Planetary Annihilation Interview: Scaling an RTS for the New Generation

Community manager Brad Nicholson talks about the upcoming crowd-funded strategy title.

Posted By | On 29th, Apr. 2014 Under Article, Interviews | Follow This Author @Rengarious

It’s always difficult to make a mark in the real time strategy genre, especially in this day and age of multiplayer online battle arena titles like Dota 2 and League of Legends hogging players’ attention. Uber Entertainment’s Planetary Annihilation comes from a team that has a strong pedigree in the genre with members having worked on Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, two especially strong RTS titles in the history of PC gaming. Couple that with an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised $2.28 million and an additional $101,000 via PayPal, and you have a title that warrants more than a casual glance.

GamingBolt spoke to Community Manager Brad Nicholson about Planetary Annihilation, including ideas for the spherical map, its potential as an eSports title and whether it would come to home consoles at some point.

Planetary Annihilation

"We'll confront any issues down the road, but we're totally OK with the idea of people hosting their own servers and making mods."

Leonid Melikhov: What was your inspiration for developing Planetary Annihilation?

Brad Nicholson: Planetary Annihilation came from our desire to make an epic next-generation RTS that not only challenged tradition, but also offered a scale that no-one has ever seen before. It is a combination of our love of awesome experiences and unique games.

Leonid Melikhov: Love the spherical map gameplay. It’s truly something new for RTS games. How did you came up with this idea?

Brad Nicholson: When we decided to go with a sci-fi setting, it felt natural to have players fight each other on (and across) globes. Combat in three dimensions forces you to make interesting decisions at every turn. Also, it’s really cool to take a planet, strap rockets to it, and send it screaming at your foes.

Leonid Melikhov: Do you think there is potential for this game to be eSports at some point in the future?

Brad Nicholson: Absolutely! This isn’t our primary focus at the moment, but we’re going to support that high-level, competitive play requires. Our focus now is nailing down the overall balance and continuing to make the game fun.

Leonid Melikhov: Since Planetary Annihilation is DRM free, how will you be tracking down hackers if people are able to host their own servers and mods?

Brad Nicholson: Early Access requires a constant online connection. We’ll confront any issues down the road, but we’re totally OK with the idea of people hosting their own servers and making mods. We want to support folks who mod as much as possible with powerful tools down the road.

Leonid Melikhov: How are you planning to deal with frame-rate and internet lag considering the game allows up to 40 players at the same time in a single game?

Brad Nicholson: Right now we allow up to 10 players in a match. Down the road, we plan to add support for up to 40 players. Naturally, this’ll take significant work from our engineering team, but we’re up to the task. We had a bug not so long ago that allowed way more than 10 folks play in a single match and the game held up extremely well. We’re excited about doing all the optimization work required to make 40-player matches fun.

Leonid Melikhov: What did you learn from your previous RTS titles such as Supreme Commander?

Brad Nicholson: Scale! More generally speaking, our staff is experienced in all kinds of games — from sprawling MMOs, to shooters, and to strategy games. We’re rolling all our experiences into Planetary Annihilation.

Planetary Annihilation

"Galactic War is our single-player component, but it won't be a "campaign." It'll be a sprawling war fought across single-player."

Leonid Melikhov: Can you talk a-bit more in detail how the game’s economy works?

Brad Nicholson: We use a streaming economy, which means that you don’t pay for your structures up front. Instead, the resources are drawn against your economy over time during construction. You can build stuff before you have the full amount required, in other words.

Leonid Melikhov: How has Steam’s Early Access worked out for you so far?

Brad Nicholson: It’s working very well. We’re constantly excited to have so many players checking out our latest builds and giving us their feedback. Early Access is making our game awesome-r.

Leonid Melikhov: What are your favorite type of units in Planetary Annihilation?

Brad Nicholson: Personally, I’m into the Theta Commander. He’s big, bulky, and his eye conveys a little bit of an attitude. Commanders are basically your “base” in traditional RTS terms. Lose it, and you’ll lose the game. However, these guys are powerful war machines capable of destruction.

Leonid Melikhov: How easy will it be to create and install mods for Planetary Annihilation?

Brad Nicholson: The goal is to make it extremely easy. Folks are already creating amazing mods, and we want to continue to support them.

Leonid Melikhov: How are you handling the transition from one planet to planet? This obviously opens up the scope for space exploration as well.

Brad Nicholson: Right now, you can transport your units to other planets using teleportation devices or by whisking them away with orbital transports.

Leonid Melikhov: I heard there were talks about including a campaign mode. Is it going to make it?

Brad Nicholson: Galactic War is our single-player component, but it won’t be a “campaign.” It’ll be a sprawling war fought across single-player. We’ll have more details on it down the line.

Leonid Melikhov: So if I want nuke an entire planet, what will happen to the players to that planet? [since essentially they will be wiped out]

Brad Nicholson: Nukes obliterate buildings and troops the instant they hit. Stronger units, however, will survive the initial blast. A planet smash, on the other hand? That destroys an entire celestial body.

Planetary Annihilation

"If we did port the game, we'd do our best to make it as awesome as every other version."

Leonid Melikhov:  How are you planning to use gravity as a differentiating factor during a war?

Brad Nicholson: It’s something we’ve discussed, but we don’t have any plans at the moment.

Leonid Melikhov: How are you making sure that players don’t get lost when they transit in a map [or from a planet to another?]

Brad Nicholson: We use a very simple point-and-click interface for celestial movement. That’s kinda what Planetary Annihilation is all about — we give players powerful, yet simple tools to do amazing and massive things.

Leonid Melikhov: Are there any plans to bring the game to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One?

Brad Nicholson: Not currently, but we’re open to it.

Leonid Melikhov: If you guys decide the game to these new consoles, do you think you will be able to do full justice to the game in terms of 1080p resolution, 60 frames per second and high resolution textures?

Brad Nicholson: If we did port the game, we’d do our best to make it as awesome as every other version.

Leonid Melikhov: Is there anything else you want to tell us about the game that we may have missed out on asking?

Brad Nicholson: That it’s available right now on Steam, the Uber Store, and the Humble Bundle store. We invite everyone to hit up our forums and discuss the game!

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