How Hungarian developer Kite Games and Kalypso Media set out to make the first WW2 real-time tactics on PS4 as authentic as possible.
When we set out to create a new entry in the beloved Sudden Strike series, we knew that WW2 aficionados and hardcore strategy gamers would highly value authenticity and historical accuracy. But, we also knew that we were creating a game, not a documentary. No matter what, gameplay is paramount, so striking the right balance with authenticity was going to need a lot of hard work. In this blog post, I want to show you guys some examples of things we did to make Sudden Strike 4 the most authentic – and fun – WW2 RTT experience possible.
1. Read the manual!
Surprising to no one, there is a metric ton of published material about the Second World War. So we set out to find as many different reputable sources as possible for Sudden Strike 4, spending a significant amount of dev budget on books from all over the world to check out the details of tanks, battlefields, soldier equipment and more. Just check these out:
2. Field Trip
To portray the areas in Sudden Strike 4 as accurately as possible, sometimes we had to go the extra mile. Literally. For a few levels in the game, we went out on location for field research. One example was the Battle of Hürtgen Forest – a particularly fierce and bloody series of battles in WW2 that took place in a densely forested area south-east of Aachen in western Germany, where both sides struggled to use heavy machinery and a lot of the fighting was done by soldiers from tree to tree. So we drove out to Hürtgen Forest to get a real feel for the area, taking hundreds of photos, including the slate slopes and rock formations that characterize the area, for our artists to use as inspiration for the map, seen here in-game:
Pretty close, right? One of the key moments of the battle was the detonation of the Urfttal dam shortly before the Allies could reach it, which significantly set back the efforts to push into mainland Germany. The dam is the final objective of this mission, and we had to make sure we got it right. There is a restaurant near the Urfttal dam, but we wanted to have a view that would be more like a soldier’s, rather than a tourist’s. Thankfully, we found a way – the nearby Dreilägerbachtal dam, which is in the same forest and also built by the same architect (Dr. Otto Intze) in the same style. So here is a look at the Dreilägerbachtal dam as it would be if you were a soldier spying from the woods:
And here is the Urfttal dam structure in the game:
Of course, not all sites of the battles could be visited, so a lot of research had to be done through archives, historical videos and photos. In fact, Sudden Strike 4 features over 30 minutes of historical archive video material, some of which has never been digitalized before. This material can be invaluable when it comes to nailing down details that can’t be seen anymore today. Take for example the Reichstag, today restored as the seat of the German parliament, and adorned with a glass cupola structure. In 1945, the building was pretty deteriorated, not just from the bombing of the city but also from neglect, following the burning of the building in 1933. It was mainly used as a defensive position, so if you look closely you can see the windows are shut with brick barriers. And even before 1933, the cupola was very different from the one today, with the roof sporting a greenish hue thanks to the withered copper plating, which we were able to replicate from early colour pictures of the time:
3. Four eyes see more than two!
I think everybody that looks at the unit models, details, explosions, environments in Sudden Strike 4 can agree with me that our artists did an awesome job. And I can’t thank them enough for their patience and hard work during the early phases of development when every single unit model was subjected to the scrutiny of several proof checkers (including me), criticizing every little detail. As a result, our units (especially tanks) underwent a lot of changes to get to the point you see now in the game.
If you think most players wouldn’t notice these details, think again! Right after we released the first few trailers for the game, we had feedback from one player who noticed that the King Tiger model we used in those trailers had a Hentschel-style body but a Porsche-style gun variant, which did not make sense. And he was right. So here is the King Tiger before and after that feedback:
Can’t see the difference? Well it’s there, if you look closely at the bottom end of the gun. OK, even if you can’t see it, some players will, and hopefully they’ll appreciate the extra work.
These changes aren’t always just cosmetic, either. Take sloped armour for example, a certain way of producing tank armour that was heavily used by the soviets and some late-war German tanks. The idea is that an armour plate sloped at the right angle will deflect an incoming projectile, even if that would theoretically have enough power to penetrate the armour. And it worked very well in most cases, producing some of the most successful tanks of WW2. Look at the beauty that is the design of the T-34/76 and T-34/85 soviet tanks of the time:
The effect of sloped armour is very hard to pinpoint and simulate in a strategy game. But we wanted it to be portrayed as well as possible, and so Sudden Strike 4 employs an intricate armour system that simulates front, back, side and top armour separately and also takes deflections and sloped armour into account. That is why you will see some projectiles bounce off the armour of some tanks in some situations in the game. It is a nice historical detail and has gameplay value. Plus it looks cool, don’t you think?