and as expected, we found PC gamers are more sophisticated and desire deeper detail and realism, hence the switch to a real time simulation. Finally the feedback highlighted the crucial need for mod support which has been central to Cold Waters development from the beginning.

RPS: Your ‘About’ page suggests that Killerfish is a two-man outfit. Is that the case?

Paul: There’s myself (programmer) and Nils Dücker (lead artist) full time. In addition we have another consulting artist Przemek Starkiewicz who focuses mostly on 2D art and special effects full time. After that we outsource music composition and other tasks that our core group might lack the time or expertise for.

RPS: Thank you for your time

Edited by Do335
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