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Pendragon Interviews The Somme Valley
hl2c_articles - Pendragon's Interview with Chief Phillips of The Somme Valley | Posted by Pendragon on Feb 29th 04 03:24 PM
The Somme Valley

Pendragon: For the people who haven't yet learned about The Somme Valley, can you give us a brief description of the mod?

Chief Phillips: The Somme Valley is a total conversion for Half-Life 2, set in the dark days of the Somme Campaign of 1916, where at the end of the 6 month struggle, nearly 900,000 men lay wounded or dead on a seemingly useless stretch of land. We're trying to accurately capture the horror of war, and of the battle of the Somme specifically, in a realistic, yet fun to play representation.

Pendragon: So the mod is all about one battle?

Chief Phillips: In a way. For the first Beta, we are going to release a set of maps based on various locations of The Somme Valley, which stretches in 12 miles inland. It's a campaign in its truest sense, as you progress up the Valley, or try to defend your position from the attacking force (The Commonwealth/French teams). Once our first Beta is released however, we plan to release other Battles/Campaigns of the war, including more Teams & Weapons. But until then, we're not going to bite off more than we can chew. =)

Pendragon: How do you intend to both capture the horrors of war and still maintain a sense of fun?

Chief Phillips: World War One specifically was a war that would leave deep emotional scars, long after the battles were over. From Shell Shock due to an enemy artillery barrage, or the looming cloud of Chlorine Gas seeping into your trench, or storming towards a heavily defended enemy position, war is in fact, hell. But due to the limits of human interaction with computers, these horrors won't be felt on such a scale, but more of a sense of exhilaration and suspense. what could happen to me?
The player will be put into the same situation our great grandfathers were in during the war, but without the chance of not returning, which in turn takes the excitement of a battle, and put it into a playable atmosphere. You'll see what war was like, you'll see the tools and the facts of the battle, but when it all comes down to it, it’s just a game.

Pendragon: So, getting back to the game itself, can you tell me the basics of your campaign system? How will the battles progress?

Chief Phillips: When a server restarts its map cycle, your team is on the lines where historically, the Commonwealth, French, and Germans were. It is up to the British and French teams to defeat the German defenses, and win the battle, which is a given. When a battle is won in the Commonwealth/French's favor, the map rotation goes to the next historical battle of the Campaign.

What are the Germans supposed to be doing during all of this? Trying to stop the advances, and if possible, launch a counter-offensive against the enemy trenches. It's up to the Germans to hold on, and eventually push the invaders back to their lines, and away from the battle, in which case they will be triumphant.
As the battle goes on as well, you can notice weather changes. From the hot and muggy summer, to the wet and muddy fall, and into the snowy frozen winter, when historically, the Commonwealth and French called off the campaign, and abandoned all hopes of success.

Pendragon: So the system is dynamic, then, correct? Each battle's outcome determines the next?

Chief Phillips: Essentially, yes. We're trying to capture the entire scope of the campaign, which was an absolute disaster for the Commonwealth and French militaries. But, with a little luck and good strategy, the players can change the outcome of this bloody battle, and turn it in their favor.

Pendragon: Now let's discuss the players themselves. Can you tell me about each class's advantages and capabilities?

Chief Phillips: Certainly. First off, I'd like to state that all of our classes, with the exception of the Infantry, have default limits. So classes with obvious advantages, such as a Light Machine gunner won’t out-weight the more standard class of Infantry, and to keep things in a historical balance.

Infantry will be the most common of the classes, equipped with a Rifle, 2 fragmentation grenades, and their bayonet, along with their Gas Mask, in case of a Chlorine Gas attack. Infantry will have to depend on other classes for support in order to be successful, and to lessen casualties, such as the Light/Mobile Machine gunner, who carries one of the three Light Machineguns (The British Lewis .303, French Chauchat 1915, or the Maxim 08/15).

Officers are also implemented into The Somme Valley. They only carry a sidearm, as historically they did. They have the ability to call in Artillery or Gas attacks on the enemy Trench, in order to prepare for an Offensive maneuver. Officers also have additional voice commands to command soldiers on what to do (Flank Left, Set Up Defensive Position, etc. etc.)

One of the classes I feel will be a favorite, is the Stationary Machine gunner. They have the most dominant weapon in the game, the Heavy Machinegun. To prevent this class from being too commanding, they can only setup their machineguns in predetermined, defensive areas, and cannot shoot their weapon unless it is properly setup in one of those pre-determined area (as it would be near impossible to shoot one of these weapons from the hip, it's simply too heavy and powerful).

Pendragon: How are you going to work out the respawn system? Will it be like UT2004's die-click-revive, or Battlefield's reinforcements?

Chief Phillips: Our respawn system is more similar to that of Battlefield 1942. After 75% of your team has been Killed in Action, that 75% respawns as a "Second Wave.” This is in keeping with Trench Warfare, as after a short while of the first wave of soldiers going 'over the top', another wave would be sent to not only re-enforce the first wave, but to "Clean Up" after them.

If 75% of the team hasn’t been Killed in Action after 40 seconds on the other hand, those players will respawn as a smaller group. This is so they don't grow impatient and leave the game itself, and is useful if there happens to be a player who is AFK in the spawn point.

Pendragon: So you're assuming there will be a very high/fast casualty rate?

Chief Phillips: Historically in the First World War, the chances of a serious would or even your own mortality was extremely high. This wont be as extreme in The Somme Valley, as the scale is obviously much smaller (30 people in an online server, compared to thousands across miles of land). When going over the top, there will be various areas for defense in the stretch of land between the two trenches, called No Mans Land. This will help the player survive if they use their tactics right.

There will also be alternative routes when attacking, such as flank positions, gulleys, communication trenches, and the occasional tunnel. Tunneling was a large part of the war, when the enemy would quite literally dig to under your own trench to plant explosive mines. Quite frequently, both sides would be tunneling towards one another and accidentally meet half way. There will be some instances where you will find those accidental tunnels, which some players will be able to use to safely attack the enemy defenses.

Pendragon: Will TSV incorporate the vehicles that began to see action during the war?

Chief Phillips: For the first beta, Vehicles such as the early tanks (German AV-7, British Male Tank) and of course bi-planes will be partially included. They won't be Player controlled, but just eye candy.

In later betas, we are planning on incorporating new special classes that can operate these vehicles, but until Half-Life 2 is released and we can fully understand and manipulate the Vehicle code, we're going to play it safe and just have the vehicles roll onto No Mans Land and fly overhead scripted.

Pendragon: How will the mod implement the horrors of gas attacks?

Chief Phillips: Officers can call in Gas Attacks via Field Radio in an underground bunker near their spawns (one gas attack for every ten minutes of gameplay, to prevent overuse). Gas artillery will then be sent over towards the enemy trenches, and Chlorine Gas will seep from its shells towards the enemy Trench. Players are then to put on their Gas Masks to prevent the effects of the gas, yet their vision is impaired (due to the gas mask).

For those players who fail to put on their gas mask, their in-game character then begins to choke on the Chlorine. You see, what Chlorine Gas goes is attack the tissues of your lungs, and your lungs then begin to fill with fluids, and you slowly, and painful choke and drown on your own fluids, and there’s no way to stop the effect. Many soldiers would quite literally claw at their faces, ripping their eyes from their sockets in some cases, desperately trying to breath. Chlorine Gas is definitely no joke, and it will in fact incapacitate you in the game as well.

Pendragon: So you will only be using Chlorine, there won't be different types of gas?

Chief Phillips: Chlorine will be the only form of gas used in The Somme Valley, as it is the easiest to implement from a Programming stand point, and historically was widely used (and very easy to manufacture a well).

Pendragon: What else can an Officer do?

Chief Phillips: Officers can also call in Artillery strikes, to soften the enemy defensive positions and rid of some Barbed Wire obstacles, which were always a menace to soldiers attacking a trench.

The Somme Valley will be implementing a Morale system for the soldiers as well. The closer you are to your commanding officer, the more Morale you have, and the better your player’s performance is (Accuracy, Stamina, etc.). Officers definitely had great effect over their men in war, they were the first to step foot over the protective walls of their trench, and the last man to step out of the enemy trench, so morale played a very important role during WW1.

Pendragon: Will the player have a visual way of determining their own moralee, or is it completely behind-the-scenes?

Chief Phillips: On our HUD, there will be three indicator bars. One will be your overall health, another will be your current level of stamina, and the third will be your level of Morale. You can see the bar raise/diminish when you move closer/further away from an officer as well, as well as to/from other soldiers. As in WW1, there were many "Buddy Units,” in some cases entire towns and groups of friends who enlisted together and were placed in the same unit. Being around your friends will also change the effect of your morale.

Pendragon: How will the game determine which other players are "Buddy Units"?

Chief Phillips: For the sake of our programmers’ sanity, all members of your team are your "friends,” so the closer you are with your team, the higher your morale is. This is implemented to encourage team play, and discourage any "Rambo" form of moves. I can assure you, if you stray away from your team and think you can win the entire level, you are sorely mistaken.

Pendragon: Is there an implementation of friendly fire, and if so, what precautions will you take to prevent team-killing?

Chief Phillips: Friendly Fire will be a Sever Side option, but by default will be enabled. Sadly, friendly fire happens in any situation of battle, and is unavoidable. The player will just have to distinguish between their friends and foes, as soldiers do in real life. This will prove difficult in some situations, such as a gas attack. That’s when you rely on outlines and shadows of the player, and your natural instinct.

Team Killing on the other hand will be handled similar to most other modifications. After you kill so many team members in such a length of time, you are kicked from the server. Also, administrators will also be able to have full control over kicking and banning in their servers.

Pendragon: On each map, what sort of objectives will a player see?

Chief Phillips: There will be various strong points and key positions on the map, similar to that of Day of Defeat. It’s up to the teams to capture all of those points, and eventually capture the entire Front Line of the opposing force. Positions will be clearly marked with Flag Models, which I’m sure everybody has seen in modifications like Day of Defeat and Shores of Victory.

Pendragon: So if the Allies win a section that the Central Powers won historically, the next battle will still proceed by the history book?

Chief Phillips: No. The maps are setup in a long line in a matter of speaking, going deeper and deeper into the Somme Valley, not so much side to side (the goal usually is to advance forward, not to the left, lol). The modification is based on History, but history can also be altered if the players work as a team, and pull their forces together.

Pendragon: In one sentence, why should I play your mod over all the other war mods that are in development?

Chief Phillips: In one sentence... I'd have to say the following: "The Somme Valley offers a unique, fun experience in a historically accurate setting, with further advancing and additions of gameplay, levels, weapons, and teams.”

Pendragon: Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

Chief Phillips: I would just like to thank everybody for their unwavering support, and for all the good things, people have been saying to me directly. The -TSV- Team will not let you down, you can expect one solid, and complete mod come the release of Half-Life II :)

Pendragon: I'm glad to hear it. Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me today.

Chief Phillips: And Thank You for the interview :)

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