Jagged Alliance 3 Interview

by on 27th Aug 2007

Mike Nino had a chance to talk to Alexander Kozhevnikov of Akella about the upcoming Jagged Alliance 3 from F3 games. Built on the Silent Storm engine by former Nival employees amongst others, Jagged Alliance fans are facing a bright future!

SC: Mike Nino with StrategyCore here at the Akella booth to ask questions about Jagged Alliance 3.

First of all, can you tell me about yourself and your position with Akella?

AK: My name is Alexander Kozhevnikov and right now I manage the on-line department at Akella. But I used to work as the coordinator for Jagged Alliance in terms of cooperation between Strategy First and the development team.

SC: What is the background of Akella? What games have you developed?

AK: We are mostly a PC development company but are also a publishing house, the second biggest in Russian speaking territories. We usually publish about 100 titles a year mostly for the PC.

SC: 100 titles!

AK: Yeah, we have 45 projects in development. Most of them outsourced, but there are also several in house development studios for PC, Xbox 360 and PS2.

SC: Excuse my ignorance! About Jagged Alliance 3, what engine does it use? Is it an in-house engine?

AK: No, it is not an in-house engine. It is a Silent Storm engine we have acquired from Nival Interactive, the guys that did the Silent Storm series. We have extensively modified it to add very good animation and facial behavior.

SC: Could you summarize Jagged Alliance 3? What is the game's back story?

AK: The back story is about a country in turmoil. There is a resistance movement fighting against a corrupt government. This government is trying to nationalize various industries which has upset the company owners. At the same time, a neighboring country is aggressively expanding its borders. The player leads a mercenary band trying to fight its way across this country and make a buck at the same time.

SC: Tell me why JA3 will be the best game in the Jagged Alliance series?

AK: First of all, it’s now in full 3D. It's an evolutionary step from the previous series. Since we are working with Strategy First and the original designer of the series, Richard Therrien, this helps us a lot to make steady improvements. Also, the Silent Storm engine allows good destructibility of everything so we can demolish buildings and blow up cars which were not possible previously. This also helps in tactical situations where you can destroy a wall to get into a building from different points. Also, it’s more dynamic, more battle and combat oriented. There is less emphasis on micromanagement than the previous series. The player doesn't have to train troops or hold mines. What the player mostly does with the mercenaries is fight. The player commands a special squad, a special team, not a small army.

SC: How non-linear is the game? Are there some missions that the player has to complete?

AK: Yes. There are four playable factions in the game, and once you choose one you will have to stick with that faction for some time. You can change factions at certain points in the game when you acquire critical information; however a lot of these points are randomized. The factions fight between themselves and this is represented on the real-time, dynamic strategic map. The factions themselves hold the territories, not the mercenaries. What the mercenaries do is attack at weak points, kill or assassinate key targets, like presidents, heads of corporations, or officers for example, things like that, so that they are acting like a reconnaissance group and also like an assassination squad. They do special missions and that changes the ownership of the map sectors.

SC: Does the player know when two factions are fighting?

AK: Yes, a battle between two factions is shown on the strategic map. The player can actually get in there and help. There are random encounters as well. And there are scripted missions where certain conditions must be fulfilled to finish that mission.

SC: Let's say two factions are fighting. Could the mercenary squad stand at the side and wait until one has beaten the other one and then attack the victor?

AK: Yes, the player can do that. However, it may affect your status negatively. So, the faction will know that you have kind of betrayed them and that may reduce your status with that faction.

SC: So if the player is aligned with one faction, do you only know when that faction is fighting, or do you know when any faction is fighting?

AK: The player sees battles between all factions at any time. The mercenaries can travel freely through the map to the battle, well, where there are roads and bridges, they can't cross open water without a device or a boat

Richard Therrien, Strategy First: There is also a (FOW) Fog of War that can be applied. The player will know about actions and situation where the information is available.
For instance, if a town belongs to the player's faction, information about activities in and around it will be available and shown on the strategic map. If there are informants that belong to the player's faction in a region, activities in the area will be updated on the map. Same thing if some of the faction's troops are in the area.
There will be some dark spots, meaning that if you go 'behind the lines' you will be taking more chances because you won't have as much information about activity in the area. This will happen anyway where the player needs to infiltrate areas that belong to the enemy, without necessarily engaging when possible.

SC: In Jagged Alliance 3, how many years have passed since Jagged Alliance 2?

AK: Well, I can't say right now, but I guess like 10 years or so. It's in the 21st century, not the 20th.

SC: What types of new weapons and equipment are there?

AK: It’s a realistic game so there will be equipment available on the open market. Since we have a special sci-fi mode, you can acquire weapons that are not real, not actually produced, but have very advanced technology.

SC: Like the rocket rifles that were in the earlier game?

AK: Yeah. So you can acquire lasers, stuff like that. It hasn't been fully determined yet. It's just for the science fiction mode so you can't get them in the normal game.

SC: How about vehicles? Can vehicles be driven?

AK: Yes, through the strategic map. You can use vehicles to transfer your troops.

SC: How destructible will the environment be? If it’s based on Silent Storm its fully destructible?

AK: Almost everything is destructible; all the buildings, vegetation, vehicles etc.

SC: Could you knock down an entire building? Let's say you took out the lower story of the building would the upper story collapse?

AK: Yes, but you would need a lot of ammo, grenades especially. You can actually destroy walls with bullets but it would require a lot of shooting. But if you used grenades or mines you can level whole buildings. You can drop it with enemy trapped in there.

SC: Can mercenaries climb a tree?

AK: No, not really. The trees are palm trees so they are not really climbable.

SC: Have you ever seen those hunting blinds or tree stands, it’s a seat that wraps around the tree?

AK: No, we're not using that equipment. It’s more of a dynamic battle.

SC: I was thinking mercenaries could snipe from a palm tree like the Japanese did.

AK: No. But you can climb buildings which was not previously possible (editor: he probably means multi story buildings and climbing onto the roof from the inside, as you could climb single story buildings in JA2). So you can enter the building through the roof for example. You can actually destroy the roof and enter through there.

SC: Are there grappling hooks or something that you would throw up to the roof?

AK: No, you can just climb up were its possible like you normally would expect.

SC: How did you improve the AI compared to Jagged Alliance 2?

AK: First of all, since its full 3D and enemies can do stealth, climb, descend, use different positions and cover and destroy buildings, we had to rewrite all of that. It’s now a Silent Storm engine were using. The enemies fight in small groups so there will be a chain of command.

SC: In Jagged Alliance 2, the enemy soldiers had assigned duties. Some were sentries, some sort of roamed around. Is this the same way it will be in Jagged Alliance 3?

AK: Yes, in a way. The enemy will communicate with each other so there will be missions that you need to be stealthy about your kills and not go in the open.

SC: Would there be multiple squads of the enemy? Let's say there are 20 enemies in a sector in four different squads. Do the squads communicate with each other or just within the squad?

AK: It depends upon the situation. There will be different types of missions.

SC: Will there be a map or mission generator/editor?

AK: I'm not sure at the moment, but a mission generator would probably be supplied with an expansion pack. But there will be a random generator within the game so you'll play a lot of missions that will be different from game to game.

SC: There will be multi-level structures, right?

AK: Yes. Personally, I've seen buildings that are four floors high.

SC: Will there be weather effects and night and day conditions?

AK: Yeah, there will be night and day missions, a dynamic cycle and weather effects for different types of terrain.

SC: Will the camera angles be similar to Silent Storm, so you can rotate the camera?

AK: Yes, you can rotate the camera; zoom in and out to some extent.

SC: Is the default angle 45 degrees?

AK: Yes, so it looks a lot like the Jagged Alliance 2 series.

SC: Poor voice acting is a very common complaint for games developed outside of English speaking countries. Who pays for the voice actors? Will prior Jagged Alliance 2 voice files be used?

AK: No, the voices will be recorded by Strategy First since they are responsible for the music production, the English voice source as well as the English translation. The game has been originally developed in English because we have to communicate with Strategy First. So all the builds we have are in English mostly since they approve all the steps. However, once the game is finished they will re-record it in English since they know English better than the developers do and they can tweak it to sound more like they want it.

SC: That's pretty typical, isn't it, for the voice acting to be done by the publisher?

AK: Yes, especially with North American publishers.

SC: So who will publish the game in North America and Western Europe and when?

AK: I can't tell when in 2008. In the United States and North America, Australia and all the English speaking territories in fact, Strategy First has the rights to publish it. However, for Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia we have the rights to the game and have not decided the best publisher for each right now.

SC: I know in Germany there are a lot of Jagged Alliance fans. Will you be coming out with a German language version?

AK: Yes, definitely there will be a German language version and a version for other languages as well. However, the other languages will be decided when we get the European publisher.

SC: Do you know how much Jagged Alliance will cost?

AK: Not at this moment, but it will be a full price game.

SC: Is a sequel to Jagged Alliance 3 planned?

AK: Well, we hope so. We hope to make an expansion or a couple of add-ons. We'll probably supply a level or mission generator a bit later.

SC: Thank you.

AK: You’re welcome. 


Add Comment Comments

4 Sep 2007 - 8:37pm

Slaughter, on 4th September 2007, 1:57pm, said:

@Zombie: Glad to hear you're joining the Jagged Alliance ranks! There's a preview at Hooked Gamers that is also quite positive. Is it Jagged Alliance 2 you're playing?
Thanks for the link Slaughter. That was an interesting read too. Right, so I'm only playing the original Jagged Alliance for now. But I do have JA2 coming in the mail in a week or two.

One of the "problems" I encountered was that I couldn't make a hole in a locked building to get inside. Little did I realize that JA doesn't have destructible terrain. :wub:  This is what makes a great game IMHO, and hence why I was happy to hear Strategy First acquired the Silent Storm engine for the new sequel.

As for whether JA3 will be TB or RT, the Hooked Gamers preview lists it as TB and our interview by Mike strongly suggests it too (at least the screenshots do). I doubt Strategy First would make the same mistake twice and allow the JA series to go the route of RT. :blush:
4 Sep 2007 - 7:01pm
The first game hasn't stood the test of time quite as well as 2 (it is older, though), but it's still a good game, actually.

This had better be turn-based.
4 Sep 2007 - 6:57pm

Space Voyager, on 4th September 2007, 11:31am, said:

Is it really turn-based? From the video I'd say not.
Than I'll chase them with a stick! Seriously though, I'm pretty confident it's turn-based. The video is set up like a real time action flick, but you can see the lines from the men moving with the number counting down. It's as it was with Silent Storm, showing how many action points it takes to go there.

@CapnKill: We'll see. Promising and delivery isn't always in agreement... Nival never managed to at least. I hope they manage, but if I have to choose between a great SP game and a mediocre SP/MP game, I'll take the first any day.

@toxic-nova: Well, Jazz was Jagged Alliance 3D before they ended up calling it Hired Guns, so... :blush:

@Zombie: Glad to hear you're joining the Jagged Alliance ranks! There's a preview at Hooked Gamers that is also quite positive. Is it Jagged Alliance 2 you're playing?
Space Voyager\
4 Sep 2007 - 9:31am
Space Voyager

CapnKill, on 31st August 2007, 4:56pm, said:

Mother of god, can this be true?! FINALY on-line support for one of these turn based strategy games?!  AMAZING!!
Is it really turn-based? From the video I'd say not.
4 Sep 2007 - 1:20am

Slaughter, on 28th August 2007, 5:07pm, said:

Do you like what you're reading? Is it shaping up to be a good sequel to Jagged Alliance?
Funny how stuff works out, but I just so happened to get my hands on Jagged Alliance the other day and immediately got hooked. Haven't figured everything out yet, but it is a great classic game rivaling X-COM. It's that good. So after reading the interview Mike did, I'm impressed with JA3 so far. No doubt, acquiring the Silent Storm engine is fortunate as it allows so many more options. Can't wait for this one to come out! :blush:

- Zombie
3 Sep 2007 - 10:16pm
it looks nearly like jazz. i will hope the they have many things to do.
31 Aug 2007 - 4:56pm

Slaughter, on 30th August 2007, 8:10pm, said:

We have a second article coming. That being said, check the Akella product page. "Cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes."

@Pete:  :blush:

Mother of god, can this be true?! FINALY on-line support for one of these turn based strategy games?!  AMAZING!!
30 Aug 2007 - 8:10pm

CapnKill, on 30th August 2007, 1:02am, said:

No inquiry regarding on-line support?!  Did I miss it? Or do we know the answer already...
We have a second article coming. That being said, check the Akella product page. "Cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes."

@Pete:  :blush:
29 Aug 2007 - 11:02pm
No inquiry regarding on-line support?!  Did I miss it? Or do we know the answer already...
29 Aug 2007 - 9:13pm
That's "are proper" :blush:

Sorry Slaughter - I couldn't help myself given what you were saying at the time :wub:
29 Aug 2007 - 8:32pm
Indeed a great interview! If they deliver on all of the points, this could be sweet! I think it's a good thing that Richard and Strategy First watches over things, to make sure English translations and so on is proper.
29 Aug 2007 - 8:47am
I'm quite hopeful.  Usage of the S2 engine is a plus point, and capturing sectors by killing key people could work better than having to ethnically cleanse it of the enemy (stealth an actual real option?).  Four separate factions presumaably means you can play through the whole game with any of them, and being able to change sides is a nice touch.

Good interview!  Thanks to Mike for that.

Now all I need is the system requirements so I can work out how many people I have to mug in order to upgrade my PC so I can play it when it comes out.


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Developer: Akella
Publisher: Strategy First
Status:In Production